Tired of obsessing over how often you're doing it? We are too!
Let’s start with this: The other day, I was standing in line at Starbucks and two women behind me were talking about sex. Or, more specifically, they were sharing intimate details about their sex lives. Given that the line was moving painfully slowly, I took the opportunity to eavesdrop. One of the ladies, who looked to be in her late 20s or early 30s, was telling a ridiculously lurid story that ended with a half-hearted complaint about her boyfriend’s sex drive. “It’s overwhelming,” she sighed, over the hiss of the cappuccino machine. “I’ve never had this much sex in my life.”
It wasn’t so much the explicit exchange next to the piles of muffins and biscotti that struck me—talking frankly about sex has become something women will do anywhere, anytime— as the motive that I suspected lay behind this woman’s “complaint.” Wasn’t it the sexual equivalent of a backhanded compliment? A thinly veiled attempt at bragging that, unintentionally or otherwise, made her friend feel inadequate?
And she must have felt inadequate: No matter how satisfactory your sex life, you never want to hear that other people are doing it more and better; that they are sexier, wilder or more desirable or desiring. Our sexual knowledge and freedom have never been greater, so why is it that our confidence and contentment are still floundering? Knowledge and freedom have inevitably meant more talking about sex, more open conversations about the whys, the wheres and the how muches. There is literally nothing you can’t find out about sex now—and all at the click of a mouse. A few hours’ reading on the Internet and you could know enough to last you a lifetime. So why are problem pages still filled with women anxious about their sex lives? Writers like Ariel Levy and Natasha Walter, authors of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism respectively, have shown that, far from feeling empowered by the explosion of discussion and representation of sex, women feel pressured to be sexy. Every day, a new survey reveals the anxiety we feel. According to research conducted by the University of Sydney, 75 percent of women don’t like their men looking too closely at their bodies during sex (to pluck one concern at random). Why not? What standard are they failing to meet?