Thursday, August 31, 2006


I was surprised to find that it was my partner who moved first.

I came home from work to find my partner busily clearing up and washing and sterilising bottles. The thing is, that is my job, something I do later in the evening after dinner, shortly before going to bed. Him sterilising bottles means that there are plans for that part of the evening.

And yes, my partner did have plans - while he appeared to be in the kitchen washing up, what he was actually doing in the kitchen was cooking up some tofu burger.

So, yes, we went to bed. I went almost unwillingly, still plagued by all the emotions of the last few days, my body like lead.

But there was some pretty decent kissing and touching, including kissing of that part of my neck where my shoulder begins, which is practically guaranteed to get me going. Usually, one kiss on the neck and I'm anybody's! Its a trick more men should know about. And it sort of got me going. Probably helped by the fact that he had a massive erection that suggested that tofu burger was not being served cold.

Unfortunately, once he stopped kissing my neck and tried to get down to business, I cooled right down again, which is very unlike me. The fact is that, while I was not exactly still mad, I was still too emotional, too raw. Thoughts were buzzing in my head, and they were not good thoughts.

I was thinking about the past. I was thinking about mercy fucks. I was thinking about tofu, and whether it was actually really any different to a mercy fuck. A sort of cousin to the mercy fuck, but just a little prettier.

I stopped him, and admitted I just couldn't keep going, that I was still brooding over the other night and couldn't stop thinking. He was disappointed. But he said "Then we'll try again tomorrow night". I asked him what if that didn't work. He said, "Then we'll try again the following night". Okay, so I was a little bit impressed by his dedication.

And I saw something more clearly. I saw how much he was trying to please me.

I saw that the reason doing things like this is not a mercy fuck is because there is no lord of the manor here and no beggar. There is no manor. There is no table of plenty before which anyone could beg.

What we have here is more like two people in a bombed out building - bombed out by illness, by infertility issues, and mostly by war. Devastated. There should be nothing left. But there are two people left. Not beggars exactly, but two survivors, their clothes blackened and tattered and their faces pale and shell-shocked, but alive all the same. And one of them says to the other, "I know there isn't much food around here, but I do have this piece of bread. Its not much, but we could share it". And they do share it. And it keeps them going until better times.

And I asked my partner if oral sex could be part of things. You see, the thing is, I lurve oral sex, and so does my partner. I love to give that pleasure and I love to receive it. There are few pleasures more exquisite than those supplied by a willing tongue. We are both orally fixated. Obviously, we are not the only ones. Freebird has a most excellent joke on her blog that suggests she feels the same.

And he said oral sex could definitely be part of things. And it was. There was soft, tender, slurpily pleasing oral sex. And it was good. And, you know, its hard to see how any arrangement can be bad if it involves more oral sex.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I know the place that we have come to, and it isn't good. And I know that it is on a path that can ultimately have only one end. I keep thinking of a quote from the play I saw the other night, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: That the play ends when things have gone about as far as they can possibly go. And things have gone about as far as they can possibly go when things have got as bad as they can reasonably get.

This place is called being polarised. Regular readers of the comments at Digger's blog will have heard me describe this phenomenon before, but I want to think about it here and work my way through it.

When people encounter large differences between themselves and the person they're with, they tend to get polarised. This phenomenon has been demonstrated in other contexts. For instance, when people from different cultures first encounter each other, they are their usual, mostly reasonable, well rounded selves. As they relate to each other, they are confronted by a series of differences. At first, they deal with these differences quite well, with humour and good will, but over time, the accumulation of differences tends to confuse and frustrate them and make them anxious. Anxiety and frustration and getting tired from operating in unfamiliar modes makes them retreat to what they know best - their own "default" mode of operating - instead of continuing to reach out to the possibility of doing things differently.

Before they know it, they are behaving more and more differently to one another, and more and more true to stereotype. The Italians get more excitable and wave their hands around more, the Germans get more humourless and focused on rules and organisation, the Americans get more rampantly brash and pushy, the Arabs get more fatalistic, the British get more quietly superior and "stiff upper lip", etc etc. Have I offended all possible readers yet? The point is that they start behaving in ways that they probably wouldn't if they were among their own kind. They become like an exaggerated caricature of who they really are.

And because sex is so intense and so personal, and yet sexual desires and needs are really quite malleable, I think polarisation around sex is even more likely to happen between couples.

When I was first with my partner, and kept encountering his attitude to sex, for quite a while we managed to deal with things with a lot of good will. But over time, I just got sick of having to work so hard on things. I retreated into my own head, and got frustrated and depressed and obsessed with the problem, constantly fantasising about sex. And I would have estimated that I wanted sex just about every day and considered myself someone with a very high sex drive and therefore deeply, deeply deprived. And he retreated into his own head, into a sense of injury about the whole subject, and fantasies about being left alone. Somehow, from being two people who had somewhat different sex drives but who both enjoyed sex, we got polarised into me wanting sex constantly and him wanting sex never.

Then I broke up with my partner and, for a while, I was with someone with a very high sex drive. As you can probably imagine, I was delighted at first. It was fantastic to be with someone who wanted me so much, and never having to question his enthusiasm and pleasure.

But interestingly, after about two to three weeks, I was astonished to find that I had started to get tired of it. I realized that, in a context of sex being available all the time, instead of a scarcity environment, I was more of a 2-3 times a week girl, which I guess is average sex drive. Within a few more weeks, I was more of a once a week kind of girl. As time went on, my new guy, who had originally rejoiced that he had finally found someone who had a sex drive equal to his own, was dismayed to find that I had started to turn off, make excuses, and trade sex for things I wanted, like a back massage or help with errands.

And over time, I began to feel increasingly beseiged. As more time went on, I started to feel downright hostile towards the whole subject and increasingly to him. Nothing I could do was ever enough. Sex started to become, in my mind, not something we shared, but something I "gave". And it was being robbed of all pleasure.

Towards the end of the relationship, I would feel a kind of chill come over me when he touched me, a real "fight or flight" stress response as if I was being invaded. I didn't want to discuss it and I didn't want to examine my own feelings about it. I was surprised by my feelings of hostility and coldness towards him and his apparently never-ending needs. I couldn't have cared if I never had sex again, particularly not with him. Somehow, from seeing myself as a person who wanted sex constantly, I had come to see myself as a person who wanted sex never.

I think it might be sort of like food. When people are starving, they constantly fantasise about food. I have read the memoirs of people who were in concentration camps during World War II, and one thing they have in common is how much they dreamed about food, thought constantly about food, and developed rituals around the sharing of memories of past feasts and the trading of recipes which became increasingly elaborate. Without wishing to trivialise their obviously far greater suffering in any way, thats kind of what I was like about sex in the first years I was with my partner, before the breakup.

When I was with the other guy, it was like constantly being asked to eat a huge meal before I was hungry. A little snack anyone can manage when they are not that hungry, just for the pleasure of it. But if someone is constantly standing by you asking if you are hungry, are you hungry yet, are you even a little bit hungry yet, can't you eat something just for me, and being disappointed at how little you can nibble on when they were planning a huge gourmet feast, you will seriously go off food. You will feel constantly stuffed to the brim and never hungry. The very sight of food will make you feel sick, and you will feel like you are being force-fed over and over again, which in its way is just as bad as being starving.

So, I have reason to know what its like to be on the other side of our current situation. I know that being stuck on either end of these extremes is no fun.

So I have to calm down. Both of us have to find a way to ease ourselves out of this polarisation, and our respective corners. I need to back off a little, maybe a lot, and he needs to come forward at least a little.

Because we can't afford the "luxury" of polarisation any more. When we were just two people, we could both sulk as much as we liked. And we weren't even married. We hadn't made any promises to each other. I was free to stay and sulk. I was free to leave and have any kind of sex or any kind of relationship I wanted.

But I am no longer free in that way. People have sometimes asked me why my partner and I are not married. But I have made a promise far more binding than any wedding ceremony could ever be. I have had a child with him. I freely took on that responsibility, it is mine, and it cannot be handed back.

And the other night, while I was fantasising about splitting up, I looked at my Beautiful Boy, and it occured to me how much care I have taken with every aspect of his life. I have taken weeks even before buying basic items, summing up costs and benefits of particular models of high chair or particular toys, putting them on lay-by, paying small amounts at a time, denying myself things I would normally have taken for granted, determined to get those things for him. So how can I not put far more care into his emotional environment? The stability of our little family?

I know there are people who say that children survive the separation of their parents, that the needs of the parents are important, yada yada yada. And I know that, at some level, this is true. But as a child of divorce myself, I know that, while I certainly survived it, I was also damaged in some fundamental ways that I still live with.

And my boy is so beautiful, so new, so perfect, that I cannot bear to think of any damage being done to him.

I love my partner. I still don't really want to lose him, even if sometimes I do. But more importantly, I love my Beautiful Boy.

I seem to have some Inner Toddler that can't just bear to go without sex. That stamps her feet and flings herself on the floor and yells and cries I WANT I WANT and truly believes her heart is breaking when she can't have what she wants. But now I have a little pre-toddler of my own, and I have to be the grownup.

I think, when it comes right down to it, I could go without sex for the rest of my life if I had to, for the sake of that little boy's wellbeing, to spare him what I went through. I don't want to, I REALLY don't want to, but I will if I have to. And I think that my partner, who I can see is reeling with the shock of the last few days, will also do whatever it takes.

