I hate it when writers take what could have been an interesting topic and worthwhile discussion and turn it into a rant against something they apparently know nothing about. In her article, Is Sex Passé?, second wave feminist Erica Jong says sex has become boring because younger women are “obsessed with motherhood and monogamy” (…and if you missed it last time, we’re also trying to perfect our babies by the way we nurture them).
Both motherhood and monogamy can certainly create challenges for passion and lust, but that doesn’t mean that those challenges are insurmountable. If anyone was looking for ideas or solutions in Erica’s article, however, they would be left sorely disappointed, utterly disgusted, or at the very least confused.
While writing about how women of my generation apparently idealize monogamy, Erica wrote:
Punishing the sexual woman is a hoary, antique meme found from “Jane Eyre” to “The Scarlet Letter” to “Sex and the City,” where the lustiest woman ended up with breast cancer. Sex for women is dangerous. Sex for women leads to madness in attics, cancer and death by fire. Better to soul cycle and write cookbooks. Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.
- Beds are for sleeping, canoes are for toe curling.
For me, confusion lingered in the air. We’ve been sleeping in the same bed as our children since 2004, but I don’t understand what that has to do with sex. I mean, us Canadians sleep in our beds and have sex in canoes. I would expect that even the most conservative of Americans knows that you can have sex in places other than the marital bed, so why does an apparent maven of the sexual revolution like Erica Jong not understand that physical pleasure exists outside of the bed sheets?
In her post Dear Erica, Arwyn from Raising My Boychick wrote:
I am about to enter my 30s. I cosleep. I babywear. I breastfeed (for years). I am monogamous. And I have fucking fabulous sex.
She goes on to talk about all the places that she has that fucking fabulous sex before concluding that “if I were constantly held up in measurement against your visions of sex, your ideas of passion, your standards for sexuality, I might declare surrender and pretend disinterest as well.”
Ah yes, those standards. If you’re not doing it her way, then you just aren’t doing it right. As Jenny Islander wrote in the comments on Arwyn’s post, big flashy muscle cars are not always “all that” and sometimes a good reliable minivan will do just fine.
With three kids and one of us out of the house working most of the time, experimentation is a very low priority. Orgasms are the priority, preferably before the toddler wakes up in his crib needing midnight comforting or the cat starts to yowl that it’s about to puke. Everything else is a frill. The thing about minivan sex is, it gets you where you want to go. Muscle cars take too much fiddling around to get them to even start.
Do we have a duty to be having sex according to Jong’s rules? Betsy, who also commented on Arwyn’s post doesn’t think so: “I don’t buy into Jong’s definition of human sexuality — it sounds like a chore for a woman to fulfill, something akin to a kitchen sink that is sparkling clean.” Not everyone agrees of course, and Jessica Gottlieb has been known to tell other mom bloggers: “Ladies if you don’t want to fuck your husbands I’m pretty sure someone else does #HelpingYouStayMarried.”
All good points, all worth considering, but ultimately as with everything else in relationships and parenting, maybe there is a bit of room for figuring out what works for you and your family. Erica started out saying that “generalizing about cultural trends is tricky”, followed of course by “but….”. She should have stopped while she was ahead. Generalizing is dangerous. Some couples are having fucking fabulous sex, some are having mini van sex, some are not having sex, some are having solo sex, some are having occasional sex, some are having extramarital sex, and some are making sex into their evening chore. Surely this type of variety exists in the dating scene just as much as it exists in the monogamy scene? I mean sex for singles isn’t always mind-blowingly amazing, is it?
Passion is awesome. Passion can be worked on. But the bottom line is that throwing out a good partnership, loving relationship, and stable home because each and every day is not filled with “discombobulating and distracting” sex, just isn’t worth it for most people. That isn’t a rejection of passion, it is a realistic understanding that in an equal and respectful relationship, “piquant” may not be achievable each and every day and that isn’t the end of the world. Suggesting that it must be seems like the sexual equivalent of the 1950s expectation that a fabulous gourmet meal be served in heels and pearls every single night.
Sorry, but sometimes it is pizza night. For what it’s worth, I happen to appreciate a filet mignon more when I’m not eating it every single night.
What do you think? Is there a formula for passion that our generation is simply missing the boat on? Or are we doing okay?
Image credit: Heather Sunderland on flickr