Sunday, February 24, 2013

Disruptive Sex

There's an article in Psychology Today this month "12 Rude Revelations About Sex," that has
probably been read by more people than all the articles in the magazine the past year, because of the cover.  I must say, it worked for me. Isn't this what psychology is about? Going deeper, finding hidden meaning? And discovering what batman masks do for you when you kiss?

The article is based on a book put out by London's School of Life, a center devoted to practical ideas for enhancing or changing your life in small, important ways. The book is by Alain De Botton, called How to Think More About Sex, and what I think most interesting is the ways he calls sex a demanding beast disconnected from the person you are most of the time, and often the person you might want to be: a fundamentally disruptive and overwhelming force, at odds with the majority of our ambitions and all but incapable of being discreetly integrated within civilized society. Sex is not fundamentally democratic or kind. It refuses to sit neatly on top of love. Tame it though we might try, it tends to wreak havoc across our lives; it leads us to destroy our relationships, threatens our productivity, and compels us to stay up too late in nightclubs talking to people whom we don't like but whose exposed midriffs we wish to touch...Our best hope should be for a respectful accommodation with an anarchic and reckless power.--pp. 5-6
So, that's interesting. I'm thinking little quakes on the Richter scale, rumbling away all the time, growing in tension to major, tsunami-causing trouble every so often and nothing you can really do to stop it.

Not meant to be a comforting thought, because the point of the article (and the book) is the trouble sex causes, and why.

Some major points:

1. What turns you on is autonomic. You can't usually change it. You can of course not do it, but you can't stop wanting to figure out what it is, which might take some time and experiences, good and bad. This is different from what "type" of person you're typically attracted to. These are the acts, the fetishes, the deep desires, the clothes. If you don't know what yours are, you can read a beginner's guide called 150 Shades of Play. This point from De Botton 's book comes with a caveat:

2. The same act that you find very arousing with the right partner is disgusting with the wrong one. Even as much as kissing. Think of that Super Bowl commercial. Very, very wrong kissing partners.

3. In a marriage or long-term relationship, it is very hard to ask your partner to do something debasing to you or themselves and then leave the room and have corn flakes and talk of shopping lists. Not only is it awkward, but we worry what they'll think of us. So, we typically don't ask. Even when we really want to.

From "6 reasons why you should have more sex"
4. The emotional cost of negotiating sex with your partner can be high. If you really cared for them you wouldn't want/need such a thing, or ask it of them. This can be over something as simple as  BITE MY LIP, HARD, WHEN WE KISS SOMETIMES. So you might have to play this out nonverbally.

5. Most people prefer nonverbal communication during sex. Too many words distract from the sensual experience, and the need to "turn your brain off" when you make love. Some sex words work. Something like "can you move your hip a little to the right and up?" typically doesn't. That would best be "shown not told."

6. The relationship cost of "not tonight honey" is also high. I thought this was interesting. He says that most people expect to be rejected by people they don't know well, but when that rejection comes from the person they love more than any other, the sting is immediate and intense. No matter how often it happens. Dr. Laura Schlessinger calls frequent "turn-downs" emotional infidelity, because you promised to be faithful to your vows to love and cherish. And you're not.

There's a book called Is That All He Thinks About? : How to Enjoy Great Sex with Your Husband by Marla Taviano which takes reluctant aim at the stereotypical "too tired" wife she used to be. When pushed to ask what would help, she gave a laundry list of things that would help her be in the mood--help with the housework, time off from child care, a nice relaxing bath, perhaps a nap--all very nice but when they are used as conditions for sex, the relationship turns coercive, conditional, and selfish.

Men and Women think of sex...differently
Her point, nicely made, in any good marriage, one partner asking for sex from the other should be enough, typically, for them to have sex. She takes a Christian perspective, but a common sense one too. Men and women are different. She says "You love scrapbooking? What if you could only do it when your husband was willing to go there with you?" Funny. As one going scrapbooking for 8 hours next Saturday, I appreciate having no conditions.

7. While De Botton talks of infidelity as a response to the intense pressure within a marriage to have the chosen partner be all things (friend, lover, dinner conversation, co-parent, financial partner and clairvoyant emotional support chairperson). This pressure rockets our divorce rate, in his eyes, because it fuels the belief that dissatisfaction in one or another of the above areas is enough reason to ditch the marriage or vows contained within, even though they will get in the same jam with another spouse with the same reasoning. You cannot, in his eyes, expect to have everything you want in life, certainly not from one person. And when you stray, eventually blowing up your marriage, you'll spoil the marriage for yourself even before you're found out. His suggestion? Check into a hotel with your spouse for a nooner. It's half-price from overnight hotel prices and no sitters are needed. Feel bad and guilty about all the responsibilities you're blowing off--together.

Miss Poppins on parenting 
There's more in the article, and in the book. About why arguments about "pet peeves" aren't minor matters, why marriage ruins sex for some, what religions know about sex that we don't, why impotence is an achievement and why pornography may be (or may become) one of the greatest time-wasters on the planet because it, like alcohol and drugs, reduces our ability to tolerate stretches of boredom, anxiety, worry, and need for self-improvement. When we use "down time" to immediately hop online for a quick fix of stimulation to our amygdala, h-o-u-r-s g-o b-y.

Interesting stuff. Funny how both books use the word "think" and "sex" in their titles. Seems the opposite of their theme.

There is one more book in the series available in the U.S., How to Stay Sane. In case you need this as much as I, and sex alone doesn't do it for you this week, I'll check it out for next Sunday.

Love, Lisa

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