Cuddle regeneration

cubsIt feels like a long time since I wrote about the explicit reason for starting this blog: to talk about non-sexual adult bodily contact. I was inspired by a dream, some other writing work, and Moulin Rouge (don’t ask me why) to come back to it, and make a massive fuss.

I have said before that I feel like the way society is currently structured means a great many people, far too many, are hugely unlikely to get as much tactile physical affection as they ideally need. Yes I know that kind of sounds like I’m just saying: some people need more cuddles. At which point you might smile kindly and say: some people should eat more vegetables, or some more people should learn a second language, et cetera. So it’s time to make my argument a bit hotter than that. (Hey, I do feel very strongly about vegetables.)

Cuddling is not a forgotten art, or a nice practice which correlates to coupledom and intimate family life. Cuddling is a birthright.

We don’t live in a society where everyone grows up getting plenty of cuddles, and then as we mature and turn into adults, we are divided into subcategories such as:

  • naturally affectionate people who are happy to hug trusted friends and family
  • people whose cuddling input was significantly compromised during/by adolescence and either re-learn over time as they mix with cuddlier adults, or drift towards a fairly low average cuddle rate
  • people who do not get cuddled because they are not that friendly or likeable, are mean or cold, or are not often trusted
  • people who do not get cuddled because they are anxious about physical contact
  • people who do not get cuddled because they prefer to avoid the social complexities that might follow on from establishing cuddle-positive friendships
  • people who hug and get hugged because they have learned that it is valuable for positive mental health and are pro-active in giving and in spreading the practice
  • people who get cuddled all the time because they are in a long-term relationship and/or family household where it is taken for granted

We are, I repeat, not living in a society where these categories I just had fun making up  explain anything at all. We are living in a society where cuddling has become much harder than it should be. Yes, I am using the S word. Should, should should should should get cuddled – more. Not could, should.

The more I come to terms with the various developed insecurities which my current relationship (and friendships) both reveal and heal, the more this primal, fundamental need shows itself for what it really is: a primal fundamental need. We have not simply evolved socially to be more independent, to be go-getters who can run for days, weeks, months and years without cuddle input, to no ill effect. We are tactile animals whose natural requirements for social belonging and emotional security include a lot of sleep-time contact with other warm individuals of the same species. This makes it sound rather psychological but it is a lot more than that. Emotionality is deeply physical.

We have evolved socially, to be expected to develop compensatory mechanisms for any lack of night-time sleeping cuddle contact to which we have become accustomed. I have no peer-reviewed scientific proof of this as yet, so sue me lol.

I am not sure to what extent hot climates and cold climates inform differences in the degree of cuddling which would be ideal for humans to participate in. Surely there are many alternative forms of physical affection, as well as of emotional reassurance and affirmations of belonging.

We are living in a society where several forces collude to deprive many individuals of night cuddle-time, regardless of how affectionate and demonstrable they are as they potter about their day.

  1. Many people live (and sleep) in households which do not contain other warm adults (or children) of the same species to cuddle up to at night
  2. Many people live (and sleep) in households which contain adults and/or children with whom cuddling at night would constitute a breach of social norms, such that cuddling at night would never arise, or if it did would be limited or be considered taboo – if it happened it might lead to anxiety, secrecy or shame
  3. The rise of individualism means it has become a cultural norm to perceive people who appear to be more or less independent of others in meeting their emotional needs as admirable and more likely to succeed in certain areas of life
  4. Showing the simple emotional need for affection, reassurance and affirmation has been discouraged in boys, sometimes brutally, over many generations in many countries – directly asking for these things has been particularly taboo
  5. Many women and men have experienced abuse by people who have close physical contact with them during their childhoods (conservative estimate about 12% globally)

Cuddling is a birthright, but to give and receive it requires relationships of trust and mutual respect and affection. Everyone knows a fake hug when they get one, though awkward hugs are not inherently bad. Ideally, they are necessary and valuable steps towards less awkward ones. Mutual trust and respect take time to develop. If we remain surrounded by an extended family and community network we grew up in we may be surrounded by people with whom we can take mutual respect and trust for granted, though see point 5 above. Even if we do not, we can, in principle, develop bonds with other humans at any time in our lives, and these can deepen over time. We can also make strong connections that are mediated by other people we have known for longer.

