Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Talking about sex, again!

The roots of the widespread human insecurities and complexities which revolve around what is in essence a simple animal act reach into our not so past history. Victorian attitudes to sex persisted long into the last century.

A man in the first half of the 20th century who wanted sex with a 'nice' girl usually had to pay a price, marriage. Whilst today's bride or bridegroom will have an average of 10 sexual partners before tying the knot, back then the score was more often than not, zero. While marriage avowedly passported couples to sexual union, women and men in the 1920s and even later, still found themselves going up the aisle with a wealth of information about etiquette but stricken with poverty over the facts of life.

Virgin marriages were apparently created first out of sexual ignorance but later continued as such out of disgust for or fear of sex. Uncertainties over sexual orientation prompted others to wed, but the official blessing did not always magically translate into personal sexual fulfilment within marriage.

Fear of getting pregnant was another strong motivating factor not to go the whole way. Couples wanted to limit the number of mouths to feed. In the absence of reliable methods of contraception, withdrawal before coitus and abstinence were the reasons behind why birth rates plummeted in the 20th century and many families produced only the 'standard' two children.

Sexless marriages seem not to be confined to the pre-modern era. Celibacy in marriage as a matter of informed consent by both partners is rare but has happened. Some seem to be content to be known as someone married but not do what normal married partners do. For many couples during the last century, the sexless nature of marriage was at the insistence of the wife and was deemed a price too high to pay for many husbands. The links between sexual frustration and violence sadly seem obvious, if not inevitable.

Sexual violence also grew out of these power imbalanced relationships, incidents being triggered by a wife's refusal to give sex on demand. Men insisted on their conjugal rights and women were helpless at law to defend themselves. Marital rape was only recently created a crime and few cases were ever reported but times were, thankfully moving on, and women were soon seizing some of that power back, at work, at home and in the bedroom.

Then came the swinging sixties. Women fought loudly to cast off the shackles of domestic burdens and sexual repression, to discover and celebrate their own sexual wants and desires. Gay people came out of their closets too. Flower power buzzed with Beatlemania. The early flowerings of greater openness about our bodies and their needs. For example, women meeting together to examine their vagina's with mirrors can all too easily be dismissed as uncool by the generations born since 1970 but compared with the repressive chill which froze sexual energy in the first half of the century, this was joyous release. An atmosphere sizzling with sexual heat and alive with experimentation.

So, are we all sorted out now? For many people, both women and men, their personal experiences of the pleasures of sex and intimacy don't live up to the sex feasts supposedly on offer. When sexual abundance seems to be all around, it's hard to admit you're hungry even more so if you're starving for it whilst in a marriage or in a relationship, with its official blessing of sex, or other long term sexual partnership. Some people have fear in letting their own pleasure and enjoyment become a cheap and demeaning event in their lives or their self worth that they stop all activity at once. They tend to take a step back leaving their partners to question what they did wrong or why it isn't going any further and also why it ended. There's also the feeling of lost of self worth and unfounded worry about what the other person thinks about them especially if it doesn't work out. This strongly happens to those in the later part of their lives.

If it's something else, talking can help. Make sure that you do actually have the space and time to talk. Think about the setting and how you can create real time for each other. Importantly is to get together in the first place. It's not going to end up into a steamy sex night but loosening up a little, giving in to your needs and your partner a little should be a start. Holding hands, kisses, hugs or just a touch more should be acceptable in this modern age. What is it that you want less or more of? It's good to have moral standards on things but what if it gets in the way of your love interest? Some people like to be traditional but if you're going back a century remember we're in a new millennium.

Bar advice. Welcome to the era where talking about sex and acting out on the passion of making love is not new and not looked at as a degrading characteristic to anyone but three cheers to those that wait till marriage.

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