How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘boredom’

Her Sexuality: His Sexuality

Show business is like sex. When it’s wonderful, it’s wonderful. But when it isn’t very good, it’s still all right.
—Max Wall, The Listener

Its true that the sexual revolution has led to an increased permissiveness regarding many kinds of sexual encounters, including relatively casual ones. The so-called new morality, however, doesn’t yet take into account all of the implications of the discrepancies between male and female patterns of sexual response.

Even if 90 percent of young women are now orgasmic and proud of it, there remains another fact of life to be taken into account. The sexual response patterns of most women are different from the sexual response patterns of most men. This difference may be innate, or it may be simply due to different socialization patterns. Whatever its origin, it is nonetheless real.

Generally speaking, men tend to be more sexual creatures than do women. His sex drive tends to be stronger than her sex drive; his sexual urges are more frequent and more urgent. The differences that men and women experience in erotic desire are most pronounced when you compare the rapacious enthusiasm which is often characteristic of teenage boys with the reticence often characteristic of teenage girls.

Most young women may very well seek love or affection or contact comfort; but they are, for the most part, less driven by the overt need for sexual release. While recent studies have shown that teenage girls have sex almost as often as teenage boys, they do so for very different reasons. Teenage girls are far more likely to have sex to please their boyfriends or to experiment or because of peer pressure or because they want to feel loved, whereas teenage boys are far more driven by an overarching physical desire for sex.

For the most part, men are more easily turned on than are women. Alex Comfort, the noted British sexologist, observes, “Male sexual response is far brisker and more automatic. It is triggered easily by things—like putting a quarter in a vending machine.” At seventeen, a young man may be turned on by anything vaguely suggestive although he may not be able to do anything very effective with all his erotic energy.

The discrepancy in sex drive tends to be less pronounced when you compare older men and women. With age and with lowering levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, a man’s sex drive becomes less compelling. With experience and perhaps with resulting loss of inhibition, a woman’s sexual responsiveness may increase with age. She may be more of a sexual creature at forty-five than she was at fifteen or at twenty-five. In spite of this rapprochement, however, for most men compared with most women, sex per se is more compelling and important.

It starts with her beauty in my eyes, it moves...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Differences in sex drive also relate to differences in sexual satisfaction. For men who are potent, which is most of them, achieving an orgasm is seldom a problem although postponing one may be. In contrast, for women, having an orgasm is something that has to be learned, and it is not always easily achieved. Except for the very lucky, doing what comes naturally just doesn’t work.

A woman, especially an inexperienced woman, often needs a longer time and a particular frame of mind to be able to achieve an orgasm. She needs a lover who is patient and sexually skilled enough to provide the right kind of stimulation. With time, she becomes experienced enough to know what she wants and comfortable enough to tell her partner what works for her. Most often, she also needs a partner whom she trusts enough so that she may feel psychologically secure.

Viewed from this perspective, the shopping list of a woman’s sexual “needs” is, in fact, quite extensive. Without all of these components present all at once, having sex may not be all that appealing to her and, on many occasions, she would really prefer not to have sex at all.

The British comedian Max Wall may think that, for him, “when it isn’t very good, it’s still all right.” But legions of women would disagree. For them, when it isn’t very good, it can be annoying, intrusive, degrading, painful, or just plain boring.

Escape from Ennui: The Lover as Tourist Guide

When you are safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home.
—Thornton Wilder

Sometimes, what a woman is seeking in a love affair is simply adventure. What does “adventure” mean to you  personally?