And that should be our starting point for getting ourselves out of this place. For easing ourselves out of our respective corners. For getting to a different place and a different path that we can travel down together.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Is It Me?

You know, I am just so fucking angry about this whole thing that I feel like I am about to completely lose it.

I can feel how distorted my thinking has become, I can feel how out of control my emotions have become, but I just can't seem to calm down and get over it.

I know that part of the problem is the way I react. I can see that the fact that I take it so hard probably makes it even more difficult for my partner to get over his own mental and other obstacles and try. And surely I should be able to take the rejection better than I do. God knows I have had enough practice. But we have got to the point where every rejection is not just that specific rejection, but every other rejection at the same time. Its like being slapped in the face and kicked in the guts every, every time.

My partner looks quite calm this morning, because he thinks the fact that we both apologised means we have "made up". But the honest truth is that I feel like a time bomb that is sitting here quietly, largely unobserved, but going "tick, tick, tick" all the same.

I look in the mirror, and I see a woman who is actually, if not exactly the "sexy" type, really quite attractive. Who has soft, shiny hair, a pretty face, laughing eyes, a friendly smile, who creates an impression of energy and intelligence and a warm, welcoming kind of presence. Who is, it is true, not slender. But then, in my experience, many men are not at all opposed to a bit of something to grab onto and a nice, soft ride.

I see the way other men interract with me, and they don't act as if they are talking to an ugly person who could never interest them. Men, on the whole, have always liked me, just as I have always liked them. I can see the liking in their eyes. I can see, on occasion, that appreciative and speculative look that they give a woman they find attractive.

But at times like these, I feel so ugly, so unattractive. I feel like I am hardly a woman at all.

I feel unfuckable.


We had a huge fight last night. He "forgot" our date for earlier this weekend, and asked to reschedule for last night. Then he "forgot" last night.

And I just exploded. And I mean, really exploded. To the point that breaking up was one of the options we seriously discussed afterwards. Despite our love for each other, despite our love for our son, at one point, I really just wanted him to say yes, let's end this now.

And I know that I shouldn't have overreacted in that way, but I had really had some hopes that we had a path forward on this issue. I had got my hopes up. Again. I had trusted him. Again. And he just crushed my hope and trust. Again.

And he said he couldn't figure out why I would react in this way. He said he had never committed to earlier this weekend and his forgetting last night was just a trivial thing. He kept trying to describe in detail what he thought had actually happened on both occasions, and he was completely focused on "proving" that he had done nothing wrong. He implied heavily that I had somehow made up that earlier commitment and that me being upset was due to being neurotic.

You know, I really resent being treated like a crazy person just because I am upset about the fact that he has "forgotten" to have sex with his partner for around a decade now.

And I really just don't understand how a person who is generally very intelligent and quite smart about people, and women in particular, can so comprehensively fail to apply those qualities to this aspect of our lives.

I really don't understand how he can just keep turning our sex life into what seems like one long saga of frustration and humiliation and then expect me not to react.

And, you know, for some reason I keep brooding on this one incident that I think was really the worst of my long line of humiliations.

I was more than nine months pregnant and overdue for the birth of our baby. As you may know, sexual activities of many kinds can help bring on labour. And I was not only utterly fed up with being pregnant, but more than willing to have sex with him anyway, as I pretty much always am.

Some men would give their left testicle for a woman who was willing to have sex with them in late pregnancy.

We were advised to try nipple stimulation, as the flood of hormones this creates can also help bring on labour. So I went into our bedroom, hoping against hope that this would have some kind of erotic effect that would help, or at least that he would be sensitive about this "task" as I was feeling quite hormonal and vulnerable.

And he twiddled my nipples like they were dials. And he kept looking at his watch.

And the next time we tried, he asked if we could do it in front of the TV.

And he couldn't figure out why I ran out of the room, crying.

It feels like one of us is either stupid or crazy, and the honest truth is that I don't know which of us that is.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Am I Making Any Progress?

Thank you to Digger's Unsolicited Advice for providing me with my first track back to respond to in my weekend report on my resolutions. Thanks, Digger, I appreciate your thoughts.

So, Resolution #1: Exercising three times per week, eating no junk food, and having plenty of home-cooked food. Mostly successful on this one, with one slip. I managed two swims, a good walk and going bowling with my partner. Digger has described my exercise resolution as fairly ambitious, but since I was already managing about twice a week, its not quite as much of a leap as it sounds. Making this resolution has generally raised my exercise level from about twice a week to four times a week. I am already noticing the benefits in terms of just generally feeling stronger and fitter and sleeping better.

I have kept up the cooking, but I did deliberately break the junk food resolution once. Yesterday, my partner was feeling quite down, and our Beautiful Boy was having one of those days where he is incredibly restless, everything you do is wrong and all he wants to do is whine. So I took them both down to the park for fish and chips, a play on the swings and a chat to the duckies. We had a great time, it was a circuit breaker for them, and I thought it was worth breaking my resolution once for that.

Resolution #2 : Having $100 per fortnight automatically deducated into an account that I don't touch. Yep, still managing not to touch that account. Digger has noted that I didn't say much about debt, but thats because we are already making progress on debt. Its savings we don’t have, and not just the savings themselves, but a savings habit, which in some ways is even more important. I am particularly attracted to Tajalude's idea of having $1,000 in the bank. And Digger's comments have reinforced the attraction of not having to resort to the credit cards in the event of an emergency.

Resolution #3: Doing something for myself every week that doesn't involve food and that feeds my heart, my mind, my spirit. This was slightly less successful than previously. I went with a friend to see an amateur production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Its a great play, which focuses on the fate of two minor characters from Shakepeare’s Hamlet. It is very funny, if rather dark, with a wonderful combination of jokes and existential reflections, and quite realistic in the way it focuses on ordinary people and the ways in which great events affect them. But, in making this choice, I had, alas, forgotten that I don’t really enjoy amateur productions all that much. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of amateur productions. I like to think that I am not an artistic snob. But the truth is that I secretly have quite high standards about certain things, and few amateur productions are ever going to meet them. I was hoping that the script would be so great that the performances wouldn’t really matter, but in fact some of the leaden performances were a real source of frustration. I still enjoyed it, and the company of my friend, but the evening was only a moderate success in terms of resolution #3. Oh, well.

I am pondering Digger’s suggestions about food. And I love very spicy food, for instance, so I'd have no problem doing that! But mostly, I find the major issue with my weight is the takeaway food habit. My overall diet is mostly quite good, including fibre. Its the coming home exhausted from work and facing an evening of housework, not feeling like cooking and ordering in instead, that becomes a problem. I know this, because every time I stop doing it, my clothes start feeling loose again. And my bank account looks better, too.

But actually, I have a confession to make. My main fall off the wagon this week hasn’t been junk food. It has been a very stressful week, at work and at home, and I am finding that I am drinking more alcohol, lately, and not in a good way. Drinking in a good way is having a couple of drinks with friends or a nice glass of wine with dinner. Drinking in a bad way is feeling stressed and swallowing several glasses in quick succession in order to feel better.

And unfortunately, I have form on this. I used to drink, well, quite a lot. As in regularly finishing off a bottle with no assistance. And I essentially quit in 2003, having nothing at all for a long time and then gradually just reintroducing a more civilised habit. It is something I am quite proud of, and so I have been concerned to notice that I am slipping a bit, and am going to have to reintroduce my former “no alcohol at home” rule.

Its true, as Digger says, that at some level I am going through a grieving process. It is that which is causing me to try to focus on improving my own life somewhat apart from the issue of sex. And it is behind my somewhat problematic drinking of this week, too. He is right about self-medicating and how it doesn’t work.

Despite my imperfect performance this week, I think working on my resolutions is good. I also think Digger is right about giving yourself permission to fall off the wagon. Because its not isolated falls that matter, its the formation of good habits overall.

And to some extent, I think my resolutions are not just about the grieving process, but also about recovering a stronger sense of myself again after the "shock" of motherhood. I spent the last three years of my life planning to get pregnant (finding a more flexible and less demanding job, moving house to live more cheaply, preparing finances etc), having fertility treatment, being pregnant, and then the childbirth and breastfeeding disaster and just getting used to being a mother. They were all quite hard on my body and my emotions, even if they also gave me the most wonderful thing in my life, my Beautiful Boy.

Now that he is 11 months old, I am feeling more like my old self again. I can feel the recovery in my body and my mind. And my resolutions are helping me to improve my life, manage my stresses and feel like I have some kind of agenda that isn’t just about other people. For that, I think they are well worth keeping up, and I appreciate the support my commenters are giving me, too.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Mercy Fuck

FTN has asked a very interesting question:

Can a GUY really give a "mercy f**k?" (Now, why can't I just type that out?) Wouldn't his physical ability to have sex at all give some indication of his pleasure and enjoyment in the experience? Just wondering.

I see what you mean, but the answer is yes.

I do not think that the mercy fuck completely precludes any arousal or enjoyment on the part of the fucker. The essential quality of the mercy fuck, in my opinion, is the desperation and humiliation of the fuckee.

