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Can We Talk About Sex?

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I’m a 32-year old woman. My favorite things to do include reading, writing, hiking in nature, and having thoughtful discussions. I’m passionate about health and self development…and have as much love for a perfectly brewed cup of tea as I do for a well-aged scotch. I’m sensitive – and by that I mean I am easily overstimulated by a loud, flashy, over-the-top environment. Just yesterday, for example, I had to run errands and was thoroughly disgruntled when reminded that it’s probably not wise to be running errands on a Sunday midway through December while everyone and their mother has decided to go holiday shopping. Le sigh…I have never been happier to get home to an empty house.

Having handed you this short description of myself…at least the myself I identify with at the present moment…I have a sneaking suspicion that you would assume I am not interested in sex. A highly sensitive introverted 32-year old female? No chance.

You would be wrong. I happen to think sex is fabulous.

And I’m starting to get a bit frustrated. Not just sexually frustrated (sheesh…get your mind out of the gutter) but very broadly and generally agitated by the nature of the conversations we have about sex and sexuality.

Women are commonly presumed to be utterly disinterested in sex. To the extent that they are interested, it is only really as a precursor to get what they ACTUALLY want. In other words…women are willing to have sex because what the REALLY want is a monogamous relationship or a pretty car or a dingle-hopper or whatever other cockamamie item you imagine women are after.

What proof does the popular culture offer that women aren’t interested in sex? Well, for one, women apparently don’t like casual sex as much as men. That’s what research claims, anyway. Evidently women produce oxytocin after sex (a bonding hormone) which makes it harder for them to avoid wanting to create a longer-lasting bond. Research also suggests that they “aren’t psychologically adapted to casual sex”

Maybe…

But frankly…I call bullshit. You know why women really don’t like one-night stands (at least…why heterosexual women don’t)? Because men are bad at them. No seriously. I think it’s that simple. Most men, when having a casual sexual encounter with a woman, don’t think about what pleases the woman in question. If both men and women were guaranteed to get a surefire gold metal with every exchange…trust me. Women would be just as delighted to play the casual game as their male counterpart.

But that’s jut my personal and very subjective opinion.

To draw from a far more credible source, a journalist named Daniel Berger claims in his book What do Women Want: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire that the assumptions we have had about women’s sexuality may be way off base. An article in the Atlantic summarizes some of his work. Women, it turns out, have a fairly high libido. Maybe even high enough to surpass men. They probably always have. It’s just that researchers are only now starting to ask the right questions to extract that truth. And the public is only now willing to entertain the answers to those questions women are giving.

So why, then, are women mistakenly seen as universally prudish (Sex and the City characters notwithstanding?)

Because there is much more risk involved with women behaving in accordance with their desires.

Think about it. A heterosexual man, should he try and offer himself to a woman risks rejection. Ouch!

A heterosexual woman, though, risks her emotional and physical safety. A woman who is frank about her sexuality could be labeled a slut (and therefore a social pariah) thus compromising her social standing. She also risks socially condoned physical violence. After all…a sexually active female giving a man a come-hither come-on deserves whatever she gets, right? I’m sure YOU, dear reader, wouldn’t feel that way. But society on the whole does. I have proof…he’s sitting in the oval office. Just sayin…

But let’s say that we have the best of best case scenarios. Let’s say we are talking about a woman who likes sex and a man who likes that she likes it and has no intention of using that as a weapon against her. We have the next problem. The assumption on SOME LEVEL is that she will need to ooze sexuality. She must be bold. She must be bodacious. She must wear her sexuality on her sleeve…or rather on her sleeveless pushup bra.

Ohhhh that’s right. I’m talking about Madonna-Whore trap.

The term “Madonna-whore” actually stems from some of Freud’s work. He discovered that there are men who seem to struggle feeling sexually aroused within the confines of an emotionally committed relationship. Why? Well there really isn’t anything exciting and novel about the woman baking you cookies, is there? She’s lovely, but she’s not hot. The hot one is the one who wants you yesterday. She’s bending over your desk, cleavage pouring out of her teeny tiny dress. And she wants it harder, baby. She loves jack-rabbit sex and she’s perfectly delighted to allow you access to any orifice you deem worthy of exploration. She’s not the woman you marry. She’s the woman you….well you get the idea.

So…Even when individuals of society are coming to the dating table with the best of intentions…more often than not women are expected to fill only one of two polar roles. They are either saintly, saccharin, and ripe with naivete (Madonna) OR they are bold, reckless, and punishingly seductive (whore).

And while this is all academically very interesting…living it is hell. I’m sensitive, introverted and well-intentioned. But I’m CERTAINLY not a saint. I have a sex drive that could probably compete with the average male, but I’m not a whore. You will not likely ever find me at the center of a circle of admiring boys eating out of the palm of my hand. But you will also not find me cackling with a gaggle of girls who are lamenting about how to avoid their beau’s next sexual proposition.

To add to the complexity of this issue…highly sensitive people tend to have a more complicated relationship with sex in general. They tend to find sex to be something powerful (to the point of being potentially overpowering). They tend to be turned on by very subtle flirtation, but turned off easily when there are distractions all around. They need sex that is at the right pace and in the right environment…To put it simply, sensitive people are to sex as Goldilocks is to porridge.

I pity the  man who aims to please a heterosexual highly sensitive female.

Ugh. Shoot me.

But…while this is all frustrating for me why should anyone else be concerned at all? What’s the big deal? It’s just sex, right? It’s not like you need it to survive. A person can have a perfectly satisfying life without it…yes?

Well…for those who say such things I can only tell you…. that’s not necessarily true. Sex turns out to be a pretty important part of a healthy relationship. It’s not so much that good sex = good relationship. It’s more that couples who have sex seem to ALSO have an easy ability to engage in other acts of affection as well. They are more likely to touch, hug, kiss, cuddle, etc…and THAT seems to have a HUGE impact on the relationship on the whole. This is not to say that if you are asexual or just have a fairly low libido that you are doomed to isolation, loneliness and a short life. It’s more to say that feeling sexually satisfied (however high or low your libido may be) is important. If you are asexual and your partner is asexual…kudos. You won the lottery. If you and your partner are both chomping at the bit and can’t wait for your next opportunity…well hey. Nice! You, too, have won the relationship lottery. It’s not about an objective number. It’s about your subjective sense of satisfaction in your life.

And having a rich, fully integrated, satisfying life is kind of the point, don’t you think?

What are your thoughts? What, in your mind, constitutes a healthy relationship with sex? How do YOU think we need to be talking about sexuality as a community/culture/country?

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