Monday, February 10, 2014

Who's Running This Fuck Anyway?

In an interesting New York Times article by Lori Gottlieb, “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex,” she wonders if healthy and happy sex lives have unfortunately become the sacrifice for—gratefully and very rightly—forming more gender-equal relationships. If, “in an attempt to be gender-neutral, we may have a become gender-neutered.”

It seems counterintuitive—since American couples who economically earn and domestically contribute to the home equally are less likely to divorce—but those same egalitarian relationships report lower levels of sexual satisfaction. It seems that, the modern advice that urged men to take on softer, more sensitive, more traditionally feminine qualities and for women to become more aggressive and assertive in order to compete in this male-driven world, hasn’t worked as well in the bedroom as it has in all the other aspects of life. 

And, incongruously, it seems that “the values that make for good social relationships are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust […It, in fact, seems that] most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.” It’s the modern Madonna/whore problem. We may know that, as partners within a relationship, we ought to be equals, ought to be considerate and respectful of each other. We should be able to trust and rely on each other completely. We ought to be able to see each other as more than just sexual objects and a means to get off. But, so often, we work so hard to see each other as more than sexual, that we then no longer find each other particularly sexy. It appears that, for many couples, they “know what a 50-50 marriage should be like. But what is 50-50 sex supposed to be like?”

It sounds like an odd question but, once stated, something about it resonates for a lot of us. Like many of life’s great pleasures—like humor and storytelling and fashion and, hell, even food and drink—sexual desire is inherently base. It isn’t polite or PC. No matter how we try to—and even succeed in—taming it, reigning it in, forcing it to fit societal standards, sexual desire will out. Like the heart, the libido wants what the libido wants. Even if we know that the things we want in the bedroom go against everything we want outside of it—being thoroughly dominated or having someone submit completely to us—we can’t not want it. We can’t want—no matter how much we know we ought to—what we don’t want. As Dan Savage says, “We don’t so much have sex as sex has us.” Sanitized and conformed to fit the rules and norms for what’s fair and just, sex just stops being sexy. 

Forget Fifty Shades; I wonder if that’s the reason why kink has become popular lately. If it isn’t the answer to this problem. Most kinksters find that within every relationship—within every scene—there tends to be a top and a bottom. There’s always someone who, as Mistress Matisse put it, “runs the fuck” and someone who’s following the lead. Someone who’s stepping on the sexual gas pedal and someone whose foot is on the break. 

And the thing is, for me, that is 50-50 sex. Because it’s two people who want the same thing—awesome sex—working together to get it. And the thing I think this article forgets is that gender has less to do with this kind of sex than they think it does. Sure, statistically, male tops and female bottoms vastly outnumber their switched up counterparts, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be the only option. I think the dominant male and the submissive female have less to do with the sexual problem of modern equality than just, for the love of O, someone taking the initiative and running the fuck already. About letting sex have its way—its time and place—both within and outside that equality.

Kink allows that leeway. Kinksters know that “Sometimes sex is an expression of anger or a struggle for power and dominance. They work in concert. People need to learn how to harness those impulses playfully in ways that are acceptable in equal relationships.” It allows you to be that good and upstanding egalitarian couple during the day, considerate helpmates who share financial responsibilities and household chores, while also allowing you to then slip on a mask, to lace-up a darker, baser costume that strips away—without erasing or undoing—all that consideration, later. That lets you explore all those oh-so-unacceptable things, like dominance and submission—like power and control—in a safe space built upon and grounded in all that good, upstanding trust you’ve established during the day. It allows you to build good, solid relationships while still giving you specific times and contextual space to indulge in all the things you can’t and wouldn’t want to otherwise. Almost alchemically, it allows the Madonna and the whore to exist, if not at the same time, within the same person. 

Because—as strange and counterintuitive as it sounds—think about it; if you’re going to be used or use another person, don’t you really want it to be with, done safely and sanely with, someone you love and who loves you?

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