What Do Women Want? More Sex!
Satisfaction’s Neil and Grace Truman aren’t the only ones who seem to “have it all” but want more. As a couples therapist in Los Angeles, I often see their real-life counterparts in my practice. Being happy but not happy enough, feeling satisfied but not passionate, having an enjoyable but predictable life – these are the complaints from the front lines of the modern American marriage.
Today we want to marry our best friend and equal partner – who also rocks our world in bed – but it turns out that monogamous, decades-long sex with a best friend and harried working co-parent isn’t always the hottest aphrodisiac. No surprise there. But what may be surprising is that it’s women, more than men, who seem to feel more deeply the effects of lack of sexual passion in a marriage. And so it is Satisfaction’s Grace, not Neil, who starts having sex outside the marriage, even though she loves her husband.
Never mind surveys like the one from psychiatrist Julie Holland telling us that 63% of married women in the United States say they’d rather watch a movie, read, or sleep than have sex with their husbands. Had the survey question asked whether they’d rather have sex with, say, anyone from their co-worker or gynecologist to their kid’s 25-year-old soccer coach, my guess is that they’d happily hand over those remotes.
Why? It’s not that women don’t want sex. They do – just with men who make them feel desirable, men who lust after them and want to devour them. And those men tend not to be their best-friend husbands. Recent research by psychologist Marta Meana shows that compared to men, women are more likely to lose interest in monogamous sex sooner; they have a higher threshold for excitement and novelty in their sex lives than men do; and most women are turned on by sex with strangers – because a stranger truly wants them, versus having the convenience of being in bed next to them every night at 10pm – making their husbands inherently less desirable over time.
But all is not lost. Husbands who don’t treat married sex, like, well, married sex, can bring out those sexy vibes in their wives. In a 2004 survey by researcher Marina Adshade of activities that make women happy, the top-ranked choice was “intimate relations (i.e., sex).” Interestingly, sex beat out pleasurable pursuits such as socializing after work, having dinner, relaxing, watching TV, talking on the phone, shopping and even, by a large margin, napping (so sleep isn’t, in fact, “the new sex”). Likewise, in a recent study by the anthropologist Helen Fisher, women named “more sex” among the top three things that would make them happier. In addition, women don’t need lengthy foreplay to get things going. A study out of McGill University using thermal imaging to measure increased blood flow to the genital regions (imagine participating in that experiment), revealed that both sexes show signs of arousal within seconds of exposure to erotic visual stimuli, and both reach peak arousal at about the same time (in case you’re curious, it’s within ten minutes, on average).
I don’t know if Neil and Grace Truman want it all as much as they want it to be different. They want to be noticed through fresh eyes but with the depth of somebody who’s known you for decades. Complacency is a huge turn-off, but the sexual connection they’re seeking may be right there in front of them – if they’re aware enough to realize it, and brave enough to act on it. I have a feeling they’re going to learn this the hard way, and lucky for us, it’ll be fascinating to watch them get there.