Friday, April 27, 2012

Let's keep it all about sex, at least peripherally

So what do you think about this take?


Secrets of the Service

(LA Times/David Horsey) April 23, 2012
By David HorseyWe have learned a secret of the Secret Service: At least a few of those tight-lipped tough guys are not quite as straight-laced and serious as they appear to be. In fact, they apparently love to party like frat boys.
Three Secret Service agents have already lost their jobs after it was revealed that 11 agents and 10 U.S. military personnel engaged the services of as many as 20 prostitutes in one wild night while they were doing advance work for President Obama's visit to Colombia. According to preliminary reports, the dusk-to-dawn drunken sex spree came to light when one of the women -- who insisted that she was a high-paid call girl, not a common street hooker -- got upset when one agent refused to pay her a fee worthy of her status.
The woman complained to the police -- in Colombia, prostitution is a legal enterprise -- and the secret party became embarrassingly public.
To be fair, these particular agents were not part of the elite cadre that protects the president, and there is, as yet, no evidence other agents at other times engaged in the same sort of activity. Plus, as noted, what they were doing was not against the law. Nevertheless, the incident dominated news during the president's visit to Colombia and has given a big black eye to the Secret Service, which, until now, seemed to epitomize moral rectitude and selfless loyalty.
America's image in Latin America took yet another hit from this and it gives the president one more mini-crisis to manage that Republicans will certainly try to use against him. But, whatever the larger implications may be, I find I am most interested in an answer to the same question I had about Bill Clinton, John Edwards and other public men who let their libidos blind them to consequences: What were they thinking?
Surely, a few of the Secret Service agents had qualms when one of their buddies came up with the swell idea of calling in a troop of willing women in short, tight skirts for a night of booze and bunga-bunga at their hotel. Surely, one of them said, "Hey, guys, we're on a mission representing the United States of America in a foreign land. Maybe we should drink a little pineapple juice, play a few rounds of Uno and turn in early."
Or maybe not.
I can hear a lot of people saying, "Hey, they are men, after all, and everyone knows what men are like." Yeah, I know what the men with whom I am acquainted are like and -- sorry to spoil the stereotype -- they would not have done what these guys did. Whether from moral principle, fidelity to wives, concern for doing a good job, mere frugality or simple fear of getting caught, there are plenty of men -- certainly almost all the men I know -- who would not have done what these Secret Service agents did.
Is there something different about guys in law enforcement and the military? Since they are required to exude an intimidating kind of macho in their daily work, does that dictate a high testosterone ethic in every part of their lives? When you are expected to put your life on the line at any moment, does that automatically instill an eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-die attitude? Are they like members of a football or rugby team who revel in male bonding rituals that almost invariable include proving sexual mastery?
I'd say yes to all of the above. So, while we should demand restraint and professionalism from these kinds of men when they are carrying out official duties for our country, we should not be shocked if, occasionally, they fail. We did not hire them to do flower arranging or assist in the kindergarten (or to draw cartoons, for heaven's sake). We hired them to use a gun and take a bullet whenever necessary.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

All about sex and stuff

Haven't posted in forever. I figure it's time for a post in which I make many broad generalizations based on projections from my experience and recent conversations with friends, and present them as if they were capital-T Truths. I’ve been in a few relationships now, and while I probably am still full of **** a lot of the time, I know a lot more than I used to. Let me also say that the relationship I’ve finally arrived at is incredibly fulfilling and happy, so that’s nice. :-)

Anyway, let’s get started with the sweeping judgments, shall we?

It’s pretty common for couples – gay, straight, or otherwise – to have some measure of asynchronicity when it comes to how much sex each person wants. If it’s pretty close, then you’re like overlapping sine waves, so even if one is higher on average you end up with times when either one or the other may be more or less enthused, and you can meet somewhere in the middle and everyone’s happy.

Other times, you’re further apart. For simplicity, let’s call the partner with the higher idle speed the “man” and the one with the lower idle the “woman.”