Cuddling is a human birthright, just as pecking is the birthright of chickens, and suckling calves is the birthright of cows. No wonder we can so easily take these rights away when we are so deeply adjusted to managing without our own.

 

 

 

 

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Sex and Taboo – a discussion review

ShhhI recently attended a Café Psychologique meet-up-style discussion in Brighton: a good turnout of probably 30-odd people and a talk by local author / academic / researcher Katherine Johnson set a good scene. Ultimately though, my friend and I were unsatisfied all the way home with the depth of discussion and I find myself still wondering why.

Sadly I didn’t take notes on Johnson’s talk, so I can’t give a summary, much less any accurate reflections on how well or directly she actually spoke to the stated theme of the evening: Sex, sexuality and taboo. She was very engaging though and the ground she covered was naturally what is close to her own heart, issues relating to LGBT*+ research/experience and latterly work with trans kids. This leaves me with the uneasy feeling looking back, that as a group we were positioned to discuss sex and taboo/s, or sexual taboos, as if LGBT*+ issues are or have been the entire field of what is considered taboo in our lifetimes.

It wasn’t at all long before someone referred to paedophilia as an example of a taboo though. Before the evening I felt strongly that it might be a good context to begin a safe discussion on this topic – still scary, but not threatening. I was relieved and heartened when others did this, and I suppose, not surprised that the room didn’t all rally to begin a movement there and then to transform the way society discusses paedophilia. A few interesting points were made and I got my chance to bang on a bit when people got stuck at cross purposes and needed to be unhooked. A young guy at the back, very articulate and with interesting experience informing his views on a number of topics, put forward the view that paedophilia is not a type of sexuality, that it should not be considered listable alongside homosexuality, heterosexuality et cetera. Exploring this question properly would be fascinating and I may well do that in another post. What truth does any sexuality label express about a human being? Does listing by sexual object (same sex adults, opposite sex adults, children), confer legitimacy on that form of sexual desire? If so how, why and who decides?

However, while it is only one issue, not some kind of de facto pinnacle of sexual taboos (I’m pretty sure nobody mentioned bestiality, more’s the pity – suggesting it is more taboo), this fundamentally important topic was eventually made light of, which I could not understand. Yes, it might seem like a cliché to name paedophilia as a taboo, but that is because it’s taboo. (Almost) no-one wants to talk about it.

For me, attending was motivated by intrigue as to what/which taboos might be discussed in ways which could educate and enlighten me, and by a nebulous anticipation that I might somehow be unburdened from the struggle of holding in or suppressing some previously forbidden thoughts, opinions or feelings – in short, catharsis – nebulous because I was unable to tell myself what these might be. Yes, I saw a political opportunity to raise an issue which I still believe most people are just too squeamish to address head on, but it’s not one which fully belongs to me. Which taboos do? I didn’t find out. And are our intimate taboos only sexual?

Towards the end of the evening a little attention was given to the fact that what constitutes a taboo for a particular individual may not be at all these big flagged-up paraphilias but apparently tiny personal details, like the size of our bum or a desperate need to have our head touched. Things which we cannot say for fear, these are taboos. On reflection I feel the conversation could have got to this point much sooner, leaving time to explore the mechanisms by which taboos in real lives get created and maintained – and even more interestingly and importantly, how they get unpicked, challenged and de-tabooed, drawing on first-hand accounts. I suspect that could be emotionally transformative for many.

I’m not critical of the organisers, who did a grand job to get 30 odd people out on a cold, wet, January, Tuesday night and an interesting professional speaker. However, if I am complaining that it was a missed opportunity, without wanting to be critical, I ought to call it instead an opportunity: for an evening of discussion on sex and taboo/s which is curated to dodge the pitfalls. Taboo is both noun and adjective, both personal and cultural; all combinations are a tantalising pull for audiences; the organisers need to find a firmer but still flexible format which can deliver. It needn’t be a problem to have a broad discussion (only) about what is or is not a taboo in wider society, because the why is always going to be juicy. It’s just not quite what it says on the tin, especially if the general public still want to avoid the difficult ones.

Writing / Sex / Mistakes

headinhandsHaving got officially sick and tired of hearing myself think about blogs I might write complaining about not knowing what to write (having exhausted in reality the topic of complaining about being too afraid/too anxious/too busy to write), I am back and ready to write actual stuff.

