June 9, 2024

What Is Lesbian Bed Death? Myths, Facts, and Modern Views

Lesbian bed death (LBD) is the concept that lesbian couples in committed relationships have less sex than other types of couples the longer the relationship lasts. It is also defined as a significant drop-off in sexual activity after two years into the relationship. The term was coined by sociologist Pepper Schwartz, and first appeared publicly in a speech by lesbian activist Jade McGleughlin in 1987.

Historical Context

The idea of LBD originates from 1983 research by Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz published in "American Couples: Money, Work, Sex." This work reported that lesbian couples had the lowest frequency of sexual activity compared to heterosexual married, heterosexual cohabitating, and gay male couples. However, the research has been criticized for potential biases due to the demographic composition of the respondents (mostly white, affluent, liberal, and well-educated) and ambiguous survey questions regarding sexual activity.

"Crazy fun loving lesbian couple" by San Diego Shooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Criticism and Alternative Perspectives

Methodology Issues

Critics like Marilyn Frye argued that the original study’s definition of "sexual relations" was overly narrow and possibly biased by traditionally heterosexual views of sex. Later studies contradicted the LBD concept, showing that lesbians might have less frequent but longer and more satisfying sexual encounters. Research also pointed out that women in same-sex relationships report similar levels of sexual satisfaction as their heterosexual counterparts, and the frequency of non-genital activities like intimate kissing and cuddling remains high.

Sociocultural Impact

1980s Discussions

Following Blumstein and Schwartz's survey, several books and articles were written on lesbian sexuality, addressing issues like inhibited sexual desire and low sexual self-esteem. The concept of LBD has taken on a life of its own in lesbian and general culture, often manifesting as jokes or dismay among lesbians themselves. Many contemporary writers and scholars label LBD as a myth, arguing that the phenomenon may be rooted in lesbophobia and outdated definitions of sexual activity.

Contemporary Perspectives

Scientific Consensus on Sexual Desire

Studies suggest that women, in general, might show less interest in sex compared to men, but this does not equate to a lack of sexual satisfaction. Emphasizing the importance of non-genital activities (kissing, cuddling, touching) in women’s erotic lives, emerging research shows similar or even higher satisfaction among lesbian couples once these aspects are considered.

"Lesbian couple" by San Diego Shooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Notable Criticisms

Lesbophobia and Terminology

Some argue that the persistence of the LBD concept is likely due to prejudiced views against lesbian relationships. There is a call for more nuanced research that considers the unique biology, life experiences, and broader definitions of sexual activity for women.


Address and debunk the myth of LBD by focusing on comprehensive and inclusive research. Highlight the significance of non-genital intimate acts which are often central to women’s sexual satisfaction. Encourage broader and more inclusive notions of what constitutes sexual activity in research on lesbian relationships.

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