Bedroom Bliss or Boredom?

by Natalie P.

June 22, 2007 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | 1 Comment

The bf is always on the lookout for articles that will pique my interest, and yesterday he forwarded me a link to “Good Sex or She’s an Ex” by Sarah Hampson, in the Globe and Mail.  Interestingly enough it is the follow-on to an earlier article she wrote entitled, “Sex, or He’s your Ex“.

The implication is interesting: He just wants sex. Period. For her, it has to be good sex.  I know of men who would argue with this, but then again, I know plenty of men who think that any (consensual) sex is “good” sex.  The women I know, however, are FAR more choosy. And I personally will state that bad sex just ain’t worth the time, trouble or risk (if you are not in a monogamous relationship).

It’s a touchy topic, and though I think her opening line in the latter article is lame (“The penis rules”), and I don’t always agree with her conclusions, I think Sarah Hampson does a good job of exploring the issues and stirring up controversial things for me to discuss here. Her quote from couples therapist, Esther Perel, particularly insightful:

“It’s not healthy for men to feel pathetic about their urges and shame about their desire. It’s not just their masculinity they are expressing through sex but also their lesser masculine qualities, their tenderness, their vulnerability, their desire to give pleasure and receive it,” she explains.

By the same token I think it’s not healthy for women to feel pathetic about their urges or shame about THEIR desires. But as evinced by Sarah’s closing remarks, when a woman IS lusty and horny in bed, she’s often labeled a “whore”.  Where is the positive, shameless imagery for women in that?

“This expression through the body is often the primary language that men use to say these things. It’s easy for the women to just brush it off, and say, ‘All he wants is sex.’ What they should be asking is, ‘Why am I never interested? What happened to my own desires?’ “

An excellent point, but it also can’t be all dumped on the woman’s shoulders. Yes, she has to take ownership of her desires and look at why she’s not interested. But some of that may be due to the fact that she’s not getting what she needs from her partner as much as it may be she’s not giving herself enough of what she needs to feel sexy and energetic.

Ms. Perel’s prescription for good marital sex is what she calls “more air.” Too much intimacy, having to know everything your partner did and share every activity he or she enjoys, kills lust, she believes…  The trick, she says, is allowing “a modicum of freedom in a relationship. Don’t ask the other person to give up freedom so you can feel more secure.”

I think there is a real gem here. What she is talking about is avoiding co-dependency. Relationships are strongest when both individuals are not relying on the other person for all their happiness and fulfilment.

And on the “too much intimacy” front, making your partner your therapist is a good way to kill the lust. This is true if you are male or female. If you have issues from childhood or trauma or depressions that leave you needing to continually vent, DON’T do it to your partner. They are your LOVER – not your therapist. They have no training in handling that sort of thing. Sure, you should be able to talk to your partner about what’s important to you, but listening to you going over the same complaints again and again and again isn’t what they are there for.  They’ll get tired of it. In time they may lose respect for you because it appears you are doing nothing to move past the issues or “fix” your problems. And even if they do sit there listening, your partner can’t remain emotionally close to you if they have to play therapist at the same time. They WILL emotionally (and often physically) detach. Get a good counsellor or therapist and do your emotional purging there.

