Sexual Disinterest: The “secret” everyone talks about
More groups, organizations, and publications have recently addressed the dangers of encouraging pervasive drinking among mothers to help them cope with the rigors of daily life: mommy wine culture. We generally agree that the cultural acceptance and encouragement of wine (or alcohol in general) as a crutch is not a healthy approach to encourage. That said, the more mom friends I make, and the longer I read mom-centric publications, the more I recognize a series of unhealthy behaviors that are still being encouraged and supported. I have noticed that we’re openly accepting, even as a punchline, sexual disinterest in our intimate relationships. This disconnect has become expected and accepted.
“Not tonight, dear.” Is “no” the norm?
For years, I’ve heard women comment that they avoid sex with their husbands and partners at all costs. They are dodging sex or intimate contact with excuses, blame, and manipulation. They are leveraging access to their space and bodies for help around the house, tolerance of tedious tasks and events, or even gifts and treats like jewelry. Even women whose households run on somewhat equal gender roles have talked and joked about keeping their husbands in line with the threat of withholding sexual intimacy and contact.
“Having a headache” has been a sexual trap door on sitcoms as long as we’ve had sitcoms. As Valentine’s Day approached, this rhetoric has ramped up dramatically, talking about what “Moms Really Want” and likening sex on those lists to wanting an additional hole in one’s head or direct access to coronavirus, and the same sentiments will circle back around at Mother’s Day.
This behavior and lack of desire from my peers has always made me feel like a mutant pod person. Three weeks after the birth of my daughter, I was the one chasing my husband down, looking for creative ways around the postpartum no-fly zone. Despite busy lives balancing business, jobs, kids, body issues, community involvement, pets and all the other issues of every day, I’m prowling around, looking for any opportunity for sexual contact with my partner and cultivating the daily intimacy of back scratches, couch snuggles, holding hands in the car and being physically and intimately connected.
Sometimes I buy bras for comfort, but sometimes I consider how it would look to an observer or even maybe on the floor. Even though I’ve operated within the healthy, loving constructs of my relationship, I’ve felt like my sexual desire made me, somehow, “dirty,” and talking about it has made me feel ashamed.
How can we teach our kids a healthy perspective on sex if it’s not what we model?
As I’ve watched other women duck and evade sex with their chosen partner over the years, putting aside feeling like I’ve had three eyeballs, I’ve wondered how they got there. Have they always barely tolerated sex with their husband, even before marriage, and decided this is just how it goes? Was there a (very valid) postpartum hormonal or psychological issue that they haven’t rebounded from?
While we continue to discuss the dangers of toxic masculinity and sexual assault culture, how and why are we continuing to cast husbands in this lecherous role of insatiable sex seekers that wives and women are turning away at every opportunity?
Instead of normalizing this disinterest and turning sex into a punchline, why haven’t we been spending our time and energy figuring out how to bring women to a place of sexual health and interest?
When our kiddos watch mom recoil at an extra-long back scratch from dad (fearing that he’ll mistakenly think she’s interested in sex), avoid kisses that last a beat longer than a peck, or jerk her hips away from an appreciative caress of her hard-earned barre booty, what message does that send to our girls and boys about sexual partnership and health? I hear a lot of talk, too, about teaching our kids and teens about consent and sexual enjoyment and partnership, but the glorification of “wine culture” for the bedrooms tells me that’s not what we’re teaching at home.
Give the gift of intimacy.
As you think about what mom “really wants” to be gifted and extol the virtues of time alone, peeing without an audience or uninterrupted sleep, please consider why romantic moments with your someone, that special day or any day, sound so unpleasant or problematic. Maybe the best gift you can give to yourself and your partner this year is a good long look at your sex life–whether it’s satisfying to you both, and how you can get to a place, together, where intimate contact isn’t currency or something to be tolerated, but fun, fulfilling time that you can share. Sexual disinterest in your relationship is something that can’t feel good to either of you. There’s a lot of routes to get you there (conversation, counseling, sometimes just a change of pace), but maybe it’s the gift you both deserve.