Tag Archives: sex therapy

How Important Is Sex to A Relationship?

tantra2

Do we as a society over emphasize the importance of sex to the detriment of our relationships?

By Freddy and Eddy

According to the latest government statistics, the top five reasons for divorce are as follows:

1. Infidelity
2. Communication breakdown
3. Physical, psychological, or emotional abuse
4. Financial stress
5. Sexual incompatibility

As you can see, two of the top five involve sex, with infidelity finally jumping ahead of financial stress after many years of holding the top trouble spot. Sex, it seems, occupies an immensely important role in the success of couples, despite the fact that, according to the Kinsey Institute, the average number of times per week that sexual intercourse takes place is less than twice and that figure drops as couples age (as an aside, married couples tend to have more sex than single individuals who date). Is it possible we simply put too much importance on having a hot sex life when in fact a merely tepid one will be just as rewarding?

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Sexual Liberation: The Busy Trap, by Tim Kreider

One of the common complains we receive with regard to couples’ sex lives is that they’re “too busy” to take the time necessary to foster deep, lasting intimacy. This article from Tim Kreider outlines some of the pitfalls of being too busy and urges readers to take steps to reduce busyness and allow the benefits of downtime to enrich their lives. This message is as universal as it is applicable to healthy sexuality, specifically…

The ‘Busy’ Trap (via NY Times)

By TIM KREIDER

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

(Anxiety welcomes submissions at anxiety@nytimes.com.)


Author photo

Tim Kreider is the author of “We Learn Nothing,” a collection of essays and cartoons. His cartoon, “The Pain — When Will It End?” has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics.

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Contribution: Wildly Monogamous

Wildly Monogamous

As some of you know, I had so much fabulous research for Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality that I had to drastically cut the book. As a result, Ian Denchasy ended up in the “oh, dang, I wish I could keep him in the book, but, oh, dang, I just can’t” category.

Why was Ian such an amazing source? Because in nearly eight years of researching and writing Secret Sex Lives, Ian was my only interview who was happily married AND monogamous.

Secret Sex Lives Cover

Unfortunately, that’s the very reason I ended up leaving Ian out of the book — Secret Sex Lives was about the fringes of American sexuality, not the normal. Then again, Ian isn’t the norm because not only is he happily married and monogamous, he and his wife have a very, very active and mutually pleasing sex life. In other words, they are wildly monogamous. And because of that, I think many readers will find him inspiring.

That’s why I’m sharing with you now the deleted Secret Sex Lives chapter devoted to the most impressive Ian Denchasy.

By the way, in this chapter you’ll read mentions of Coyote and Rex. They are two of my non-monogamous sources who remained in the book and believe their wives don’t know about their secret sex lives.

 

 

One day, while I was cruising the Internet, I happened upon FreddyandEddy.com, a site that reviewed sex toys and movies. FreddyandEddy is run by Ian and Alicia Denchasy, a happily married, monogamous couple.

Happily married and monogamous. I couldn’t imagine. I emailed Ian immediately.

They’d started the site solely to spark more sex – and more passionate sex – into their marriage, he replied.

Three days later I called Ian. Practically the first words I spoke were, “Did this help your sex life?”

“Oh, my God!” he exclaimed. “Are you crazy? We’re like the hump bunnies. I mean, come on.”

Ian was an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles enclave of Bel Air when his son was born and, as a result, his sex life with his wife Alicia went “down the toilet” – to use Ian’s description. He fretted, he worried, he thought about how he and his wife used to have sex two and three times a day. He talked to Alicia about it, but nothing changed. “It wasn’t simply the lack of sex that killed me,” Ian said as we talked on the phone. “It was the lack of her wanting me in that way that really destroyed me.”

He knew he didn’t understand what a woman went through after childbirth, so he tried to research it. Women’s magazines “basically [said] that the men are the assholes and suck it up dude.” Men’s magazines suggested he “just fuck her and tell her to get her clothes off.” The Internet offered similar combative advice – “nothing that really helped.”

