Sex and the Suburban Mom
Can Sexual Arousal Be Bought?
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. –Ecclesiastes 6:19–20
I have always been a good girl.
I got very good grades in school, for instance. I landed the honor roll almost every quarter. (Except those times I had to take Geometry and Chemistry. Blegh.)
I didn’t have sex until I was 21. Wait, I think I was 20.
I stayed away from boys, because boys could break your heart. I just watched them from afar. And daydreamed a lot about all the things I wanted them to do to me. Mostly, I imagined kisses and hugs and kind words.
When a girl grows up without a father, she’s really hungry for that stuff.
So I followed all the cultural rules, and got the good grades and the scholarships and the accolades, and became valedictorian of my graduating class at a women’s college, and married my college sweetheart. Is “sweetheart” the right word? No. Let’s call him my college male best friend.
And then I started teaching literature at a Catholic school for girls. And I got engaged, and then married, at 24. And I finished my master’s degree and we moved into a house in a suburb with a good school district, a district full of good Catholics and lots of pizza shops. And then I had a baby, a son. And tried to breastfeed him, and yadda yadda yadda.
You know, typical suburban life.
House, kids, affordable sedans in the driveway, until it was time for a minivan.
But what lurked under the surface was unhappiness. It was fear. It was anxiety. It was feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and not knowing what “good enough” even was. It was wondering if I’d given up on my life too soon, if I should have explored more, experimented more in all kinds of ways. I loved my family, but it always felt like I had to choose — career or kids. Career or kids? It didn’t feel as though I could have both, even though I was creative and capable in all kinds of ways. I had this passion and magic inside me, this zest. And I didn’t know how to access it. I didn’t know what to do.
So I let my light grow dim.
Until I got divorced.
There’s a lot to this story, and I’ll share all of it at a later time. But now? Now, I want to talk about sex. Because sex, and problems surrounding sex, are at the heart of the problems in the American marriage, an institution which is falling apart.
So in order to understand whether monogamous marriage is really worth its salt, or if the future may determine another way forward for relationships between men and women, women and women, men and men, and who knows what else, I want to talk about intimacy.
I want to talk about our deepest dreams and desires.
I want to talk about the root of love.
Because I’ve been exploring, and there’s a lot to uncover. And I’m a brave soul, an adventurer, one who wanders in the forest until she finds the gold.
So let’s just start with the sex party I went to yesterday, hmm? That’s a fun jumping off point.
When I talked to Lady A on the phone last week, Sex Toy Leader Extraordinaire, she told me, in the most beautiful of voices, “You and I are going to be best friends.”
And I believed her.
We both knew it was going to take a long time for us to unpack all of our opinions, our stories, our philosophies when it comes to marriage and monogamy and sex and child-rearing. She was married still, after many years. I was divorced for nearly five, and have chosen to be single. Until recently. Recently, I’ve been wondering — maybe I’ll dive into that fray again. Maybe it’s worth it. (It’s so hard to know.)
So she invited me to her sex toy party, a business she has been running successfully for over a decade. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing my own research on women’s pleasure, on intimacy, on the kinds of things that make men and women hot, on the difference between sexual desire and long-term attachment, on the differences and congruences of physical intimacy and emotional intimacy. I’ve been doing research on love.
And here is the big question I have. Okay, well I have several, but here is the prominent one:
Is monogamy worth it? Is it really the best framework for society?
Because — and here is my other underlying question:
Is anybody happy?
And if so, who? And why are they happy? And are more of the happy people single, or are they in alternate kinds of relationships? And if someone is happy and married, what makes them happy about their arrangement? Do they limit sex to just each other, or do they have lovers on the side? How much sex are happy people having? What kind of sex drives do happily married couples have, if happily married couples exist? And if a couple is happily married, and neither of the partners have ever strayed, what have they done to keep the fire alive?
Oh, my questions could go on and on.
So I sat on the couch of Lady A’s sex party and took notes as she handed out creams and lubricants and showed us various vibrators. She passed around perfume and lip gloss and talked about how all these things could be used in the bedroom. And none of it made me hot. Like, not one of those products got me excited. And if I’m going to be buying sex toys, shouldn’t I be kind of excited?
And so I began to realize, sexual arousal, and desire for sex, goes much deeper than products.
So what really gets women off? Isn’t there a more creative way, a way of play, that could spark a fire for great romance and physical intimacy? A kind of erotic connection that is so pleasure-filled that a toy isn’t necessary, or when it’s used, it’s merely an accessory for a deeper kind of arousal?
Wouldn’t the daily, committed practice of being present and embodied, feeling whole, feeling magical inside, make us all so aroused we’re turned on all the time, ready to go?
I think so. And I’m willing to experiment. I have a lot of ideas.