A mercy fuck from a man, just to draw on one of my own painful experiences, goes something like this. The man is asleep. He wakes to find his woman weeping in the dark because it has been so long. She is weeping from frustration, sadness, and a deep belief that she must be the most unattractive woman on earth to be so neglected. He asks what is wrong. She chokes out "You know whats wrong". He sighs, realizes that it has been, say, six months, and that he has been so enjoying his freedom from his obligations that he may have gone too far. He feels sorry for her, poor thing. He wipes her tears away and he fucks her.

And possibly, he feels some small amount of attraction to her. He probably wouldn't be in a relationship with her if he didn't. Possibly he even gets some slight enjoyment from it. And he feels better afterwards, like he has done his bit. He may or may not have had any pleasure, but he has probably relieved his guilt.

But for the fuckee, she does not feel better. This is because she knows that the fuck has been "provided" solely on the basis of feelings of pity. Her partner has nobly helped someone less fortunate than himself by "giving her what she wants". It is not a mutual experience of desire or love or tenderness. It is a hand-out.

Somehow, a relationship that was once equal and mutually satisfying, in which you were both givers and receivers, has become transformed. You have worked hard on the relationship, you have fulfilled every possible obligation, you have poured out your love and encouragement to your partner, you have been faithful despite much provocation. And your reward is that you have gradually been reduced to the status of a hanger-on who gets the occasional crumb from the table of plenty. You have become a beggar in the house of love.

In my experience, you only get a mercy fuck when you are so desperate, so depressed, that you arouse, not desire, not even affection, but pity. And in most cases, it fuels your depression because it confirms that you are so undesirable that the only way of getting some is by begging.

You don't have to literally beg to be mercy fucked. You can even take some small pride in not even asking. It can take the form of trying to be attractive to someone you know doesn't want to be attracted. It can take the form of trying to touch someone you know doesn't want to be touched. It can take the form of smiling sweetly and taking whatever shit they're currently handing out in the hope of getting laid. It can take the form of a general meltdown of weeping and reproaches (the classic female approach). It can take the form of being so grumpy and sour that you are becoming impossible to live with (the classic male approach).

But it is begging all the same. You have become a beggar. And in fact, the final humiliation of the mercy fuck is not just that you are so desperate as to arouse this kind of pity, but that you are so desperate you accept it.

Actually, maybe thats NOT the final humiliation. Maybe, just to throw in a completely gratuitous level of suffering, having taught you to survive on crumbs, they get to call YOU selfish. And maybe you suck it up because, hey, it might get you another one.

Now you really are fucking pitiful. Not just in their eyes, but in your own. Now your humiliation really is complete.

Excuse my strong language, but, you know, I have strong feelings on this subject.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thinking about Tofu

I've had a few days now to think about the other night, and what it may mean for our sex life.

Firstly, as I mentioned before, I was pleasantly surprised. I had been worried that an absence of arousal on his part and a probable lack of emotional intimacy and "preliminaries" would mean that I simply wouldn't be able to get aroused and stimulated enough to be satisfied. But in fact, there was quite a lot of touching and kissing before his bringing me to orgasm by hand. Rather than wanting me to "get on with it and get it over with", as I thought he might, he encouraged me to slow down and enjoy it rather than racing to finish. There was intimacy there, both physical and emotional.

And I had two surprisingly powerful orgasms - if anything, more powerful than the ones I usually have. I think this may have been partly because not attempting to do anything to him allowed me to focus completely on my own body and what I was feeling. In my experience, the female orgasm, great as it is, generally requires a lot of focus. And there was a certain greedy-pig satisfaction in not having to think of him, or what I should do next to him, and being able to focus solely on my own pleasure.

I think the absence of that nervous clashing libido chatter in my head ("Is he doing this because he really wants to? Have I guilted him into this? Is he enjoying himself?") really helped, too.

I was relieved to find that it lacked that quality of humiliation and desperation of the dreaded mercy fuck. It did not feel like it was motivated by guilt and manipulation. It felt like it was motivated by love.

However, I did notice the absence of that sweet, mutual satisfaction and tenderness that has generally followed our lovemaking. Afterwards, instead of snuggling together and telling each other how great it was, he got up quite matter of factly to watch TV, and I followed his lead in that respect.

My honest feeling was that, overall, that session was more like an elaborate masturbation session that happened to involve him than making love. It was nicer than masturbation in that he was involved. It was more exciting than masturbation, in that it wasn't just a routine getting off. There was an absence of resentment on my part of the "Oh, well, I'll just do it myself, then, AS USUAL!!! variety. And yet, there was also that critical absence of mutuality.

I also didn't have that feeling of exhilaration and euphoria that I generally have after good sex between us - perhaps because of an underlying sadness and sense of defeat that we have come to this, after more than a decade of my fighting very hard for something very different.

But, you know, the other night did show that I can be physically satisfied and see that my partner is making a real effort to meet my needs, and that he can do so without causing himself any pain or sickness. We both, in a sense, felt better - me, primarily because I could stop feeling so deprived and focus on other things, and I could appreciate his thoughtfulness instead of feeling so resentful, and him because he could stop feeling so guilty. But the feeling better was essentially about reducing negative feelings rather than creating and enjoying positive feelings.

Overall, I would say that the tofu burger analogy holds. I wanted that sizzling hot steak. I wanted it more than anything. And tofu burger, however beautifully prepared, is not what I wanted. If the steak was available, I would be going right for it.

But, you know, tofu burger is nourishing in its way. And if tofu is all there is, I am better off appreciating it for what it is than focusing on what it isn't.

And probably any kind of food is better than starvation.

And after all, as people say, its the company that counts. Its not the food - its who you're having it with.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Okay, so we went ahead with our plan tonight. I must admit, I was in some trepidation and not feeling very enamoured of the prospect of broccoli.

There were last-minute impulses to reject the whole thing and make a last-ditch stand for steak and steak alone, done just the way I like it.

But, you know, I thought I should give it a chance.

And I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. It was...vegetarian. There was no doubt about that. And yet, it was not cold broccoli.

Tofu burger, anyone?

*Note: This post has nothing to do with food. But you knew that, didn't you? Apologies in advance for any offence given to vegetarians and for insufficient citation of FTN.

Monday, August 21, 2006

She Said, He Said

Well, we had a talk last night about our sex life. Actually, I don't really know how I feel about it, so I'll just tell you about the conversation.

I told him how much I loved him. I told him how deprived I was feeling. He told me how guilty and inadequate he felt about the whole thing.

I said that I still didn't understand why this was so difficult - why he could summon the energy to go for a walk, or to go bowling, things which also required a lot of energy, and yet couldn't seem to summon up the energy for this. He said it was because those things didn't involve his self esteem. He didn't feel bad about not going for a walk or not going bowling because it wasn't affecting anyone else, so it was easier to go.

I said maybe he thought about things too much. I suggested that to keep putting things off so that they build up in your mind as a huge issue was potentially a mistake, and that it might be easier to "just do it" sometimes, so he could forget about it. That I didn't want him worrying himself to death about this stuff. He said that, in fact, he thought about sex all the time, but not in a good way. He thought about how he was depriving me and how guilty he felt.

And he told me how much he worried about sex. That, each time, he worried about whether he could enjoy it. That he knew he would feel nauseous from the movement and be in pain, and he worried about being able to hide that from me, because it wasn't fair to spoil it for me by showing that.

We talked for a while about whether there was any point in talking about our sex issue, whether it was possible for anything new or constructive could be said. He said that he really didn't have an answer to that one, because talking about it made him feel worse, but that not talking about it wasn't necessarily the best option for me.

I thought it was time to focus the discussion on practical options. I told him about a (mythical) couple I knew of where the woman was sick and gave her husband permission to have sex with other people, just sex. He got very upset about this and said that would destroy his life.

Then, I said, there were really only two options to go for: either we had to find a way of increasing our frequency, or I had to find a way to live without sex without minding too much. I offered again to just give up the prospect of a sex life with him. I said that we seemed to have a lot of angst around something that really, in the grand scheme of things, we only seemed to do a few times a year, and that it hardly seemed worth all the angst. He said that that wasn't really an option.

We agreed that we were kind of stuck. Our relationship in every other respect was very good, in fact the best it has ever been. We have a lot of reasons to stay together, and there was just this one thing. It was just a pity that it was a pretty important thing.

I said that all I could think of was how to make things as easy for him as possible. Then I mentioned OldBear's suggestion about him holding me while I used a vibrator. That maybe, given all his angst about whether he would enjoy himself or be able to hide how sick he felt, it would be better if he could forget about all that, and we accepted that the majority of the time, it was just for me. That it might be easier for him if he wasn't expected to do anything elaborate or pretend that he didn't feel the way he did feel, but we just found low-key ways to "help me out". He said that was a positive suggestion, and he thought it could work. If he felt that he could just "service me", without expectations of more most of the time, then he could probably do that once a week.

So, I don't know, I guess you could say that the discussion ended on a positive note, with a fair amount of honesty and mutual understanding and some kind of plan in place.

But, to use FTN's excellent analogy in a slightly different way, can a person who is dreaming of a huge, juicy steak, served sizzling hot from the char-griller, learn to accept cold broccoli instead?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Making Progress

My thanks to Freebird for reminding me of my resolutions and seeing that it was time for a treat. As you probably noticed, too much brooding on the war and its impact on my partner and our life together was starting to make me spiral downward again.

