Interviews March 2007

Not Tonight, Dear

Joan Sewell talks about her new book, I'd Rather Eat Chocolate, and the politically incorrect reality that most married women just aren't that into sex

I’m also curious about how the storytelling influenced your experience. Did you take notes in bed?

Oh, no. That would have been good, huh? “Just a moment…” But no, I didn’t. And it wasn’t right afterwards, either, like, “Okay, I’m getting dressed and sitting down to write.” It would usually happen the next day. I had this big calendar with huge boxes where I could write a lot on each day. And so I would jot things down as we went along. And I’d ask Kip what he thought. I’d say, “You know, this is how I remember it,” and he’d say, “Well, no, actually I think it was more like this.” And it wasn’t so much that we came to a compromise, but he did fill in a lot of spots.

You do acknowledge that there are some women with high sex drives, but you seem to resent them.

It’s not resentment—it’s envy. I feel envy for genuinely lusty women. I met one who described herself as a juicy tomato. She said, “If you were a vegetable, what would you be?” I said, “I don’t know, maybe a celery stalk, or a rutabaga.” It sure wasn’t a juicy tomato.

What I resent, though, in the media, like with Samantha in Sex and the City, is a kind of sexuality that simulates lust. I think a lot of this is pandering to men. Like Girls Gone Wild—you see women in bars making out with each other and they’re not lesbians. They’re twisting their sexuality, and it’s a trickle-down from porn. In so many TV shows and movies, the woman can’t wait to tear off the man’s clothes just as the elevator doors close, you know what I mean? They’re that voracious. And it becomes an affectation. It’s an attempt to show that women can be just as powerful, that they can leer at men. I think feminists—there are so many waves, I’m sorry, I can’t keep them straight, the waves of feminists, but the pro-sex feminists—buy into the idea that a robust sex drive means we have broken through a barrier.

Meaning women who want to be seen as powerful try to flaunt their robust sex drives?

Yeah, that’s part of it, a strong part of it. When you make a guy into a sex object, implying that you like him physically more than for any other quality, you’re seen as more powerful. If you go to a male strip club, the women get out of control! But are they getting out of control because they really want to leap on stage and get screwed by some guy? No, I don’t think so. I think it’s a kind of revenge.

So the lust women think they feel…

It all seems to look like male pornography. We’re just simulating lust. Instead of feeling it, we’re putting it on like it’s a costume. We project it into looks—makeup, breasts; all that kind of stuff. Like Pam Anderson. If you’re going under the knife, you’re not really doing it for you. Admit that it’s for getting men—keeping men, making yourself a sex object. That’s what it is.

It’s all an act, then, and the truth is that men are fundamentally lustful and women are not?

Men are far more interested in sex, and if they can get as much sex as they want, they’re going to try. They do tailor their sex drive, at least the gentlemen do, to women. Sometimes they have to, just to get them into bed, and sometimes they genuinely want to. But men had harems in the past. Women’s lib has made monogamy more of a standard, but if it were left up to men, would that be a standard? You know, I don’t think so. I think they like having a main squeeze, a woman they can be emotional with, but they also like the idea of having sex on the side. Are women completely monogamous? No. But it tends to go the other way far more.

You talk about evolutionary influences on libido, and I wonder how real you think they are, how acutely you think we feel them.

Well, across so many cultures, men are more promiscuous, men want more variety, men want more women. And for women, security overrides the sexual urge. That happens because, well, the woman’s sexual urge is weaker. Maybe it is because of biology.

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Sara Lipka is a staff reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education. More

Sara Lipka is a journalist with a local food habit. Since 2003 she has written about college students as a staff reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, in Washington, D.C. Last year she was an intern for The Farm at Sunnyside, in Washington, Virginia, and this year she is starting a vegetable garden at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland.

Sara formerly interned at The Atlantic and has since interviewed authors about Roe v. Wade, libido, and settling. She graduated from Duke University summa cum laude in 2001, then spent a year in Chile as a Fulbright fellow, researching political theater.

An avid cook, Sara usually travels with a tiny bottle of truffle salt and keeps trying to concoct new combinations of ingredients. She has worked as a papergirl, camp counselor, umpire, and cashier at the Cosmic Cantina, in Durham, North Carolina, where she never got sick of the guacamole.

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