In 1999, Stanley Kubrick released his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, which starred Kidman and Cruise, ‘a Hollywood couple whose marriage was in trouble, about a New York couple whose marriage was in trouble.’ It was famous for an orgy scene, but in the subtext of the film, it’s really about a couple whose eyes are shut to their own sexuality/the sexual reality within their relationship (or the husband is having some kind of bad dream to that effect). It seems a little cruel, that under the circumstances (of their relationship about to break up), the lead actors were laid literally so bare.
A mismatch of libidos will often only rear its head as an issue after the honeymoon phase of a relationship is over. I suspect very few of us receive guidance on how to negotiate the ongoing sexual framework within a relationship and that many of us learn as we go. For any higher libido partners stuck in a sex-starved marriage (defined as a frequency of sex of less than one act of sex per month), I’m sure you will be wondering exactly what Alvy’s problem is in the very short video below!
Bettina Arndt is an Australian sex commentator who has written several books that provide food for thought in this area. In her book, What Men Want, Arndt writes on not only how men intensely enjoy sex and usually feel they don’t get enough, but also documents the misery many men feel when they are in sex-starved marriages and feel deprived of affection. As a counterpoint to the misery Arndt documented by the affection deprived, a recent post by a client, provided anecdotal evidence on the improvement in the quality of my client’s life when he re-introduced himself to the pleasures of the flesh. That post also provided links to research that supports the view that intimate physical contact is beneficial for mental and physical health.
I know from experience that sex in relationships can become pretty samey after time, and token fucks become tiresome, particularly if you already are tired. Shortly after I became a mum in my 20s, our sex life pretty much dried up for a time. Although I was willing almost all the time, there was just so much more to think about, like feeding a baby, washing, cleaning, working, and he was very busy with work/his sport. We would snatch fucks where we could, in the middle of the day or night, but they were quickies, and usually without much passion or even interest. Token fucks, as I said.
So it’s obviously a bit of a dilemma – you start off as a hot, horny couple, but life gets in the way and things change. The frequency of sex decreases. And so long as the desire for sex decreases at the same rate in both partners, all is well.
When the unexpected decline in sexual activity leads to frustration on the part of one partner, an interesting solution was discussed by Australian sex therapist and newspaper columnist Matty Silver. Matty wrote an article last year which began:
I am always amazed how often couples marry or settle down without first discussing what to expect from their relationship. Often couples don’t talk about it because their expectations are based on hidden assumptions, formed on hopes and dreams rather than reality.
A few paragraphs later she says:
Even when they manage to discuss the above, one of the most important issues – how often they will have sex – is hardly ever discussed. Most couples believe they have the same sex drive when they get together; for new couples sex usually is the top priority. They can’t take their hands off each other and have sex at any opportunity.
Matty Silver wrote that in relationships, as sexual activity lessens, the one that is less interested controls the amount of sex on offer, which is exactly what I said in my blog post about the benefits for women of orgasms, (actually the post was how beneficial I believe orgasms are for women, yet we withhold sex from men). Men simply seem to not get enough sex, whereas women can often take it or leave it. A women in a relationship who is out of the habit of enjoying sex, can take it upon herself to reawaken her own sexuality on her own, with the help of therapists who identify as sex workers, Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, who teach women how to have orgasms and enjoy sex more.
But what is the problem with women just fucking men for the sake of it, as a loving gesture, even when they are not always in the mood? Some women don’t feel they need to have sex just to please their men, it feels degrading.*
Another issue, according to Bettina Arndt’s book is that women feel a bit self-conscious about how their bodies are looking or whatever as life has got in the way of taking care of all that frivolous frippery. However we forget how much heterosexual men love women, naked women of all shapes and sizes to admire and touch and lie with and fuck. Some women don’t want their men to look at themselves naked and neither do some women like men looking at other passing women even with their clothes on. So it goes without saying that some women would even disapprove of their men watching pornography. One woman, in Bettina Arndt’s book, complained early in their marriage about her man watching “so much” porn. He told her he would be quite happy to give up his porn if she would let him be sexual with her whenever he felt like it. This helped her to get it and she never mentioned the porn again.