Anyway, its time for the weekend report on my resolutions.

So, Resolution #1: Exercising three times per week, eating no junk food, and having plenty of home-cooked food. I am proud to report that I managed to complete my first week with a flourish. After we didn't go bowling because our baby was sick, I managed to get a walk in by getting off my bus a number of stops before arrival at work. I entered my workplace a little sweaty, but flushed with success. Just to achieve a totally gratuitous level of success with this, I also went for another swim later in the week and a short walk yesterday. And I have made some more healthy meals for the freezer, as this has worked well and freed up my evenings quite a bit, with no need to cook every night and the reduced washing up.

Resolution #2 : Having $100 per fortnight automatically deducted into an account that I don't touch. That account remains untouched. I can't remember when we last saved any money, so even though the amount is small so far, I feel quite satisfied every time I think of it.

Resolution #3: Doing something for myself every week that doesn't involve food and that feeds my heart, my mind, my spirit. I thought it would be best to vary these treats as much as possible and I also thought of Rob's comment about striving to make myself a more interesting and educated person. So, just on impulse, I went to the National Art Gallery and hit the jackpot.

The first exhibition there was for an Australian artist called Imants Tillers. His exhibition was just the kind of art I truly like. Firstly, his works are massive in scale, the kind where one work takes up a whole wall. I like an artist who knows how to take up space! And secondly, his pieces were like an extended conversation between European and other kinds of art and his personal experiences. I am very interested in certain kinds of post-WWII European art, so I loved this. And his parents were refugees to Australia from Latvia, so his work was full of images of loss, disaster, fragmentation and survival. And it ended with the most beautiful reflections on the Australian landscape as a kind of regeneration.

The second was for an Indigenous Australian photographer called Michael Riley. I was very happy about that because while, to my shame, I can't seem to summon up much interest in traditional aboriginal art of the "dot painting" variety, I am very curious about contemporary Indigenous art. I am particularly interested in what it has to say about the survival of aboriginal people in Australia and the general dilemmas they have today, like how to preserve and develop their culture in modern Australia and what parts of broader Australian society they can feel part of.

The Riley exhibition was trying to get away from the usual images of aboriginal people in Australia - either a sort of frozen image of the "noble savage" type or the very sad modern images of people living in squalor or drunk on the street, and of young people killing themselves by sniffing petrol. There were a lot of images showing his friends and relatives as basically much more modern and complicated figures, "real" people rather than symbols of something else, whether noble savages or victims. And some particularly happy images of kids and young people. The moment I saw those, my mood just lifted. And also some completely different works which were all about spirituality and survival.

Afterwards, since I was still thinking about the Riley exhibition and it was just around the corner, I visited the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Australia's old parliament house. This embassy is very controversial, not just among white Australians but among aboriginal people also, but I have always liked the way it sprawls across the front lawn of what is a very manicured environment. I associate the old parliament house with so many images of Australian history, and I like their presence there - informal, messy, and assertive about their right to be there, both in Australia's history and our present. It was just a bonus that there were kids playing and running around, much like the photographs I had just seen. Anyway, I walked around, paid my respects, and then sat quietly in the sun, thinking of when I last visited there, while I was having a rest from our first three unsuccessful attempts to conceive our baby. I let the woodsmoke from the fire blow over me, just connecting with the way it is used in aboriginal ceremonies for general cleansing and healing. The symbolism around me and the memories of that time made it a sacred place, for me as well as for them, and I removed my shoes as a mark of respect for both.

And the combination of the exhibitions and the visit to the embassy helped me. While its hard to put my finger on why they did, I think it was because, in my rather sad state of mind, the common themes of the two exhibitions about destruction and fragmentation, about loss and mourning, drew me in. There was something comforting about these things being universal, about them being basically the human condition, that lifted my thoughts above my personal problems. And something about the exhibitions and the embassy, the images of survival and regeneration, soothed my heart and left me with this little flicker of hope about the future.

Am I too young for the consolations of art and philosophy?

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Is there anyone here who thinks that lack of sex is a good enough reason, by itself, to leave someone?

You know, when there is a lot of love, intimacy and respect in the relationship, a young child in the house, and not enough money to support two households, anyway?

No, I thought not. Me neither.

Guess I'm staying, then.

Friday, August 18, 2006


You know, I think I have told you how much I love my partner. And I do.

But sometimes, I feel like I can't take the sadness any more. I feel like I can't take the endless, unsatisfied yearning any more. I'm not sure how much longer I can go on like this.

Sometimes I feel like my body has gone dead. I run my hands over my body, over my breasts and stomach and thighs, and I hardly feel anything.

When I decided to go ahead and try to have a child together, I thought, this is it, the decision to stay together is made. No more staying and wondering if I should leave. No more breaking up and wishing we were back together. No more pathetic attempts to have relationships with people who are not half the person he is and who I will never love half as much, and who will never love me half as much. Just make the stupid decision and stick with it.

And at some level, I thought, most women pretty much go off sex for a long time after they have kids. Probably I won't even mind. And if I do, too bad.

But how long can I go on like this?

Sometimes I am not sure if my partner is the best thing that has ever happened to me, or the worst.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Vietnam Days

Tomorrow is Vietnam Veterans' Day in Australia.

It commemorates the battle of Long Tan, which was a very important day for Australia's Vietnam veterans. On 18 August 1966, a rifle company of 108 Australian soldiers, cut off and outnumbered by more than 2,500 Viet Cong, and pounded by monsoon rain so heavy that they couldn't see and a hail of bullets so thick that they couldn't raise their heads above ground level, held off repeated, massed Viet Cong attacks.

Vietnam veterans tell this story a lot, and chose the date of Long Tan as Vietnam Veterans' Day. It has a range of meanings. Usually, its about admiration for the men involved. Sometimes its about the failure of army intelligence that put the men at risk. Sometimes its used in Australian officer training about strategy.

When my partner tells the story, its about being a raw, new 20 year old soldier who had just finished his training, sitting at the Nui Dat base in 1968 and thinking "There but for the grace of God go I". They all knew such a thing could happen to them.

And, of course, many very horrible things did happen to them. My partner, for instance, spent many days walking through the Long Hai hills, through a Viet Cong stronghold honey-combed with tunnels and heavily mined. Seeing his friends blown up. Knowing that every single step could be the one that blows him up. And he kept on walking.

When he returned to Australia, it seemed that nobody understood the enormity of what had happened to him. Australians had sent this innocent, idealistic young man to a war, but when he returned, they just weren't very interested. They acted like he had been away on holiday. Or, worse, some were interested all right, but in all the wrong ways.

An Australian Vietnam veteran wrote a poem about this experience that seems to capture it perfectly:

Tell Me What it Was Really Like

What was it like over there?
Come on, tell me all about it
But don't spoil any of my preconceptions
Just tell me what it was really like

Don't use words like "service" and "sacrifice"
That's not what I want to hear
Tell me about burning villages
Tell me what it was really like

There you go, talking about mateship
Talking about courage and fear
Tell me about the drugs, man
Tell me what it was really like

What's all this about booby traps, tunnels
Jumping jack mines and mortar attacks?
Did you rape any women?
Tell me what it was really like

You go on about the heat and the mud
The hard work and the lack of sleep
Did you pick up a dose on R and R?
Tell me what it was really like

You talk about cas-evac and dust-off
I don't even know what that means
Did you kill any children?
Tell me what it was really like

It's getting hard to talk to you
You don't seem to communicate
You get upset too easily
I only asked what it was really like

You know, my partner wasn't classified as wounded when he returned home. But he did have wounds. The wound to his soul, to his innocence, from killing his fellow human beings and knowing that they wanted to kill him. The wound to his sleep, from the nightmares almost every night. The wound to his trust in the country that had sent him there. The wound to his health as the time bomb of his service just keeps on ticking away. The wound to his capacity for friendship - the best friend of his youth was killed in Vietnam, and the best friend of his maturity was a veteran who committed suicide after terrible health problems and a long battle with the government. The wound to his manhood, from being unable to satisfy his woman or father a child in the usual way. These are the gaping wounds that we both live with every day.

Its not surprising that Vietnam veterans chose Long Tan for their day. Because it reflects their experience of battling overwhelming odds. And I feel this way myself, at times. Every time we get another diagnosis of another mostly unfixable health problem. Every time I aknowledge to myself that, in many respects, he has just been damaged beyond repair. Every time we see our friends with cancer, or their children with birth defects from Agent Orange, and have to think "There but for the grace of God goes our family". Every time we start a new campaign or program to help veterans and the government's response is to deny, deny, deny the problem, until they finally give in, fling us a few crumbs and congratulate themselves on their generosity and patriotism.

And, you know, the Long Tan story is about courage. Courage and desperation. Fighting with everything you have, your backs to the wall, knowing that logic tells you that you can't win, but just refusing to say die and keeping on firing.

I am proud of my partner. I honour his courage - not just in Vietnam, but in our lives together. Despite everything that has happened, he is still a good man. Just about every morning, he lies there feeling so ill that he is certain he can't even get up, can't even get his breakfast, or have a shower. And every day, he does it. These small things take courage.

And he does more. He loves me, when he thought he wouldn't love again. He works with veterans, trying to bring something good from the devastation. And he looks after our child, nurturing new life when he has seen so much of death. And he doesn't complain.