The weird thing is, I believe that thinking styles and communication issues can make this seem like a bigger difference than it is. Women do tend to have more barriers – mostly emotional
ones – and with men everything’s more near the surface (“a sack of wheat, a bit of falling masonry, and we’re ready to go…”)
But at base, I think often we’re closer than it seems – at least in terms of how much we need it and enjoy it when it happens.

Women tend to need a clearer emotional and logistical space to be ready to have sex – recent emotional activities, kids, work, schedules, how long since a shower, etc, etc – all needs to be more or less sorted for them to relax and focus. Men typically need five minutes and a reasonably large object to hide behind. Or for some of us, just the five minutes is adequate. Our thought process goes something like “Hey, look, a woman --> sex.”

But men aren’t stupid, and we learn early that such a direct no-frills approach is a non-starter for most women. So we learn to do some amount of helping to create the space.

In a marriage/exclusive relationship, if we’re asynchronous, the hotter-running partner may also tend restrict how much they ask. If we know she’s not in the mood, we don’t want to create a dynamic where she’s always saying no – we don’t want to mess up the space by pushing when we think it’s useless. (Plus, who likes to be turned down? Rejection isn’t fatal but it’s still no fun.)

But the problem with the filtering system is that when we DO ask, it means more to us. So if one partner declines 3 times in a month (or whatever), they think “what’s the big deal?” But that might actually represent 15 times that the other partner *wanted* to be intimate, even if he/she only asked 3 times.

And obviously it’s okay to not want to have sex sometimes. Everyone has life priorities and pressures, and we don’t expect our partners to drop everything instantly every time we want them. That would be selfish and ridiculous. Unless we’re narcissists, we honor our partner’s right to decline.

But appointing myself spokesman for higher-idle partners (ie, men) everywhere, I’ll say that what we DO want is:

1) Turn us down graciously, with the reassurance that you love us and that it will happen soon.
If you try to create a frame where your partner’s supposed to feel guilty or selfish and wrong for wanting you, you are totally and completely doing it wrong. It’s nice when you act flattered
and regretful that it can’t happen rather than simply brushing us off; acting annoyed is very bad behavior.

2) We want you to understand that when you turn us down, for you it may be a discrete event (ie, We thought about having sex, but it wasn’t convenient, end of story.) But for many men, from the moment you decline until we actually do have sex, it’s like a clock is ticking: a context has been established wherein we want sex but you don’t, and you are fully aware of it. (Note that for guys, desire doesn’t typically just disappear -- it builds – so from now until we have sex we want you this amount or greater.)
At that stage we’re not upset, we’re just lustful.
And if you engage us sexually later that night, you feel like it’s all even: I asked once, you asked once, seems fair. But we may not consider that you initiated anything at all – in our mind you just *finally* said yes to the standing, unfulfilled expression of desire for you that you turned down earlier.
And if we *don’t* initiate, and you don’t either, we go to sleep grumpy, and you don’t know why – the next morning you say “what are you cranky about? you never even tried anything!” That’s because we assume you must *know* we still want you, and we waited for you to initiate because we don’t want to pressure you any more or make you feel bad if you aren’t ready yet.

This is why it can seem to one partner like the other one only remembers the “no’s”. A couple might have sex every day, but it could still feel to one of them like they spent most of the week not getting what they needed: because once we get a “no”, then every possible opportunity that goes by between then and when it actually happens feels like another “no”.
(And remember, for men it doesn’t have to be a very big space to be considered an opportunity.” )
We may be happy with sex 3 times a week, but let’s say we ask in the morning and sex doesn’t actually happen until the following night; and let’s say that during the intervening two days, five legitimate opportunities (that we invested hope in) go by, but get ignored. At the end of the day we got exactly what we wanted, and we're well on pace for 3x a week, but we spent most of two days feeling like our needs were unimportant, like we only have sex one seventh as much as we need. It’s not logical, but hello, it’s about *feelings*, which are notoriously subjective. And which you’d think women would know all about :-)
And if we want it again the next morning, and you say “we just had sex last night”, to us last night doesn’t count as last night, because last night was just catch-up for two mornings ago. :-)
Not saying this is reasonable, but the I-want-sex-and-you-don’t clock may start ticking even if we don’t ask. When we suppress a request because we can tell you’re not in the mood, we can unconsciously already be in that space. And we feel like you should know we always want you – really, how many times have we ever turned you down? – most of our penises have an open-door policy. So:
a. I want you.
b. Yes, right now.
c. When in doubt, see (a).

