Give Sex a Chance

June 9, 2009

This past weekend we made a trip down to Little Rock for the wedding of a very good friend.  At the rehearsal dinner, the groom’s parents read a letter from the groom’s grandmother who couldn’t be there to the couple.  In it, she wrote about how one of the most important aspects to a good marriage is good sex. Gotta love a grandma like that.

I couldn’t agree with grandma more, sex is incredibly important to a good marriage and that is why books like the new What to Expect Before Your Expecting make me want to kick the author in the shins.  By putting so much pressure on the act of trying to get pregnant, not to mention the act of making love, you risk killing the passion and fun in the relationship.  

A friend who is thinking with her husband about starting to try to get pregnant recently asked me if trying to get pregnant had hurt my sex life with my husband.  I told her that, even with the fertility hoops we had to jump through, we managed to keep things light and fun.  That wasn’t necessarily easy, but we felt strongly that maintaining the sex for sex’s sake was important, that our relationship shouldn’t get lost in the work of trying to get pregnant.  I mean, honestly, what good are all of the sacrifices we make for our kids (and potential kids), if our relationships with our partners are in the dog-house? 

So while I understand that these books and websites that give advice on things to do to increase your chances of getting pregnant are serving an important informational purpose, I wish they all had a disclaimer at the beginning: “WARNING: The information that follows may severely damage your sex life.”

 

Amanda Hess’s absolutely awesome post on the “sex-positivity” aspect of feminism is a must read!  The thing that set her off on her rant was the selection of Annie Sprinkle as the keynote speaker at American University’s Visions in Feminism conference.  She argues that “sex-positivity” is a dull and worthless concept that adds nothing to the movement and even belittles it by implying that the sexiness of orgasms is essential to feminism.  While I agree with her that “sex-positivity” does get really old, I think she actually gets at something important when she says:

If people who like sex see sex-positivity as a part of the feminist movement, maybe they’ll see feminism as less prude and scary and icky and straight-laced and serious and anti-man. 

The unfortunately truth is that feminism is still fighting the negative uptight anti-man image and that features like “sex-positivity” do bring some people in the door who might otherwise turn and walk the other way.  Especially on college campuses.

While my own feminism and understanding of feminism has changed dramatically over the years, in college, sex-positivity was a huge aspect of my feminist identity.  I was so proud of my ability to reclaim sex for my gender.  I saw my comfort with my own sexuality as a political statement.  “That’s right! I like feminist porn- you got a problem with that?” Blah, blah, blah.  An attitude that I may find laughably embarrassing now, but at the time it was incredibly important to me and one that then led me to read more and take more classes in feminist theory.

So while, I completely agree with Hess that sex-positivity is tedious and, yes, even condescending to feminism, unfortunately I think it may serve a purpose.

Three’s a Crowd?

February 9, 2009

The New York Times had an article a couple of days ago about marital satisfaction after having a child.  Apparently, while it used to be said that having a child would improve marital relations, it is now believed that three’s a crowd.  

Three's Company or a Crowd?

This is especially true for couples that end up taking a more traditional route with the wife staying home or taking more of the child care responsibilities on and the husband bringing in the, or at least the larger, income.  Resentment grows on both sides- the husband resents having to work long hours and the wife resents being stuck at home.

This past weekend I had a meeting up in the City of Brotherly Love and so was gone for the whole day.  This meant that the husband took care of the baby from waking up to going to bed. A first.

Aside from a ridiculous number of phone calls on my part to check in, the day went really well.  The guys got time together, I got to go to my meeting (and got some time alone- six hours of driving has never gone so fast).  And my child did not lose a limb or any sort of bond with me… 

Disgustingly cute story alert! Apparently, as F was giving M his night-time bottle, M stopped drinking and starting smiling and giggling.  F couldn’t figure out why and eventually followed M’s gaze to find him looking at a picture of me.  F said, “are you smiling at Mommy?”  M giggled.  F said, “do you want to say hi to Mommy?”  M waved. I know, I know. Puke-worthy.  But the kind of thing you just have to share, right?

In any case, when I got home at 9:30pm, the husband was happy but completely and utterly exhausted.  And numerous times he said that he now understands much more why I am so tired at the end of the day, and how hard what I do is- especially with juggling work projects as well. 