But, you know, tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan. My partner's service ended decades ago. The Vietnam War should be over. But it never is. Around here, it feels like we are always surrounded and out-gunned, refusing to say die and keeping on firing. In a way, it is always Vietnam Veterans' Day.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Progress Report

Now, I am planning to report on my progress on my resolutions every weekend, so that I have time to assess how I'm going. But I am just wanting to confirm to myself that I have made a real start.

Plus, you know, in my experience, you have to implement these types of resolutions right away. Otherwise, they are sort of like New Year's resolutions - fading away with the hangover.

Also, if you don't start them straight away, they sometimes make things worse. I can't tell you how many times, when I was growing up, I saw my mother declare that she would definitely be starting a strict diet on Monday. That declaration always led to her spending the entire weekend stuffing her face with all the things she was about to give up, until she felt so terrible that, come Monday, her only source of comfort was more junk food, so the strict diet never even started! I think that may have happened every weekend!

So, Resolution #1: I will exercise three times per week, eat no junk food, and make sure I have something home-cooked that I actually enjoy eating ready for when I come home from work every night.

I have had two exercise sessions so far (a very good swim and a decent walk), have not yet eaten any junk food, and spent part of the weekend filling our freezer with home-cooked food we both like to eat that can be defrosted any time I don't feel like cooking. These are mostly vegetarian and chicken options, as I also think I eat too much red meat. I was supposed to go bowling this morning with my partner, but our baby seems to have a cold, and so I am staying home with him. I just need one more exercise session to cover this week.

Resolution #2 : I will have $100 per fortnight automatically deducated into an account that I don't touch.

The $100 per fortnight deduction is arranged. Now all I have to do is learn to keep my hands off that account, despite the horrible electricity bill we just got! Actually, I was feeling so pleased with myself about getting this organised that I did our taxes as well, and a number of other financial errands, just to take advantage of the organisational roll I was on.

Resolution #3: Every week, I will do something for myself that doesn't involve food. Something that feeds my heart, my mind, my spirit.

After my swim at the pool, instead of hurrying home, I went and sat in their spa. It is a particularly great spa, because the pool is at the Australian Institute of Sport, where Australia's Olympic swimmers are trained. It has very strong jets that really work the muscles. I hate spas that just tickle! Those jets pummelled away at the sore, aching back I still have from an old injury more than a decade ago. It felt so good that I luxuriated in there for ages. And afterwards, I felt so loosened up that I kept wriggling, just to enjoy that feeling of freedom and mobility.

Then I thought about how little time I have spent outside lately, and how my skin has had that crawly feeling it gets when it has been deprived of sunlight, and I lay down on the lawn outside, in the mild winter sunlight, and read a very good novel I found in my partner's collection: James Baldwin's Go Tell It On the Mountain. Its a very powerful book, and although it is set in the 1930s, it brought back amazingly strong memories of a pentecostal church I went to in my teens. Its been a while since I read a book that was really literature, rather than just light reading (sometimes I think that people who have degrees in English literature read more crap than anyone else), and I really enjoyed myself. I felt great!

So, I'm making progress. And you know what? All your suggestions have been fantastic, and I am basically planning to follow all of them. I truly appreciate your interest, and the fact that you have given such excellent, constructive advice.



My Beautiful Boy is learning to kiss.

When he sits on my lap, I lavish kisses on him. And he climbs up on me, his little face looming, considers for a moment, and then presses his little lips against my cheek. But he can't quite figure out how the suction bit works. His lips just rest there. And there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of saliva involved. Rivers of saliva.

The other night, he went to kiss me on the lips and stuck his little tongue out. Very disconcerting! There was a slightly wierd, Oedipal feeling about the whole thing. Not to mention the flashback to being pashed by some spotty thirteen year old, who hasn't quite realized that lips should arrive before tongue. Thanks for bringing back that memory, kid.

But recently, in a dazzling display of all his latest new skills at once, he spontaneously walked up to me, pressed his lips on my cheek, gave me one of his sweet, shy smiles, and then turned around and walked away to go back to what he had been doing. I was so touched, so delighted, by this spontaneous display of affection and all-round cleverness.

It was the greatest kiss I've ever gotten. So my boy likes me after all!

And, you know, it reminds me how important kissing is.

Now, my partner is a great, and I mean a great, kisser. He is not one of your thin-lipped men. No, he has full, sensuous, curving lips. And he knows how to use them. And I have been told that I am a pretty good kisser myself.

So why don't we kiss more? Why don't we snog like teenagers?

There is something about domesticity, in my opinion, that just sucks the romance out of life. And it isn't just children and mortgages. For years, we didn't have a child. We didn't have a mortgage. All we had was the kind of domestic routine people have when they have lived together for a long time. But there was something about that routine - the cooking, the laundry, the taking out of garbage, the "Did you remember to buy the milk?" conversations - that was hostile to romance. And although we often hugged, we rarely kissed, except during sex. Any kisses during the day were brief and dry, like kisses from your grandfather.

Now, a little while ago, I decided to put a stop to this. When he gave me one of his grandfather kisses, I paused and then responded with a soft, lingering, romantic kiss back. He was surprised, very surprised, but I could see he liked it.

And we talked about the grandfather kisses. And now, just sometimes, we have soft, moist, tender kisses that remind us both that we are not just parents, not just friends. We might not be having much sex, but we are lovers. And we are great kissers!

Its just possible that my baby's Oedipal moment was copied from his dad.

Welcome to the kissing club, my sweet baby boy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Making My Life Better

You know, I have just got to stop thinking so much about sex. Not that there's anything wrong with thinking about sex. Its only natural, in the circumstances. And I'm certainly enjoying the music I have been playing. But if I keep dwelling on this one issue all the time, I am going to get depressed.

I am thinking about something I just said to Digger. I read a book once about how to cope with being with a man with a low libido, and while many of its suggestions for improving things weren't really suited to us, it did make the excellent point that there are plenty of ways to reduce your own level of distress about the problem. In particular, it had a number of statements you could make to yourself, including one I really related to, which was along the lines of "Its disappointing when X doesn't want to have sex with me, but its not a disaster. I'm just going to keep doing things that make my life better".

It has often worked for me. Probably because the statement is basically true. Its not one of those affirmations that are just too positive to be believed in!

But it does raise the question: What exactly have I been doing lately to make my life better?

The answer is: not much. I have allowed the inherent chaos of having a baby in the house, a sick partner, working etc to become an excuse for just drifting along.

Now, there are two things that are really bothering me about my life which, unlike my sex life, I actually have some real control over.

The first is my weight. I have made fitful attempts to do something about the pregnancy weight, but I seem to just keep losing and regaining the same 5kgs (about 10 pounds for American friends) over and over again. I have got to sort this out. Partially motivated, I will admit, by the moment of shock and pain I felt at reading this. The guy's entry about his wife's post-pregnancy body was so harsh that I was really shocked. I was angry with him when I read it. Actually, I am still angry at him, which is stupid. But I also recognise how much of my rage is about it hitting a little too close to home.

Now, the sorry fact is that diets don't work for me. I lose the weight all right, in fact I am quite a good dieter due to my generally compulsive nature, but it doesn't stay off. Whatever I've lost just comes back within a few months, usually with a little bit of extra. Because a diet, by definition, is something you go off.

The only thing that has worked long-term for me is just forgetting about the weight side of things and generally focusing on getting more exercise and eating plenty of healthy food that I have prepared myself. Not forgetting to eat for hours on end and then stuffing down some junk food or takeaway because its quick and I can have it now, followed by immediate remorse. I go to so much effort to feed my partner, and to feed my baby, and yet I just haven't been taking care of myself nearly as well. And I have fallen into the bad habit of having food-related "treats" when I am having a hard day.

So, Resolution #1 is: I will exercise three times per week, eat no junk food, and make sure I have something home-cooked that I actually enjoy eating ready for when I come home from work every night. Minimalist, huh? But I believe in setting small, achieveable goals. They are really the only kind I believe in.

The other issue is debt. I spent so long as a student with no money that I developed the bad habit of just spending everything that comes in and living from week to week. And when I was finally working, we still weren't saving anything because we were spending every cent on fertility treatment. So we have a lot of debt and we don't have a good savings habit. We are just living from pay day to pay day. For so many years, I haven't been in a position to save very much, but I must admit that now, although we are fairly poor at the moment with me working part-time, we could save something if we really tried.

So, Resolution #2 is: I will have $100 per fortnight automatically deducated into an account that I don't touch.

And if anyone around here is good at paying off debt and saving, I would be genuinely grateful for your advice.

And since my whole life can't just be about self-discipline, finally, Resolution #3 is: Every week, I will do something for myself that doesn't involve food. Something that feeds my heart, my mind, my spirit. I have a few ideas about this, but if anyone has some suggestions, please feel free to make them.

