I Have A Perpetual Headache.
When I was 17, everyone in my high school repeated the seemingly-sophisticated wisdom that boys’ sexual drive peaks at 17, women’s at 45. Having obsessed about sex since 13 or 14, I could not fathom having a stronger sex drive 30 years into the future. And boys my age could not possibly have fantasized about sex more than I did. Even in first period math class, I thought about sex constantly, to the detriment of derivative curves and everything else. But I kept the news about my wet panties to myself, since all of society seemed to be telling girls my age that we were sluts for thinking about sex at all.
Now, pushing 45, I can attest that the common wisdom about women’s sex drives peaking in our 40s was way wrong. My sex drive, always healthy, soared in my late teen years and it’s gradually declined since then. Kind of the way people describe a normal curve of men’s sex drives, sans Viagra. Except that mine plummeted during the intense childbirthing and breastfeeding years, as I discovered that sex is not so compatible with leaky breasts, episiotomy scars, pathologic sleep deprivation, and Powerpoint presentations prepared at 2 am between feedings.
But try telling that to husbands, Viagra marketers, the medical establishment, authors and heaven forbid, preachers. They all seem unnaturally obsessed with telling 40-something married women that there is something wrong with us that we don’t want sex all the time.
On November 16, a minister at the Fellowship Church in Texas instructed his flock to have sex every day through November 22. Books about having sex for 365 days straight have gotten a lot of attention from sites ranging from The New York Times to Mommy Trackd’s own Risa Green.
Yuck, yuck and 365 yucks.
My idea of “normal” is better reflected in a new anthology tackling sex in longterm relationships. The collection of essays, Behind the Bedroom Door, is edited by a savvy Self Magazine editor named Paula Derrow. An excerpt appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times Modern Love column, titled "Deeply, Truly (but Not Physically) in Love," by a wife and mother named Lauren Slater who loves her husband passionately and has a life of so-called “tepid” sex that strikes me as pretty normal. According to Slater: A University of Chicago study published in 1999 found that 40 percent of women suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction, usually low libido. There are treatments for this sort of thing: Viagra or a prescription for testosterone. But the real issue for me is that I’m not sure I have a dysfunction.