How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘sexual apathy’ Category

The Borrowed Husband

Husbands are chiefly good lovers when they are betraying their wives.
—Marilyn Monroe

Given the response to my previous posts about women having affairs with married men, I believe a word on the ethics of such involvements with married men is needed. In the first place, you should assume that a man old enough to be married is old enough to be responsible for his own actions. You don’t, indeed couldn’t, induce, seduce, entice, or otherwise abduct him away from home and hearth if he didn’t wish to be waylaid.

Well, to be strictly accurate, maybe you could hornswoggle a husband into a compromising position if you were outrageous enough and if he were drunk enough, tired enough, or provoked enough. The man may be strong, but his flesh is weak. Even if such a seduction could be successfully staged, it is hardly the kind of relationship I’ve been focused on in my posts.

First, if a husband enters into an affair, he must want to enter into an affair. The moral implication of what that does to his promises to his wife and to the nature of his understanding with her are his problems, not yours. Second, having an affair doesn’t necessarily compromise his marriage, especially when having him for a husband isn’t among your aspirations. It is a fact, although not a widely acknowledged one, that in a number of cases, a mistress is a stabilizing influence rather than a disruptive one. An extramarital connection may make bearable a situation that would otherwise be unbearable without the emotional underpinnings of the affair.

Cover of "Husbands (Extended Cut)"

The most obvious examples of such situations are those where the wife is, in some way, sick or disabled; but these are, by no means, the only instances. Marriage involves many obligations or, to use an old-fashioned word, “duties.” A husband may be able to carry out his duties to his wife and his responsibilities to his children better with the help of a mistress than without her. Having a mistress may very well lessen a man’s feelings of marital discontent and his overall desire to end his marriage. It is not an argument that many wives are likely to buy, but it may well be true all the same.

It may also be true, of course, that the presence of a mistress raises discontent that did not previously exist in the marriage. I doubt that the impulse for extramarital connections comes willy-nilly from a scene of domestic bliss. The seeds of the liaison are there long before the first introduction is made. You can’t “steal” a husband unless he wants to be stolen. Or since wives don’t own husbands, and husbands don’t own wives, it would be more precise to say, “You can’t entice a man into an extramarital connection unless something about his marital connection makes him want to be enticed.”

As one unrepentant mistress explained to me, “I’ve never stolen a husband. When one was just sitting around and no one was using him anyway, I may have borrowed one once in a while, but I always sent him home when I was done.”

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Lovers Are Not For Everyone: Traditional Wives

I’ve only slept with men I’ve been married to. How many women can make that claim?
—Elizabeth Taylor

English: Studio publicity portrait of the Amer...

Elizabeth Taylor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another kind of woman who won’t want a lover is the married woman who is committed to being faithful to her husband. Some fortunate wives would never consider taking a lover because they find, in their own husbands, all the affection and sexuality that they desire. For them, there is no need for more love or a different love. As Sir Charles Sedley points out in “Reasons for Constancy,” “When change itself can give no more, ’tis easy to be true.”

Other wives may think wistfully of men more appealing than their husbands, but they are firmly and irrevocably committed to the principle of marital fidelity. Such a good wife may be inhibited from fully loving any man she isn’t married to or isn’t intending to marry. Elizabeth Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky may not be exactly your idea of a traditional wife, but on this issue, at least she had traditional attitudes.

Other wives may be faithful for a lifetime, not because they are particularly infatuated with their husbands, but because they are not particularly tempted by anyone else. Such women may seem to be very virtuous, but in fact, they are merely apathetic. Their energies have been channeled into other things, such as careers or children, which take precedence over love and romance. The absence of a lover is not a sacrifice for them, and the prospect of a lover doesn’t entice them. They are, in effect, faithful by default.

Finally, there are some wives who would love to have a lover, but they cannot find the kind of man that they want. Or they would love to have a lover, but they don’t have the courage. They think of a lover, and they visualize jealous husbands and gossiping aunts and sleazy private eyes. They think of a lover, and they remember the scene of sudden, violent death that was the shocking climax in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. In real life, taking a lover can sometimes be hazardous; and drastic consequences can, in fact, occur.

