How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘Sexual repression’

The Bottom Line

The bottom line: it is my bottom that has the honey pot!
—Jadah Vaughn, “The Bottom Line”

Throughout most of the recorded history of the Western world, there’s been an implicit assumption that men owned women and that men especially owned a woman’s sexuality.

In the beginning, fathers owned daughters; later in life, husbands owned wives who had been given away by their fathers. The wife was a chattel. It would be an overstatement to say she was a slave, but she was a possession. In effect, she sold her sexual services at the time of marriage for the rest of her life. If a husband was made a cuckold by some other man, he had a right to be aggrieved and sometimes even a right to sue for damages. The law gave him not only a right to his wife’s body at all times, and under all circumstances, but an exclusive right to it. The wife had control of the husband’s honor. If she was wayward, she brought disgrace to him as much as a wayward daughter would bring disgrace to her father. In some cultures today, “honor killings” are based on that assumption.

Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there remains a truism which still needs to be endlessly proclaimed. A woman owns her own body. She may decide to share it with a man, or she may not. She may promise to be sexually monogamous, or she may not. She may conceive a child if she wants, or she may not. Having conceived, she may carry that child to term, or she may not. A woman owns her own body.

Whose Body?

Whose Body? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you own your own body, then the decisions about what to do with it are in fact up to you. You may give your body to someone in an act of love, but you do not deed it to him for time and eternity.

Self-ownership involves two related principles. The first is that you don’t have to give your body to anyone if you don’t want to; it’s a form of rape, even if the man is your husband, if you are taken against your will. The second principle is that you have the right to give your body to whomever you want.

The bottom line: it’s your bottom that has the honeypot.

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.

Sexual Decision Making

There is a tide in the affairs of women which, taken at its flood, leads—God knows where.
—George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan

Let’s assume that whether or not you happen to be married, you have been harboring a secret yen for a lover—or for another lover. Let’s assume that the twinkle in your eye has become a gleam. Perhaps your present sex life leaves something to be desired. Perhaps you have no sex life at all except for memories and vicarious experiences, both of which lose something in translation.

If so, when you think of taking a lover, first think very seriously about what you want in a lover. Think about what you want to give to him, as well as what you want from him. Make a list if it helps you to focus your thoughts. Pay special attention to what comes to mind first and to the sort of associations you make.

If you are a woman of experience, let yourself remember when lovemaking was a special event for you. This simple exercise in nostalgia is best done on quiet beaches or on a cross-country train trip or in bed on a Sunday morning listening to the rain.

A Very Special Love

A Very Special Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think about making love, not just in terms of when it was vaguely good or not so good but in specific terms of whether it was in the evening or the morning or the midday when it was just right. Of the many times one makes love, only a few are truly memorable, but those few are very important clues to your own secret garden because they offer very telling examples of the possibility of getting what you want. Who were you with then? What was special about that occasion? What did he do or say or arrange that made it right? Can you visualize him? Do you remember his voice, or do you first of
all think about the touch of his hands?

A friend of mine relayed to me an encounter she had when she had long hair. Her lover lifted up her hair and kissed it and then kissed her neck beneath the hair. He was wearing some exotic scent, and his beard tickled her, and the cashmere sweater he was wearing was incredibly soft and radiant with his warmth, and she was totally undone by the simple gesture. And totally attuned.

Where were you when you made love in special and important ways? What was important about the encounter? If it had been only a narrow bed in a cold old cabin, would that have been OK? Was it after a romantic dinner? Was there music playing? Was there a crackling fire in the fireplace?

When you can remember several of these special events, look for the similarities among them. Was there the breathless urgency and excitement of having a plane to catch? Was there the sense of timelessness that goes with checking into a fine hotel for the weekend when no one knows where you are, so no one can contact you? Were you following up on an extensive soothsaying session about your life and his? Or were you full of the enchantment of being with a perfect stranger? Was there the domestic tenderness of having looked in on your sleeping baby or the exotic madness of a rum-soaked Caribbean beach party?

Even if you are remembering many occasions and many encounters, you will soon recognize a theme to the really special encounters. Subsequent wondrous and wonderful events are often some variation on that theme. What you are looking for in a lover is someone who understands that theme: not necessarily the same man or men, but the same kind of man or men and the same kind of situation.

There’s, of course, no guarantee that the resulting experience will be all that great—it might be quite mundane and humdrum. Perhaps your tastes have changed, perhaps your memory is faulty, or perhaps the key ingredient was something you overlooked. Putting yourself in the situation where peak experiences are likely to happen doesn’t assure that they will occur, but it does increase the odds.

Only you can define the kind of love experience you want. And while there are no perfect guidelines to ensure exceptional lovemaking in the future, the best indicator of success would be some reincarnation of what was exceptional in the past. Except for the benison of beautiful blind luck, which does happen, it is only after you know what you want and why that you can go about finding it.

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.

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.

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.

The Apathetic Husband

Never mind “Is there life after death?” That is too abstract. What I really want to Know is: “Is there sex after marriage?”
—Jadah Vaughn

One of George Bernard Shaw’s often quoted sayings observes that marriage remains popular because it combines “the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.” Usually, Shaw’s epigrams are quite pithy; but in this instance, he is mistaken. A honeymoon might well combine temptation with opportunity, but cohabitation does not, especially if the marriage is of long duration. Familiarity need not breed contempt, but it very often does breed sexual apathy.

My Cheating Heart

My Cheating Heart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was passion in a marriage can become so vitiated, so watered-down, and so dissipated that it is hardly worthy of the name. In some marriages, perhaps in many, the act of love becomes an act of sex and an infrequent one at that. When you have reached the stage where you make love on Saturday nights, and Saturday nights only; when you have reached the stage where you have sex rather than making love, only late on Saturday nights in the dark; and when you have reached the stage when you have sex on Saturday nights only, late at night in the dark and quickly, without words, then you have reached the stage where you owe it to yourself to take a lover. You owe it to yourself, not only for the desolation you experience now, but also for the desolation you will feel when you are old and look back on thirty years of such encounters—one thousand and forty consecutive Saturday nights of minimal fulfillment.

You owe it to the old lady you will become to give her something better than those passionless encounters to reminisce about and then either exaggerate or deny, depending on your perspective.

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