Earlier in this chapter, we discussed gender differences in initiating sexual activity in heterosexual relationships: men often do more of the initiating. Does this mean that les­bians may be uncomfortable initiating sex or that gay men never have problems doing so? According to a classic study done by Blumstein & Schwartz (1983), this may be the case. They found that some lesbians do have difficulty initiating or balancing sex in their relationships. As with heterosexual relationships, often one partner initiates more than the other. One woman explains:

The problem is that I want more than she does. And she feels guilty about wanting less. Recently, we’ve been to a counselor to talk about it. I think we’ve come to a point of deciding that we probably are not going to be able to solve it. . . that we’ve gone around in circles long enough. (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983, p. 214)

Problems with initiating sex in lesbian relationships may be due to the social pres­sures women have while growing up. According to one 33-year-old woman:

Women have a hesitancy to initiate. My forthrightness makes sex happen. [Lesbians] don’t ask; they wait. All that “boy asking them to dance” stuff. It’s not alright for women to ask for things for themselves. . . . Sometimes I have gotten these messages from my partner. It’s very subtle. Subtly to imply I am too intense. If you’re the only person asking, you get to feel pretty weird. I ask, “What do you want?” and they say, “Whatever you want.” So I start to pull back on asking for what I want. (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983, p. 215)

In lesbian couples, it is often the more emotionally expressive partner who is responsi­ble for maintaining the couple’s sex life.

Similarly, in relationships between gay men the more emotionally expressive part­ner is usually the one who initiates sexual activity. However, gay men are much less bothered by their role of initiator. Again, this may lead to other problems, with one partner feeling he is always the initiator. One gay man explains:

I don’t want sex enough, according to him. He would like me to be more aggressive. But sometimes I’m just beat and I don’t feel like having sex. . . . I used to be more dominant, but he would turn me off because he felt so uncomfortable about [receiving anal intercourse], and although we never articulated it, it embedded itself as a memory that he felt he wouldn’t be able to satisfy me, so we’d better not start. I have to remind him occasionally that I’ve gotten used to his not wanting it and now I don’t want it so much. (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983, p. 216 )

Gay men engage in sexual behavior more often than lesbian women do. Lower rates of sexual behavior in lesbian couples have been explained in many ways. It could be that the biological nature of the sex drive is lower in women, that females typically do not initiate sexual activity and may not be comfortable doing so, or that women are less likely than men to express their feelings through sex. Finally, it also must be pointed out that perhaps lesbian lovemaking lasts longer than heterosexual lovemaking (focusing more on foreplay), and a longer duration of lovemaking could lead to a decrease in the actual number of occurrences.