Rhonda Perky’s guide to DIY
‘If women just fucking got over themselves… to [women like that] it is about men having needs that are lesser because they are physical rather than emotional and that sex is somehow an animal thing… a degrading thing, and that if you engage in sex you have somehow let the man “win” and all that other stuff that is so great about having good sex with your partner is lost.’ – The Desert Foxx
I am going to put it out there. I think women should take responsibility for maintaining their own libidos.
Not as some ‘feminists’ would argue, to kowtow to the whims and desires of men, but for themselves. To feel alive. To be more than a role-extension to the lives of those around them.
The death of a women’s libido is a well-documented phenomenon. Bettina Arndt’s The Sex Diaries details case after case of women whose libidos have withered and died, while their male counterparts shrivel in hopeful longing. Arndt goes on to argue that this is evolutionary and natural, that women are geared to lose their libidos. Unfair, but biologically unavoidable.
In ‘When difference of desire is sold as a deficiency’ (The Age, June 6, 2010), Leslie Cannold also writes, ‘While men tend to find their partners more desirable over time, women often need a new partner to rekindle desire.’
You may recall from my post, (‘Married Sex: a Fairytale in Three Parts‘), I suffered a massive loss of libido while I was in a long-term relationship. I was a text-book case, and would probably accept the theory that libido loss is unavoidable, except I have since managed to do just that. I have regained — and successfully maintained — my libido through two subsequent relationships.
I would instead argue that I contributed to the death of my own libido.
When I first met my then future husband, my hormones when crazy. I took it for granted that they would stay that way. They didn’t.
I can point to a long list of things which may have slowly poisoned it. Being in a long-term relationship was just one of them. I got sucked into living my life day by day. I did what I thought I was supposed to. I became a wife and a mother to my cats, and a faithful employee, and a daughter, and a sister, and there was never enough time or energy, or desire. I had secured a partner (*tick*). I could worry about him (and me), later.
First, I had to look after everything else.
During that time I didn’t even think about sex. It wasn’t as though I didn’t want sex with my partner. I didn’t want sex at all. I didn’t even want to masturbate. It became way too easy to surround myself with the bland unsexiness of routine and responsibility. It was what was accepted and even expected of me.
Besides, there was always tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the week after that. There was no urgency anymore.
There was also no stimulation.
This is where society – including women – has got it wrong. Men are stimulated constantly. It’s no wonder they can seem like walking Viagra-fuelled hard-ons. They are sold sex and more sex, while women are sold motherhood and washing detergent.
Looking back, I wonder if I would have felt differently if I had ready access to sexual stimulants in the same way as men (0). Because now that I have my desire back, I realise how precious it is. Something to be nurtured and maintained. I never want to feel that downstairs deadness again.
The Sex Diaries advocates women not waiting for the stimulation to come to them. Leslie Cannold agrees: ‘Sometimes, women won’t want sex until they’ve started having it.’ I would advocate taking it one step further, and making use of third-party stimulation to get themselves there BEFORE their husbands / long-term partners make their clumsy advances (1).
For me this is where DIY comes into play. It’s all too easy for life to get in the way and for the sex part of your brain to be clogged with everything but, however it is possible to make it happen solo if you make the effort and take the time. And once you start you will start to want it, and then want it more and more, and yes, you may even want your partner again and not inwardly (or outwardly) groan when he pokes you in the back, saying, ‘Hon…?’
And here I risk being slaughtered by my feminist peers again when I say, if you’re having trouble finding the time or the mental energy, why not try using porn? It’s quick and easy and direct (2).
First you have to get over the stigma. After all, you don’t use porn for the articles, which means admitting to using porn = admitting to DIY. There is a public perception that many women do not use porn to masturbate (3). There is only a growing perception (acceptance) that women masturbate at all. I don’t want try to guesstimate the accuracy of those perceptions, because I think masturbation, whether assisted by pornography or not, is still a taboo topic for many women, and therefore skews this perception. Hooray to Cosmo for all those G-spot and Clitoris specials that made women seeking self-pleasure more socially acceptable, but I think there is still a reluctance among women to admit, even to themselves, what sorts of things truly turn them on.