It was a really important and appreciated recognition of all that I have been doing.  And, honestly, it made me feel immediately closer to F.  So maybe there need to be flip-flop days. When things get really tense and unhappy we should find a way to switch roles- I go out into the grown-up world and do something productive in that realm and F stays home with the baby.

There also need to be two’s company time.  Time with just me and F.  Because, let’s be honest, as much as we love our child, there needs to be time when it is just of the two of us so that we can remember why (and how) we made the baby in the first place…

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After the birth of M I lost something very dear to me: my libido.  And it wasn’t just that I didn’t want to have sex anymore, it wasn’t even fun anymore.  In fact, it hurt. 

This was cause for panic.  Not only was it a problem in my marriage, but I had always been proud of my sexual liberation and contentment.  So I started asking around.  Turns out, most of my women friends who had recently had babies were experiencing similar things.  As one friend said, “I think I might be permanently broken down there.”

So at my six-month check-up with the OB/GYN I asked him about it.  He checked things out and said, “well, it looks ok but some women do find that they need reconstructive surgery after childbirth.”  Then he advised that if I were to go that route, I should wait until I was done having children, just so I don’t need to have the surgery multiple times.  Ok, is it just me or is surgery as a solution FUCKING LUDICROUS?! 

Women have been having babies for eons and have not had reconstructive surgery.  And you can’t tell me that all women stop enjoying sex after the first child.  So the idea of needing SURGERY to fix things is just insane to me.  And that surgery would be the only option offered is terrifying.

But my refusing the idea of surgery didn’t solve the problem- there was still no cravin’ for the lovin’.  And I was getting pretty damn frustrated.  Then, one day, I started thinking about my old line of work, providing services to survivors of sexual assault, and how one common issue survivors often struggle with is finding a way to enjoy sex again.  

Now, before people yell at me, I am not comparing child birth to sexual assault.  Not at all.  They are not even remotely alike- one is the worst kind of assault on your being, the other the greatest gift you can receive.  But the act of childbirth is a physically painful one and does leave you very sore, and kind of gun-shy.

So I thought, maybe I could take some of the techniques I had used with survivors and adjust them for my own situation.  So I worked on changing my mindset.  First, I would plan ahead.  Then, as I got closer to the time of hanky panky, I would start to think about the good things that were going to happen.  And once we started fooling around my main goal was to relax.  Taking deep breaths, staying in the moment.  And, slowly but surely, I started to find that my body responded, and responded with enthusiasm.   And the more I enjoyed, the more I relaxed, until I found it!  Turns out, my libido hadn’t moved away, it was just hiding under my rat-y old  nursing pajamas with my lingerie…

It IS all about sex

November 4, 2008

women-and-sex

There was an article in the Post yesterday which reported that a new study finds that 40% of women 18 and older report sexual problems.  Furthermore, only 12% of women are distressed about their sexual problems.  But don’t worry, the experts say that is good news.  I’m sorry, how the f**k is that good news?! It seems to me that it should be the reverse- that the largest cause for concern is that ONLY 12% are distressed by their sexual problem.  Women should be all up in arms reclaiming their orgasms!

The fact that the supposed experts think that is good news freaks me out.  Women are already told way too much in way too many ways that they shouldn’t be sexual beings- that sexuality is a negative trait.  The high percentage of sexual problems and the low level of distress about it are amazing illustrations of that. So for doctors to be saying that it is good news that women don’t feel a need to solve their sexual problems makes me CRAZY.  

It also makes me think about the messages women are sent about getting what we want- I mean, if we can’t ask for what we want in the bedroom how are we supposed to express what we want and deserve when it comes to raises, promotions, decisions about whether or not to go back to work and how, every life choice you can think of?  I worry that we are setting our expectations way too low.

So here’s what I say- it’s time to speak up! (Yes, this is my Eve Ensler moment.) Enough of this laying on the bottom being bored shitless.  If you aren’t happy with something or find that you are selling yourself short forget that “nice girl” attitude and say something whether it’s in your bedroom, on the kitchen table, in the public park, or, hell, even in that same office where you deserve the raise- whatever floats your boat.