This past week on the Today Show, Tiki Barber asked Dr. Ian Kerner* and me about the book 365 Nights: A Memoir Of Intimacy. In the book, a woman gives her husband the gift of sex every day for an entire year. Most male friends I've talked to about it light up, then in a matter of nanoseconds look crestfallen. The responses vary from "365? With anyone he wants?" to "A year? Every day? Just with her?" The initial idea, lots of sex every day, sounds good. Then reality sets in: it's sex with the same person every single day. Ev-er-y single day. Now same-person sex with a hot bedfellow on a regular basis is great--don't get me wrong. And you calling the shots as far as whatever you want to consider "sex" that day ("I'll have a BJ today, Honey") or with whatever variations you want ("How about the French maid outfit today, sweetie?") may work, but I don't think that that is what the author had in mind.
Needless to say, I listed the obvious downsides on air: it would become a
chore, like anything else you have to do regularly--laundry, bathing, food shopping. The only upside that was really interesting to me was the fact that if you do have problems the bedroom, you'd be forced to fix them. If the "gift"
were for a week or even a month, well, anyone can get through lame or even just average sex for that amount of time. But think, day 95, day 140, day 240...you have to start being creative and really communicating; it's like the sex version of "Survivor." Alone on a island with your spouse for a year, and the prize requires you to copulate every day. Weirder shows have happened.
So, how would this play out in your life? If you had a pact with your spouse to have sex every 24 hours for a year. What would you want?
Summarizing from my male patients, when it comes to sex, here's what they want:
1. Sex with same person, but having her be "the freak" she was when they met.
2. Sex with same person, but have her initiate and "mix things up" so that she sort of has different sexual personas.
3. Sex with other people, because if it were really a "gift," it would mean variety in the most honest sense.
1. Sex with as much physical/intellectual foreplay as the sex they had in the beginning.
2. Men to read their minds about what they want rather than having to instruct them.
3. Not to have sex when they are tired or stressed, or have too many things outside the bedroom to focus on/worry about.
4. Not to have sex when they aren't feeling sexy (fat, bloated, unshaven).
5. Not to feel guilt about preferring to take a nap then have sex, rather than sex then nap.
Since climaxing is not a given for most women, the idea of novelty isn't usually all that appealing. Ask any gal pal who is dating men: she'll fantasize about the "friends with benefits" before she will about a different guy every night. One woman summarized it, "If you have to 'work' to find good sex or mold your man into a good sexual partner, then the last thing you want to do is go find another clueless man to bed (or one who anatomically just doesn't work for you)."
So you put these two animals together, throw in a bunch of rigid social rules, and cross your fingers and hope it works. That's why we have show after show, magazine article after magazine article, on making it work/ keeping it hot/blah blah.
A few simple rules that I've heard myself giving men over and over now for years (and for those of you expecting me to tell you to buy the sex swing chair, you'll be disappointed):
1. Spontaneity isn't the answer. Don't grind up on her and whisper in her ear about what you want to do to her while she is washing the dishes. She's scraping leftover meatloaf off the kids' plates and trying to figure out how to get 18 things done and still get to bed and have 7 hours of sleep before going to work tomorrow. Now there are 19. Oh joy.
2. Don't buy her gimmicky sex toys or sadistic lingerie. The 20-year-old that sold you the fake diamond-studded g-string thinks it's "hot" but fact is it's a 50-cent thong with glass bits (something you don't want near your genitals or anyone else's) sewn into it by some small child missing two fingers trying to make $1.25 a day. We'll wear it once then wish we had the $59.99 to spend on something else. Plus, to us it reeks of: here is yet something else I want you to do for me....I don't care/didn't realize your labia majora doesn't fit into this tiny triangle of itchy lace
The number one rule for both sexes in keeping things hot: Do stay polite**. Do groom just for each other. Bo-ring. Yeah, but it's the truth. Man or woman, the one thing each yearns for and misses is that the other continues to care about their own appearance simply just for their partner. Then notice. Keep the manners you had when you started dating; they wane if you don't, and all of the sudden you find yourself being that couple in mismatched sweats, using the sleeve to wipe snot off your kid's nose in the mall. Sexy.
*Check out Passionista and Sex Detox, two books I recommend often by Ian Kerner.
**This obviously won't make your relationship spicy, but it will keep at bay what couples talk about as feeling "taken for granted," and their other getting "frumpy." Also, I'm not knocking sweatsuits in any way.