But back to the articles…  Sarah also touches on how having young kids can completely exhaust a woman. “Yummy Mommy”?  Yeah, right!  I have a fairly high libido and it was DEAD for a few years when my kids were young. I was working full time, looking after a household, cooking, doing the bulk of the yardwork and all of the logistics. I was having hormone issues and my breasts hurt so bad I didn’t want to be touched. Combine that with complete and utter insensitivity to your exhaustion and it doesn’t exactly make you feel horny.  At one point the husband asked, half-seriously, “Are you having an affair?” when I told him I was really not interested in sex that night.  I retorted, “Honey, if I am too tired to do it with you, I am too tired to do it with anyone.”  But seriously, that question HURT, and it just showed how completely self-absorbed and insensitive a guy can get.  Yeah, I feel REALLY hot for you when you accuse me of having an affair. Ooooh baby. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Even when couples share the physical work of childrearing and the household, I find that most women still take on the work of planning – is there enough food that the children like to eat? When is their next dentist or doctor’s appointment? What is the final date for sign-up to little league? Do their clothes still fit?  Do they have clean clothes for school? Shoes? Lunch bags? Are we running low on diapers?  When is the parent teacher meeting? Where is the form for the field trip?  I mean at the end of it all, she is the logistical manager. He may help do laundry, or run the vacuum over the floor,  but chances are, she’s the one pointing out it needs doing. She’s the one tracking who has what activity after school and coordinating who is driving and who is picking up the kids from daycare. If she’s also working full time, it’s an incredible amount of hidden stress that largely goes unrecognized and unappreciated by her spouse.  Hell, I can recall one friday evening, when my two were very small, and my husband said, “You should get up with the kids tonight because I have to work tomorrow.”  At his own business, where he had employees. Given that I worked full time, Weekends were my only time to get all the household stuff done; laundry, grocery shopping, new shoes for the kids, yard work, etc. And in the midst of it all, try to spend quality time with my children.  I nearly lost it. “YOU have to work? And I’m just sitting home eating bon-bons? Tell you what. YOU stay home with my chore list and I’ll go into your shop for the day and we’ll see who has to WORK.”  He never tried THAT line on me again.

An in the midst of all of that rushing around, women seldom take enough time for themselves.  And when they do, they often feel guilty – especially if they are also working full time. Let’s face it, it’s damned near impossible to feel sexy when you are exhausted.

I have had to explain to more than one woman that it is NORMAL for her libido to shrivel while the kids are very young, and that what she needs to do is find some rejuvenation time for herself, so she can feel sexy and ultimately interested in sex.  Chances are, your libido WILL come back (with a vengeance in some cases), when the kids hit school.  The question is, can you keep your marriage from developing terminal cancer during that time if sex is very important to him and your libido is in hibernation?  If you don’t talk about your needs and come to compromises, you’ll both end up resenting each other, and I know that I never feel like having sex with someone when I’m pissed off at him. Pretty soon the unresolved resentment builds into disrespect and that’s a relationship killer.  Can you create environments (a weekend away, an evening out) where you put aside frustrations and complaints and enjoy each other’s company in order to build intimacy?  Can you head things off at the pass – before they go terminal?  From my perspective, by the time a couple has to see a couple’s counselor,  it’s usually too late. They invariably end up using what they learned in counseling, in the NEXT relationship.

The grandest irony of all is that I know waaaay too many married women in their fourties who are complaining about how little sex they get and how their husbands just don’t have matching libidos anymore. And these are very sexy attractive, physically active women – we aren’t talking about a guy losing interest because she’s “let herself go”.   I’ve even experienced it – as men get older, they aren’t the same horny things they were in their twenties. It’s God’s cruel joke on women. We sexually peak at 40, and men at 20 – I’m peaking and he wants to snuggle?  Fuck!  I remember the first time I heard, “I just want to cuddle tonight, is that ok?”  I now have a keen understanding of what men go through when women aren’t interested, but I have NO interest in “mercy sex”.  He has to be there 100% or it’s bad sex and not worth it.

Unfortunately, the closing line to the “Sex or He’s your Ex” article really irked me,

“Which brings me to a final bit of good advice. Be a lady in public and a whore in the bedroom. And help him understand that before talking dirty, the whore sometimes needs to have a cuddly chat about her day.”

I’m sick and tired of this whole madonna/whore dichotomy that women are supposed to embrace. Do we ask our men to have dual personalities? Hell No!  Fuck the double-standards.  My advice is to actually work with your partner to find out what it is you BOTH need to feel sexy/horny and then go about making that a reality.  And it isn’t so much a “cuddly chat about her day” that a woman needs as it is some indication that her husband is interested in HER, as a PERSON, and doesn’t just see her as a sperm receptacle.

Sarah addresses this in her article, “Good Sex or He’s an Ex”:

“A friend of mine once told me about the difficult sexual tension toward the end of her marriage. Her husband wanted sex every morning – their Life of the Libido had always been robust – but at this point, they had been having trouble in their relationship for some time. For her, his demand was symptomatic of his lack of respect for her feelings. “It was as routine as brushing his teeth,” she complained. She felt that to him, she was just a body, not a person.”

Sex is for many people, a highly intimate act. Making it routine and an expectation can absolutely kill desire for male and female alike – ask a guy in a couple with fertility problems about how much fun sex is…  Even when my libido is raging, if I feel like the intimacy is gone, it’s a real turnoff.