Matty Silver, at the end of her article, talks about a 2004 book by US author and marriage therapist Michele Weiner-Davis, The Sex-Starved Marriage which addresses every aspect of problems associated with mismatched sexual desire. On the topic of the lower-libidoed lover, she says
“This is not due to maliciousness or a desire for power or control; it just seems unimaginable to be sexual if one of the partners is not in the mood! There is an unspoken and often unconscious expectation that the partner with the higher libido should just accept the situation, should not complain and also remain monogamous”.
Weiner-Davis states: “After decades of working with couples, I can attest that this is an unfair and unworkable arrangement.”
She believes desire is a decision, you can’t wait for it to come; you have to make it happen. Her now famous solution was to “Just Do it” – you may enjoy it in the end!” Michelle Weiner-Davis presented a TEDx talk on the “sex-starved marriage” in April, 2014. If you are in a sex-starved relationship, I highly recommend you watch this. Especially if you are lower libido partner, want your relationship to continue, and perhaps believe that you are entitled to be the gatekeeper to sex and the higher libido partner should just suck it up. Because expecting the higher libido partner to live with it often leads to relationship breakdown.
In Arndt’s book The Sex Diaries, Arndt quotes a woman on a mothering website whose suggestion sounds very much like Weiner-Davis’s idea: “Shag a little more than the low-libido partner would like and a little less than the high-libido partner would prefer and I swear to you, your marriage will improve in huge ways”.
By the way, Matty Silver’s article was called, “Should you have a sex contract?” If you’ve read this far and are interested in the idea that you or your partner would benefit from an increased frequency of sex, but, for what ever reason, the chances of having more sex within the relationship is non-existent, then be aware that many men in sex-starved marriages will very often look outside the relationship for sex. Because men often love and need sex more than women, sex workers exist. Seeing a sex worker can be sanctioned through a sex contract, or unsanctioned, where the sex-deprived partner actively seeks out third party companionship, often with sex workers. Allowing sex to be outsourced to a sex worker is a way that a couple can get more sex without the partner with less interest having to contribute directly.
As a sex worker myself, one thing I love about it, is that I feel I get the best from every man I see. Maybe it’s because we have a limited time together and we are there solely to fuck (without having babies, laundry, work, or just day-to-day life to worry about) or because my appearance and behaviour is designed to arouse or because he’s paying me and wants to get value for money or because we haven’t done it as many times as we would if we were partners so sex together feels new and exciting still or because he’s grateful for my willing participation, it is an understatement to say that the sex with my clients is usually pretty good. But that doesn’t mean I want to steal someone else’s man who comes to see me for sex, no matter how great it is. (Ongoing sexual relations with a non-sex worker – otherwise known as an affair, on the other hand, could cause all amounts of trouble.)
If you have come to terms with your need for more sex and you have a partner with whom you can broach the subject of more sex within your relationship, perhaps a sex contract is worth discussing. If a wife or partner does not wish to provide sex as often as needed, a sex contract which includes permission for one partner to enjoy pornography or see a sex worker could be a win-win situation for both of you. Or maybe as a couple you can see a sex worker together. I have a sex worker friend (who was based in the South Island of New Zealand but is now on Queensland’s Gold Coast in Australia) and she specialises in working with couples, and will guarantee that your love lives and sex lives will feel more enriched as a result. Contact me, I am happy to pass on her details.
Whatever is decided, it’s worthwhile making a decision to have more sex to keep skin hunger at bay. If your New Year’s resolution is to have more sex, maybe there is some food for thought here.
* Arndt, in the sex diaries, discusses the massive ideological roadblock that is at odds with compromising one’s own wishes in order to accommodate a partner’s wishes: Women’s right to say “no” has been enshrined in our cultural history for nearly fifty years. It was one of the outstanding achievements of the women’s movement to outlaw rape in marriages and teach women to resist unwanted advances. But it simply hasn’t worked to have a couple’s sex life hinge on the fragile, feeble female libido. The right to say “no” needs to give way to saying “yes” more often – providing both men and women end up enjoying the experience. The notion that it might be in women’s best interest to stop rationing sex is sure to raise hackles, but this an issue that deserves serious attention.