One of my more adventuresome lady friends may have read too much Ernest Hemingway at an impressionable age as she has always thought of an African safari, complete with lions, tigers, and elephants as the epitome of adventure. In her fantasy, there would be something slithery and lethal in the grass which she almost steps on but then does not because, at the last moment, a great white hunter sweeps her out of harm’s way, at least out of the way of the kind of harm that comes from a literal snake in the grass. She imagines the great white hunter looks a lot like George Clooney, but he might also resemble a bearded Matthew McConaughey. Either way, he is the master of his environment, strong but gentle, and his presence allows her the paradoxical privilege of being able to take risks while being quite safe. The adventure is filled with tropical sunsets and tropical nights. Interestingly, the concomitant tropical insects do not get equal time in her fantasy. I suspect my friend might very well fly to Nairobi for safari on two hours’ notice should I suggest it to her.

This same friend once took a sojourn to the South Side of Chicago at four in the morning, looking around with big eyes and expecting any kind of hassle to break out at any moment. A funky jazz club on the South Side is an exotic place for a straight white woman and is not all that secure, except that she was with not one but two all-American football types who were African-American with a certain don’t-tread-on-me air about them. She found that situation to be an adventure, just as the time she persuaded a racing car driver to give her a helmet and let her go with him on some early morning practice laps. She reported that even a zoom lens and a three-dimensional screen do not approximate the sense of speed that comes from actually being in the car.

Romance Over Paris

Romance Over Paris (Photo credit: starbuck77)

There is a definite appeal to a lover who not only offers you the excitement of a new relationship but also the excitement of doing something quite different from what you could otherwise do. The problem with such fantasies is that a real-life person who offers these enticements may not be a particularly desirable lover in other ways.

If what you are seeking is adventure, then you must accept that specific goal as a priority and not expect to also enter the realm of the senses unless you are very, very lucky.

To sort out these issues, ask yourself a simple question. Do you want to be with him? Do you want to do things and go places with him that have nothing to do with being adventurous? Does the great white hunter become boring when you imagine him tending a backyard barbecue?

Suppose you are finally sailing into the harbor in Tonga after a lifetime of dreaming about the South Pacific. You feel happy and excited especially because you are doing it in the full glory of a tropical sunset. Your euphoria makes you look with great benevolence upon the man who just happens to be standing beside you at the ship’s rail. Tonga is exciting, but it is easy to get confused and let yourself believe that the man you have met in Tonga is therefore exciting too. Many ill-fated shipboard romances flounder when you finally realize that the excitement of such a lover was in the exotic situation, not in the man himself.

In spite of such hazards, for some kinds of interludes, the lover who acts as a tour guide can be very appealing.

And sometimes, of course, you do find to your delight that he looks as good over a backyard barbecue as he did at the luau on the beach. It is just as likely, however, that the man with the sun-bronzed body, who strolled the white sand beaches of the South Pacific with you during a glorious sunset, may be far less appealing when he is strolling with you on the cold gray pavement of New York City on a dark winter day bundled in clothing.

Being Married Can Be Boring Too

Love has gone and left me . . . and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,
And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
There’s this little street and this little house.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Some women, especially middle-class women who don’t work outside the home, are condemned day after day to lives of the most exquisite boredom. Betty Friedan, in her now classic book The Feminine Mystique, described them as having “the problem that has no name.”

Not true. It does have a name, and the name is boredom.

Consider a young woman who hitches her wagon to a promising young executive’s star. After a few years of marriage, she finds that she spends all day in the company of preliterate children, an always-full dishwasher, and an erratic washing machine. She walks through the repetitive, demanding, but unchallenging routine subject to the demands of a preschool family. It is not that she does not love her children or that she finds them uninteresting, but they are not interesting enough. And worst of all, one day is just like the next.

Cover of "The Women's Room"

Cover of The Women’s Room

The German poet Goethe is quoted as saying, “A man can stand almost anything except a succession of ordinary days.” The ordinary days of a young suburban housewife-mother have been described eloquently in the first part of The Women’s Room. “Bore”—“ing”—two words. The only light, the only spark to be anticipated, is the nightly return of the husband, trailing clouds of glory from the real world where conversations are literate, and decisions are important, and changes are possible.

