Thursday, August 12, 2010

A brutal truth

This is a sort of by the way stemming from my earlier discussion of sexual infidelity.

One of the most compelling illusions in life is the illusion of sexual technique. That is the belief that what determines how good sex is for a woman is primarily a function of what you do for her. And these things are not irrelevant—a lazy, selfish or insensitive lover is a bad lover.

But the most significant indicator of how good a woman's sexual experiences will be is her ability to respond. She either can do it or she cannot and there isn't a sexual technique in the world that can change that. You might disappoint her but the upper limit of how good it can be is determined by her ability and willingness to respond to you.

And here is the brutal truth: If she can do it with you, she can do it with others. And she did do it with others! I know, no one wants to allow this but just accept it, the sex she had with others was probably just as good as the sex she had with you.

Yes, it is entirely possible that she is telling you the truth when she says it was never so good before you but probably not. She may even believe it herself because a break up will colour the way she sees things and she will look back and devalue the sex she had with the guy she used to love in retrospect.

The point here is, do yourself a favour and get over the notion that the quality of her sexual experience tells you how much she loves you. It doesn't. If you get abducted by Martians tomorrow who then hit her with a special energy beam that wipes your memory out of her head forever, she will meet someone new and have sex that is just as good or bad as she has with you.

If you want to know if she loves you, look to other criteria.

The other thing to remember is this: as brutal as this truth may be for men, it's worse for women. If a woman's sex life is unsatisfactory she may tell herself that it's because the guy in her life is a lazy, selfish or insensitive lover but she can only tell herself that for so long. If he clearly isn't lazy, selfish or insensitive out of bed, then he won't be those things in bed either and it is only active self denial that will maintain the illusion. And the degree of self denial mounts with every lover she has. We can do our part but ultimately it's her body and she has to figure out how to make it work (and not every woman succeeds).


  1. The solution to this problem in Africa is clitorectomy (don't know if I spelled that right) or female circumcision when a girl reaches puberty. She doesn't experience pleasure so they would never have this discussion there.

    Seriously though, sexuality therapy can work for many women who are non-orgasmic. Sometimes the issue is organic or a question of technique, other times its symptomatic of the relationship or other issues, e.g., prior history of sexual abuse, growing up believing sex is bad, it can be any number of things depending on each individual couple. You are right to caution that a woman's ability to experience pleasure in bed is not a indicator of how much she loves the man.

  2. Part of the subtext here is my experiences coming of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In those days women were encouraged to blame everything on men. You'd hear some feminists of the time saying things like, there are no non-orgasmic women only lousy lovers.

    I remember it being a tremendously liberating experience when a woman I knew responded to one of these tirades by saying, as I repeated above, "It's her body and it's her responsibility to figure out how it works". As men we can be supportive, loving and patient but, ultimately, it's her problem, or problems, to solve.

  3. I agree, and I remember the remarks made by feminists in the 70s. They were unjustified, but I think a reaction to psychologists since Freud dismissing women who today are called non-orgasmic as "frigid." Yes, they really did use that term. And until the last 20 or 30 years, there was little or no medical research at all on women, much less how they functioned sexually, and clinical trials of drugs normally did not include women. But I agree that while men can be loving and supportive, it is ultimately the woman's problem. This is also true when men have erectile dysfunction, its not the woman's fault. It is his problem and, while she can be patient and supportive, something he has to resolve with the help of his physician.

    But this relates to your earlier remarks about taking literally "the two become one flesh." I've talked with many women over the last 25 or so years who chose not to marry because they feared their identities would become lost or submerged in the man's. Maybe this is a generational thing, I don't know if younger women today feel the same way. But I think many women of our generation saw their mothers' identities completely in relation to their fathers, and they did not want that to happen to them. I think all of what the Church has taught or Jesus is alleged to have said makes the erroneous assumption that everyone has their shit together, i.e., a well-integrated ego and a healthy sense of self, and we both know most people don't. That's why I kind of shuddered at your remark that a man's erection belongs jointly to his wife to use together. As I see it, my boner is mine and mine alone, to use when and with whom I choose to share it, or by myself. That view, when applied to women, i.e., their vaginas belong to their husbands, leaves the door wide open for marital rape. We don't cease becoming individuals with our own dignity and personal space when we enter into a relationship, or one that is healthy.

  4. I think the Church calls it the "marital privelege," only applicable to women of course, to provide sex on demand.

  5. I misquoted, the Church calls it the "Marital debt." This happened to come up today on one of the other sites:

    "In the Catholic Church, there is an understanding of the "marital debt." When you're married, you no longer belong to yourself - you belong to your spouse. So if one of you wants to have sex, the other is obliged to give him or herself. You are only allowed to withhold for a serious reason."

    Obliged. Obliged???? Makes me glad I'm not married.

  6. There is an odd contradiction in Church teaching on marital debt. If you bash your way through Butler's Lives of the Saints you will find several examples of female saints who unilaterally decided to have a celibate marriage. These stories are rich in detail of husbands using all sorts of evil means in an attempt to break their wives' will to do this and then ultimately breaking down in the face of their wives' sanctity.

    But if there really is a marital debt then any unilateral decision to have a celibate marriage is a sin.

    By the way the Puritans recognized the debt going both ways and there are documented examples of men being put in stocks in the public square for failing to meet their wives' sexual needs. Catholics don't seem to have believed that such a thing was possible.