I seem to have been talking sex a lot recently, with soul-sisters, my women’s group and my partner. It strikes me that though we may not want to DO it as much, us married women with kiddies sure love to talk about it! It matters to us. It excites and intrigues us and makes us glow – as one friend says, she knows I’m about to start talking sex (which is quite often, if truth be told!) because my face lights up! But talking and doing are not the same.
There comes a time in your life when sex isn’t, well, so sexy. And it’s certainly not carefree. Nor spontaneous. Sex becomes more functional as you enter your thirties – tied up with conceiving… or desperately NOT conceiving another. It can feel like a strategic military operation at times to get both partners in the same place, minus kids and plus small amounts of energy. Nor is it about lust-filled exploration – as you know each other’s bodies back to front. So what IS sex about…?
In one word: connection – to ourselves and each other.We’re all pretty good at superficial connection via Facebook, and superficial titillation in this sex-saturated world. But real connection is anything but superficial. The longer you know someone, the less places there are to hide. Sex cannot be used as escapism once you have been together for a prolonged period. It requires connection. I know in myself, I turn away from this connection when I feel overwhelmed with the world and myself: the thought of being that open, that connected, is more than I can take. And so when I go off sex, it is a great reminder to me that I am disconnected – not just from my partner, but also my own body, and from other areas of intimacy in my life. If I can’t show up in bed, I am not showing up elsewhere. If I can’t let myself go in the bedroom, chances are the rest of my creativity is being inhibited too.
Sex requires that we turn up as we are, in the bodies we currently inhabit. And with an openness of spirit. It requires complete openness and vulnerability. A desire to engage fully. To BE together. And that’s before you get to the physical aspects which might be blocking your path…
Post-baby bodies: it might be as simple as stretch-marks or as serious as tearing and scar tissue, or a body memory stored in your genitals from a traumatic birth – going down there post-babies can be a lot less straight forward. We are aware of our bodies in a more functional, less romanticised way. As are our partners. It can be hard for either or both of us to detach from their baby making qualities, to their erotic ones, especially when breastfeeding and our partners might cop a squirt of milk in the eye during foreplay!
Cycles: It is natural for libidos to be dampened down whilst breastfeeding. But when our menstrual cycle resumes, so do our monthly hotspots. It is great to be aware of when these occur and take your lead from your hormones. When your libido rises just before ovulation, and just before (or for some women during) menstruation. For more information on your cycle do check out my book Moon Time: a guide to celebrating your menstrual cycle.
Feeling touched out: Mothers, especially those who are co-sleeping, breastfeeding, or mothers of under 3s can feel totally overwhelmed by touch at the end of a long day mothering, and when evening comes just want their physical space rather than being touched some more.
Exhaustion: Many mamas get into a spiral of I’m too tired, I don’t want to have sex. Their partners subtly or not so subtly express that sex hasn’t been had in a long time, and she begins to feel resentful about being put upon - doesn’t he understand I’m tired? I don’t have any more to give. I really just don’t want to… A vicious spiral of disconnection can build from here, with both too frustrated and misunderstood to communicate. How do YOU break out of this? How do you find a way through where both of you feel your needs are being heard and honoured?
Turning it around…
Reframing: I often feel hounded if I am not in the mood. And know that many other women do too. But when it was explained to me that that hungry look was not a demand, but an appreciation, a visual “I love you, I love your body.” Rather than perceive it as a threat which I had to defend myself and my tired body from, I could totally reframe it, and it made me feel energised, loved and grateful. What woman doesn’t want to feel loved, to know she is loved? And that is all most of our partners want for us too: to express their love. For them it can often be with actions of physical love making, rather than words or other gestures. But you may need to have the words and gestures first. Reframing it in your own mind can make you feel a whole different way, instead of him “needing” or “demanding” something, can you consider it a devotion, meditation, a shared enjoyment, an invitation for play or fun, a chance to feel loved?
And can he reframe what he considers “necessary” for “sex” – is sex just intercourse leading to orgasm? What other ways can you connect physically and emotionally? Negotiate non-intercourse ways of interacting lovingly. Everyone needs touch, some of us more than others – making sure you are giving, and receiving loving touch is vital for all relationships.
Get away – a change of scene is so important to get our energy flowing. Our energy stagnates if we live day in, day out, in the same place, in the same way, and in the early years of parenthood we can be very stuck at home. Getting away together – to a hotel, or house sitting a friend’s house, or having a naughty Saturday afternoon together sans kids at home is often just what the doctor ordered. Time out of mundane reality to reconnect on every level.
The erotic – pillow books were a common thing of the Japanese, I like this idea of shared enjoyment of eroticism. In our culture pornography tends to be a male-dominated, female-exploiting field, and is often mixed with aggression, domination or abusive models of sexual interaction. But we all have an erotic side – a side that loves sensuality, titillation, naughtiness, the erotic – can you find a way to share this in a way that celebrates, not denigrates you as a woman? That makes you feel good? Do share your suggestions below for woman friendly eroticism that you share with your partner.
Keep exploring, and enjoying and pleasuring your own body – the more to love and enjoy your body and sensuality, the more you understand, without pressure or expectation what you like, and love, the more alive your body feels on a regular basis, the more alive and in your body you will feel.
There is, and always has been, a pressure on women to have sex – both to make babies and to give pleasure, often regardless of her own desires. Even when our partner may not be intending to put pressure on, there is the cultural pressure on men and women to be doing it more. Enough, enough already. Sex is nothing to prove, nothing to achieve. There are no minimum requirements.
But that is not to say it is not important. But our vision of sex, our definition is narrow. And what is important is that which makes us glow when we talk about it, and that we experience after making love – the glow of our heightened life force flowing through our veins, the feelings of ecstasy, of abandon, and sensuality. The sense of being one with another, one with the world. The comfort and pleasure of being touched by and touching. These matter. These impact all of our relationships and our life as a whole. However you can, make sure to weave THAT sort of magic through your life and your partnership. Find how to connect, and reconnect in a way that pleasures and celebrates you both.