As Mark Twain observed, “There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.”

Lovers Are Not For Everyone: The Celibacy Option

Some modern cynics make assertion
That chastity’s a sex-perversion.
Such a description should go far
To make it much more popular.
—Geoffrey B. Riddehough

One woman who isn’t interested in picking a lover is the woman who prefers to be celibate. Some women simply seem not to have sexual urges of the kind that are felt by almost all men and by most women. Rather than being either  heterosexual or homosexual, they are more appropriately designated as asexual.

Some women find the idea of sex repulsive. They don’t like to be touched; they aren’t pleased by erotic attentiveness and are by nature inclined toward a nun like existence. Often, but not always, their negative attitude toward sexuality is associated with a strong religious commitment or with a very damaging experience the first time they had sex. Other women may find the possibility of sexuality mildly appealing under the right circumstances, but they have little interest in the pursuit of sexual experience per se. The anticipated pleasures are not sufficiently enticing to outweigh their religious or moral scruples.

Some women who have been sexually active and who have enjoyed that part of their life may find that at a particular period of time, they want to take a sabbatical from sex and turn their attention and energies to something else. Such a sex sabbatical may well go with some emotional trauma, such as a broken love affair or a divorce. It might accompany a sense of loss and grief when a loved one dies. It might go with being very ill or with recovering from being very ill.

Experts who discuss male impotence are quick to point out that occasional situational impotence is quite common for many men in circumstances of psychological stress or depression. Depression tends to inflate one’s troubles while deflating one’s physical apparatus. Being depressed is not conducive to being or feeling sexy. We don’t talk about female “impotence” in the same way, but some women may experience essentially the same phenomenon with a temporary loss of sexual desire and/or of the ability to achieve orgasm.

The body has a wisdom of its own and a well-developed sense of priorities. When your body is again ready for an erotic life, it will let you know. You have little to gain, and quite a bit to lose, if you try to force from yourself a response which must come spontaneously and naturally.

There is nothing wrong with being celibate if that is what feels most appropriate for you. Whatever your reasons for not wanting a lover, you have a right to be turned off if you happen to feel turned off, and that decision is your own to make. Better to be celibate than to feel guilty, better to be celibate than to submit to unpleasant experiences, better to be celibate than to deny your feelings by going through the motions without desire.

The fact that there is an increasing permissiveness which allows women to have lovers shouldn’t be interpreted as an obligation to do so. Sexual apathy is in itself an excellent reason not to be sexually involved whether that apathy is toward only one particular man or men in general. You can take a lover if you want to, but under no circumstances should you feel you have to do so.

Flirtation: Attention without Intention

A woman may very well form a friendship with a man, but for this to endure, it must be assisted by a little physical antipathy.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Why bother to have a lover who is not really a lover? Many reasons. There are, after all, a number of historical precedents.

Consider, for example, the good Queen Victoria, who was surely the epitome of all that is moral and proper. After the death of her beloved Prince Albert, she was distraught and sought consolation from one John Brown, who had been an attendant to her late husband. John Brown was made her personal servant; but as depicted in the movie Mrs. Brown, featuring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Brown obviously far exceeded that modest role. Their relationship was extremely close emotionally, and his privileges at Windsor Castle certainly reflected a great deal of trust and intimacy. Were they lovers? No one knows. There was speculation. There were rumors. If you can’t trust Queen Victoria, who can you trust?

In prior posts, I’ve talked as if  the new sexual freedoms women now have, magically transformed them into completely sexual creatures. Often, this is simply not the case. It may not be a case of moral guilt or psychological hang-ups as much as simply an absence of desire. Certainly, there can be an absence of desire for a particular man, someone whose body does not seem erotic even though he is lovable in many other ways. A woman may prefer not to have to bother with sex. If she doesn’t want to bother, such a turn of phrase reveals so much of her attitude that it’s probably just as well that she doesn’t.