A young husband is often not very interested in his young wife and her alien domestic world although, in an abstract way, he is at least willing to support her in dollar terms. He’s preoccupied with his own world, the masculine world of commerce, which defines his sense of self-worth and also pays the mortgage. Although an understandable and perhaps even laudatory preoccupation, it is not of great comfort to the woman who is doing two loads of laundry a day and is understandably preoccupied with soap and, by trivial extension, with soap operas as well.

Soap operas may be a satisfactory source of vicarious experience for the retired pensioner of seventy, but they are paltry fare for the young woman of twenty-five, who sees in them a reaffirmation of her own deep suspicion that life is passing her by and passing quickly at that. She might resolve this dilemma in a number of ways. Have another baby who, in being only a baby, will really need her in ways her four-year-old already doesn’t. Go back to school and study to become an architect. Get a job, if she can imagine being a receptionist and can arrange day care, or have an affair.

The mystique of an affair is that, in part, it is immediate. She is already qualified; her body already knows what to do. And with her husband’s tired and indifferent response, she has both motivation and justification, not to mention her speculations about his business trips and late nights at the office.

The young mother, and not so young mother, is often bored. She needs a lover to show her that she is still an attractive woman, to give her a reason to shave her legs, to make her listen for the ringing phone. Someone to hurry through the housework for, so she can be free by two o’clock. A lover fills up the time, the space, the emptiness. A lover, if he is a lover at all, at least promises to be interesting.

Being Single Can Be Boring

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.
—Robert Louis Stevenson

When we think of the life of the modern unmarried woman, we see her as having many more options for excitement than would have been her lot in earlier generations. She doesn’t have to live at home if she doesn’t want to. She’s most likely free to go to college or to get a job, and there’s a wide range of courses that she can take or occupations she can choose. From the outside, it can seem quite interesting, and so it is for many women. It’s also true, however, that even relative emancipation doesn’t prevent quiet desperation and doesn’t cure ennui.

There are many things that she can theoretically do, but in actuality, the daily round may be quite repetitive. Going to college sounds like fun until you remember that even with a college degree, very few women who work are international CEOs or fashion buyers just off to Paris to see the spring collections. Most of them, in fact, are confined to cubicles or small offices working as midlevel managers, executive assistants, or accountants committed to routine and repetitive tasks day after day. Computers may be fascinating, but writing software code or conducting systems analysis offers limited intellectual creativity or emotional appeal.

English: A bored person

A bored person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you cannot change the circumstances of your life or are not yet willing to try to do so, then one aspect of your life, which is open to change, is your love life. You can consider a new lover. If as a history major you must spend all of Tuesday morning listening to someone recount the development of the Civil War between the States, then you can at least spend Tuesday afternoon in bed with an aspiring physicist who promises not to breathe a word about reconstructionism or carpetbaggers.

Being an unmarried woman with a career of some sort, or at least a job, may make it less likely that you’ll be bored than if you’re a housewife; but it’s no guarantee that you won’t. You may still have to work forty hours a week at a boring job that provides few emotional rewards. With the right lover, you can at least look forward to an exciting Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The Indifferent Husband

When a girl marries, she exchanges the attention of many men for the attention of one.
—Helen Roland

As many women know, the physical presence of a husband (partner, boyfriend) does not necessarily guarantee the absence of loneliness. In the world of cartoons, one stock comic situation involves a wife trying to talk to her husband who is hidden behind a newspaper.  There are endless variations on this theme which continues to be funny because every woman instantly identifies with it.

English: Tyko Reinikka reading the newspaper.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The problem isn’t that husbands read or that they endlessly read the sports page. The problem is that a wife is more dependent on her husband for affection and companionship, then a husband is dependent on her. If she has spent her day at home by herself or with only the children, then she has been waiting for her husband to come home to provide a little adult stimulation. Unfortunately, the time available for focused interaction is greatly limited by the many constraints of the daily round; but she is, out of necessity, patient. When, finally, there is time for the two of them to be together – but his attention is focused elsewhere – then he is physically with her but not psychologically with her.

