Sex Therapist in Boston: Having Sex When Not in the Mood is a Bad Idea
Posted on December 8, 2014 by Aline Zoldbrod
There is a trend lately for sex therapy in Boston to lean on the Nike slogan “just do it” when working with straight women whose desire is way less than their husband’s. Just to be clear, I mean sex therapists telling women to “Just do it” meaning: “Just go along to get along” with your husband, so that the husband won’t feel rejected, be cranky, and act miserable. (This phenomenon also may apply equally well to gay women in long term relationships.) Now, mercy sex (as we sex therapists call it) is a perfectly good strategy to use periodically. But I have to say, my clinical experience has led me to believe that a consistent use of this strategy actually makes the woman’s desire problem worse in the long run. There is a much better, more constructive, healthier and happier solution to the problem of mismatched desire. It just isn’t a quick fix, that’s all.
There are many, many women who do not know their own recipe for sexual desire or sexual pleasure. They come into marriage feeling that they have sexual desire for their partners, but for a large number of them, I believe the excitement and arousal they feel sexually is more about meeting the partner of their dreams. They have what I call “reflective desire”—the desire they feel is actually the mirror image of the sexual excitement their partner feels for them. They do feel sexually excited, but it is getting swept up in the feeling at hand. Have you ever gotten a “contact high” from hanging out with friends who are drinking or using drugs when you are not? You are high, but it is not from the drugs you ingested. This is a similar phenomenon in a way. Early in the relationship, your body is, in fact, producing special hormones during this lust phase, but you won’t be able to produce them, at will, for too long. As Helen Fisher has so beautifully described, after a period of about two years, if not before, women’s hormones shift, and the feelings of lust diminish.
At that point in time, I believe that if a woman has failed to develop her own, unique recipe for what she wants or likes to feel FOR HERSELF, IN HER OWN BODY, in the sexual situation, then she needs to take on this task to learn her own recipe. Or, let’s say, if she wants to ever enjoy sex, she has to take on this task.
Women are taught to be caretakers. Most women take care of their partners, their friends, their kids. It leaves very little time to just be with themselves. So if a particular woman has not discovered for herself how exciting, pleasing, and intimate sex can be, if she has not discovered and communicated the ways she does and does not want to be touched, defined the” magic and the tragic” areas on her body as far as touch goes, then routinely having sex for someone else, no matter how beloved, just becomes another item on the “to do” list. And for a straight woman, allowing a guy to put a part of himself into her most inner part when it does not feel good is taking caretaking to a really absurd and, frankly, disgusting level.
So if your therapist suggests that you adopt this Nike-slogan-stand “Just do it” as a sexual strategy for marital bliss, take my advice and don’t buy into it.
What’s the solution? Well, assuming that the woman really is in love with her partner, it is for the woman to learn to like sex for herself. It involves a thorough look at the woman’s sexual development, particularly looking at what she learned about touch, about trust, about gender roles, about whether it is okay for a woman to like sex or whether she believes that only “sluts and whores“ like sex. It also involves unlearning the capitulation that has made the rest of her relationship easier with her partner.
It involves learning to set limits. Once she learns what she likes, she has to stand her ground and make sure that she gets her sexual recipe, so that sex is a good experience that she wants to repeat.
This inevitably annoys the partners, some who have become used to a compliant but passive partner, one with whom they could have the sexual equivalent of junk food sex. But what inevitably happens, when the woman discovers her own recipe and insists on getting her needs met, is that partners are ecstatic. They’ll trade the readily available junk food sex for the special treat, slow cooking of good sex. They’ll trade their feelings of sadness and worry that they are not loved for the pleasure and pride they take in learning how to give their wives REAL sexual pleasure.
And so this solution is no quick fix. However, the lessons learned lead to a lifetime of really good sex.
Aline Zoldbrod Ph.D. is a sex therapist in Boston, psychologist, and the author of the award winning book SexSmart: How Your Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life and What to Do About It (1998). You can find out more at http://www.SexSmart.com.