The lover who is not reallya lover may be willing to be emotionally involved with a woman, yet unwilling to be physically involved with her, especially if she is married. To love her emotionally is acceptable, but to make love to her isn’t because that would be adultery. According to the Bible, a man who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart. There can be, however, a curious kind of doublethink wherein having an affair of the heart, which technically is not consummated, does not count. It is not really adultery and is therefore acceptable. Some women committed to the ideal of premarital chastity may use much the same reasoning so that they may be sexually experienced while technically remaining virgins.

Cover of "Emotional Infidelity: How to Av...

Such an affair may evoke the same jealousy that a betrayed spouse feels when his mate is physically unfaithful. In actuality, such emotional infidelity may be harder for the spouse to accept than would a casual affair, which could be dismissed as an impulsive roll in the hay or a one-night stand.

Be that as it may, as long as the lovers can maintain that it didn’t happen, they have what seems to them an impeccable moral position. When confronted, they will even manage a little sanctimony and lament the kind of world in which simple platonic friendship is disallowed. They will even muster some righteous indignation at what from the outside seem to be perfectly well-founded suspicions.

Should you take a eunuch lover (see previous post), you need a husband of considerable trust and/or credulity in order to carry off what seems to be a flagrant disregard for convention. You then have the freedom to be quite open about your comings and goings with him. What is the husband to think? What are the neighbors to think? One obvious explanation is that the man in question is less than a real man and is a eunuch in his heart, if not in actuality.

A woman I know came home late to an angry husband who demanded to know where she had been. She confessed that she had been drinking at the Purple Cow, a local tavern.
“I don’t want you hanging out with men in bars,” he said.
“But I was with Freddy,” she said.
“Oh,” he said, “well, at least you could have called to tell me that you’d
be late.”

Being with Freddy didn’t count. Freddy was not a real man and so could not be threatening. Once Freddy knows how he is regarded, and he is not gay, then one wonders how it will make him feel. He is the kind of man with whom one’s wife is absolutely safe, not because he or she are so honorable, but because he is so—safe.

The decadent East has a treasury of erotic literature in which the roles of the potentate, harem girl, and the eunuch figure prominently. One theme of these tales is the delights which await the man who pretends to be a eunuch in order to get into the harem, but who is not, and is instead a fox among the chickens.

Another theme is the eunuch who is not totally a eunuch in that he is still capable of an erection and of some sexual feeling. Sexologists allow that this is possible if unlikely. The eunuch lover who is presented as such to the world in general and to the husband in particular has an especially provident game plan in that he can have all of the enjoyments with none of the penalties. He must learn two maxims which both he and his ladylove must say repeatedly, “Deny, deny, deny,” followed by “That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.”

The Eunuch Lover

There are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.
—Matthew 19:12

In the old days in the decadent East, men with kingdoms and sheikdoms had the privilege of keeping harems. The potentate might have as many as up to a thousand wives, and to relieve himself of the burden and responsibility of supervising them all, he would employ eunuchs. The eunuchs involved were castrated when they were young and grew up in a kind of limbo between the male world and the female one. Being sexless, they were allowed to enter the harem and to have direct contact with the wives.

Eunuch baptised, Snailwell

Eunuch baptised, Snailwell (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

In some modern circumstances, some women elect to have what amounts to eunuch lovers: these men are not sexual partners, but they are more than just platonic friends in that their level of involvement is intense. What kind of men are eunuch lovers? Obviously, only in the most exceptional cases are they actually eunuchs although such might be the case
in our culture if you consider the aberrant situation of transsexuals who are midway in the process of their transformation. Eunuch lovers are often men who are homosexual and who can love a woman in the affectionate and emotional sense without feeling any physical passion for her. The woman gets whatever lovemaking she wants elsewhere. And so does he. And they continue a relationship on other levels. Women who are married to homosexual men are often by choice or by chance in the position of having intimate, affectionate, but asexual relationships.