A wife’s frustration with an inattentive husband is made even more acute when the object of his attention—for which she is, in a sense, competing—is something trivial and insignificant. If he is doing something important, then it is still unfortunate to be ignored, but it is more tolerable. However, if he is reading the funnies or watching television, there is no particular time urgency involved.

A preference for reading the paper instead of conversing with her makes it plain that conversing with her is a very low-level priority indeed.  And it shouldn’t be a surprise if she eventually decides to seek the attention of other men.

Married Women Hunger For Love Too

Where there is marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.
—Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard

Cover of "The Loveless Marriage (G K Hall...

Cover via Amazon

Falling in love and getting married are supposed to solve the problem of the hunger for love. Unfortunately, all too often, it does not quite work that way. Sometimes, a marriage becomes loveless or, at least, is felt by the wife to be loveless because of her husband’s distant behavior. The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference.

The indifferent husband does not interact with his wife with much intensity. He has other concerns and preoccupations, be they his work or sports, and his interest in his wife appears to be exhausted. It well may be that he still loves her, but he has ceased to show it in any meaningful way. A woman friend of mine told me that she remembered exactly when she decided to have her first affair. “I was feeling neglected and finally asked him straight out, ‘Do you love me?’ He looked up from his newspaper and answered, ‘Of course, I love you. That’s my job.’ And he went back to reading his newspaper. That did it. I couldn’t imagine having nothing but that attitude for the rest of my life. I’m too young to just give up having a good life.”

“Not Tonight, I Have a Headache”

Several excuses are always less convincing than one.
—Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point

Another version of the need for patient impatience occurs with more established couples. It was not so long ago that both professional and lay commentators on the social scene remarked on a very common marital dilemma: the husband’s desire for sexual intercourseexceeded his wife’s desire. As a consequence, she showed considerable ingenuity in creating circumstances in which she could tactfully avoid his advances. Wives who were not sexually inclined had a lot of headaches. They had to finish the ironing. They were concerned about the possibility of waking the baby or of being overheard by older children. When all else failed, they were simply too tired.

Not tonight dear. I have a headache!

Not tonight dear. I have a headache! (Photo credit: jbguess)

That was then.

Today, with a new and heightened sexuality being a characteristic of many young wives, it may happen that the husband must protest that he is too tired. Or that he has a headache.

The truth is that when and if the feeling is there, desire conquers the tiredness. In fact, being tired—or fevered or ill or anxious or worried—can add its own sensuality. Lovemaking under such adverse psychological conditions
may not be as focused or as intense, but it can be consoling. It can provide, at least, a temporary distraction from real problems.

When sex is working well between a couple, then having sex is not just one more damn task to be done before the day’s work is over but a reward and consolation. If you do have a headache, at least, perhaps the rest of your body can feel well or, if not well, at least better. This, of course, does not apply to real illness or to very serious distress. Headaches, maybe, but not migraines. Fevers, maybe, but not fevers of 104 degrees.

One kind of man to regard with some skepticism is the lover who can make love or who wants to make love only under the most ideal conditions. He must not be too busy, but not too bored; not too tired, but not too manic. It must not be too warm and not too cold; not too bright, but not too dark. There must be some wine, but not too much; some serious conversation, but nothing too heavy. And so on.

Such ideal conditions are, of course, desirable, but all possible combinations of what is ideal do not come along very often. If a man really savors your body, he will do so in spite of other distractions rather than using the distractions as an excuse.

A man with a headache one night is unfortunate; a man with a headache seven nights in a row is trying to tell you something. He is transmitting the same message of indifference and/or rejection as is the proverbial housewife
who covers herself with cold cream and goes on ironing relentlessly until two in the morning when she feels it is safe to go to bed because she can hear her husband snoring.

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