Not that these topics aren’t important at all, but certainly I am hoping to develop my ideas into a conversation other than the one with other writers about the experience of writing. But you know, one day I will look back at the obstacles I faced from a distance (she says willing this to be true) and on that day I may well see something more interesting than what I’ve had to say on the subject so far.

I ought also to wonder whether the book I’ve written (but not published, or sent out very far) is ultimately a veiled account of what it feels like not to write. I wrote it precisely while I was supposed to be writing a PhD. It was an escape from a harder task, and it caught me up in its deeply satisfying mental-health-giving properties. My blog posts about writing itself have probably all popped out when I have not been at work on it for some time.

In fact the book is about a lot of things, a great many, and on my to-do list long before approaching publishers, is to re-read it expressly to find out what my themes were (sex, gender, justice?). I like to describe it as a philosophical stream of consciousness confessional, but hey, who likes them? Maybe lots of people would like it, but equally, maybe I wrote it just for me. When I say it’s philosophical, I mean it’s full of questions. Literally, it’s full of questions. When I re-read it, it will take me back to them all and maybe from there I can get some clarity about what it matters most to me to write about. (Sex, gender, difference.)

Because I am only just beginning to bring the strands of my life together to see that my obsessions actually matter. For instance, this week my work bit me hard in the personal-interests department. For that piece of code, read: my ‘boss’ called me ‘rather a strident feminist’ to a male colleague because I called out sexism. I reeled at the grilling I was given, though I should have expected it and, logically, it’s a fair cop; I tried hard not to name names and events, so my claims must have seemed pretty vague. But the real reeling is in the insane laziness of this characterisation. He was literally implying that if I’m a feminist then my view of sexism is inherently inflated. Worse, his emotional reaction (in a nice way) at being called out suggests that he thinks his workplace practices are feminist. He obviously doesn’t know that this is the right word for the things he is proud of in his workplace, not to mention in his personhood, but it is.

In fact I was really trying to call him out for his sexist positive treatment of arseholes. I suspected that a particular issue affecting two women colleagues would illustrate this weakness. In fact people thought that the guy in question was the root of the sexism I was calling out. What a fricking mess.

When I say sexist, I mean shockingly blind to an affection (weakness) for certain men who personify a brash confidence, but are rude or mad. Perhaps they got good results, but they were paid more than and treated with far more respect than the women whose jobs they made infinitely harder. It’s painful to throw another stereotypical judgement onto my own karmic log sheet but these guys are in marketing. The sex of an arsehole or an empty suit shouldn’t matter, and women should get employed for their skills and competencies, and men should not get employed when they lack these. And I should know better than to think I can fix a very old and entrenched psychological problem by flagging up how it disadvantages certain staff, using the method of professional observation and reporting. Apparently I have “a bee in my bonnet”.

Before I run screaming back into gainful relative unemployment (I’m freelance so it’s nicely vaguer than that), I need to reap some ‘lessons’ from this that are going to make me real goddamn happy but not smug. And I need to finish the work on my plate like a grown up, albeit a grown up in a team of grown ups with an overgrown child at the helm, calling the shots and giving me glare-eye.

Are there lessons? Hell yeah – you’re reading it now… I am coming to realise that, even if my report was strictly speaking true, my belief that it would work was in contradiction with the reality I know. Each time I tell myself that I don’t really know what I need to write about (sex, gender, sexism), I am making a temporary escape from dark shit that depresses and scares me. Then I go about my daily life thinking that all the tools we need to fix things are just there and we can use them and change things. Well they’re not. They need making. I need to remember that, much as I hugely value making discoveries through direct human contact, writing is a way to create some of these tools.

 

Love letter to an infatuation (in two parts)

tattooPart 1. 3rd November 2016
This is the blog post I am too much of a coward even to publish anonymously to an audience of three people [until now]. By the way I love you you three people you are THE BEST.

This is the post about the man I’m currently infatuated with, written because, out of all the many people there are existing in the world, I know I shouldn’t tell him, for goodness’ sake. He won’t see it, because no-one I know sees it, because I hardly tell anyone where it is, and when I do it’s people who are almost certainly too busy to read it just as an exercise in letting me know whether my style is terrible.