Now, I will be reporting on these things, so watch this space.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sexy Songs

You know, in my current state of mingled love and frustration, this seems like the sexiest, truest song I have ever heard. From an Australian band, The Divinyls:

I Touch Myself

I love myself
I want you to love me
When I´m feeling down
I want you above me

I search myself
I want you to find me
I forget myself
I want you to remind me

I don´t want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself
I don´t want anybody else
Oh no, oh no, oh no

You´re the one who makes me happy
You´re the sun who makes me shine
When you´re around, I´m always laughing
I want to make you mine

I close my eyes
And see you before me
Think I would die
If you were to ignore me

A fool could see
Just how much I adore you
I get down on my knees
I´d do anything for you

I don´t want anybody else
When I think about you, I touch myself
I don´t want anybody else
Oh no, oh no, oh no

I want you
I don´t want anybody else
And when I think about you, I touch myself

You can hear a free sample of this song here.

I enjoyed dancing around the loungeroom to this one so much that I might start a collection. What is the sexiest song you know? Which one gets you going every time?


Well, part of the reason for the Testosterone post below was that we are investigating getting some testosterone supplements for my partner.

He had an appointment with his doctor yesterday, and I have been kind of hyped for this weekend, in the hope that it would be the start of something good. But the doctor said that he needed to see his endocrinologist, who he can't see for several weeks.

And the Naked Date (with a semi-promise of some sex) was planned for last night and then deferred to tonight because he is too sick. And now this morning he has just told me how awful he feels and what a bad night he had sleep-wise. Which definitely means no sex.


Fuck it!!!!!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who's the Boss?

One thing that really intrigues me about the blogs I read is how much time the men spend brooding over the power dynamics in their relationships.

Christian Husband has referred to “our now dead discussion on male/female power relations”. For the uninitiated, he is probably referring to a long debate on female submission we had over at Digger’s alternative site, Unsolicited Advice. Now, a lot of that was a debate about the bible, and whether the generally patriarchal tone of the bible was essentially culturally specific (ie commentary on female submission was basically reflecting the culture of the time and not necessarily appropriate for today), or universal (somehow essential to God’s plan for the universe). And I agree that the biblical debate is over, in the sense that we are never going to convince each other.

Some of it reminded me of that moment in Mighty Aphrodite, when Woody Allen's son asks him "Who is the boss between you and mummy?" And Allen replies, "I'm the boss. Your mother is just the decision maker".

But I have pondered that debate from time to time, still mulling it over. And one thing that struck me was how much they cared about female submission, how much they wanted it, how poignantly they mourned the lack of it in their relationships. And Helpmate Hubby seemed to have some similar power issues, except that he had adopted an ideology of female superiority and leadership to resolve them. Intriguing. And one thing they seemed to agree about was the importance of avoiding power struggles in the relationship.

And I was surprised. What’s so bad about a power struggle? Don’t many of the best things in life come from struggle?

Now, when I first moved in with my partner, he was 24 years older than me and a very confident, assertive man. He did not consciously expect to dominate me and our relationship, but the fact is that he did expect it.

And the fight was on. We spent much of our first year locked in a power struggle. And it was difficult at the time. But it was worth it.

Because, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to be the boss in our home. I just don’t want to have a boss in our home.

I don’t want a father. I already have a father. At home, I want a lover, a friend, a partner, an equal.

I actually find it disturbing how often nowadays you see a smart, dynamic woman paired with an apparently much weaker, somewhat insipid sidekick. Now, some of these women are just plain bossy. But a lot of them are pretty much having to carry their partner’s weakness and lack of confidence. I discovered quite early in my life how a woman like myself, fairly intelligent and driven, can tend to attract a weaker partner who is too easily rail-roaded. Whose submissive nature makes things easier, but who ultimately is hard to respect.

And that was a problem. Because to me, respect is crucial to love, passion, intimacy and all good things in a relationship. I truly respect my partner. I think he truly respects me. And we respect ourselves.

I love that my partner is a strong and even obstinate personality. Its infuriating at times, it can make things difficult, but I enjoy it.

I love that he can let a lot of things slide, that he doesn’t have to start a fight over every issue, but that he takes the initiative and stands up for what he wants on the issues he cares about it. I love that he is able to feel relaxed about the ways in which I have grown over the years – in understanding, in skills, in confidence, in ability to make decisions - confident that he in his turn is strong enough to be up to the challenge. I love that I have a partner, an equal, and not a master or a slave.

And battling it out sometimes can be, well, fun. It keeps things interesting.

Does a man who has enough confidence in himself to lead really need an ideology of female submission? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Testosterone Nation


You know, when I was a twenty-something university feminist, most of what I heard about testosterone was bad. Testosterone, after all, is maleness. It makes men what they are. And at the time, most of what men are seemed like a bad thing.

According to that logic, testosterone is behind male aggression. Therefore, testosterone causes wars. Testosterone causes rape. Testosterone causes domestic violence. Testosterone is the reason why women are afraid to go out alone at night.

More trivially, testosterone causes other irritating male habits like hogging the TV remote, and sweating copiously all over the equipment at the gymn and not wiping it off. Testosterone is the reason why meetings at work go on way too long, as the men feel compelled to make a dominance display of other male secondary sex characteristics like enormous briefcases, excessive use of managerial gobbledygook, and pontificating on subjects they know nothing about. As the meeting ends, the women depart to finally get some real work done, muttering under their breaths about having to fight their way out through the testosterone fog.

Also, for many Australian women, it feels like we live in Testosterone Nation. Australia is very, very blokey. Our national heroes are mostly from male sports. Our big national day is Anzac Day, a commemoration of war, focusing on a military parade. Our big national monument is the Anzac memorial. Our emotional life is still expressed mainly in terms of mateship - between blokes. Our work-force is one of the most sex-segregated in the world. Aside from sport (and everyone knows that female sport is inferior and boring, except for the swimming), our most characteristically Australian leisure activity is barbecues, where men preside over the barbie arguing with each other about the best technique for setting fire to enormous lumps of red meat. Usually to the sound of music from male pub bands in the background. No barbie would be complete without songs like:

I come from the land down under
Where women glow and men chunder
Can you hear, can you hear the thunder
You better run, you better take cover

(especially if they follow through with that plan to live things up by pouring on the gasolene)

And this carries through to our language and politics. The politics that is relevant in Australia is hard (politics) and dry (economics). The politics that is irrelevant is soft and wet. A more dirty-minded woman than me might think that political discussions were really about another subject entirely....

Sometimes it feels like testosterone rules Australia.

Now, I will not deny that the relationship between female behaviour and our hormones can be spectacular. Plus, I read Foolish Mutterings, so it would be foolish to deny that women on the rag can be very hard work.

But, you know, anyone who thinks its just women who are ruled by their hormones has never lived with a man whose hormones are out of whack.

I'm living with a man who has, among other issues, low testosterone. The fancy term is hypogonadism. You only have to look at that word to realize its not going to be good news for your sex life.

And low testosterone is not just bad for your sex life. Low testosterone causes other bad things, such as reduced muscle mass, thinning of bones, lowered sperm count and reduced fertility, general reduced feelings of well-being, irritability, inability to concentrate, fatigue and depression.

As a twenty-something feminist, I would never have believed I'd say this, but I wish we had a bit more testosterone around here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Speaking of Romance

Okay, having now blabbed to the entire world about how bad my sex life is (and incidentally revealed how pathetic I can be), I feel like I should mention another good thing about my partner.

My partner is mostly not very romantic. He doesn't talk about his feelings easily. He is not much of a talker in general. I hate to resort to bad cliches, but he really is tall, dark and brooding. He really is the strong and silent type. In fact, he seems to talk less and less as the years go on. Most evenings, when I came home from work, he doesn't even ask me how my day was. We commune in silence like Trappist monks.

But the man knows how to make his words count.

For three years, while we were broken up, I wondered if I had done the right thing. He was still my best friend. I still loved him. I missed him. Sometimes I would lie awake thinking about how I would never feel his lips on mine, how we would never make love again, how I would never again turn over in the night and have the comfort, the solidity of his presence beside me. I ached. I yearned. And the sex I was chasing seemed, well, kind of stupid in comparison.

And we were not one of those ex-couples who go for ambiguity. Since the day we had broken up, we had never kissed, never slept together, never even touched each other's hands.

So bear in mind that, when I finally asked him if he'd ever thought of getting back together, I had absolutely no idea whether he had ever thought of it at all. I had no idea whether he could ever forgive me. And he looked thoughtful, and squinted as if trying to examine the minuteness of the possiblity of such a thing, and said:

"I've thought about it every hour of every day for the last three years".

And not long ago, he wrote me this song:

Sweet Love Song

If I could sing a sweet love song for you
You'd know my love will be forever true
It would take the purest melody
To show the world just what you mean to me.

If I could take a rainbow from the sky
Maybe I could paint the love that's in your eyes
A sonnet penned with words in perfect rhyme
Could celebrate your beauty though all time.

But all these things I know I'll never do
So how can I ever prove my love to you?

I can only hope these simple words convey
The love that grows in me from day to day
If you can see my love is true and strong
I'll know you've understood my sweet love song.

Okay, so its kind of sappy, I know, but not too bad for the unromantic silent guy! I was so touched that, if he was any other man, I would have had to have sex with him immediately...


You know, I put a counter on this site yesterday out of idle curiosity about how many people were reading it.

Holy crap! How can there be 80 people in the world interested in reading about my almost non-existent sex life????

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sex and Love

Just in case anyone imagines that the post below means that I have turned into that aforementioned well balanced, sensible and rational woman who has sex in perspective, I will tell you about last night.

