Married, with sex

Image by Helmut Newton, via.

As San Francisco prepares for next week’s joyous parade of gleeful brides and grooms to walk down the aisle — and SF’s flower shops lose their minds — it seems only fitting to dedicate this week’s column to sex and marriage. So as I prep to go to City Hall on tuesday and toss rose petals at the lines around the block and generally cry in happiness in the direction of a mazillion fiancees, I decided to look for solutions to the “sexless marriage”. Because you can buy as many hot sex books as you like, but until you find one that tells you exactly how to start sex once it’s stopped (or how to never let it stop, ever), all the Ultimate Guides in the world are just going to make very appealing bedroom coasters, and your sexual to-do list is only going to get longer. I hope you like My Big Fat Sexless Marriage, snip:

Ironically, my drink was called Vow Of Silence. Grinning evilly over my delicious Alembic cocktail, I leveled my gaze and stared directly into Patrick’s beautiful eyes. My handsome porn-star pal raised a recently waxed eyebrow in challenge. I asked, “So. what food do you eat if you want to eradicate your sex drive?”

We were tipsy, and feeling bitchy. “Oooh, I dunno. What?”

I paused and sipped for suspense. Finally I said, “Wedding cake!”

He erupted into peals of too-loud cackles, just as I’d expected. We had been drinking and talking shop — he was telling me stories about the gay porn industry’s use of performance enhancers while I cringed, giggled and imbibed. Then we’d drifted into the topic that eventually comes up in every San Francisco dinner conversation since May 15: yes, gay marriage, but more so, comparing notes in a who’s-doing-who to see which same-sex friends are — and aren’t — tying the knot. When Patrick brought it up we both got teary with excitement at first, and then quickly descended into snark. Some of our marriage-making lesbian and gay friends were, in fact, already married, and just happily taking the final step for legal reasons. We knew at least one couple who had broken up when gay marriage became legal — he had always told his lover that they’d do it if it became legal, and then when it did, could no longer put off commitment decisions by blaming the injustices of the law. Another couple we knew hadn’t had sex in a year, complained about it privately to each of us, and seemed about to break up — until they could legally get married. Now, we joked, it seemed these women could join the ranks of straight couples who make a big life change to “fix” the relationship: have a baby, buy a house, and now, get married. We wondered, why get married when you’re already sexless? Prompting my bad, bad joke.

And it is a joke, because I actually know more wedded, committed couples having hot, crazy, swinging-from-the-chandeliers sex than I know sexless pairings. And it’s not the San Francisco bubble, or the sex educator bubble, or the plastic sexier-than-thou attitudes of sex industry people I know. It’s the regular folks. OK, it’s the regular folks with rebellious spirits and slightly more open minds than some. But looking around at the bazillions of articles about how to “bring back the spark” in everyone’s presumably sexless marriages, it’s easy for me to be someone who loves sex, takes one look at a wedding dress, and runs the other direction in terror. I want cock rings, not wedding rings. Yet, I know plenty of people who have both. What the hell are they doing right, that some other people seem to be doing — well, not doing at all?

I decided to pester two people whose personal missions are to eradicate the sexless marriage, Felice Newman and Alison Tyler. Newman is a local sex educator, sexuality therapist for lesbian, gay, straight and bi couples, and an author who is working on a book about hot sex in lasting relationships. Since Newman’s upcoming workshop on the topic is aimed at lesbian couples, I had to ask her about something I’d heard of called “lesbian bed death”. I wondered, is it like “straight bed death?” (…read more!)

  • AgileCyborg

    Marriage mostly sucks- as does the pervasive and ironclad conventionality it is designed to dispense with feverish and ferocious delight.

    Problem is, I am very good at staying and being married.

    I am also very good at smiling cheerfully when I would much prefer punching a fucking hole in the wall.

  • Brian

    Thanks, Liberty Vini, I do appreciate the comments, both your first & second suggestions were missed, very true… my wife and I had been great friends and it just felt natural that it developed into romantic love, but sex was not discussed in any detail, it just kinda happened. I wanted to discuss it more, but she never had anything to add. I figured back then that I would just give her time, but this of course didn’t change anything.

    And yep, certainly a 3rd party intervention would help… we tried that, she hated it, never will try couples counseling again, so I’m on my own!

  • I realized too late that my previous post may have been a bit flippant, unhelpful or even hurtful to Brian in his situation described above.

    Nevertheless, point #2 above applies. You need to talk to your wife about what’s bothering you. You need to stress that you belive physical intimacy is an essential part of marriage as you understand it, and that you are hurt and confused by her seeming not to understand. Ultimately the libido, particularly the female libido is profoundly influenced by her non-sexual feelings about you, which means that her perceived lack of interest may be underlain by other problematic thoughts an feelings that have little to do with sex directly. Relationships with such profound communication problems usually require neutral, 3rd-party intervention to resolve.

  • I have a few suggestions for hot, long-term relationship sex;

    1) Before you commit, make SURE you are sexually compatible as well as in all other aspects. I mean REALLY compatible.

    2) This requires TALKING.

    3) If you end up in a sexless relationship, see #s 1 and 2. If you haven’t done them, then I can’t help you.

    4) Undisclosed sexual peccadilloes can be deal-breakers if discovered after a commitment is made. See # 1 and 2.

  • Brian

    The article has good ideas and good intentions, I just feel like it’s too late for me and my sexless marriage, something my wife and I seem to be acknowledging. It’s been more than a year since the last time we had sex. She has some ongoing physical issues that often prevent her from sex, but even on good days she doesn’t really make time, reciprocate or initiate. What do you do if you did reveal your fantasies & turn-ons to your wife and she finds them all perverted? What if, in turn, she admits she has no fantasies or turn-ons of her own? What if she admits she has not masturbated in 10 years and simply has no interest? What if you buy the books to help couples’ sex life and it actually angers her? What if even bringing home small vibrators to help with her orgasms cause the same anger, that she thinks I am trying to change her into someone she is not? What if she takes herself off birth control for what she says are physical reasons, but then does not like sex with condoms, effectively ending it all right there? Sometimes I don’t think communication leads to better sex, it simply highlights the vast, sad differences, even when the two people in the relationship match up in other areas of life… ugh!

  • the chron comments = middle school. you are brave, violet.