I think that people need to have mutually compatible libidos for a successful long term relationship.  I’ve seen women who turn on the heat during the courtship and then cool right off to nothing after the wedding vows. (And I’m not talking about kids or other factors getting in the way here).  That’s dishonest, in my opinion, and the guy has ever right to dump her and find a relationship with someone who isn’t misrepresenting her need for physical intimacy in order to hook a wedding ring.  I think couples should talk about their sexual expectations the same way they talk about expectations/desires for kids, lifestyle, and beliefs before they get married or move in together.

I agreed with author Joan Sewell’s statements about compromising on sex, “”This is your body. There is nothing more personal. When you don’t have desire, it’s not merely sexual, it’s invasive.”, but I wholeheartedly disagree with her approach to saving her marriage. She is embracing her low libido, but her husband has a totally different desire for sex. It strikes me that in the end she did just what she recommends against – she compromised and it doesn’t even sound like she enjoys sex.  I guess if her husband wants to put up with that kind of BAD sex, so be it, but I’d be outta there and finding someone more compatible.  I mean, we are talking about INTIMACY here, and her clinical description of servicing his desires hardly sounds intimate or even loving.  Yes, there are lots of reasons that people want to save their marriages – financial, kids, etc… But honestly, do you want to doom yourself to a lifetime of BAD SEX? Not me.  (Besides, where there is bad sex, there is usually a whole host of other problems. The bad sex is just the tip of the iceberg.)

For me, good sex has to be equal sex. Each partner sharing, taking turns, enjoying the moment (or hours!) fully. “Being In Total Control, Honey!” is about being in control of yourself, knowing your body, knowing your desires. It’s NOT about controlling other people or every situation you find yourself in.

Absolute control in the bedroom is never healthy, Ms. Stockley says. The skill, which a therapist can help develop in couples, is how to talk about sexual compatibility without hurting either partner’s feelings.

“I do think many women abuse the power in the bedroom,” she cautions. “Women have been taken advantage of for so many years, and now they’ve shifted into the power position. But I tell them that having power should not be about being overpowering.”

I agree that there has been a pendulum swing (in some societies and cultures), and certainly women are taking greater ownership of their feelings and their bodies and saying “no”, when they don’t feel like sex. I think it’s important for women to find their “center of gravity” as it were, and take care of themselves, but I also see women who have caring for onesself completely confused with being utterly selfish and self-absorbed.   It’s a tough row to hoe because on the one hand, a manipulator will try to tell you that you are being selfish if you do something for yourself, and you have to be strong enough in your beliefs and sense of self to know when to cry bullshit, and when to stop and re-evaluate your behavior.  Are you withholding sex as a control tactic? Ick. Get therapy. Are you just not interested? Figure out WHY and what you need to do about it.

If you want to maintain a healthy relationship, it can’t be a power struggle, in or out of the bedroom.  Sex can be so much fun if both partners actually care about the other person’s enjoyment and fulfillment.

 “The flipside of women’s equal-orgasm-for-equal-effort drive is that many men are adopting more traditionally feminine attitudes about intimacy, saying they want romance, emotional connection and touching, she says. “Men, on some level, are trying to lay claim to something. There are a lot of negative components to feminism for men, but there are benefits, too. There’s a correction in male behaviour and an overcorrection in women’s. What’s needed is for both to meet somewhere in the middle.”

“a lot of negative components to feminism for men”?  For SOME men maybe – the ones who want to be coddled and at the same time in control of everything.  But for the non-asshole, I can see feminism (which is really just the fight for true equality) as only positive.  Certainly, some women have “overcorrected” – god knows, I see enough applications from self-involved-to-the-point-of-sociopathy women, but I’d like to believe they are in the minority.  And personally, I think we still need to see waaaaay more “correction” in male behavior overall.

 

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1 comment so far
  1. Loving Annie June 26, 2007 3:49 pm

    Good sex is ALL about intimacy. Then the passion and the chemistry are flammable !
    I have a strong sex drive, even at age 49. Without intimacy, sex isn’t worth having — and I love wild monkey sex just as much as I like genuine tender love-making…
    But it is all about the connection of your heart/mind/body with the person you love being 100% present.


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