I had a completely unwarranted moment of confidence and hope, attempted to initiate spontaneous sex with my partner, and got firmly and kindly rejected.

Yes. I know. Again.

And did I take it graciously? Did I think "Well, better luck next time" and get on with being happy? No. I smiled sweetly and understandingly. I appeared not to take it personally. And I spent the rest of the evening, after my partner and baby had gone to sleep, lying on the poor-me sofa, weeping and feeling extremely sorry for myself. And giving myself a little southern comfort, if you know what I mean.

As Digger has so poignantly written, masturbation is a pretty limited solution. Sometimes it actually makes you feel worse. But sometimes its all we have.

And I am still feeling sorry for myself this morning. I have wrapped up my poor, neglected, despised body in one of those horrible passion-killer wife-nighties. I have returned to my woe-is-me sofa. If I had any sackcloth or ashes, I would apply them liberally.

Now, one of the sources of my self pity is one big regret I have about my life: the separation between sex and love. As in, surely one of the great things people have to look back on in life is the time when they loved their partner, their partner loved them, and they had great sex together. Love fed their eroticism. Eroticism fed their love. The two were beautifully combined, creating sex that was not just hot but soul-touching, passionate and intimate.

That experience may pass, it may fade, but at least they had it.

And I have never had that experience.

I was a virgin when I met my partner. I was in love with my lovely then-boyfriend. And we were good Christian young people who, although we had been in love for more than a year, did not sleep together. And yes, that was very difficult at times. But I had this idea that we were "saving up". Yes, we were making a short-term sacrifice that would make our married sex life all the sweeter. Then the relationship failed, and my relationship with my now-partner changed.

Now my now-partner was very sexually experienced. He is one of the few ordinary (as in, non-rock star, non-swinger, etc) men I know whose number of previous sexual partners was well into triple figures. So, having worked through some of my previous theological and other barriers to a non-married sexual relationship (its a long story), having established a close, intimate, loving relationship with a previously very sexual man, I was looking forward to what I thought would be a stellar sexual future. I had been saving up, I had been a good girl, and now I was ready!

And he got sick a few weeks after we got together. And I loved him too much to leave him over the sex issue.

And we had a lot of love, but not much sex.

Then we broke up. For three years, I did have other sexual partners. And you know what? I never loved any of them. I liked them. I fancied them. I was even quite infatuated at one point with one of them. But I did not love them. I had sex without love.

I was surprised, in a way, that casual sex came so easily to me. You'd think that someone as inexperienced as me would have found it too difficult to separate sex and emotions. But in fact, it wasn't difficult at all. The sex was variable. Sometimes it was fantastic. Sometimes it was just okay. But I enjoyed it all, pretty much. For a while there, I was like a dieter let loose in a world of chocolate cake. I was so busy rolling around and rejoicing in the icing that the lack of real sustenance didn't worry me at all.

But ultimately, I grew tired of just sex without love. It really did become kind of empty. I discovered the old truism that love without sex will get you through the hard (ha!) times better than sex without love.

But, you know, now I'm back with my partner, I still have this same old separation. I have love without sex. I hate this separation. I hate the fact that my partner loves me so much but so rarely desires me. I hate the fact that I love him so much but am so sexually unfulfilled so much of the time. I hate spending so much time feeling sorry for myself. And there is so little that I can do to change the situation. I hate that, too.

I had this strange, and only tangentially related, thought this morning. I read some bloggers (eg, the previously mentioned Fade to Numb and Tajalude) for whom issues of porn have loomed large in their relationship. I understand what people who quit porn are trying to achieve by quitting. I respect them for it. I undertand that porn creates expectations that cannot be fulfilled and that this exacerbates problems.

But I sort of wonder why, for instance, you don't get many female bloggers talking about their struggle to give up the stuff that feeds our fantasies? The romantic books, movies. etc. After all, don't most women want more romance than most men give them? Don't we complain about how our partners don't measure up? Don't our fantasies about incredibly powerful, incredibly rich, incredibly handsome men named Brick or Randy (ha!), who just have to have us and always know what to do to turn us on, create expectations that don't reflect real life and can't be met?

Why is porn so disapproved of, regarded as so evil, and romance novels regarded as just a silly, but fairly harmless, female weakness?

Does our society just separate sex and love as well?

Why aren't there any blogs named, just for an example, Dark, Satanic Mills (and Boon)?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Doing What Works

We seem to be getting better at dealing with this clashing libidos issue. I have been thinking about what works.

Now when I say what works, I unfortunately don't mean what creates a searingly erotic relationship in which we are constantly just tearing the clothes off each other. That's not really going to be on the table, with my partner's health issues.

Things that didn't work

We spent many years exploring many options that didn't work, including:


  • Pretending for a long time that there was really no problem because, well, nice girls don't want sex more than their partners do. Unfortunately, denial only ever works in the short term.
  • Trying to make myself more attractive, losing weight, wearing nice clothes, etc. No effect. He told me I looked great, "but then, you looked good before".
  • Ditto trying to be the "perfect" partner, endless cooking and cleaning and stroking of his ego. No effect, except that I felt like a fake.
  • Trying to seduce him with lingerie, inventive scenarios, etc. Nothing. Mutual embarrassment when it failed. Plus, it made the rejection worse when I had invested so much in the scene of the seduction and felt like I had put my ego on the line.
  • Talking about the issue, how it made me feel, reasons why, how to resolve, it etc. Talking made me feel better temporarily, and its still necessary sometimes, but it didn't actually result in more sex.
  • Whining, complaining, and weeping. Not a deliberate strategy, obviously, just a general meltown. But nothing. It turns out that whining is not an aphrodisiac - surprise! Oh, sometimes it did get me a pity fuck, which was just not worth the sadness and humiliation. Is there anything less erotic or satisfying in this life than a pity fuck?
  • Reading self help books about how to improve things. Some suggestions helped a bit, but the whole process really annoyed me, too. When he was the one with the problem, why did I have to be the one who was always working on it? What wasn't he reading the books?
  • Allowing my sadness and disappointment about this issue to seep into every aspect of my life and our relationship together. I got depressed.
  • Withdrawing emotionally. I felt sad and alone and couldn't even enjoy the positive aspects of our relationship.
  • Casual sex with someone else. Yes, I tried that, too. That didn't work either, but did lead to the final one.
  • Breaking up. Yes, I did this for three years. I missed him terribly. He missed me teribly. I enjoyed having sex with other people, but ultimately discovered what I wanted was not just sex, but passion, love, intimacy. Which I also discovered I couldn't have with other people as long as I was in love with my partner, and that love never went away.


  • Refusing to see that there was a problem.
  • Refusing to admit that there was a problem.
  • Telling me that he would initiate sex more often if I would stop being being so demanding.
  • Giving incredulous looks when the issue was raised as if to say, well, you're a nymphomaniac if you expect to have sex more than twice a year.
  • Making it clear that any discussion about the issue was torture and he would provide only his name, rank and serial number.
  • Linking the problem to things that can't be changed, like being older (apparently, men stop wanting sex in their forties).
  • Making promises that things would dramatically improve, trying for a few days, then lapsing back into the usual.
  • Refusing to see anyone about it or discuss it with a professsional.
  • Working quietly on his health issues, trying to get more exercise, etc, without also working directly on the sex issue.

Lately, we have been more successful. Sure, its an improvement from a pretty low base, but its still an improvement. I still feel good about it.

Things that help

Establishing the physical causes of the problem with health professionals. We get them treated as much as we can. But it also helps that I can stop torturing myself wondering why? Instead of thinking Its because I'm so ugly, its because he doesn't love me, I can think Its because his testosterone levels are incredibly low and he is sick. It does help.

On a more personal level, two major innovations have really helped.

The first is the Naked Date. Yes, most weeks, on a designated night, we take all our clothes off, put some nice music on, light the candles and get together. And the only expectation is that the other person will turn up. If he is too tired and sick, not having sex is okay. Occasionally, very occasionally, its been me who is too tired for sex. But we cuddle, we touch, we talk, and we enjoy being together. Its intimacy. Its closeness. Its effort on his part. And it brings us closer. It reminds us that we are more than friends and co-parents. Its one thing we do together that house mates generally don't do. Plus, I at least get to see him naked!

The second is that, after our baby was born, I tried a completely new tack. I sat him down and talked to him about how I had tried for many years to improve our sex life, and mostly it had failed. Because we weren't in sync. Because we weren't really working on it together.

And I offered him a life together in which sex had no part. The truth is that I didn't know what the impact would be, whether I could really do this, but I genuinely offered to try. Because I just couldn't stand to go on like this. Talking, trying, feeling sad and alone, and never seeing any result. My heart was in my mouth, but I just felt that anything was preferable to that scenario. He said that he didn't want that, and I could see that he didn't. And we agreed that, from now on, our sex life was his responsibility. It was up to him whether we had a sex life, and if we were to have one, it was mainly him who needed to work on it.

And funnily enough, the those two innovations have helped quite a lot. And I think this is mainly because, although our problem is about 90% due to his health issues, there is that crucial 10% or so that is about attitude.