He won’t see it, and so I can say that even though I am recently dumped (okay mutually separated), and have formally agreed with everyone who tells me I don’t need and shouldn’t have a boyfriend, I can’t stop thinking about him. He won’t see it, and so I can say that my memories of him have taken on a completely new direction in my mind and body and frankly, a life of their own. I can say that although I don’t know whether he finds me sexually attractive, he’ll certainly have to give it some serious thought if I get him cornered. I can say that one of the things that compels me is the way he can combine seeming to be really into me with being totally unbothered by the fact that now I am in a relationship, or that now I am single. I can say it is intoxicating to remember seeing him and feeling totally respected and cared for, without the slightest hint of enticement or aversion. I can say that his image in my mind is incredibly much like a really close, intimately trusted friend, even though from a textbook perspective we hardly know one another. I can say that I’m getting the most outrageous shots of energy through my body whenever I think about him. I can say that I am working double time to make sure that I take the steps I need to take to go forward with our friendship, knowing that it is one I want and need, without fucking it up by prejudicing its emergence so that it gets channelled by my behaviour to become either something sexual or nothing at all.

Because he won’t see this I can say that when I think about how he is, and what he’s told me, it forces me to rethink my fears and doubts about good connected platonic relationships between men and women being possible, and that in a blatant irony this is a huge turn on. I can say that the way he holds himself in his body makes me think he is fit and well and a good catch, that I want to fuck him. I can say that the way he engages me in conversations about things that I can’t stop talking about, and that strictly speaking I almost never get to talk to anyone else about, makes me think he is either really skilled at manipulating me to open up and jabber jabber jabber because he likes the sound of my voice, or my company, or that he finds my opinions interesting and shares them (or both), both of which are ridiculously attractive features for a human to have. I can say that if his interest in the things I am interested in, that I have barely begun to have decent conversations about, in spite of craving them for many years, is half as strong as mine, then if we did feel sexually attracted to one another, and we were able to act on it, that we would have something to explore that I have never had the chance to explore. I can say that that would potentially blow my mind. Good job he won’t see this because you know, no pressure.

Because he won’t see this I can say that the fact I don’t know where he lives or who with or how he spends his evenings or whether he can cook or whether he is damaged beyond repair or whether his anger management problem is under control or whether he is a recovering alcoholic or someone who just has to treat alcohol with respect or whether he hates all the music and films that I love, doesn’t matter to me, because I know how to find him, he can take care of himself, he has high standards and good taste, he has learnt when and how to protect himself, maybe even in ways that I haven’t, and he knows what is important in life, and he has laboured to heal himself, and he already knows how to be direct and touch my heart without sentimentality.

Even though I am getting tired and cold I have made another hot drink because I still want to say that I don’t want this moment of my mind to be wasted if we don’t become friends or if we do become only friends or if we almost become lovers and then fall out. I want him to know that all these things are true right now, and that most of them are always going to be true. I want him to know that even if I turn out to fuck this up totally it is not because I plan to barge headlong into his life and make assumptions about him being interested in me because he is a man and I am a woman and we are a similar age and we are, possibly, both single at the same time and because he has shown interest in my thoughts and smiled a lot and been there for me. I want him to know moreover that thinking about being truly, holistically, irresistably attractive to him makes me feel more certain than ever that I need to improve myself, in the sense that the abstract idea that one of the reasons that not being in a relationship is a good thing is that it gives me time to create greater trust in myself, to forge a deep sense of emotional independence, of self-love, to improve my physical fitness and explore my sexual body better, so that I can be a better lover in the future, better for myself and for a lover, less complacent sexually and more self-aware emotionally.

But I also want him to know that when I started to become infatuated with him I had to question these goals which I realised are really quite negative. I do want to become fitter, healthier, more productive; not like a pig in a cage; more agentic, more adventurous, more alive, more assertive, more in tune with my need to realise my dreams and my ability to make things happen. But I don’t want to use the idea that I’m not there yet as a screen behind which to hide myself from potential lovers. I don’t want to look for casual lovers so I can have sex and play with connection whilst maturely accepting that I am not really ready to be loved or worth loving by anyone with high enough standards for me to want them. I don’t want to play around with polyamory just so that I can tell myself it is okay however many times I get dumped for being not quite fit enough, a bit too passive, a bit lazy, a bit depressed, a bit smelly, a bit too poor, a bit self-deluded, a bit slow. I don’t want to look for lovers who I can be sure won’t want me for too long, so that they won’t be there to remember years later that the first time we made love I wasn’t as fit and strong and agentic as I aspire to be. When did it become okay to expect myself to be different in order to be loveable and able to love?

