Is it healthy?

Our sex has morphed into creepy addiction. What happened to the love part?

By Cary Tennis
August 12, 2004 11:59PM (UTC)
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Hi, Cary,

I'm wondering about the thin line between a healthy enjoyment of sex and sexual addiction. I am with a man who was extremely intimate physically in the beginning of our relationship -- lots of gazing into eyes, slow physical intimacy, leisurely lovemaking, cuddling and kissing. As time went on, he seemed more and more interested in role playing and it was as if the love part completely evaporated. He became very pushy and demanding, talking about how there were lots of other women who would have sex with him and implying that there was something wrong with my sex drive.


This makes me sad, one because I fell for him, two because I thought we were really sexually compatible, three because there seems to be such a growing normalization of sex without love. It's like a sport. Feminists these days are claiming sex without love as a feminist act. Are there any romantics left? Is there any spiritual or emotional component to sex, or am I just missing out by thinking so? Maybe I should jump on the bandwagon and treat it more like a sport. Am I just a sap? Also, for people who think that they are just really forward-thinking about sex and the rest of the world is repressed, what is the wake-up call to them that this might be a problem? What are some telltale signs that they can look for?


Dear Sap,


Why do you call yourself a sap, dear? You're no sap. You just got with the wrong guy.

But you ask so many interesting questions. Yes, it may be true that, as you say, feminists are claiming sex without love as a feminist act. There is a reason for that. When the only socially acceptable way for a woman to enjoy sex was to get married, and marriage gave more power to the man than to the woman, then the cost to the woman of sexual pleasure was unfairly high. Particularly in marriages in which the state and society gave the husband legal authority over his wife, sexual pleasure came at the cost of her basic autonomy as a person. So it was important to make sex available to women outside the context of marriage and romance, so that women had options for sexual fulfillment comparable to the options that men had. That remains an important freedom.

Imagine what it would be like without that freedom. You might have gotten together with this man, had good sex with him, become romantically involved, married him, and then found yourself unable to leave this increasingly unpleasant relationship. Severing sex from the context of romance gives women more options to enjoy and learn about sex without entering into legally binding relationships.


Having said all that, let me reiterate: I think you have the wrong guy. There are lots of genuinely romantic men out there. And then there are those who act romantic to get where they want to go.

There are many decent men in the world who were raised well and have healthy sexual identities and would love to be your boyfriend. But there are others who will happily do what's necessary to appear to be the ideal man while really they are just putting on a big show. If I were you, I would not spend much time wondering what happened and hoping he will change. I would move on and take a different approach in the future.


I suggest you ditch this guy and try a new method of dating: No sex until you know what he's like. Go out with a man for a few months before you begin the lovemaking. See if he gets to be an irritable son-of-a-bitch when he doesn't get his own way, when you don't do what he wants, or when he hasn't had a drink for a day or two.

As to a cheapening of relations between men and women in America, I don't really know enough to say. What I have noticed firsthand here in San Francisco is a kind of sweetness in the air that you didn't see in, say, the punk generation. So perhaps -- and again, I'm really reaching here -- you might find more true romantics among people in their early 20s than you will among people in their 30s and 40s. I would be interested to know what people in other parts of the country have observed.

At any rate, I hope that helps. Because you sound like one sweet woman and you deserve a decent man.


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