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Somehow We’re Still Surprised When Studies Show Married Couples Actually Have Sex

Hold on to your dick pics: A new study finds that sexting is not just the province of singletons, cheaters and sleazebags looking to hook up, but something regular everyday couples do in between farting in the car and blowing their noses very loudly while the other person is eating. Some 74 percent of Americans have admitted to actually sexting with a person they are having a relationship with. The other 26 percent must not have texting plans on their phones.

That 74 percent is significant, though — so significant, in fact, that researcher Amanda Gesselman from the Kinsey Institute, who conducted the study with menstrual app Clue, told The New York Post that “Sexting may be becoming a new, but typical, step in a sexual or romantic relationship.”

The study was big and international (like your balls). It surveyed 149,000 people in 198 countries and found not only that a lot of people in South Africa really really like sexting, but that five years ago, the number of people who admitted to sexting came in at just 21 percent. What to make of this coupled-up leap into sextual, textual spontaneity?

Are couples so desperate to improve their sex lives that they will steal from single people to appear sexually cool and with it, or is it possible that couples have always been doing sex things because they have sex—and like having sex—with each other? Hard to say, because we’ve been waging a battle between single life and ferocious pairing off for so long that it’s hard to see who’s currently ahead in the sex games.

Pervasive cultural portrayals would have us believe that single life is, in fact, the best life: Single people start their evenings at 10 p.m. wearing outfits that never even occurred to you, have scintillating, lighthearted conversations with everyone they meet, and fulfill their wildest, kinkiest fantasies every weekend with a complete stranger who is STD-free and very, very chill.

Meanwhiles, couples are engaged in a race against time to see who can get their farts out fastest before falling asleep to fart more while definitely not fucking. They are trapped and miserable, searching frantically for tips to spice it up, or pining longingly for their singlehood as if through a foggy bar window where a bunch of single people are inside, about to fuck.

Research proves that the sex frequency part is not necessarily true, though. Couples have more sex. Married people with children under the age of 6 have the most sex of anyone, roughly 81 times a year, in spite of the logistical nightmare it creates. And if you want the sexual activity pecking order after that, it follows thusly: After people with older children, married people with no kids have the next-most sex, then people who live together but aren’t married, then single people, who come in dead last.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s really not. It takes a lot of work to get laid. And being in a couple is basically a built-in getting-laid machine. It makes sense that couples would have more sex, just logistically—they are right there all the time and have to change clothes at least once a day. Yes, familiarity breeds contempt; lots of relationships suck.

But we overimagine the sexual adventurousness of single people: Even studies of college hookup culture indicates that those hookups happen with far less frequency than we think. What’s more, sex is typically better in long-term relationships—i.e., with someone who knows your body and is committed to getting you off.

This isn’t to suggest that some single people aren’t still getting a lot of mad, varied tail. But the proliferation of articles insisting that single people can be sexy and fabulous, aka not total losers, without a sidekick, indicates they also experience a ton of pressure to prove they aren’t miserable. We also perpetuate this in other ways: Stories abound about couples who, even though they are super happy — they swear! — still miss what it was like to have that adrenaline-pumping first part of courtship.

The battle also wages in study land, where some studies insist that it’s single people who are more fulfilled; others claim married people who are actually happier. The battle also plays out on social media, where the performative bliss of couples and singles online increases the heat of competition. Some of this is just grass-is-greener syndrome: Single or coupled, we overestimate the good parts of what we lack, and underestimate the challenges.

But all of this creates the perception that there’s one correct answer to having the best, sexiest life possible, which is preposterous. If you drill down, it’s clear that this is all actually highly individual. Some people are obviously deeply fulfilled by relationships, while other people prefer and enjoy being single. In the meantime, we continue to lifehack: Open relationships, polyamory, cheating, or just being miserable either way are all viable options.

We should remind ourselves that being single can be exciting and fun and adventurous, or crushingly isolated and lonely. But so can relationships. True love stands next to couples so disconnected, or worse, abusive, that they make an isolation tank look comforting.

The real question you have to ask yourself is who do you want to fart with? It’s not a metaphor; I mean that literally. Even harder is finding the right person to be with — whether that person is yourself or someone else. But if you can find someone willing to put up with you and your farts, and you can also have sex with them, whether you intend to shack up with them or not: Sext them. Immediately.