I find I don't get so distressed about it if I feel that he is maintaining an awareness of the issue, that he cares about it, that he is working on it, that he is trying. When I see him turning up for our Naked Date, when I see him proposing a night of passion even if it gets deferred several times, at least my needs are on the agenda. When he doesn't make stupid jokes about insatiable women, and instead says "I'd like to, but not tonight, how about Wednesday?" it makes a big difference.

Because it addresses the key relationship issue that clashing libidos cause: resentment.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Learning to Walk

Stop press!!!!!! My baby can walk!!!!!!

Yes, he is officially walking. For some time now, he has been "cruising" - stepping along, holding onto things. Then he was able to push his trolley across the floor. For the last week or so, he has been taking small, independent steps between objects - letting go of one object and half-stepping, half-collapsing onto another. But now, he is definitely walking. He just gets up from where he is, rising in quite a controlled way, and decides to take a stroll across the room.

Of course, he is just a beginner. He still falls over. But his record now is 9 steps across the room without falling over. He is only 10 months old, but he is on his way.

It makes him seem more like a toddler than a baby. And despite my pleasure in watching him go, my delight in his development, there is a pang in my heart about how soon he won't be my little baby any more.

You know, motherhood has not been what I expected at all. I think I had two main ideas about motherhood. One was them was that it would be difficult, tedious work that was unappreciated and unrewarded - I read a lot of feminist tomes on the subject. The other idea was probably got mainly from advertisements and baby books. That it would be magical. That I would just adore my baby. That I would pretty much sail through any difficulties, buoyed by an endless supply of maternal love.

The big surprise to me is that mothering is not all that different to any other kind of relationship. Sometimes I feel so in love with my baby, so delighted with him. Sometimes I feel so bored and fed up and frustrated with him. And most of all, it is like any other kind of skill. It doesn't come easily and naturally. It is something that I have had to learn.

I am not one of those uber-mummies who is naturally good at it. I didn't get that initial rush of love and motherly bonding when I first saw my baby that other people talk about. After the long childbirth, what I felt in my first moments was mainly relief. I wasn't overcome by joy in my baby so much as overcome by joy and relief that the pain was over.

And I was so exhausted, so disoriented, that when they first put him on my tummy, my first impression was that there was some kind of strange wet frog on my stomach. I didn't connect the little frog with the baby that had been inside me, so I didn't reach out to hold him, and he started to slide down my side and nearly fell onto the table.

Then there were all the days of yelling, the breastfeeding drama, and the vague feeling of nightmare that comes with chronic lack of sleep. Breastfeeding hurt, and sometimes I semi-hallucinated that there was a little rat constantly nibbling away at my nipple. And I was horrified by what had happened to my body. I won't share the details, but it was at least three months before I could sit down comfortably.

I seriously wondered, at times, whether I had made a mistake in having a baby. Apparently, I wasn't very good at being a mother. Also, I wasn't sure if he liked me very much. Nothing I did seemed to make a lot of difference. His crying or not crying, his sleeping or not sleeping, seemed to have only a tenuous connection with anything I actually did. Sometimes he actually seemed happier being held by my partner - possibly because my partner wasn't always in tears, peering at him anxiously and trying to put him on a breast that didn't have very much food there.

I think what I found hardest was that the early days of motherhood are about anxious servitude rather than about a relationship. A new baby takes a few weeks to be really aware of you. He wants to eat, he wants to sleep, he wants to be held, but he's happy for pretty much anyone to help him with all that. And for the new mother - well, she is working harder than she ever has in her entire life, and there is no gratitude. There isn't even a look of recognition for what seems like a long time. I remember waking up one morning, absolutely leaden with tiredness, and realizing that I had to do it all again. Every day. There would be no let-up. And I felt utterly dismayed. I really doubted that I was up to the job.

And I looked at other mothers who didn't seem to have these difficulties. Why wasn't I more like them?

But, you know, I got better at it. He calmed down. I calmed down. I learned how to spend more time just hanging out with my baby, getting to know him, rather than constantly trying to do things for him and to him. I relaxed more. I got the hang of it.

For me, learning how to be a mother has been a bit like learning to walk. I remember clinging to the edge. I remember moving forward tentatively. Then I remember suddenly realizing that I was walking, and had been for some time without really noticing.

And I realize now that expecting to be able to do it straight away was just unrealistic. Just like my baby had to build up his muscles and learn to hold up his head, to roll, to sit, to stand, to crawl before he could walk, I had to build up to motherhood.

Somes mothers and babies seem like an instant love match. They have an instant infatuation and seem naturally attuned to each other. My baby and me were more like an arranged marriage. We seemed to have been chosen for each other by someone else. We accepted it, a bit puzzled by the whole thing as we didn't seem to have much in common. We got used to each other. I got to like him. He got to like me. One day, I realized that I truly loved him. And I could see a light in his eyes that told me he felt the same. And we've been like that ever since.

And in a way, I think both of those accounts of motherhood that I read are true, even though they also missed something crucial. I'm glad I read those feminist tomes, because they were pretty realistic. There is an incredible amount of tedium and sheer, unremitting hard work in mothering. Also, our society seems to be oblivious to children and the people who raise them. Our society mostly acts as if parenting is a private hobby in which society has no particular interest. From the lack of basics like paid maternity leave and flexible work practices (wow, parents need to be able to look after their children AND earn something to bring them up with - who knew??), you'd never guess that its actually about the future of the human race.

Also, a lot of mothering goes against what I have learned elsewhere in my life. I spent 34 years learning to be independent, to be efficient, to make progress every day. And now my life is kind of like a ship that is adrift. There is a different sense of time. Its hard to move forward. Its hard to accomplish anything beyond the basics. The days sort of run together. There is an element of chaos that has been hard to get used to. There always seem to be unpaid bills - not just because we are broke, but because its hard to stay organised.

But there is also an incredible amount of joy and pleasure in mothering. Pleasures like watching my baby learn to walk.

And pleasures like realising that I, too, can walk. Of course, I am just a beginner. I still fall over. But I am on my way.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

That's What I Like About You

Now, Always Aroused Girl has told a story that illustrates everything that is wrong with her marriage. Its about selfishness, about neglect, about not being the priority, about having to take care of herself all the time, about being alone in the marriage. She writes beautifully, as always, but its quite a painful read.

And Tajalude has told a completely different story about a pretty sucky anniversary, and about how her partner can't seem to put her first. His work and other commitments always seem to come before her.

And you know what? Reading thse stories made me realise how lucky I am. When I am occasionally asked why I picked my partner and why I stay with him when its clear that all is not hunky dory, I think of two stories.

When I first met my partner, I was actually with someone else. My now-partner and I were just friends. And my then-boyfriend was a lovely guy. He was very clever, very sweet natured, a good person. And he was much better "husband material"than my partner - my own age, for a start! But I never came first with him. He was a brilliant scientist, and he was always in the laboratory. The man was a workaholic. I spent a lot of time alone. I knew he loved me, but when I needed him, he was rarely there.

Now, one day there was an incident. I had moved house, and in the process I had lost a lot of stuff, including my quilt. Winter was coming on, so not having a quilt was actually kind of a disaster, and I was a poverty-stricken student who couldn't afford to replace it right away. And my then-boyfriend had lent me his sleeping bag.

After a couple of weeks, he wanted it back. He didn't need it, there was no problem, but he just wanted it back. It was his, and he had a right to it. We argued - and I was so upset. Not just because I would be cold, but because of his attitude. I felt so ... uncherished.

Now my friend had heard this argument. The very next day, he turned up at my house with a quilt and told me to keep it as long as I needed it. Great relief. My boyfriend and I made up, and everyone was happy.

Much later, I discovered that my friend did not have another quilt of his own. And he couldn't afford another one either. He had slept under a flag that he had previously used as a floor cover. And he had shivered at night so that I could be warm.

And discovering that was a major turning point in my feelings about him. I think, now, that this was why I chose my partner. I realized that I would always come first with him, even before himself.

And now a second story. As you know, I had our baby son ten months ago and our first weeks were very difficult. I had had a bad, 42 hour labour. Our baby was badly positioned, so it was just hour after hour of long, hard contractions very close together that wore me out but didn't get us anywhere. I had tried very hard to have a drug-free labour, but after 30 hours I just couldn't take it any more and accepted the drugs. Also, I was very committed to breastfeeding, but it didn't work very well. My milk supply never came in properly, despite trying everything that was suggested to us, for weeks on end.

As a result, I was so exhausted, so dispirited, and had such an acute sense of failure. I was afraid that my partner would think I was weak and cowardly for having accepted the drugs. I was afraid that he would think I was a bad mother beause of the breastfeeding failure. And the whole experience was made so much worse by the fact that our baby was born with a painful swelling on his head from the long labour. Between the swelling and the fact that he was starving, he yelled what seemed like 24 hours a day, and I just couldn't get any sleep. The lack of sleep was like torture. After a few days, I felt like I was in a nightmare.

It was my birthday a few days later, and guess what my present was? It was a silver goblet, engraved as having been awarded to me "for conspicuous courage" over the days of my labour. He couldn't possibly have given me anything that would have meant more to me.

And you know what else? He looked at my pale face, the bruises under my eyes, my weepiness and my exhaustion, and he took our baby into his room and did the night shift every night. Not for one night, or for one week, or for one month, but every night. He is still doing it. I am the only mother of a baby I know who gets to sleep all night.

And I will never forget his kindness.