Plus, the first IBWMW post

So, why don’t we talk about our sex lives?  

It’s not that women are protecting their husbands’ privacy.  Far from it.  Husbands and their ineptitude is a time-tested and well-loved topic at the playground.  But while a woman might go on for ten minutes about a husband’s failure to empty the dishwasher, she would never venture a similar anecdote about his undesirable penchant for trying to stimulate her by doggedly pushing a finger inside her.  (The finger thing, coincidentally, is the exact image that comes to my mind whenever politicians talk about trying to stimulate the economy.) 

Or it could be that there is really no precedent for talking about real married sex.  People are used to seeing portrayals about sex involving attractive young people whose stomachs haven’t yet begun to develop a disturbing likeness to one’s butt.  On TV shows, once the couple gets together, it’s over.  Sitcom marital sex generally consists of a randy husband trying to convince his reluctant wife to give it up.  (Sexual incompatibility=comedy gold!) If we had pictured Mike and Carol Brady having sex--and we most certainly did not--it definitely didn’t involve them making use of a two-pronged vibrator.  (Although if they did use one, I’m guessing it would be in harvest gold.)

But maybe the best answer is that our generation is a little, well, prudish about sex.  My personal theory is that sexual wildness fluctuates over time.  Wild, then prude, wild, prude, etc..  Wild flappers in the 1920, uptight women in girdles in the 1950s.  Free love in the late 1960s-early 70s, herpes in the 1980s.  The women of the 1850s?  Total sluts.     

As David Kamp put it in his Marie Claire essay  "The Un-Sexiest Generation Ever!"  “We were too young to sample the post-Pill, pre-AIDS bonanza that the boomers gab on and on about. And we're too old to experience the current era of casual hookups and Halloween nights in which even pre-med students dress like hookers.  We had honor and self-respect, yes, but maybe not . . . fun?” he writes.  

Indeed.  Women who are in their 30s and 40s had the misfortune of being raised in this sexual drought.  Instead of pop culture touchstones like celebrity sex tapes, we had the vaguely asexual Janeane Garofalo making insightfully dry remarks.  Not exactly hot stuff.  For fashion, we had grunge, preppy and MC Hammer pants.  In high school, presumably our most fetching years, a foxy outfit might include pink wide wale cords, a turtleneck festooned with tiny frogs and brightly colored, yet practical duck shoes (which, by the way, have been proven by an intrepid team of scientists in Switzerland to be the exact mathematical opposite of fuck-me pumps.)    

All of us have strange holdover areas of prudery.  Personally, I try not to use the word “vagina” unless it’s completely unavoidable.  Sometimes, when I realize I am going to have to say the word, usually in some sort of educational context with my daughters, I have to work myself up to it, ala The Little Engine That Could.  “Yes, sweetie,” I say, brightly--probably too brightly.  “You are pointing to (I think I can, I think I can...) your vagina.”  

We grew up when the idea of the “good girl” who didn’t have sex (and, it was implied, certainly didn’t enjoy sex) still held sway.  As a result, we’re from a generation that can barely cop to masturbating.  We are a little divorced from the nuts and bolts, as it were, of our bodies and sex.  I mean, our era is one that embraced scented tampons, a product that is wholly and utterly removed from the reality of actual biological functions.  (He:  “What is that enchanting floral aroma?” She (charmed): “Thank you for noticing!  It’s my tampon!  It’s scented!”) 

This makes it confusing to figure out how we should be as sexual beings.  Consider the October 1965 issue of “Good Housekeeping”  (it’s the goldenrod yellow one with Doris Day on the cover).  The cover story is titled “120 Ways to Please A Man.”  Not one of these ways involves the phrase “blow job.”  Instead there is tip #40.  “Neatness, in his eyes, is a feminine virtue, so make your cosmetics corner a shining showcase.  Line up lipsticks and eye shadows in an empty stationary box.”  Yeah, baby, organized cosmetics are smokin' hot!   Tip #107 suggests, “Mark or clip magazine articles he’d be interested in.  At an opportune time, draw them to his attention.” There is nary a mention of any, to use the parlance of the time, vixen-like behavior in the bedroom.  "Oh, Sweeeetheart, come into the bedroom.  I have a surprise for you.  It's a stack of informative magazine clippings!"

