"Lesbian Bed Death": Fact or Fiction?
I first heard the term "Lesbian Bed Death" aka LBD when I was 18. Women would mention it and say that is was real, and it happened to women after they had been in monogamous relationships for many years. I was never worried because I was quite young and was not in a monogamous relationship, so I didn't even give it a thought.
Fast forward to me at age 38. I was back in a relationship with a woman after being married to a man for 9 years, and having had two babies. I met my partner while I was in the Navy and we were best friends for over a year. Then one day I woke up and realized I was in love with her and lucky for me she was in love with me as well.
I was single and therefore available for a relationship, and this one flourished! When our relationship started we were both on the verge of turning 40, and there was definitely NO LBD in our lives. We lived apart for the first two years of our relationship (she in Pennsylvania, me in Virginia) so the lack of physical contact definitely lowered our ability to be intimate, but the desire was not lacking.
Image: Niki Odophile via Flickr
Then my partner developed cervical cancer. It was sudden and shocking and she had to undergo a radical hysterectomy. She had her uterus removed, and the surgeon said she was left with only one functional ovary. She recovered well, and is currently 6 years cancer free!
However, she had a physical consequence to the life-saving surgery. Due to the fact that she only had one viable ovary, her hormones were lowered. As a result, she entered Peri-menopause and her libido dropped tremendously. It wasn't that she no longer loved me, or was no longer attracted to me. There was just a decreased interest in sexual intimacy due to her hormone levels being low. She was 41 at that time. Then the next shoe dropped: I entered Peri-menopause, and my hormones also changed. I was 43, and began experiencing hot flashes, mood changes, difficulty sleeping and loss of libido.
As these changes affected our lives, and I noticed our intimacy becoming less and less frequent the though of LBD returned to me. I suddenly realized LBD isn't about not loving your partner or lack of desire for your partner, or even the sexual intimacy not being up to snuff. It had to do with hormones and loss of libido. It all made perfect sense to me. LBD was never talked about with young women; it was always said to happen to women who had been together for "a long time" because they had become bored with each other and therefore the sex stopped. I now know from personal experience this is untrue.
I think there is another reason for LBD. It has been my experience that women in relationships with women have deep emotional intimacy. I have been in relationships with men and women. The ones with women have always had a deeper emotional connection. It is my opinion that the deeper emotional connections can at times preclude the need for physical intimacy required to make a connection.
When I did some research on this topic, I found that others also believed hormone fluctuation was the cause for lesbian bed death. I am 48. Most of my friends are in heterosexual relationships and most are approximately my age. They talk about "not being in the mood" as often as their husbands/boyfriends. This is because men do not have the same hormone fluctuations as women do. This would also account for the fact that we don't hear about gay men having a "bed death". Think about it, if the female half of a a heterosexual partnership is less interested in sex, what do you think happens when both partners are women? The libido drop due to hormonal changes is 100% in the relationship. Hence "Lesbian Bed Death".
Lesbian Bed Death is not just a myth. However, the reason why I was told it occurs was not accurate. Interestingly there have been many studies done and articles written about LBD and I was fascinated with one theory about why women in lesbian relationships have sex less frequently.
A survey conducted by the Institute for Personal Growth (IPG) in New Jersey with 104 self- described lesbians and 89 heterosexual women found that although lesbian couples did have fewer sexual experiences than the heterosexual women, the lesbian women reported fewer sexual problems than the hetero women, and 90% of the lesbian women stated they achieved orgasm during their sexual encounters as compared to 73% of the heterosexual women. In addition, the lesbian women not only achieved a high rate of orgasm, they experienced multiple orgasm most of the time they had sex. Also, the sexual encounters lasted 30-60 minutes while the heterosexual encounters were generally 10-30 minutes.
So while hormone fluctuations can definitely account for a percentage of why Lesbian Bed Death is a reality in lesbian relationships, maybe another part of the reason for this phenomenon is that women in lesbian relationships may have such excellent sexual experiences (encounters lasting longer, higher percentage of orgasm, and multiple orgasm) that the relationship is more healthy and IPG significantly linked these facts to the women being more satisfied with the sexual,emotional, and affectionate aspects of the relationship.
It is entirely possible that as a lesbian relationship lasts through the years, although lesbian women have some hormonal issues that stand in the way of sexual encounters, overall they are quite satisfied with their relationships, and one could even argue that since the sexual encounters they do experience are so satisfying the need for them is lessened. When one looks at it that way, we should be proud of Lesbian Bed Death, not afraid of it.