He talked to Alicia again. “Is this how the rest of our life is going to be? Once every couple of weeks or once a month? Are you satisfied with this?”

Still, nothing changed, until one summer day when Ian sat in the park with four female friends, watching their children play, and the conversation moved to sex. The women asked him how often he and his wife had sex.

“It’s a real bummer,” he said, before giving them his once or twice a month number. At that, their jaws dropped. They thought that was a lot. Ian was horrified.

He phoned Alicia at work. “Tell me you’re not okay with this!”

She wasn’t.

“So, we just said why don’t we just—wink, wink—form a website to review toys and give us an excuse to write about it, play with toys, communicate better. No one was ever really supposed to visit the website. It was kind of a little inside joke.”

They began with toys because previously, and trying to get out of their sex doldrums, they’d dug out a Pocket Rocket vibrator that had been given to them as a wedding gift. Until then, they’d never experimented with sex toys. But thanks to the Pocket Rocket, Alicia had an orgasm for the first time in their then ten-year relationship.

A few months after launching FreddyandEddy.com, Ian and Alicia started receiving emails from couples who had discovered their site, were having similar problems with their sex lives, and loved Ian and Alicia’s recommendations. FreddyandEddy became so popular that Ian and Alicia began selling a few sex items to support the website. “And it just took off …”

In fact, FreddyandEddy.com generated so much interest and publicity that Ian feared it might embarrass the elementary school where he taught. Since profits from the website sales were substantial, Ian resigned his teaching job to run the business and open a sex store.

Both the website and store cater to monogamous couples with children. The store is open primarily by appointment so that customers won’t run into friends from their neighborhood PTA.

“You walk in and you don’t know you’re in an adult store because you come into a coffee bar and it’s only got like little soaps and candles and things like that.” From there, one enters a library where one has to read the titles to discover that the books are erotic. “And then you come into like a living room that looks like it would be in your house and you can watch TV or read or play games.” Lastly, one can walk through French doors to find a room filled with sex toys. “And you can choose not to go into that room, if you want. It’s very, very low pressure.” That’s because their goal “was to make it so that even the shyest of the shy could come in there and not feel pressured or threatened or, you know, exposed.”

Ian repeatedly insisted that he and his wife are one of those shy couples living behind a white picket fence.

“Really,” he said, “if I wasn’t having more sex because of this vehicle, I’d be back teaching. I’m telling you, I’d close it all down in a second. This whole thing is so that we can have more sex. And it accomplishes that. I mean, we fucked yesterday like you wouldn’t believe. … Oh, my God! It was so insane because just the night before I said, ‘Man, you’re just looking so’—am I turning you off with all of this?”

“Listen,” I said, “this is tame compared to what I’ve been hearing.”

“Okay. Anyway, I’m a big believer in the whole pleasing of her first. And two nights ago we were sitting, watching TV, and I’m just obsessed with her sexually. I just think she’s so hot. I’ve been with her over seventeen years, and she’s hotter now than ever, you know. So I said, ‘I’m going down on you, baby, right now.’ And I just went to town … she was bucking off the couch.  And it was just so much fun.  And then she was like, ‘All right, let’s get you going.’ And I was like, ‘Nope!  Unt-uh. I’m not doing a thing. That’s it. You’ve gotta be satisfied with that.’

“And she’s, ‘What do you mean? You’re not satisfied.’

“I said, ‘Well, you’re crazy. I’m more than satisfied.’ I mean, you know, it was all I really wanted. It was all I really needed. And then the next morning, which was yesterday, we got to the shop, and I said, ‘Let me continue what happened last night.’ And it just took off from there. And we just tore it up, man. And I was like ‘I’d love to see any twenty-year-old do it like that.’ I mean, I’ll put them to shame any day of the week.” Ian was 41. His wife was weeks away from turning 40.

“And of course at the shop we’ve got every toy known to man, so, you know, it was like all right we’re gonna go over here and do it on this thing called the Bonk’er.”

