Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sex and the Married Woman

Dear TierneyLab of the NY Times,

A while back I promised my blog readers (not a large group, mind you, but a promise is a promise) a hard-hitting blog on sex.
Yes S-e-x, sex.

Well, when I was in my first post-high school job at Pittsburgh Plate Glass in Tipton, PA., the office staff, all underpaid women, at least one of whom was so intelligent she should have been running the plant instead of bringing the CEO coffee when he required it (but that is another topic and that stellar woman finally left that job and got a degree in library sciences and ran a library in Louisiana for years before moving to Arkansas where she still lives and thinks her grandson is the cat's meow.) But I was young then and had no thoughts of grandchildren but had plenty of thoughts of men and sex. Nonetheless, I kept those thoughts pretty much to myself and lived the other part of me, fairly conservatively, considering that it was 1970. My naivete showed, I suppose, for the underpaid, non-unionized women dubbed me Pollyanna.

I did not have sex in 1970. But the study on reasons people have sex that you blogged about on Tierney Lab became my muse for this post. The study had a flawed sample. (Is that n or N?) Not to blame you for the makeup of the study sample, but the researchers, Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss from the University of Texas could have done a bit better than focusing their sex research on college kids, ("a fairly homogenous sample of students at the University of Texas"). Fairly homogenous? These people all wear the same brand jeans for heavens sake! I like them, I love them, but many of them are still gleaning their opinions from the backs of cereal boxes and whatever is the 180 degree opposite of their parents' views. And, they believe, as perhaps Meston and Buss believe, that they are inventing sex! And for them, they are. We all invent our sex lives because it is seemingly so hard for adults to talk to children about sex.

So I am talking.

Reading the study, I felt excluded. But why should that be? I am experienced. I have been having good, regular sex several times a week for over 30 years. Why aren't Meston and Buss asking me instead of some 18-year-old hot off initial forays into sexdom. Here's why. I have only had sex with one man in my life. Refer to my poem of last year. So, I'm a wet blanket to the researchers, but I do think they could glean a thing or two from those of us who have mixed fidelity and sex. Now, I am not going to say that I can't learn from the under 25 group, for they do have experience that I do not. However, I have experience that they do not also.

Reason 10 for having sex. I agree, it is pleasurable to be close to someone physically and reach orgasm.

Reason 9. Sex goes hand in hand with love. It is a final expression of the desire for intimacy that love initiates. There are multiple kinds of love. Not all lead to the desire for sexual fulfillment. However, the kind of love that one bases a marriage upon does usually seek intimate fulfillment. Sex is a way of going in the direction of intimacy.

Reason 8. Sometimes desire strays from marriage commitment. Of course a person committed to fidelity occasionally wants something else. Duh! Sex can be a way of refocusing on the partner to whom you have made a commitment. It is a reminder that love is better than lust.

Reason 7. Sex is a way of communicating respect. It can be saying, "when you want me, I want you, but if you aren't ready for this now, I will wait for you. You are important to me and your feelings, whether they are active now, or passive now are important to me and primary to me, even over my own passions."

Reason 6. Sex can be a way of grieving together, a way of facing hardship together. I remember the days when our daughter was fighting cancer. We felt so helpless, so battered emotionally. We retreated to each other and found in sex a respite of sorts. Perhaps not the best sex, but a unifying sex.

Reason 5. Sex can be a way of expressing mutual joy. Easier than reason 6. A new house, a new job, a move, a new baby, an intellectual discovery, whatever, can trigger a joining together and an agreement that something is good.

Reason 4. Sex is absurd. There is a certain absurdity in life that brings one to the edge of despair and laughter. Sex can certainly be an active symbol of that absurdity. Two people wrapping around each other, joining intimate, sensitive body parts, breathing hard, making weird noises. It is an acknowledgement of the absurdity of life, but at the same time it is an existential leap into love and the arms of another.

Reason 3. Sex says I'm betting you. I'm putting all my chips into your pile. Whatever you do, I'm behind you, I'm with you, I'm protecting you, I'm part of you. And it is saying, "Thank you for betting on me."

Reason 2. Almalif. We have this little expression. It probably comes from some old movie we saw one time. You say it very quickly. All my life. Allmylife. Almalif. Sex is a joyful, intimate, restatement of the commitment that I made in 1975 on October, 3rd or 4th or was it the 5th. (I never can remember the date.) I say to my partner, "this is for keeps. I love you and I will never let you go. Almalif."

Reason 1. To give my partner pleasure. Apart from receiving pleasure from the sex act, another goal is giving pleasure. Sex is communal and communion and works best when the focus is on the other whose focus is on you.

So there are ten new reasons for Meston and Buss. Some of these are repeats from their list, with a twist. But some of these, my most important, tried, experienced reasons, seemed missing from that list. So many of the items on your list seemed to really miss the point or, no (that sounded condescending), they describe only one level of what is so important to us as humans because it is not a simple, superficial thing.

I guess I should admit that I still am a Pollyanna and naive. But perhaps, I'm working on my own experiment. What is it like to live a whole life with one man in committed fidelity? I guess it's more of a qualitative experiment. The University of Texas survey is quantitative, so they can't really be compared I suppose. I love the experiment that Annie Dillard describes in Teaching a Stone to Talk. It describes a life-long commitment of sorts. The individual she describes is a bit nuts. The person spends time everyday encouraging a stone to speak. How do we know for sure that a stone can't talk, if we don't spend the time training it properly?

So, maybe I'm nuts too. But my experiment has been run before, and successfully, I think. Meanwhile, as I run my test, I am very glad to say that in my preliminary results, I have found love, I have found intimacy, and by george, I have found really good sex.


Why Humans Have Sex: 237 Reasons


Anonymous said...
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cadh 8 said...

You mean it was not only 4 times that resulted in us four kids? The creation of us did not even make the list! Hmmm. We are simply unintended consequences...

OK, now, before you go all mom on me, I know we were the most joyous consequences that ever were.

brd said...

Hm.m.m.m. Yes, I did realize that procreation had not made my list. It seemed like an omission, but I must admit, it never was a true, deliberate reason. And sex never leads to grandchildren.

You and your sibling's lives have said it all for me, you little joyous consequences. I know that my perspective is only my perspective and I cannot deny the difficulties of lives other than my own. (I have had an easy, easy life.) But at the same time, I am hearing another line from a movie playing in my head, but once again I can't think what movie. "A baby is always good." And for me that has been so. But also for me, they have always been surprises! (Like I didn't know how it happened or something.)

Dan Trabue said...

"I do think they could glean a thing or two from those of us who have mixed fidelity and sex."

wow, fidelity sounds so naughty when you put it like this...

brd said...

Something I didn't mention, but that I think is very important is that fidelity starts today. It isn't either a badge or a guilt trip, just a daily commitment.

alexissixela said...

Thank you for your courage to speak on a subject that so is left in the quietness of the night.

Our younger generation needs to hear well composed expositions on this topic.

Why is it that this topic, though most important, is rarely discussed in households??

brd said...

I'm not sure why we don't speak about sex in monogamous relationships. But I agree that we should.

I will have to think more about your question and post specifically about it. It is an important question indeed.