And if I’m loveable, if I am still however not supposed to get another boyfriend too soon, what are the criteria for being capable of taking care of myself in a relationship sufficiently, and who will decide when I am that? Am I an object of suspicion because no-one approved of my choices last time: because they understood my lover better than I did, or because they never understood him at all? Or is it a simple maths game: that I have been too long in relationships and too brief between them, and that the energy I have expended trying to sustain and protect those relatiosnhips has not only cost me dear, but has demanded energy from those around me, who I love and who love me enough to have to stay and participate? Or is it more important that I am ‘brilliant in my own company’ and therefore must not do or say anything that could create a situation where my gradually growing independence is reversed by a co-dependent relationship where my time is once again not really my own but a constant subject of negotiation, spoken and unspoken, between me and another who needs more than I am able to give or is present less than I need? Am I really at risk of being subsumed as a result of choosing to give myself over to a person who would not support me totally in doing what I need to do to become as fully alive and engaged with my passions as I can be? Can I hope to fully engage with and explore my passions while holding an arbitrary boundary around myself against passionate love?

And if I am friends with someone who I find attractive, I want to ask him, does that mean that one day I will suddenly know I am there, at the right time, because the boundary will fall away leaving desire clearly visible between us? Or does it mean that I will always fret about whether he is equally interested in me or not, and about whether while I am looking the other way, being brilliant in my own company and working on my goals and my intentions and my independence, he could be falling in love with somebody else?

Part 2. 11th November 2016
He can cook.

About time for another post about sex

IMG_0053Having had this blog for several years and never shared it, I begin to wonder, if I really only want to talk to myself why do I distinguish this from a diary kept at home? If I need to talk publicly about sex, why won’t I be public with it? Given that I started the blog with the theme of de-sexualising adult sleep and rarely talk about that now, does the life of this blog say something about my sexual development?

Since I left my job I have written more (here and elsewhere) and feel more and more that I must write, that I can’t not write. Since I separated from my boyfriend I feel more and more that my sexuality is (to me) an incredibly open-ended and big part of my life. Not simply because I enjoy sex and miss it, or because in a certain sense it has held huge sway over me during my adulthood, but because I want to write about it. I have known this for a long time, I have been clear about it in my mind, but it remains near the bottom of a long list of good intentions and rarely gets dusted off and done.

Why do I not think that when I write a blog about sex that it is worth taking the time to share it with readers? Why do I think that two or three readers a year is a good start and all I can handle? Is this how I see myself as a sexual being too? Do I think that there is (was) only one man on the planet who finds (found) me sexually desirable and that therefore there is no reason to draw attention to myself as a sexual being (not that blogging is a way to pull)? Am I so afraid of a real conversation about sex that I can only pretend to write about it?

If I started talking about de-sexualising adult sleep and now I more often just talk about sex, is that a cowardly abandonment of a difficult or fringe subject close to my heart because there is no-one to talk to about it, or does it just mean that I have just grown up and smelt the coffee? That in the end I heard my own protesting-too-much: much as I still believe that it is a potent subject, in the end I accepted that my interest in blogging about it was a suppressed interest in blogging about sex directly? Obvious, or too easy?

And what do I do with my precious anonymity if I want readers to engage with? Does it matter if people I know read my private thoughts – I have put them on the internet after all. Do I still feel I am protecting anyone I speak about by pretending not to be me? Can I balance being candid with being respectful or do I want to bend the truth, offend and be tasteless, is that why they mustn’t be able to find it? Do I hide my writing doubly from view, because deep down I am both afraid of not being sexually desirable, and afraid of being perceived as too interested in sex?

Fantasy without desire?

Desire is always for the other, I have been told. I felt like I ought to know this from the amount of interest I have shown in psychoanalysis and Freud, over a time, but I had never noticed it. Now a few years on it suddenly seems to matter a lot.

I separated from my partner of nine years and naturally, for me, I am now passing through phases in my attitude to sex. For a long run up towards the end I thought: ‘No, we can’t possibly break up, the sex is good, worth fighting for, we deserve better and we can achieve better, including in our sex.’ When we broke up: ‘Oh my god, now no sex. It doesn’t matter though, everything else in life added together is surely more important!’ Concurrently with this phase: ‘Hooray! Now I can have sex with anyone in the entire world (ish) whenever I like, including non-serious, casual, once only, even anonymously.’ Still not interested in animals though, sorry.

