New York Times Article Wages War on Sex, Even Though Sex Is Great
I'm tired of having sex.
No, I’m not actually (I’m a feminist and we don’t have sex, duh, except when we’re getting pregnant on purpose so that we can get abortions from Planned Parenthood), but according to the New York Times maybe I will be tired of sex soon, because I am a lady?
THIS is the story a friend told me: One night at a gathering at an apartment in New York City, a woman blithely announced, “I would pay someone to have sex with my husband.” There were snorts and yips of laughter. I believe one woman even clapped. “What did they mean?” I asked my friend. “ ‘Here’s to no sex with our husbands ever again?’ ‘Here’s to the end of sex?’ ”
She couldn’t really tell me. It wasn’t exactly a Bund rally she’d attended, but it was something. Even if these women weren’t planning to fob their own husbands off on helpful neighbors or prostitutes, they were in agreement that at a certain point in a long relationship, a woman might very well just want less of “that part” of her life (“that part” being the linguistic first cousin to “down there”). The biological imperative for sex had receded, and was now as distant as the memory of, say, once having gone to Epcot with one’s parents (you know you were there because of the snapshots of you and your family in lederhosen; just as, in the case of sex, you know you once prolifically and creatively partook, because you — or perhaps, horribly, your children — have unearthed from a drawer a tiny bottle of some dried gray substance called Love Pollen, older even than the Robitussin PE that haunts your medicine cabinet.) Suddenly, being touched by one’s husband or partner could seem so … last year.
No. Gladiator sandals are so last year (or so 2009, whatever). Sex is Lauren Bacall. Sex is a pencil skirt. Sex is fucking timeless and totally awesome, is my point. (But maybe I just think that because I have not yet found a husband who will serve the crucial role of convincing me that I never want to have sex ever again. Marriage, can’t wait!).
There are, of course, asexual people who have zero interest in sex. But that’s not what this article is talking about — it’s covering women who at some point did like sex, and now are tired of it. And that is not good! Because sex is really great, and is supposed to be a pleasure, and if it’s getting put on the backburner, that’s an issue. It’s one thing if we’re talking about fluctuations in sexual interest — that happens, obviously, to basically everyone. But this piece seems to suggest that women are just done with the whole sex thing (but of course that their husbands still want it, because men, right?). The middle of the piece gets into some ideas about the power of refusal, which is interesting enough, and some meditations on the unseemliness of powerful women not being sexual, which I think are off-base, but she concludes again with the We Are Disinterested in Sex thing:
Lately, when I hear people speak about lack of desire, I think they may really be speaking about energy. There are just so many seductions — Facebook! Wikipedia! Pornography! “Far From the Madding Crowd”! Love! Pepperidge Farm! Hulu! Curriculum Night! Art! — and we are human, and mortal, and inevitably we have to choose. Is this really the end of sex? Just when I think maybe it is, someone breaks out the Love Pollen, and what do you know, there’s still something in the bottle.
Except sometimes we’re interested in sex? I don’t know.
She also links to a New York Observer article which I nominate as Worst Trend Piece of the Year. The basic gist of it is that there are these super-hot cool kids all hanging out in New York, doing cocaine until 4am and not banging. Which is demonstrably false. I promise you, those kids are banging, and they are banging really often, and I’ll bet they look really good while they’re doing it. But linking to that article as if it contained any grain of truth? Credibility = shot.
Anyway, after the Observer link-bait was predictably linked everywhere, I guess the Times had to jump on board, but they had to focus their “people are bored of sex” article on 30-something white women so that they could place it in the Style section. Great. So we get another piece reaffirming the stereotype that once you wife a broad she stops putting out, and we get women talking about how they’re tired of sex without the author looking into why maybe 30-something women with children to care for and husbands who need to be cared for like children and jobs to work at and homes to keep Style-section perfect are maybe really tired and a little bit resentful in a way that unfortunately results in a total loss of any potential lady-boners.
Also maybe these ladies aren’t tired of sex, they’re just tired of sex with their husbands.
I don’t want to problematize lack of sexual interest entirely, because there are people who are genuinely not interested in sex at all, and that’s fine. To each their own, the world is a big and diverse and interesting place, etc. And I don’t think that the problem is 100% on women who once enjoyed sex and no longer do; there shouldn’t be any guilt or shame in that, because it just is. Those women definitely exist; men like that exist too. If you were once interested in sex but no longer are, it’s not particularly helpful to think that it’s Your Fault And You Are Wrong.
But… it’s still less than ideal, isn’t it, to just give up on sex? I am working here from the basic position that, for sexual people, sex is a good and fun thing (or at least it can be and should be). It’s kind of like food — food can bereally really awesome, and as someone who really enjoys food, it breaks my heart a little bit whenever I meet people who are just like, “Food is fuel, I eat it to stay alive, I don’t take any pleasure in it and I wouldn’t eat if I didn’t have to” or people who are like, “I only eat things that are white.” That is so beyond my experience that I can’t fully understand it and I admittedly feel sorry for people who take that position. I feel the same way about uncritical reporting on loss of sexual interest. If sex was fun once, but now it’s not fun anymore and you don’t really crave it or think about it, what is going on that has taken such a fundamental, great pleasure and moved it into the category of “meh, don’t need it”?
Obviously we should trust people to organize their own priorities and enjoy what they enjoy and structure their lives as they see fit. But I think we can also cast a critical eye on trend stories like this one, which are based on maybe some nugget of truth that gets dressed up in Me And My Friends anecdotes and culturally-acceptable stereotypes, and also on cultural mores that see women’s lack of sexual interest as (1) inevitable, (2) individual and (3) not problematic for women, but a pain in the ass for men.
If I had a farm, I would bet it on the proposition that most women like sex (I would make that bet because sex is fun, and there are a lot of babies running around and I hear that’s how they’re typically made). So the article is wrong-headed from the get-go. But the reality, of course, is that while loss of sexual interest isn’t a trend, it is something that some women experience. And I would like it if women felt as entitled to sexual pleasure as men seem to, and didn’t feel that loss of sexual interest was a personal problem or an inevitable outcome of wedded bliss. My point, I guess, is: Sex is great. Sex is great. And I’m not sure there is some widespread phenomenon of women being bored of it, but if in fact there are a lot of us who are eating Pepperidge Farm cookies and trolling Wikipedia instead of boning, we should figure out why that is and do something about it. Because sex is great. It is greater than Wikipedia (and even greater than the greatest Wikipedia entry of all time — which apparently has now been removed, because all great things must come to an end, so maybe the Times author is right).
Sex, though. Still pretty fun (or so I hear).