Not all eunuch lovers, however, are homosexual. Some simply have a very low sex drive, so low that they might be more appropriately termed “asexual.” As one man described it to me, “If you think of a pilot light on a gas stove, my drive is like the pilot light, and everyone else seems to be like a big burner on high!”

In other instances, the eunuch lover is an ordinary man with presumably ordinary drives and desires, but he chooses not to express them with this particular woman. The woman in the affair may also be a practicing heterosexual but likewise chooses not to be physically involved with this particular man. These relationships are often marriages of convenience in which the couple derives benefits from one another apart from physical intimacy. For instance, the powerful politician who marries a vibrant, beautiful young wife may benefit from the attention she garners him on the campaign trail and at fund-raisers while she benefits from the social status and privileges bestowed on her as his wife. So they make an agreement. “We will love each other, we do love each other, we will act as lovers, but we will not physically be lovers.” While they are not lovers in the conventional sense of the word, they are perceived by most to be in a love relationship.

An Alternative: The Platonic Affair

Leisured society is full of people who spend a great part of their lives in flirtation and conceal nothing but the humiliating secret that they have never gone any further.
—George Bernard Shaw, Overruled

A couple may be obviously fond of each other. They may seek each other out and laugh at each other’s jokes and hold hands whenever they can. He may call her by a silly pet name, and she may respond “oh, you” in a suggestive and intimate voice. They may have many opportunities to have private time together and, presumably, every opportunity to have sex. And yet—they don’t.

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...

Plato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Month after month, sometimes year after year, what appears to be a courtship, and a successful one at that, drags on and on and is neither consummated nor terminated. Such a wife has a lover in the affectionate and emotional and social sense of the word, but she remains inviolate. She has, in effect, a eunuch lover.

What they share is platonic love. As defined by author T. S. Winslow, platonic love is merely “love from the neck up.”

Good Old Charlie

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of a stranger
If one’s own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.
—Ogden Nash

Let’s consider the plight of the older woman who has happily raised her children for twenty or more years only to find that their need for her has become increasingly limited as they approach adulthood. She anticipates that in a few years, they will have left home for college or marriage and will be busily preoccupied with their own lives.

Romantic film icon created from Nuvola icons

Photo credit: Wikipedia

She looks at her husband, an accountant—let’s call him Charlie—who is in pretty good shape for a man his age. He makes sensible decisions about stocks and insurance, works hard and loves his kids and cuts the grass and just wants a little peace on the weekends. He’s a nice man. A good man, benevolent, and well-mannered and harmless. There are millions of men like Charlie. If you live with a man like Charlie you learn to become benevolent and well mannered and harmless as well. You learn how to make casseroles, and you shop carefully for sensible shoes. But your life is frittered away in trivia, and nothing new ever happens except that the bathroom needs to be repainted and the living room needs new drapes.

While you are thumbing through samples of materials to make sure that the drapes match the carpet because you cannot afford to replace that too, it will suddenly occur to you that while Charlie is a good man, it would be wonderful to feel again: to feel desirable and dangerous and powerful because of that desirability and that dangerousness. To watch the impact of your beauty and personality on a man, to speculate on how far you will go with him, and to wonder, “Is that really another man watching me from the corner of his eye and biding his time until I’m free to be approached?”

It would be wonderful not to know what was going to happen next. Because with Charlie, who is a good man and is good to you, you know what is going to happen next—the next day, next week, next Christmas, next year. The Charlies of this world are the salt of the earth, and they get the mail out and make the trains run on time, but they are wedded to routine. Worse, they like routine. They like the familiar and the predictable. When they go to the city, they always stay at the same hotel. When they buy a new car, they buy another Toyota. They wear the same kind of white cotton underwear that their fathers wore. They have gone to the same barber for fifteen years. When they dine out, they have roast beef medium. Roast beef medium is not only an entrée, it is a state of mind. The woman remembering her first love is also remembering when men were mysterious, when any damn thing might happen next, when life and relationships were uncertain and unpredictable.

So as a married woman, if you’re considering taking a lover, you have to ask yourself what it is that you want. Well, for one thing, you want to be surprised.

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