In ‘Even Better Than…?’ I alluded to some of the more ‘acceptable’ sources of stimulation available to women, and how this differs significantly from that which is available to men. I’m not convinced this difference is our natural inclination. Were we to climb The Magic Faraway Tree and step out into ‘Topsy-Turvy land’, we might see men fantasising about romantic leading ladies sweeping them off their feet, while women dream of anally penetrating hardcore male sex slaves. I suspect the difference in the materials available to us has more to do with the diet of acceptability on which we are raised than any innate difference in our sensibilities.
For instance, The Desert Foxx and I spent an afternoon perusing Good Loving, Great Sex, by Dr Rosie King (‘Australia’s leading sex expert’), which discusses libido enhancers and suppressors. Following an extensive survey, Dr King came up with a shortlist of what turns men on versus what does it for women, and conversely, what turns each of them off (4). To our surprise, Foxx and I found we related more to the guys’ list than the girls’. Rather than conclude we were more ‘male’ than ‘female’ in our thinking, we wondered at the voracity of the survey results, which seemed VERY clichéd, and VERY 1953. It was almost as though when presented with a list of checkboxes, women gravitated to the socially acceptable and familiar, rather than the stuff that would actually get them ‘percolating in the nether regions’ (– Mr ‘Longrod’ McHugen Dong).
It occurred to me there was no ‘control group’ in this experiment. No group of participants divorced from societal pressures to tick particular boxes.
Similarly, The Sex Diaries examines the libido of women throughout the lifecycle of a relationship. It does not consider a woman’s libido on its own; in one sense, in its natural habitat. It wasn’t when I entered a new relationship that I rediscovered my libido; it was in the privacy of my bed-made-for-one.
But this lack is reflective of our society. What is the norm and what is considered ‘acceptable’ is pervasive, and creates a loop in which we are trapped and in which we trap ourselves. Foxx and I are quite unabashed with each other when discussing sex, and this was reflected in our survey results, but not everyone is like us.
I would go on to argue that these societal expectations are reflected in the masturbatory marketplace.
Perhaps if there was a wider acceptance and acknowledgement of women needing secondary stimulation, the porn market might shift to more women-friendly material (5), which may in turn make it more appealing to women entering the market, and we may find a rekindling of our libidos by the increased presence of external stimulation (6). We might end up as horny as (if not more so) than men.
Yes, life gets in the way of desire, and this is rubbish, but when I hear women describe sex as a chore, something their partners demand of them, and that they (grudgingly) mete out, I am horrified. I want to scream, ‘Don’t you want to enjoy sex for yourselves? Don’t you want to feel alive?’
Because you can. You simply have to want to enough.
(0) Whether or not I maintained my desire for my partner is another thing entirely. We had all kinds of issues. But while we weren’t having sex, we weren’t communicating either. Domestic-bliss 101 we could share. True intimacy eluded us.
(1) A word to the wise, men: nagging at a woman for sex / complaining about not getting sex / not making an effort to entice your woman to want sex are sure-fire ways of ensuring you do not get sex. Try wooing your woman as you once did to get into her knickers in the first place. You succeeded then, you will probably succeed again now. Just because you’ve worked through the bases once, doesn’t mean you get to ‘skip to the end’ every time. Try working the bases again. You might be surprised.
(2) Remember, it’s geared towards men.
(3) I once bought an FHM over the counter, only to have the man who served me say, ‘Um, there are some Woman’s Days out the back… I can go and grab one for you…’
(4) A list which pretty much described my marriage.
(5) What a good friend describes as ‘Couples’ porn, rather than ‘Single Guy’ porn.
(6) The shift in the type of porn that is produced may also go some way to helping reduce men’s difficulty in relating to women from over-exposure to hardcore material where ‘consumers are catapulted into a world of cruel and brutal sex acts designed to dehumanise women,’ (‘Porn has hijacked sexuality and is destroying men,’ Gail Dines, The Age, October 14, 2010).