There was also briefly: ‘I’ll never have sex that good again.’ But now there is more a sense of: ‘When I began to feel more and more the frustrations with our sex why did I still hang on to dreams of our developing together for so long, instead of adding that to the mounting evidence that we were flaking away?’ Recently the fantasy of unlimited fun sex has made way for: ‘What if I never find anyone I am particularly sexually attracted to again?’ But the worst, the real terror, maybe it’s one you know: ‘What happens if I slowly fall head over heels in love with someone and they tick all my boxes (developing checklist for another blog), but then, in the sack, we just don’t do it for each other?’ Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhh.

I have started remembering previous casual encounters more clearly. One night stands can be fun but I can’t remember many where I had an orgasm. Am I therefore too old for that now? I don’t want to spend ages cruising for hot men, in order to satisfy the idea that I can express free agency, only to find all I have is freedom to choose to be vaguely disappointed. Am I being pessimistic? Probably. I can imagine hooking up and having good sex because I can’t possibly imagine getting into bed with anyone that I don’t really, really like, and that narrows things down a lot. And, if I do remember my one night stands clearly, it’s what makes sex incredibly satisfying whether you come or not: giving pleasure in the hope of simply exchanging it. Giving pleasure to someone you really like is good. It’s obvious that what you share or get back is unknown.

Suddenly a terrible thought occurs: ‘What if I have sex with someone who is critical, or disappointed?’ Oh dear, better go into hibernation for good.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Christ why doesn’t she just buy some toys and have a wank?’ Well, of course that’s a good option. One I was far too distracted by to have been able to write this blog first; although I have resisted making rash purchases. But guess what? I even managed to let my theorising get in the way of that.

I am aware of plenty of times I have enjoyed sex alone without a fully fledged fantasy in my head, in fact it’s rare that I fully fledge a fantasy, being really too lazy for that sort of thing, a bit of visualisation is normally enough. But it got stuck in my head that I would always need to rely on an image of someone real, and someone I desire, to get off. During the last few phases I have drawn in and spat out lots of potential fantasy material, leaving me with the unhappy question: What if every time I masturbate my head fills with images of people I don’t want to masturbate about? What if I betray myself? What if I get off thinking about my ex; will that compromise me in my recovery? What if I get off thinking about that guy who … (this, that or the other)? Will it mean I develop stronger daytime feelings that aren’t any good to me?

Marvelling at my own ability to make things that should be simple, wholesome and fun (and potentially healing and stress-reducing), into things complicated, stressful and serious, I have kept falling asleep unwantedly. Then yesterday, out walking, the penny finally dropped.

My anxiety, with apologies from the heart to all the people in the world with actual problems (I am ashamed), has been that fantasising about people I don’t really fancy will affect me in life, or reveal to me that I do fancy them, and this stems from my belief that fantasising strengthens feeling, and that I will inevitably fantasise, confronting me with things about my desire which I am denying. So I asked myself whether there was actually anything or anyone so important that it would really matter? This involved a run through of potential fantasy objects, and guess what … it turns out that none of them I fancy.

Does it matter? Yes, it’s a total breakthrough for me. In my parallel questioning about future romantic entanglements, I tell myself (if I can get a word in with all the other people telling me, and reminding me), that I need to take a long break from relationships. I believe us all. I worry only slightly that I might slip. These thoughts frequently lead me back to casual sex, but also to its perils.

But my masturbation anxieties, that I need a real object to get off (so to speak!), and that I am probably hiding something from myself, have shown me that for possibly the first time in my life, I don’t care that I’m not attracted to anyone. It’s a total mindblower. I didn’t even realise how essential it has been for so long, to have that mental sexual object. Still eyeing (or lining) people up is the fading reminder of my long term obsession with having another person to be in love with and to desire. And I’m not the only one.

When is too much sex not enough?

Pile of threaded metal countersunk screws with a Philips head screwdriver on a white background for DIY and carpentry

Okay, so when is not enough sex for me too much for you? When I forget about quality and focus on quantity? Or when we have fundamentally different levels of libido? And what is the truth underlying the apparent universality that men want sex more than women?

