by Dan Savage
Longtime reader with a vanilla question: What to do about differing libidos? We're a straight couple together 20-plus years, and we've aged well. No weight gain, no radical changes in appearance. We are open and loving, and I am cognizant of her needs and feelings. Yesterday, I read an interview with Joan Sewell, author of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido, and handed it to my wife and observed that this is the new ideal: women laughing at their male partners and shrugging their shoulders about women's general lack of desire. My spouse can now point at this book and say, "You see, I'm normal, and so are all of my friends, ha ha ha, live with it…"
While I want sex daily, I get it maybe 5 to 20 times a year—and I am lucky compared to some straight married men! Where are the women you hear about who want sex constantly?
Not Giving Up
I haven't had a chance to read Ms. Sewell's book, NGU, but I devoured Sandra Tsing Loh's review of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate in the current Atlantic Monthly. (Loh's book reviews are worth the price of a subscription.) And I'm saddened to report that, according to Sewell and Loh, there's no such thing as a woman who wants sex constantly. They don't exist—never did.
All that yammering about women with voracious sexual appetites during Sex and the City's long reign of terror? A cruel hoax. A figment of the straight-male imagination, a Big Lie picked up on and promoted by self-serving female "sexperts" eager to tell straight men what they wanted to hear. Women have naturally lower sex drives, Sewell writes. It's a hormonal thing. Testosterone makes humans horny, men have lots more than women, so men are hornier—and all the Sex and the City repeats in the world aren't going to change that.
So if straight women don't want sex—or as much sex—what do they want? Chocolate, says Sewell, or a good book. Massive amounts of carbs, says Loh, who approvingly writes of a lesbian couple she knows. With no men around demanding sex, Loh's lesbian friends are livin' the dream: "Teri and Pat have had a special Monday-night ritual. They order an extra-large cheese pizza," writes Loh. While they wait for their pizza, "they settle in on the couch with large twin bags of Doritos. Each chip is dipped first in cream cheese and then in salsa. Cream cheese, salsa. Cream cheese, salsa…. The Doritos are finished to the last crumb, and then, upon arrival, the pizza as well." (No dessert is mentioned—I imagine it's just one wafer-thin mint.) Teri and Pat are 50 pounds overweight and suffer from "lesbian bed death," but for them, pizza-and-Doritos night is "better than sex." Loh, who has a sex-starved husband at home, is green with envy.
So the jig is up, NGU. For a while, women with high libidos were normal and women with low libidos were freakish. Now women with low libidos can hand their husbands Sewell's book and rip open a bag of Doritos.
But there's a silver lining, NGU. Back when women with low libidos were regarded as abnormal—way back at the beginning of the month—it was fashionable to blame the man in a woman's life for her lack of desire. For years, whenever I printed a letter from a guy who wasn't getting any, or wasn't getting much, mail would pour in from women insisting that he had to be doing something wrong.
I called them the "if only" letters: If only she didn't have to do all the housework, she would want to have sex. If only he would talk with her about her day, she would want to have sex. If only she weren't so exhausted from taking care of the kids, she would want to have sex. If only he didn't ask for sex, she would want to have sex. Well now, thanks to Sewell, straight guys everywhere know that it doesn't matter how much housework you do, or how sincerely interested you are in her day, or how much of the child care you take on: She still won't want to fuck you. So leave the dishes in the sink, grab a beer, and go play a video game, guys. Your "if only" nightmares are over.
Sewell's book is also going to restore straight men's dignity. I was recently shown a new sex-toy collection for straight couples, a basket of erotic goodies—"lotions and potions!"—clearly designed for women who would rather eat chocolate. Edible strawberry lubricant, vanilla body powder, chocolate genital sprinkles. Lotions and potions? Try frosting.
And, my God, chocolate sprinkles for your cock? How humiliating is that? It's the sex-toy equivalent of "porn for couples," AKA "the porn straight men watch when straight women are watching them watch porn," and it's every dick-shriveling inch as unerotic. Here's the message these tins of frosting send to men: She would put your dick in her mouth if only it tasted less like cock and more like cupcakes.
No more, guys—toss the lotions and potions. It's time to let your dicks be dicks again.
One thing that hasn't changed in the wake of Sewell's book is my advice to women with low libidos: You can have strict monogamy or you can have a low libido, ladies, but you can't have both. If monogamy is a priority, you're gonna have to put out, i.e., regular vaginal intercourse and the occasional tide-him-over handjob and/or blowjob, cheerfully given. If all you wanna do is sit there and eat chocolate, you're gonna have to turn a blind eye to lap dances and mistresses and happy endings and the return of trade, i.e., gay guys giving NSA head to straight guys.
