The Times Dusts Off Tired Tropes About Female Sexuality (Again): Sexual Healing

housewife

A recent New York Times article by Lori Gottlieb, the woman who wrote “Marry Him: The Case For Settling for Mr. Good Enough” (I know – we probably shouldn’t be listening to her) got my knickers in a twist. In a piece called, “Does a More Equal Marriage Equal Less Sex?” she trots out statistics that conflate domestic duties and the health of couples’ sex lives. Once again, female sexuality is confused with the deeply misogynistic history of marriage. 

The premise is that partnerships in which men and women do equal amounts of housework are bad for the bedroom. The sheets may be clean and the rug vacuumed, but no one is throwing down on them and making them dirty again, because men doing chores is apparently not sexy. She’s essentially saying that heterosexuals are wired to do things the way we have since time immemorial. (Yet failing to mention that marriage, that vaunted institution, was originally an arrangement in which women were purchased by men as property.)

She calls it “gender differentiation.” I grant that in heterosexual partnerships, the things that make us different can be the sexiest things of all. But the studies she cites, and the conclusions she comes to, are straight out of some kind of 1950′s guide to getting it on.

Women in the kitchen, men at work. Those “Mad Men” standards are what make for the sexiest sexy times, according to Gottlieb. Yes, because Joan, Peggy, and Betty just had it so good back then. Women just want men to be men! Because being men means being a dick about sharing the workload, sitting on the couch with a cigar, and probably also cheating. Since he’s coming home and taking care of us and the kids, financially — it’s cool, right?

In that vein, I’m calling BULLSHIT IN ALL CAPS.

Our marriages are more equal now, thank god. That’s progress. Women have flooded into the workplace since the seventies, but it’s only in the last ten years or so that men have begun bucking up and picking up after themselves. Instead of women doing 100 percent of the work (in the workplace and at home) men are now participating, and we like it like that. Except, Gottlieb suggests, this is why the marrieds aren’t having enough sex. Essentially, like everything else, it’s the ladies’ fault.

It’s not that equality kills libido, it’s that boredom does – for women. If Ms. Gottlieb had bothered to look at the reams of research about women’s sexuality from the last few years, perhaps she would have been introduced to a few theories that could have expanded her worldview. Daniel Bergner’s exploration of women’s sexuality in “What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire” – a rather slim volume – is rife with information about women’s libido. I think it would have taught her a lot. Namely, that women are likelier to get bored with their partners than men, that we need novelty, that after a few years, it’s hard for us to get it up with the same guy over and over again. That monogamy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and forcing ourselves into its strictures can thwart our desires.

The research in Bergner’s book and others like “Sex at Dawn” have shown us that tired tropes of evolutionary psychology are projections of a culture of inequality – not facts. There is a growing body of literature built around breaking down the misogynist assumptions about sex and relationships – but we clearly have more work to do when the Times regularly prints articles like Gottlieb’s.

If your guy does his share of the work at home, yet you’re no longer feeling like a nightly boink is necessary — don’t assume it’s because he’s been emasculated by the vacuum he’s holding. It may be because you’ve been together more than three years — the magic number for when sexual desire begins to wane for women. It may be parenthood — the number one boner-killer (utter exhaustion is a pretty good excuse for rolling over instead of rolling on top of your lover). If you believe in staying in your relationship for the long haul, there are many ways to improve your sex life. Role playing, toys, mutual masturbation, Orgasmic Meditation, watching porn together, sharing fantasies, having date nights — the possibilities are endless.

Got a question for Stefanie? Email stefanie at ecosalon dot com and she’ll answer it in the next Sexual Healing column.

Keep in touch with Stefanie on Twitter: @ecosexuality

Related on EcoSalon

Do you Demand Pleasure Parity?

Can You Really Be “Good” At Sex?

9  Natural Ways To Spice Up Your Sex Life

 image: sport suburban

 

 

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