the female libido.

Reader C.E. asks:
What does a woman do when she is married to (or with) a man who has less of a sex drive than she does? Society (against feminist wisdom) tells women we should be desirable to men. When we’re not desirable all the time (in my case, at least once a week, more often if I had my way) we think there is something wrong with us. Does this teaching hold true? Should my feelings be hurt if I want to do it more than once a week?  Or have women moved beyond the “I have a headache” times and just become more sexually “active” than men?
Dear C.E.,
This is a loaded question. In fact, I think it’s actually several loaded questions, and I’ll try to break them down one by one.

Wanting more sex than your partner.

The very, very modern answer to this problem is to be in an open relationship. Yes, I know, even in our highly enlightened millennial times, most people who get married aren’t doing it so they can fool around with more people. But “open marriages” are on the rise, however slightly, and they do make some sense if you’re not a moral traditionalist. However, they are a lot of hard work. Being in an open relationship requires a lot of understanding, communication, and compromise. And there’s no “right way” to do it — just as I think there is no “right way” to be married, when you really think about it. Every couple has its own ups and downs, its limits and its boundaries. But if one partner in particular is hornier than the other, establishing an open relationship early on can be a real lifesaver down the road (i.e. before someone gets into cheating, which leads to lying, which leads to mistrust, which leads to THE END). If you think this may be the solution you’re looking for, I’d recommend reading The Ethical Slut by Dossie Eaton and Janet W. Hardy. Not only do they make a great case for open relationships (it relieves the pressure of societally-induced monogamy, for one), but they’re both experienced polyamorists, and give some great advice on how to handle the pitfalls of the whole thing. (One of my favorite suggestions they give is to schedule your fights with your mate. That way, you don’t blow up on the spot because something went wrong; you know you’ll have a chance to discuss it at a pre-appointed time, so you can actually think about why you were upset and what you mean to tell your partner about it.)
But if you really meant those “forsaking all others” vows as a literal promise of  “not having sex with anyone else, ever”, you’re going to have to find another way to handle your urges.
The way I see it, you have two options in this case, and one is probably going to be more successful than the other.
Option one: talk to your partner. Quit beating around the bush by just trying to seduce him and getting frustrated when he’s just not interested. Address the issue head-on. Tell him that you want more sex. Discuss it with him. Come up with a compromise. Be as honest as you can. He’s your husband, after all.
Many sex therapists recommend that you schedule sex with your partner, which sounds extremely unromantic, but makes just as much sense as scheduling anything else. Schedule it for at least two nights a week and make it happen. Make it as important as paying a bill, or going to yoga class, or going to work. It should be — it’s your marriage.

Let's do it, baby

"Aren't you glad we have this waterfall?" Image: Dynamite Imagery / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Option two: toys. Lots and lots of toys. If hubby isn’t interested in treating you right, you can have a spectrum of other non-sentient creatures that can get the job done. Yes, it’s not as fulfilling as having a partner who loves you and knows how to do everything right. But it’s actually a pretty great way to explore yourself in an uninhibited way — no need to worry about what someone else thinks. I like to quote Woody Allen on this one: “Don’t knock masturbation — it’s sex with someone I love.”
As an added bonus, fooling around with whatever toys you can find on your own may actually improve what sex you do get to have with your partner, whenever that happens.

Are women always supposed to be attractive to men? Should my feelings be hurt if I want to have sex and my partner doesn’t?

Okay, so society tells us as women that our highest calling is to snag a dude. The idea that women are always supposed to be attractive to men is a two-sided coin. First, it assumes that the woman is working on being attractive. Doin’ your hair, shavin’ things, smellin’ nice. All that attractive stuff. But it also puts a lot of pressure on men to be sexually interested ALL THE TIME. Even the nympho-est nympho can’t be turned on all the time; why should we expect a normal dude (who probably has a job that stresses him out, and drinks with his buddies, and enjoys sports) to have it bad for even the hottest girl all the time? Girls get morning breath; girls gain weight; girls have more important things to do than be attractive. By the same token, dudes have more important things to do than be constantly horny.
So no, I don’t think your feelings should be hurt. I can understand if they are, but I don’t think they should be. Understanding his lack of desire should be an exercise in trying to put yourself in his shoes (which I know we women have to do all the time, but still), rather than an exercise in wondering what’s wrong with you. Don’t think: “he isn’t attracted to me, therefore I am unattractive”. Think instead: “he works a helluvalot, doesn’t he” or “yeah, he’s got a low libido, and it has nothing to do with me”. Take the pressure off yourself and go play with your toys. Once again, discussing it with him is probably a good idea– “Honey, I know you love me, and I know I’m hot, but when you don’t want to bang me, I feel unattractive.” Keep in mind that his having a low libido can do a number on his own self esteem, too. Guys are supposed to be raging bulls, rearin’ to go, and the fact that he’s not, and you’re totally hot, means (socially) that there’s something wrong with him.

Have women moved beyond the “I have a headache” times and just become more sexually “active” than men?

Now there’s a fun question. My answer is: it depends on the women. I’d love to believe that we girls have taken science into our heads and we know that we actually are turned on more often than dudes are (we just don’t know it because nothing sticks out or bites us or whatever it is that happens to let guys know) (wink). I’d like to think all the girls I talk to know that being turned on is what happens once you start gettin’ busy, and isn’t a requirement for doing the nasty. I’d like to think we’re all done with that “virgin/whore” dichotomy, and that we’re done with that “ewww sex is groooosss!” and “only boys want to have sex!” attitude we were taught in middle school.
Of course, I know this isn’t the case. I have to give you kudos for being willing to admit you have a libido in the first place; I know many ladies who would be ashamed to even think it were possible.
I think that perhaps you and I are part of a growing number of people who understand that libido is a personal issue, composed of elements of genetics, chemistry, exercise, stress, and personal choice. Give your husband this same graceful understanding. And then give it to yourself. Be happy that you have such a strong libido, and celebrate it however you can, even if he’s not interested in celebrating it with you. But be willing to compromise if you want to stay married to him. His “sexual peak” was when he was about 17. Yours will happen when you’re about 30. I think you’re going to have a lot of fun sorting this out.

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