As the daughter of a sex therapist, the question I am most often asked at cocktail parties and in the carpool line is: What was it like growing up with a sex therapist as a mom? The question comes with the supposition that my mother dispensed a lot of sex advice, and that growing up with sex as an everyday dinner table topic somehow unlocked a goddess-like sexual prowess. That knowing what was in the box of sex toys in the closet somehow translated to mad sex skills. That having a library of pornography in the family room made me weirdly sexually proficient (whatever that would mean) or taught me lots of sex tricks (whatever those might be). I wish I could say that I know the secret to having more orgasms, or better yet, superhuman orgasms. Or that I am a repository of sexual secrets that cannot be found elsewhere, not even on the internet. But truth be told, who needs sex talk at the dinner table when all the advice you need can be found online?
One just has to google “best sex advice” to see that women’s magazines and their online companions seem to have it covered. Redbook promises the "Hottest Sex of Your Life;" Cosmopolitan’s "50 Best Sex Tips" are as fun, raunchy and useful as ever. Marie Claire has eight tips for being the "Best He’s Ever Had." Even Buzzfeed schools us with their best sex tips, the ones that are actually helpful. If women’s words were the ground out of which all advice grew, the internet now gives men advice in their own image. Thus, Esquire tells their brothers they are never too old to learn new tricks and Maxim reveals "10 Strangely Fascinating Sex Facts You Need to Know."
What to make of all the sybaritic possibilities unearthed online? How can we possibly feel adequate amid a world full of flashing fonts that look distinctly like body parts promising to increase our inner sex diva's drive? Why even try to measure up when corporations pour billions into letting us know that when the moment is right you shouldn’t have to pause to take a pill or stop to find a bathroom?
All this might make you wonder whether there is any advice out there for us mortals. If you dig way down, like to the 84 millionth hit, you might come across a blog post like Psychology Today’s “Why Couples Have Sex Even When One Partner Isn't in the Mood.” Dr. Sarah Murray notes that in the real world we don’t always get to have hot, raunchy, better-than-yesterday's sex. And woe to the sap who thinks she’s an utter failure if she’s not quite grooving that way. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of internet sex advice, the notion that great sex is all about hallucinatory climaxes and Guinness World Record-breaking acrobatics can leave the rest of us questioning the efficacy of our perceptions and our gross motor skills.
What listicles and snarky sex advice stories rarely address is the cryptic convergences that go into great sex. Take Murray’s mind-blowing suggestion that there are countless reasons to have sex beyond just the desire to get off (she cites a study that found 237 unique reasons people report for getting down and dirty). All good for a Psychology Today blog post, but that headline — "6 Reasons Why Getting Off Isn’t All That" — probably won’t make the top 10-millionth hit on a Google search (although it may be found in the vicinity of "Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Too Tired for Sex"). But, sadly, none of that is as deeply buried in the cloud as my favorite sex advice listicle: "5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Take Sex Advice from the Internet." That one pretty much nails it.