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When Amanda Montei began reporting an article last year about married couples who had little to no sex, she didn’t know how forthcoming people would be about their sex lives.

But to her surprise, many of the couples were willing — grateful, even — to talk about it.

“It was almost like a pressure valve was released,” Ms. Montei said of her conversations with more than 30 married people who are among the 50 percent of American adults having sex once a month or less. “Most couples I talked with said speaking to me felt like a relief because they were able to talk openly about their sexual lives without judgment.”

The article, which was published this month in the Modern Love issue of The New York Times Magazine, is based on phone and video conversations with couples in seven states, as well as Canada, Britain and Italy, and took Ms. Montei five months to report.

“My main takeaway was that there are so many factors that influence a person’s desire,” she said. “It’s a really complicated negotiation with the self and the body and our current cultural moment.”

In a phone conversation from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ms. Montei discussed how she helped sources feel comfortable sharing intimate details of their private lives and what questions she hopes to tackle next in her reporting. These are edited excerpts.

How did you come up with the idea for this article?

I published a book last fall about motherhood and sexuality and received lots of notes from readers who connected with it and saw themselves represented in it, and who found that motherhood impacted the way they viewed their bodies, sexual lives and relationships. Writing and publishing the book made me more curious about women’s sexual lives, especially how desires can change with age and parenthood; what marriage has tended to demand of women; and how people in long-term heterosexual relationships navigate those changes today.


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