And while low-libido women everywhere will point to Sewell's book to justify their disregard for their husbands' needs, just as NGU fears, Sewell herself is following my advice: "Because Sewell loves her husband and knows that he, like her, craves physical contact," writes Loh, "they eventually worked out a contract both can live with. It involves handjobs, lubejobs, and—when she doesn't feel like being touched—her dressing up… and letting him watch… so he can finish himself off by himself."
Oh, and guys? You need to accept those tide-you-over blowjobs and handjobs just as cheerfully as she gives them. The one thing besides hormones that contributes to female reluctance to consent to sex is the expectation, on the part of the male, that consent always means vaginal intercourse—except when it means anal intercourse. If your hole were getting pounded every time you said yes to sex, guys, you would say yes less often. So broaden your definition of sex to include handjobs, blowjobs, lubejobs, and masturbation in her presence or on her person—these things count, guys, they're not consolation prizes—and you'll get laid a lot more.
And finally, a word about a book I have read: In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins tears the intelligent design idjits into a million little pieces. I feel bad about piling on—almost. Hey, intelligent design idjits? If God really wants us to have heterosexual sex only, and then only within the bounds of holy matrimony, and if adultery offends Him so much—it's a stoning offense, right up there with gay sex—how come He designed men and women to be sexually incompatible?
Well, I should say that He designed straight men and straight women to be sexually incompatible. Lesbian couples, with their bags of Doritos, and gay couples, with our mutually insatiable sexual appetites, seem pretty intelligently designed. Thank you, Jesus!
My position on beating off to historically important images of Anna Nicole Smith, or getting your ex-fundie ass laid, didn't go over so well. Read on for angry letters—most of them from Wolf Blitzer.
Just so I understand, it's okay to consensually: have sex dressed like a fuzzy animal, wear diapers, act-rape, slurp someone’s santorum, pee all over someone, attach and activate shock devices to genitalia, fist, role play, prod, probe, and peg. But you can’t think about someone who is dead when you masturbate? I hope this is not the only letter you receive that absolutely disagrees with you on this. Your personal fantasies can feature whomever you wish—make that whatever you wish. Hypothetically, if I have some secretly harbored fantasy to be a part of an orgy involving deep-sea crustaceans, am I not allowed to masturbate around that fantasy because it does not "exist within the realm of possibility?"
I Heart Brine Shrimp
"…The hope that masturbation represents"? What the hell?
I "hope" that multiple men will carry me off and rape me over and over. I "hope" that tentacle monsters will abduct me and perform unusual experiments on me. I "hope" for a lot of messed-up things, Dan. Oh, but you know what? Fantasies are just fantasies. They don't have to be realistic. And you believe that people don't masturbate to James Dean and Marilyn Monroe without feeling creepy and hopeless? Seems rather narrow of you. What about hentai? Animated porn is entirely fake, so what realm of possibility does that represent? Or do you condemn that, too?
Fantasies Aren't Hopes
I have to disagree with your reply to MAN about feeling guilty about masturbating to images of Anna Nicole Smith after she died. It probably feels a little weird now because her death is so recent, and people hate to speak ill (or perversely) about the recently deceased. However, people still fantasize about the deceased, be they famous celebrities (Marilyn Monroe posters don't only arouse cinematic respect) or people best known for sexual roles (if they did, last year's deaths of Anna Malle and Jon Dough would have retired hundreds of porn flicks). Anna Nicole Smith is best known for showing her body; and unlike many women, using her body for shallow titillation may be the most dignified thing she ever did in life.
So, feel sorry that she died, and keep using her image as you did when she was alive. After all, you're only slightly less likely to get together with her now, but the fantasy image she created lives on.
Fantasies Never Die
I am a relatively new fan. It is fun to read your columns on Wednesdays. Usually, even summarily, I agree with the advice you offer to people who do things that far exceed the boundaries of my (fecund) imagination. So I was saddened to see your response to MAN regarding masturbation.
When I was a little girl, there was no pornography (that I could find) in my home. There were some art books. I remember distinctly masturbating to Déjeuner sur L'Herbe because it seemed so arousing, this naked reclining woman, a picnic, and two fully clothed men engaged in some kind of (very important and no doubt philosophical) discussion. The people in the painting, if they ever lived, are surely dead. Does this make them any less erotic? Is it not okay to fantasize about being that naked, semi-ignored woman on the picnic blanket? Don't you think people still fantasize about
Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Paige pictures?
Dan, your advice to MAN, the guy jerking it to Anna Nicole, was way off. There were two possible replies:
“Yes, MAN, you need to stop —because Anna Nicole was a fat, idiotic, drug-addled idiot who was fat. You can whack to better.”
But that would impugn his choice of whacking material, and who are we to do that? So try this:
“Have some respect, she was a real person with a real family blah blah blah...”
I don't think you'd say this or feel this, because what sex pro would? So the real response left is this:
“No, MAN, go for it. She looks good to you in those pictures? Then it works. Reality doesn't have to intersect with porn—hell, reality SHOULDN'T intersect with porn—so if you're whacking to the tits and ass, then those tits and ass are whatever you want them to be. That's why porn stars use fake names, because who they are isn't important; what they're doing is.”
