Books March 2007

She’s Just Not That Into You

Women prefer food to sex with their husbands—and that’s OK.

Here’s the next wild turn in the female sexual revolution. Goodness! we hear you wondering, half in excitement, half in alarm. Is it some hot new wave of Seattle girl-on-girl action? (Or is that “grrrl-on-grrrl”? Indeed, do we even have grrrls anymore—are they still in bisexual vogue, with their tattoos, piercings, perky magenta pigtails, and combat boots?) Or is the latest sex trend something America’s desperate housewives are doing? One pictures sleek gated communities in Scottsdale, Arizona, where randy Hot Moms—possibly the bored, blonde, ex-model wives of millionaire athletes—are defiantly throwing Chardonnay-soaked house parties involving dildos and Botox, where Botox is actually shot, into the forehead, from a dildo. Or can it be … octogenarian pole dancing? Or perhaps it’s a crunchy-granola California womyn’s thing involving shaving, much gentle shaving—shaving circles, in fact, that are starting in Esalen, during luxurious weekend retreats led by Gail Sheehy, who, unlike Nora Ephron, does not feel bad about her neck but at sixtysomething feels rather more like a delicious peach, laughingly sensual, newly juicy. Never mind the lubrication issues, the vaginal dryness some may experience: There are Vitamin E creams and aloe vera unguents for that. In fact, today’s young men report how surprised they are by how much they prefer older women. The sheer brazen confidence is refreshing; the blithe sensuality, the lack of inhibition, except about the neck, but that’s why there are turtlenecks. Turtlenecks and no pants—that’s the ticket! And lots of Pilates … nude, nude Pilates.

But no. All of these possibilities will pale compared with the corporeal depravity I’m about to describe—a radical self-pleasuring act that may well represent the true frontier of female liberation. Which is to say I speak to you candidly now about some lesbians I know, two lesbians. They live in a suburb of Los Angeles. They’re both a hair north of forty. One is a computer technician; the other, a hospital administrator. Physically, they are much as you might picture them. For the past twelve years, Teri and Pat have had a special Monday-night ritual. They order an extra-large cheese pizza (sixteen slices). While waiting—and I am not making this up—they settle in on the couch with large twin bags of Doritos. Each chip is dipped first in Philadelphia cream cheese and then in salsa. Cream cheese, salsa. Cream cheese, salsa. Cream cheese, salsa. The Doritos are finished to the last crumb, and then, upon arrival, the pizza as well. For Teri and Pat, this night of a million carbs is, by special agreement, guilt-free. Both feel that it is better than sex.

Also see:

Interviews: "Not Tonight, Dear"
Joan Sewell talks about the politically incorrect notion that most married women just aren't that into sex

On the one hand, yes, Teri and Pat are poster children for what wags call “lesbian bed death.” Naysayers will look for—and find—yet more evidence to damn this pair, maybe pointing to the fifty pounds Teri and Pat have each gained over a decade, or to Pat’s extensive collection of Beanie Babies, or to Teri’s five cats, all of whom are named after colorful jazz divas who also, coincidentally, happen to be big fatties. On the other hand, Teri and Pat consider themselves happy. They are cheerful and generous with friends and with one another. In twelve years, neither has ever expressed an urge to stray. Or even to swing, to experiment outside the relationship with a new woman, a man, or even—more pertinently, on Monday nights—Chinese food. (Doesn’t a trial foray into popcorn shrimp at least sound tempting?)

And in fact, evidence suggests that a growing number of women in America, if they looked into the deepest recesses of their souls, would admit to feeling that these two pushing-200-pound lesbians may be not so much pathetic as … damn lucky. Because, to judge from the continual roiling crises on Oprah and Dr. Phil, American women are experiencing an epidemic, today, of not wanting to have sex. Or at least not wanting all the sex they “should” be having—i.e., once or twice or even three times a week, depending on which sexpert is confidently throwing out the vague approximations. It is a particularly vexing problem for heterosexual married females, who—now that we and our spouses are living so long, what with all the improved medical care—can expect to face another several decades of domestic union with a man. And clearly we can’t just let the sex fall off like an unused appendage. Unlike Teri and Pat, we don’t have the luxury, as we age, of letting our sex drives die a merciful death, or at least be ecstatically smothered (can’t breathe! can’t breathe! ooh, ooh! getting light-headed!) in Philly cream cheese.

Because first of all, men have needs, and if we don’t service our sex-starved husbands, someone else will! Although I sometimes wonder if my own husband, after eighteen years of cohabitation, has grown, well, too lazy to have an affair. Like me, my soulmate has developed a certain endearing reluctance to change out of his sweatpants and leave the house after 5 p.m., and all of those kittenish young Sex and the City gals seem sharply demanding. They require meals eaten sitting up in restaurants, chilled crantinis, vigorous discoing. If my beloved husband were to embark on an affair with a twenty-six-year-old, I would be hurt, of course, but also impressed: all that showering, the micro-trimming, the grooming, the continual anointing, of all the body parts!

But this—the unhappy husband—this is but collateral damage for twenty-first-century women, because at its core, maintaining a vibrant sex life with one’s man, woman, or even joy-giving appliance (and there’s no shame in that) is, like anything, all about us. And in this marathon run across the veldt that is life, to be true to ourselves (whoever we are) and true to our sex (and our sexiness), we must fight—even at fifty—to keep at bay the woolly macramé projects, the cunningly knit pet sweaters, the comforting vats of vanilla pudding that increasingly beckon.

Or … must we? In these, the sex-frequency wars, an authentically fresh new voice has arrived. Her name, Joan Sewell; her groundbreaking new sex book, I’d Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido.

And just how low is her libido? Writes Sewell, throwing down the gauntlet:

If I had a choice between reading a good book and having sex, the book wins. I notice I put in the adjective “good”—and that leaves me wondering if I’m not trying to put a better face on things.

We know what sort of woman you’re envisioning—and you’re wrong. Sewell is young, hip, slim, urban, and recently married to a man with the boy-band-cute name of Kip. Kip is smart, funny, sensitive, even hot. How hot? Let us look together at Kip’s nude body. In fact, ladies, let’s not rush. Let’s take our own languorous, sweet time about it. Let’s watch now as Sewell gives Kip a full-body massage, in preparation for some hot, hot sex:

I took the scented oil from the dresser and put a good amount into my cupped hand. I let it warm there for a minute, making myself aware of its liquidity, then I massaged the hand-warmed oil … against the rough hair of his chest … I told him to turn over and oiled his back (so smooth!), and then his legs (swimmer’s thighs!), and then I centered mischievously around his buttocks (naughty and luscious), and then tantalizingly onto his testicles (aww, he trimmed the pubic hair on them—so considerate!). I focused on all his swoops and curves and the way my fingers played along them. Was any of this heightening my desire? Sure. I mean it had to be. I was definitely more sensually aware, more sensually aware of Kip’s body. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly making me hot. Was feeling sensual the same as sensual feeling? Let’s not dwell.
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