Today in sex: A roundup

Married couples who do it every day, affairs that can be forgiven and a history of vibrators that bring "a glow to the face."

Published June 9, 2008 9:49PM (EDT)

Poor married people. Each day we get another story about the never-before-seen sexual shenanigans of whole categories of people who, according to certain types who fund studies and write newspaper articles, should not be having sex at all -- teens, gays and unmarrieds among them. Therapists tell us that what women want is a husband. But what happens when you follow the Rules, find the one who really is Just That Into You, and get the ring, the health insurance and the legal document that says you can ball like bunnies each and every night till death do you part?

Not much, apparently. Married couples wake up each morning to read about the illicit sex lives of others, while they get the ever-popular story about the sexless marriage. Which may explain why this article from the New York Times turned out to be the paper's most e-mailed article of the day (and yesterday). You can tell by the title ("Yes, Dear. Tonight Again") that the couples in question are getting some -- maybe even a little too much. Two couples -- the Bible-thumping Mullers of North Carolina and the granola-munching Browns of Colorado -- decided to make a pact for daily sex. We've all read the studies that show that sex, like breathing, eating, sleeping and (thank you! thank you!) red wine, is good for you. So why not treat it like any other vitamin and schedule it into the spreadsheet?

While both couples reported a new sense of intimacy (no shit, Sherlock!), the reporter, Ralph Garner Jr., points out that the fact the couples "thought a sex marathon would reinvigorate their marriage might say as much about the American penchant for exercise and goal-setting as it does about the state of romance." (Take that, national average!) After reading Doug Brown's comment that, on the couple's 101st day of sex, he felt "sort of like [I] had some long forgotten appointment to hear some attorney talk about estate planning," I'm inclined to agree. Maybe if that tax attorney had some hot tips for avoiding the death tax, he could regain that illicit thrill.

Or perhaps take a London holiday. While Americans were reading about how taking one's spouse each day could keep the doctor away, Brits opened their Sunday Guardian to read that an affair could be considered "a necessary but radical medical procedure," according to author Mira Kirshenbaum, who adds, "If your marriage is in cardiac arrest, an affair can be a defibrillator." Kirshenbaum's recently released book, "When Good People Have Affairs" (not recommended for nightstand reading), is a sort of self-help book for cheaters. While Kirshenbaum doesn't explicitly advocate affairs, she maintains that "most" of those who have already done the deed are "good people who have made a mistake." She lists a mind-boggling 17 reasons why people have affairs and maintains that, in most cases, the marriage should be saved (it can withstand the "let's kill this relationship and see if it comes back to life" affair, accidental affair and midlife-crisis affair, while the break-out-into-selfhood affair, unmet-need affair, having-experiences-I-missed-out-on affair and ejector-seat affair are deal breakers). In nearly all cases -- unless you had unsafe sex or are about to be busted -- she counsels the cheater to deny, deny, deny -- even when one's partner asks directly.

If all that relationship talk seems too complicated, we recommend this enlightening and totally hysterical -- in both the Freudian and the "you'll laugh so hard you'll frighten your cubicle-mate" sense -- piece on the history of solo sex. The author, Vivienne Parry, recounts the peculiarly female trouble of "womb furie" and its treatment by male physicians throughout the ages. Apparently these geniuses discovered that rubbing a woman's genitals could bring her to "paroxysm" -- a state characterized by "twitching" accompanied by "pain and pleasure" and a sense that a woman is "free of all the evil she felt." Alas while women could polish their own silver, rubbing the genitals was seen as "a man's job, suitable for only husbands and doctors." But why do by man what could better be done by machine? Parry provides a list of vibrators throughout the ages, including the steam-powered Manipulator, the ceiling-mounted Carpenter and the electric vibrator, introduced 10 years before the electric washing machine and vacuum. In 1909, she tells us, Good Housekeeping even ran a "tried and tested" on vibrators, which, it claimed, would bring a "glow to the face." Consumer Reports? Cosmo? You listening?

By Amy Benfer

Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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