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)?


Blogger Mr. Husbland said...

This was a good post Emily. I can't fathom being a man and not wanting to oversex my wife.

Yet at the same time, I can't fathom my wife wanting me to oversex her.

I do know that my wife is obsessed with romance movies etc and she has a low sex drive. Maybe it's her, but I'm not sure they play a role with making her want it (me) more.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Tajalude said...

I have never in my life read a romance novel, and am in fact a rather unsentimental person. I'm not easily moved and feel tricked when I feel someone is using sentimentality in a false way.

My issue with my husbands' porn was not so much the unrealistic ideals of the women he viewed; no, in fact, I'm surprised he never urged us to try anything new. My issue was that he was using it as a replacement for me, when I was not only always readily available, but literally begging for his affection. That he never connected his use of porn/masturbation to his lowered desire for seducing me is beyond my comprehension, but that's the long and the short of it.

If anything, my unrealistic goals of male romance and sexuality come from society. It has been my experience as a female that men want sex all the time. That it's all they think about, and that I would be relentlessly chased around the house in pursuit of some hot lovin'.

When I got married and realized this was not even close to being the case, it made me think something was wrong with me. When the women I work with complain about their husbands pestering them for sex all the time, it made me feel terrible because my husband never pestered me about sex. I had a stereotype in my mind about how marriage would be, and was scared now that the stereotype was debunked in my own household.

I seldom fantasize about anything out of the ordinary, or at least anything grandiose or fairytale-ish. I fantasize mostly just that someday, my husband might desire me in the way I desire him. My biggest lesson I have yet to learn is that we are different, separate people who love differently, and that that's ok.

9:43 PM  
Blogger trueself said...

Thanks for this post Emily. Indeed, from yesterday's post I was thinking "Wow! I wish I could get such a good perspective on my situation." Now, I know that you, like me, have those moments when, in spite of trying to make things better, things just don't work right.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

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

I think probably because it boils down to a matter of balance in usage, Emily. Women fantasize with romance novels and (yes) perhaps also often masturbate to them but still seek out their husbands, in most cases, for meaningful sex - and love, being the emotional creatures that they are. However men (not most, mind you) often tend to get off on porn but then, like an itch, don't feel the urge to seek out their wives. This tends to happen after the "honeymoon" phase of the relationship is over and the "taken for granted" phase is then in effect, with the less emotional guy not seeking out love as much. Sad but true in many cases.

7:19 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

I think I should change my name to Brick. Do you think that would help?

The urge to be desired is so strong with many of us, and we see all around us (whether it's porn, erotic novels, blogs, TV, movies, whatever) people that passionately desire each other. It just seems NORMAL.

I think we (when I say "we" I mean the bloggers in these kind of clashing libido relationships) all try to relate to one another, but each of our situations is different. In fact, I would suggest that most higher libido women have a completely different set of issues than most higher libido women. On paper, everything looks similar, but I think for the most part, there are some real innate differences between men and women.

Oh, I don't know. I suppose now everything is blurred. Women look at porn, men read sex blogs and erotica. It's all very confusing.

9:02 AM  
Blogger loz said...

hmm.. it's a good question. I've read romance novels in my life, but I've never found they could substitute anything for anything. ie, even if they seem romantic/hot/whatever, they're *apart* from my own desires, whereas I think porn (having real people involved even if it's unrealistic depictions) maybe blurs the lines & can work like a substitute, especially re: when too much masturbation goes along with it & that lowers someone's overall desire level. just my thought, since I've never been much into porn & don't know anyone who's had any related problems.

sorry to read you're having a pity party, I hope you get your calmer (for lack of a better word) perspective back soon. x

6:50 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Hi there

Husbland - Good to see you. I just discovered your blog recently, and am really enjoying it. I hope my post about the early days with my baby didn't diminish any of your joy in your wife's pregnancy (as if!), because the honest truth is that my son is the light of my eyes and the joy of my existence. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Tajalude- I can really see your point about the porn. If my partner did the same, it would really, really piss me off.
And I shared your previous expectations and experience of men. Its damn disturbing to discover that men are not always the sex maniacs that we had fondly imagined.

Rob and FTN - sometimes I wonder if men and women are really so very different to each other. My experience is that, while people tend to have certain things in common with their own gender, we are mostly the same. How about you?

Trueself and Loz - Yes, well, what can I say? I think I'm reasonably rational and constructive about the whole thing about 70% of the time. And then there is that 30% or so that is part of the reason for this blog - to vent, to process, to just generally get things off my chest and hopefully get that 70% figure a little higher. I did have some qualms about showing the world just how pathetic I can be... but if I can't be completely honest in a blog, where can I be?

3:11 AM  
Blogger Satan said...

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

This happens because it's 'OK' for women to feel insecure and to whine to their partner and get things changed. Men are not allowed to show any sort of weakness, so if my partner is jealous of my sex toys, my steamy, graphic romance novels, etc. he can't say anything that may even hint that he feels threatened. He's been taught all his life to be strong and not complain unless it's in a manly 'I'm putting my foot down' sort of way.
Whereas if I find one little search for 'nude Adriana Lima pics' on his computer I'm allowed to cue the crying and screaming and make him stop.

Actually, with that specific search, I'd probably be so caught up in looking at her with worshipful awe that I'd forget to be mad at him.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Tajalude said...

Satan... that is too funny. She is my husband's "freebie." (As if!)

6:06 AM  

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