“I Just Go with It”: Negotiating Sexual Desire Discrepancies for Women in Partnered Relationships

Breanne Fahs, Eric Swank, Ayanna Shambe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Although some researchers have addressed differences in sexual desire between sexual partners, little attention has been paid to the subjective narratives of how women understand and reflect on discrepancies in sexual desire between themselves and their partners. In the present study we used a critical sexualities (Fahs and McClelland 2016) perspective to analyze semi-structured interviews with 20 women from a diverse community sample collected in a large Southwestern U.S. city in order to examine women’s feelings about and reactions to instances where they and their partners have different levels of sexual desire. Results revealed five themes in how women negotiate sexual desire discrepancies: (a) Declining sex, (b) Having unwanted sex, (c) Experiencing pressure for sex (giving or receiving), (d) Feeling disappointed and staying silent, and (e) Discussion of sexual discrepancies. We highlight tensions about essentializing and naturalizing sexual desire, as well as how women imagine their right to ask for, or decline, sex. Implications for power, coercion, and sexual entitlement are also included along with practice implications for clinicians working with individuals and couples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-239
Number of pages14
JournalSex Roles
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Desire
  • Partners
  • Sexual desire
  • Sexual entitlement
  • Sexual health
  • Sexual negotiations
  • Sexual scripting
  • Women’s sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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