The Bonk’er is a nearly heart-shaped contraption of hooks and straps that lifted her feet into the air and swung her onto his body. But the Bonk’er wasn’t enough.

Ian then said to his wife, “We’re then gonna move over to this tantra chair and then we’re gonna finish off over here.” To me, he said, “And then she went off to work and my whole day was so happy it was insane.”

I thought about Coyote and Rex and so many other men I’d communicated with.  “What I hear all the time,” I said to Ian, “is that I love my wife, I don’t want to leave her, but there’s no sex, so they’re trying to pick up people on the Internet.”

“Oh, God, we hear that story all the time,” he replied. “You know what? Lemme tell you, Suzy, I put a lot of it on the males in the relationship because it comes down to that people somehow don’t want to put in the work anymore, because it’s not automatic anymore and it’s not spontaneous like it was …

“And, you know, for me, I try to tell people you have to get past that. The better sex is waiting for you by deepening the relationship with the person you have. You know, I can’t go out to a bar and pick up a girl and tie her up when I get home or have her flog me or something like that. That comes with trust and time. So our belief is you’ve gotta get the communication going again, and you’ve just gotta force yourself back into that mode. And most people just won’t do it. It’s just too hard for them. So they give up.”

At that, Ian told me that he’s constantly asked what’s the best sex toy. To answer, he pulls out a sponge and some dish-washing liquid and says, “This is the best sex toy.” 

He’s then asked, “What do you do with that?”

Ian answers, “‘You do the fucking dishes, dumb ass. That’s the thing that turns my wife on the most: a clean house, a good meal, a massage. Not a vibrator. A vibrator is just a device after you’ve gotten to that point, but you have to get to that point first. And the way you do that is by helping out with the kids. It’s by taking a long walk. It’s by listening to her day when she comes home.”

To me, he said, “And thennnn you can get to the intimacy, after that. … By working together on things, it’s better. It’s become hotter. It becomes more passionate. I mean, she and I exchange no less than ten emails daily. And we call each other probably twice daily. Now true, we’re a little oddball in that. Most couples don’t quite go that far, but you can go halfway between that and have quite a bit of a good relationship.”

“So,” I asked, “what made you different so that you’re willing to say, ‘Hey, let’s work on this’ instead of saying, ‘Hey, I want to be wanted, let me go out and make myself feel better with other girls wanting me?’”

“I think a lot of it has to do with my own parents …” They were loving. They worked on problems together. And they were together until his mother died. He wanted his own marriage to be like that.

“I knew I was going to marry my wife the minute I saw her, and that’s just never changed. This may sound far-fetched, but I have never once desired another woman.”

When I hung up from speaking with Ian, I couldn’t believe how high and relieved I was. To talk to someone who believed in marriage and monogamy, oh, it was as though with that one man, I’d discovered that everything I’d been taught in Sunday school and at Baylor could actually be true. I still didn’t believe that a relationship, love, marriage was for me, but maybe, just maybe, it could work for those who did long for that. And that made me happy.

But as time passed, and as I thought about his words and as I so wanted his insight to be true, I wondered if it was true that a husband could have a great sex life with his wife if only he’d do the dishes and listen to her. Ian was probably right in many cases, perhaps even Coyote’s. But I thought about Rex.

He did do the cleaning, the laundry, the grocery shopping, the cooking. When his wife came home from work, he greeted her with that drink and the newspaper. And Rex had talked to her about his sexual needs. At least he said he had. But none of that had changed anything. She didn’t seem to care that her husband wasn’t happy sexually. Or maybe there was something inside her that wouldn’t let her care. That hurt too much. That feared too much. Or maybe she was like me and thought love and sex were two different entities and never the twain shall meet.

* * *

The above interview took place in the summer of 2005. Unfortunately, since then, Ian and Alicia have closed their store, but Ian and Alicia and the FreddyandEddy website are still going strong.

About the Author

Suzy Spencer is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist.

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