Some of the men who read this column don’t particularly like me.
And that’s putting it euphemistically, given there are guys who dedicate entire segments of their week to trolling me online.
Frankly, it makes sense. A lot of what I talk about here is still taboo – my work is often the first instance men have had a woman tell them they’re not actually very good at sex.
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Which is a hard pill to swallow when you’ve grown up in a culture that teaches you to equate sexual performance with masculinity; a construct of manhood that’s so precarious, we’ve invented entire narratives to protect it.
The story of the pathologically low female libido, for example, is pervasive not because it’s based in science, but because it’s vastly more palatable to men.
Research confirms women want significantly more sex than their partners think they do, and spend more time consuming X-rated content than men (at least, according to a decade of data from PornHub). It’s also women, not men, who are the largest consumers of sexual devices.
The reality a lot of men don’t want to face, is women do like sex. Just not the kind they’re having in their relationships.
We see this manifest as sex-starved marriages (which sex therapists typically define as sex 10 or fewer times per year) – a phenomenon we’ve been made to believe is the result of a broken sex drive epidemic that strangely only seems to affected coupled-off heterosexual women.
And though we’ve normalised hurried transactional acts like the non-reciprocal “blowjob” which Sex & The City’s Samantha Jones famously described, saying: “they don’t call it a ‘job’ for nothing”, and routine “quickies” (sex lasting just a few minutes and not involving foreplay), these passionless exchanges are often evidence of the beginning stages of sexual dissatisfaction for women.
Of course, sporadic unreturned oral or quickies needn’t be viewed as sexual red flags on their own (conversely, they may even revive a flatlining sex life). But a noticeable shift to consistently rushed or performative intimacy, sans mutual stimulation and opportunities for closeness, is almost always a reliable sign a woman has checked out.
“I can tell you that when my husband and I were having shower-only quickies it was because I didn’t really want to have to sex,” a female Redditor explains, in a response to a post in which a man asks if he should be worried his wife exclusively wants efficient sex.
“[She] really only wants 3-4 min quickies mostly in the shower with a vibrator. I’m talking zero foreplay, touching kissing etc. just get it done … we don’t even look at each other,” the male poster confesses.
It’s a scenario uncomfortably familiar to a lot of women, and something colloquially referred to as “duty sex” in conversations among female friends.
“In the past I’ve become like her in relationships where I’ve lost all physical and/or sexual attraction to my partner,” another woman reveals.
“I’ve gotten like this with my [significant other] because I get no emotional intimacy outside the bedroom … the act itself sucks so at this point I just want to orgasm and be done with it,” a fellow female Redditor agrees.
Unfortunately, because we live in a culture dedicated to sheltering men’s egos, these dutiful, disconnected sexual experiences are worryingly ubiquitous among women.
And while shortsighted male readers interpret my recognition of this truth as an attack on their gender, I don’t believe (nor have I ever believed) we can simplify this down to an issue with men. Especially given how spectacularly we fail to equip them with the tools for having healthy sexual and relational experiences with women.
Arousal doesn’t begin for a woman in the removal of clothes, as men are led to believe. It’s a deeply contextual process, powerfully influenced by what happens outside the walls of the bedroom, in her relationship.
At the heart of “duty sex” isn’t a woman bereft of sexual desire. It’s a woman who feels unseen.
As one female Redditor explained to the man asking for advice on getting his quickie-focused wife more engaged in sex: “Talk to her. In a location that can’t end in sex. Tell her that you miss the intimacy and connection, can you start dating more, touching more that doesn’t lead to sex eg. Massages, baths, hand holding while walking … go back to square one of romancing.”
This isn’t the message a lot of men want to hear.
Largely because it requires emotional labor that’s historically not been required of them, and an acknowledgment of their partner’s sexual dissatisfaction – something women typically protect men from confronting.
So, as I sign off for another week, I’m very aware there will be more than a few male readers who won’t like me.
And honestly? That’s fine. I’m not writing this for guys with fragile egos. I’m writing it for the men who want to be good at sex.