Person A is pained when their partner says he thinks they have sex less than they used to, or that she doesn’t initiate enough. Painstaking discussion reveals that they are in a vicious cycle where he has been making it harder for her to initiate sex (by going straight to sleep) to protect himself emotionally from her not initiating. Is her not having been more insistent, say, waking him up to complain, or chasing him faster to bed at night, evidence that he is right? Or is it just a lot of disappointed person A?

Person P says: my partner wants sex more than I do. It has always been that way. Is this an unsolvable function of their libidos, or a long term chain reaction, triggered by a seed thought that goes unnoticed, like Person A’s ‘not enough initiation’? Is it a gendered problem which happens to loads of couples?

Maybe there is a problem of quality versus quantity. I don’t mean that they have crap sex, or not enough quality sex; I have no idea and don’t want any clairvoyant comments filling me in on that either, kindly thank you. I mean that if they have never completed a conversation about how much sex would be enough, not enough, and too much, by working out a perfect compromise on quantity and frequency of sex, to make them both feel as close to satisfied and as far from put upon as humanly possible, then maybe it’s because without realising it they have settled on a shared idea of what sex is that is just quantitative.

Let’s indulge stereotypes and call Person P ‘she’ and assume they are hetero. Maybe she doesn’t want sex as much as he does because she doesn’t enjoy it as much as he does. Maybe she has not-enoyed it more times than he has. Maybe he doesn’t even know she has not-enjoyed it as much as she has.

I don’t know about you but I think sex is fucking brilliant and I can’t think why anyone would not want to have sex all day long, every day, unless there were some pressing reason not to do so. Some of the reasons I don’t actually do this in my own life are: having to eat, cook, clean, look after others, go out to work, buy or grow food, pay bills, mend stuff, answer the phone, menstruate, socialise in public places and/or with people who are no good for having sex with. I would probably stop having sex to vote. I won’t count laundry because if I did have sex all day every day I wouldn’t bother to get dressed.

There are other reasons I don’t have sex this much, including: movies, books, conversation, Scrabble, my kids and other relatives and all my friends, sport, art, learning, live music and being outdoors in nature. Taken as a bundle these duties and non-sex pleasures take a really big chunk out of my sex time pie chart. There also seem to be times when my mate doesn’t want to have sex (and my solutions to this don’t include urgently finding someone else to have sex with). And finally, if we had sex all the time, surely we would pretty soon be doing the same thing over and over again, since how would we get a chance to even think of anything different?

Esther Perel tells us that many couples identify the times when they are stretched away from their mate, socially or geographically, as the times they are most likely to notice the rekindling of desire. These desiring moments presumably generate new energy and initiative for sex, whether any newness in bed is thought through or not.

My brain says the sex person P doesn’t want so much of must, almost by definition, be less fun for her that it is for him. Does he notice this when they have sex? Does he care? Does she notice this, or suspect it, or does she enjoy sex a great deal, but simply feel incredibly satisfied thereafter and find the idea of doing it again quite bizarre? Duty kills libido; does she have more duties, or not? I have heard of a hetero couple for whom him doing the ironing is a consistent initiation process.

Maybe their shared seed thought was that men enjoy sex more than women do. Maybe their vicious cycle is that he enjoys the sex more than she does every single time and neither of them has realised that they are both missing out. Maybe believing he naturally enjoys sex more than her means he doesn’t fully realise the value of showing her sexual affection even when she clearly does not want sex, and maybe she doesn’t show him sexual affection in case he wants sex more.

Why doesn’t he just fucking forget about the number of sexes he’s not getting for a while, and try to find out what is less great in her memories of their sex than in his? I do understand that some people have low libido. I agree that everyone has the absolute right to say no to sex, including within a relationship, heaven forbid that this should need saying. I also have a conviction that a large majority of sexually mature adults have the physical and hormonal apparatus to have and enjoy good sex and that good sex creates libido. I most want more sex when I have had good sex recently.

As if this post wasn’t long enough already, I will add: (menstruating age) women are definitely cyclic. If it seems that a conversation about what will make sex better will happen before how to have more of it, start by checking when you are/she is most likely to be hot. The second week after menstruation is a good place to start. And if that’s just passed, so much the better. Discussing what you are going to do to each other for a whole month is going to give that low libido some serious trouble.