Compare this to the February 2008 issue of “Redbook” (Christina Applegate is on the cover.)  In the article “21 Little Sex Moves That Will Rock Your World (And His!)”, tip # 5 is titled “Bend it better.”  In case you missed it, tip #5 was the one that said, “For greater stimulation in missionary position, try this:  ‘Hook your knees over your guy’s shoulders,’ suggests Patti Britton, Ph.D. ‘The angle puts more pressure on the clitoris, giving you a better chance of achieving orgasm.’  Clench your butt and lift your pelvis to create more friction and make your climatic moment even more mind-blowing.”    

“Mind-blowing climatic moments”?  “Clench your butt”?  “Clitoris”?  This is Redbook, for crying out loud, the mom’s magazine--the magazine of chocolate cake recipes and diet tips.  What is this talk of the clitoris?

There’s a huge disconnect in what we’re reading (and thus thinking about) and what we’re actually saying to each other.  Has any women friend, ever--even in passing--spoken to you about her clitoris?  God, no.  (And perhaps that particular word really should remain unspoken among friends.)

Are we supposed to emulate the sexual openness we see in magazines or are we supposed to keep our sex lives on the downlow?  Are we chaste June Cleavers or bar-hopping Dina Lohans?  No one wants to pick the wrong one.  And as a result, it seems we’ve made a silent pact to remain noncommittal and talk about something else instead.  But while it may be fun to discuss the new Trader Joe’s dumplings, it’s a hell of a lot more liberating to tell the truth about our real sex lives.  It’s time we got talking.  Let’s agree that it’s officially acceptable now, shall we?
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Anonymous said...

Wait a second. Maybe I'm just of a different generation, but I have certainly gone out for dinner with a female friend and not just mentioned the word clitoris, but discussed if we or any ladies we knew had actually reached climax through vaginal intercourse alone. In my opinion, that's the biggest myth out there. My roommates in college gave each other vibrators and then asked if they'd been put to use yet.

Anonymous said...

I'm 34 years old and grew up in the 80s and 90s...but I have no problem having conversations with my same-age girlfriends, or guy-friends for that matter, about sex, including my clitoris. Luckily for me, my mother was a baby boomer who not only had a lax attitude towards sex but also had a lax attitude toward talking about sex with her daughter. I am neither a "good girl" or a "slut". Although maybe that's just my own point of view, which, after all, is the only one that matters.

DeliaDelish said...

I'm 37 and I find it's 50/50 with my friends. Also, it depends on the venue. Rarely does the word clitoris or vagina come up at the playground, but on the very rare occasion that we moms get to go out for a drink (maybe twice a year) we talk. Those of us that would have been considered sluts back in the 90s shock and impress our more prudish, got married young, friends with our stories of one night stands, threesomes and my personal favourite that I'll borrow from an anonymous friend, "don't come in my perm!" story. That one gets replayed and it's not even mine. Having said that, I think serious talk of clitoral orgasm is still pretty rare among my late 30s and 40s friends....that's why I like to keep company with women in their 20s who are interested in talking about that stuff, cause we all want to.

tineke said...

I spend Saturday mornings drinking coffees with my best friend while the kids play tennis, and virtually all we ever talk about is sex, the husbands, sex, menstruation and well... sex :D what we like, don't killed, want to try, secret fantasies, the lot really... I always look forward to my daughters tennis lessons :p

tineke said...

Don't like, not don't killed... stupid autocorrect on my phone...

in bed with married women said...

Tineke--I think it is so fascinating how much has changed since I wrote this post. In just a couple of years the culture, in general, has become a lot more open. There are vibe ads in the Sunday coupon section, for fuck's sake.

On the other hand, a friend recently went to a sex toy party in mid-America, and there were women there who--seriously--claimed they didn't know what a vibrator was!

Happy coffee-ing...