A lot of stress on this issue would go away if we could just change our view on the whole ticking clock thing. But this is how a lot of us naturally feel, and it can be as hard to change as it might be for you to learn to get over your roadblocks and conditions and learn to regularly enjoy spur-of-the-moment sex in the car or the kitchen or the garage or whatever.

3) We wish for you to prioritize making a space for sex, not make that 100% our responsibility, not just expecting it to happen.
Especially if you’ve already declined an offer -- know that we’re not upset, but we *are* eyeing you lustfully, and waiting for you to make a move.

So what else can one do? When not feeling like it is *your* issue, do what you can to address it (Take a nap? Talk out something you’re worried about? Limit the days where your schedule exhausts you? Go to bed earlier?)
Tell your partner explicitly what he or she can do to help create the space (help me with the housework so it’s not on my mind, make this call for me, listen to me vent, help me pay the credit card, fix the fridge, make me a card, take me to dinner, give me some quiet time, open the wine, whatever).
Maybe you need your partner to ask again, not wait for you to make the next move after you’ve declined – if so, let him/her know that.

Learn to be okay with sometimes giving it a shot even if you’re not in the mood right then. A couple I knew had a 10-minute rule: each agreed to be willing to give it 10 minutes, with right to call a halt after 10 minutes if they still weren’t into it, with no whining or guilting from the other partner.

Some people feel “well, there’s always later, when it will be better/more convenient”, forefronting quality over quantity. But for others, that’s a moment lost, an opportunity foregone, out of a limited and ever-shorter set of opportunities in our lives.

This is important: We would love it if occasionally (okay, often) out of the blue you said “I want you right now on this couch” or “ok, cowboy, show me whatcha got” or just grab us and start in. Or wake us up with your tongue. One you-know-what while driving is worth 50 sandwiches. One random “get over here and [take] me” is worth 100. (Actually 106.25, but I rounded… :-)
Did you pay attention to the above? No, you didn’t, you just said “yeah, yeah, men are pervs” or something in your mind. Go back and read it again, and pay attention this time. Do you want your man to idolize you? Do you want your marriage to be better? Did you overcharge the credit card? Do you want him to fix the broken sprinkler? Do you want him to say yes to getting a kitten? Read the paragraph above every day, and try it out. I guarantee you will be the most adored among women.

Note that this is a boundaries issue: people must give what they feel comfortable giving. When you give more than you’re comfortable with, you aren’t maintaining healthy boundaries. Be honest with your partner (and yourself) about how you can comfortably live; if it feels icky to do something, you shouldn’t do it. But if that becomes apparent to you, own it and do your partner the respect of letting him or her know, so you can at least talk about it.

And this part won’t resonate at all for the devout among us, but I believe it’s absurd for one partner to expect monogamy, while at the same time expecting to dictate the amount of sex in a relationship. If you want your partner to save it all for you, then make a space to receive what they have to give and be willing to meet their needs. To do otherwise is unconscionable: it’s controlling, self-centered, and immoral.

And I’m sure there are things that each partner could do to make the other feel more loved and cherished and valued and appreciated and adored. Don’t be shy to tell each other about them. Even if you’ve told them before, or you think they should already know. Individuals (especially men vs women) just think differently, and most people not above a few subtle (or extremely broad) hints.

That’s all I have to say about that. For the moment. If you disagree, feel free to say so...