How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘sexual urges’

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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The Coolidge Effect

One day, President and Mrs. Coolidge were visiting a government
farm. Soon after their arrival, they were taken off on separate tours.
When Mrs. Coolidge passed the chicken pens, she paused to ask the man
in charge if the rooster copulates more than once each day. “Dozens of
times,” was the reply. “Please tell that to the President,” Mrs. Coolidge
requested. When the President passed the pens and was told about the
rooster, he asked, “Same hen every time?” “Oh no, Mr. President, a
different one each time.” The President nodded slowly, then said, “Tell
that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
-Gordon Bermant, Psychological Research: The Inside Story

The Coolidge effect is used by sexologists to describe, among animals, the phenomenon of male re-arousal by a new female. One wonders if, perhaps, most of the sexologists in question were male because it does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the same effect may be apparent among women. For most women, the quest for fulfillment involves, in part, a quest for long-term relationships. The crux of the issue, alas, is what is meant by “long-term.” There is no doubt that for most couples who have sexual rapport, the quality of that rapport increases with the passage of time. That process may take weeks or months or, for some, years, depending on how often they make love and with what intensity.

There is also no doubt that except for the most fortunate and exceptional couples, the quality of sexual rapport eventually peaks and, from that point on, tends to decrease with the passage of time. As a man and woman become more and more familiar with each other, the excitement and the erotic tension of their first encounters is diminished. The response patterns become too predictable. As the sexual experience becomes routine, there is a loss of intensity. They can still feel pleasure, but they are less likely to feel ecstasy.

National Lampoon's Joy of Sex movie poster

National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex movie poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea of sex with a nice, affectionate, but totally familiar old husband may produce a state of profound sexual apathy. There is no antipathy, but neither is there much interest.

The decline in erotic enthusiasm can be minimized and delayed by incorporating a wide variety of sexual techniques and by using different props and locations. Eventually, however, there may be a sense that one has experienced all of the experiences possible with a given partner. Even the most enthusiastic lovers can become jaded with each other. The idea of making love with a different man, a strange man, may be much more appealing than making love with a familiar lover.

By any objective criteria, a prospective lover may have no more to offer than the current one and, indeed, may actually be less attractive. However, the appeal of a stranger is that he is strange. Sometimes, in seeking sexual fulfillment, you want nothing more than what you have experienced with one man; but you crave the added stimulus and excitement of experiencing it with a different man—a man who arouses curiosity and is still mysterious.

Sexual Fulfillment: The Erotic Affair

What is it in men that women do require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
What is it women do in men require?
The lineaments of Gratified Desire.
—William Blake, The William Blake Notebook

How is one best advised to proceed in the quest for sexual fulfillment? Although both men and women may ultimately end up preoccupied with the dynamics of sex and love, it seems possible that given differences in socialization and differences in physiology, they reach their quest by different routes. One maxim frequently cited states that among men, sexual desire begets love whereas among women, love begets sexual desire. In the nineteenth century, the French novelist Rémy de Gourmont put it somewhat more precisely: “Man begins by loving love and ends by loving a woman. Woman begins by loving a man and ends by loving love.”

Although many things have changed since then, our cultural traditions are strong enough that this pattern still holds true for many women. For some women, there may be a spontaneous urge of sexual desire, parallel to that which men experience, which is not appeased by masturbation or by conjugal sex. For many others, however, the inclination toward an erotic affair is not so much a generalized randiness as a wish for a man who would inspire randiness. It is not that they are full of desire, but rather that they want to find a man who would make them feel desire. The libido is there, but it needs to be aroused. They suspect, often correctly, that with a different man or a different kind of man or a man who made love differently, they would be much more turned on. Such inclinations may be difficult to reconcile with how nice, ladylike women are supposed to feel; but it is clear that it is how many of them do feel, whether or not they admit it  to anyone else.

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

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Casual sexual encounters may provide a certain excitement or may gratify a desire to seduce or to make a conquest. However, the thrill or newness is often counterbalanced by a certain awkwardness and self-consciousness not unlike what people experience in their first encounters. As one woman put it: “The first time with a new man is always a bit like the first time ever.” If everything seems right, the best you can usually hope for is the exultant conviction: “This could be the start of something big!” The second time may be better, the third time better still.

The most exceptional erotic experiences are often the result of a long-term evolving relationship in which increased awareness of each other’s body and responses improves rapport and empathy and moves the encounter to a higher and higher pitch. There is time for experimentation and time to incorporate what the experimentation teaches you about what works best for you both. It is in a developed relationship that one can best hope for that special magic where an erotic experience approaches a transcendental one. In this instance, practice may not make perfect, but it does make for better and better and better. And yet . . . there is also the Coolidge effect.

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