Equality & Sex

J sent me this article, and I’ve seen it posted in other places as well; it’s worth a read: “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?”

It’s an interesting proposition, and seemingly substantiated by well-known researchers in the areas of marriage, sexuality, and attraction: relationships marked by sameness and a high degree of intimacy are also marked by less heat. Thus, they tend to be marked by less sex.

The question that I still have after reading this article, though, is: Even if equality between two partners is correlated with less sex in the relationship, shouldn’t we be looking at other factors that lead to less sex?

My fear with this article, is that it will lead readers to say “equality causes less sex” (the correlation versus causation problem), rather than diving into the other factors that mark modern long-term relationships: sameness, intimacy, and an expectation that a partner meets 100% of our needs and vice versa. These factors seem to be the real erotic/passion “killers,” not equality.

Perhaps it is not men engaging in “feminine” housework that leads to a decrease in how much sex they have with their female partners, but the structure of the relationship which requires each partner to do everything for one another, as opposed to relying on other people in their social network. Modern LTRs are founded on the idea that one person will complete you and fulfill all of your needs, desires, and wants- they will be your best friend, motivator, spiritual coach, workout buddy, financial advisor, mechanic, and a sexual ATM (and perhaps a co-parent or business partner and more). Putting that kind of pressure on yourself and your partner is destined to kill some erotic energy- talk about stress and stretching your attention and focus, not to mention gluing yourselves together. Space seems invaluable in retaining the individuality and separateness necessary in order to still want one another.

The closing quote from Esther Perel is pertinent to this:

““It’s the first time in history we are trying this experiment of a sexuality that’s rooted in equality and that lasts for decades,” Esther Perel said. “It’s a tall order for one person to be your partner in Management Inc., your best friend and passionate lover. There’s a certain part of you that with this partner will not be fulfilled. You deal with that loss. It’s a paradox to be lived with, not solved.””

Except I would say that we can at least brainstorm around this paradox. I think ethical nonmonogamy does quite a bit to transform this paradox of LTRs into more of a continuum, in which you can choose a structure that matches the pros and cons you want out of a relationship: how much intimacy and closeness and eroticism and heat do I want in my relationship, and how am I going to go about getting those things? Will we live together? Have separate bedrooms? Share details about every minute of our days? Invite other people into our bedroom? Date other people? Travel and vacation separately?

What do you think?

This is another piece worth reading: “No Sex, Please, We’re on Medicare” Don’t fall into ageist baloney about older people not needing, desiring, or deserving sex, and heed one of the last lines: “Sexual health is part of health.” No, duh.

One thought on “Equality & Sex

  1. My first thought was about expectations. Most, if not all of us, grow up with essentially the same idea as to what a relationship is going to be like. That traditional model we get either from our parents, media, or other families we are involved with. I think that if we at some level expect something to be true, we are more satisfied when it is true. In this case, if you expect your partner to do a 50/50 split of the housework, you are going to be disappointed when that doesn’t happen. If you expect that it’s likely you as the female partner will do more of the housework you won’t be super disappointed when your partner doesn’t do their half and may even be extra happy and satisfied when they do.

    There is some part of me that finds myself satisfied when gender roles are played out within the context of my own relationship. Figuring that one out still.

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