Right, Grammar Girl?
I'm actually working on a piece that focuses on less and fewer right now, which is why I bought this magazine in the first place. The headline caught my eye. Because "sex" stumps me. Is it really a mass noun, like clutter?
Grammar Girl states: Sometimes it isn't obvious if something is a mass noun or a count noun because some words can be used in different ways. For example, coffee can refer to either a mass of liquid or a cup of liquid.
*Insert* Aren't you pleased I found a grammar example relating to coffee?
If you're responsible for filling the coffee decanter at a wedding, and you're getting carried away, your boss might ask you to make less coffee. But if you're a waiter serving cups of coffee to the tables, and the crowd is waning, your boss might tell you to bring out fewer coffees next time. She means cups of coffee, but it's common to hear that shortened to just coffee as in “Bring me a coffee, please.” Remember that I said mass nouns (like coffee) can't be made plural? In this example, I've made a mass noun plural, but in the process I transformed it into a count noun. So the rule still holds.
Look, I know "Should you have fewer sex?" is wrong. But I still don't get why it's wrong. Because I still can't wrap my head around sex being a mass noun. Grammar Girl says, "Mass nouns are just things that you can't count individually."
But does sex fall into that category? If you (or maybe I) can say, "Wow, I had sex 36 times this month," isn't it a count noun?
Hmmm. I'm going to try to use the coffee analogy. If you were responsible for having sex with all of the groomsmen at a wedding, and you were getting carried away, your boss might ask you to have less sex.
Oh, wait. Maybe "sex" is a mass noun because it encompasses so many different positions. In the above example, what if we changed sex to "blow jobs." If you were responsible for blowing all of the groomsmen at a wedding, and you were getting carried away, your boss might ask you to blow fewer groomsmen.
Did I solve it?
Maybe I need to go back to the coffee. No, not the example. The pot.