Whack With Whatever Works
In your answer to MAN you say that masturbating to pictures of deceased people "violates the hope that masturbation represents." So much for Pictures of Lily. What about pictures of still-living people when they were younger—Sean Connery in Dr. No, perhaps? Sean won't ever be 30 again, so a theoretical masturbator can't ever get with 30-year-old Sean. I'll risk your wrath and continue imagining Cary Grant—aged 40-50, not the (still-handsome) old dude he was when I was in my teens.
I’m a 56-year-old gay man and I love beating off to gay porn from the 1970s. Partly because the guys in those films to me were my sexual ideal when I was coming out; also I think there was a naturalness, spontaneity, innocence, and affection in those films that is missing in the highly professional, airbrushed, steroid-enhanced gay porn produced today.
However, I also know that many of my favorite porn stars from the ’70s are dead, typically from AIDS. I know that my beat-off fantasies are just that—fantasies. I’m okay with that. In an odd way I feel that maybe I am also honoring the memory of these men.
Also, on a more personal level, my partner loved porn and had a chance to do a gay-porn-mag photo spread. (He had both a hot body and a gorgeous soul). He died a few years ago. Every now and then when I miss him I get out that magazine and sometimes even beat off. Afterward I don’t feel despair or hopelessness, just the warm memories of being with a wonderful guy.
And yes, I have sex with real people. I have comfortably settled into the role of being the daddy to a couple of hot young men. But one of the benefits of being 56 is that you know and appreciate the difference between fantasy and reality.
Sex With Dead Okay
Your answer to Former Fundie left out what I think could be a rewarding venue for him not only to get laid but also to improve his social and intellectual life. There is a vibrant community of atheists out there, and they are especially welcoming and bend-over-backward tolerant of those who have escaped fundamentalist tyranny.
Venues exist online, such as the Internet Infidels Discussion Board (iidb.org/vbb/index.php). I've also myself met several of the members of IIDB in person. Many couples have met and formed romantic relationships and even marriages through such venues.
There are no small few atheist-oriented blogs, including my own (barefootbum.blogspot.com); the commenters in these blogs are a good starting point for socialization.
There are also atheist organizations that meet primarily in real life, including many chapters of American Atheists (www.atheists.org).
I don't think that Former Fundie necessarily needs to structure his life entirely around atheism, nor should he necessarily look to such groups exclusively or primarily as a vehicle for dating and relationships. Even so, the atheist community includes many former fundies and is aware of and sensitive to the particular difficulties of those escaping fundamentalism. Just getting to know similarly minded people in a relaxed atmosphere, without any prior agenda, cannot help but be socially beneficial.
The Barefoot Bum
You suggested that the Former Fundie go with his “posse or peeps…” into the clubs, and that advice absolutely stinks. Dan, you refer to sexual experts when your own experience is limited in certain areas, why didn’t you query Fundamentalists Anonymous or some other more New Age clergy who have experience in dealing with Former Fundies? At age 19, I too left the church. I was lucky enough to have been raised in a North American city—although not of it; FF wasn’t as fortunate. He was raised in foreign countries. He was home-schooled. He went to a Christian university when he returned here.
He couldn’t now tell you the names of any band that Phil Collins was in, nor Robert Plant, nor probably name all four Beatles and list which ones are still living, and you suggest that he hang out in bars with and have fun? His cultural references are entirely different. FF said clearly he has no idea how to function in the real world. I’ve been there. I was raised a fundie, too: Mennonite on my father’s side, Brethren on my mother’s. (Don’t know what those faiths espouse, Dan? FF will….)
Here’s some real advice FF, from one who’s been there: Stay away from the bars, and save yourself the 10 years I wasted with people just intent on getting wasted. Stay away from Fundamentalist Anonymous, too, unless you’re really angry and have some rage to vent: They’re at the opposite end of the pendulum’s swing from fundies, and spend all their energy working against old stuff, instead of getting on with their lives. Take courses (like maybe music appreciation); learn a sport; do volunteer work where you get something back at the same time as you give (front of house in a local theatre will allow you to see inspiring modern culture at no charge); get a plot at a local community garden—a secular one—and get your hands in the soil to get yourself grounded in a new reality. In short, experiment to find what you’re interested in, and you’ll find people there with similar interests also doing worthwhile things.
Dan, FF has been brainwashed, and has been held in a form of extremism throughout all his formative years, not really all that different from the CIA-inspired sensory deprivation that resulted in José Padilla’s court case now underway in Florida. Padilla was only detained 1,307 days, and that as an adult; and now his mental health is in question. FF has a belief system to excavate that goes back to the womb.
Feeling Better Now, Hope FF Will, Too
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