The essay, perhaps the most effective literary form of persuasion, argument and criticism, is a wonderful way to learn about love, romance, relationships and sex, from Gore Vidal’s Pornography to the free-love commune, Oneida Community (1848-1881), which promoted the sexual practice known as “amative intercourse,” where men learned how to refrain from having an orgasm during coitus.
We curate the essays we believe shed light on the dark shadows and shades of gray that cover over the truth of human sexuality.
Every “thirty-something” woman should understand this curve. It could be worth a decade of your time and trouble
His midlife crisis is coming, along with the red-hot sports car. And his crisis is statistically more predictable than his erectile dysfunction.
If ever knowledge was to make a woman a queen, then this one chart, one essay and one book could be the key to the king’s ransom. The ransom being found in the knowledge that your partner’s midlife crisis is not only predictable but manageable and does not have to be life-altering. In fact, life can be better on the other side. If you understand it.
This essay, written by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic, sets out a narrative about working through the “temporary slump in middle age.” It is revealing, educational, insightful, and if you haven’t reached this stage yet, it could be prescient.
“I wished I’d known in my thirties what was going to happen, I would’ve understood, could’ve helped.”
This essay gives couples an opportunity to write a positive story about this critical stage and navigate the natural human weaknesses that endanger a relationship. None more susceptible than the sanctity of love and sex.
Does size matter? Not as much as sexual illiteracy!
“Sigmund Freud was sexually illiterate. He did women a tremendous disservice. He was brilliant but taught some nonsense.” – Dr. Ruth
Sexual illiteracy is a curse. And should be cursed by every vibrant, intelligent, healthy, caring, sex loving person. Of the myriad sexual problems – across gender, age, ethnicity, cultures – none is more common, more insidious, than sexual illiteracy. Ignorance robs millions of people of a life of sexual enjoyment.
“Only 49% of heterosexual women are satisfied with their sex life. Only 51% of men.” – The Vagina Bible
And one of the most prevalent, persistent and ubiquitous questions steeped in ignorance is: ‘Does size matter?’ Which is often stated as a declaration, ‘size matters.’
Here is an essay that brings some clarity to the myth and might help fill the ‘stupid void.’ Two excellent sources (a book and research study) provide scientific evidence about women’s preferences, plus a book chock-filled with empirical, in depth, anecdotal evidence from 100 men.
Why Happy People Cheat
“MOST DESCRIPTIONS OF TROUBLED MARRIAGES don’t seem to fit my situation,” Priya insists. “Colin and I have a wonderful relationship. Great kids, no financial stresses, careers we love, great friends. He is a phenom at work, fucking handsome, attentive lover, fit, and generous to everyone, including my parents. My life is good.” Yet Priya is having an affair. “Not someone I would ever date—ever, ever, ever. He drives a truck and has tattoos. It’s so clichéd, it pains me to say it out loud. It could ruin everything I’ve built.”
Priya is right. Few events in the life of a couple, except illness and death, carry such devastating force. For years, I have worked as a therapist with hundreds of couples who have been shattered by infidelity. And my conversations about affairs have not been confined within the cloistered walls of my therapy practice; they’ve happened on airplanes, at dinner parties, at conferences, at the nail salon, with colleagues, with the cable guy, and of course, on social media. From Pittsburgh to Buenos Aires, Delhi to Paris, I have been conducting an open-ended survey about infidelity.
One of the most uncomfortable truths about an affair is that what for Partner A may be an agonizing betrayal may be transformative for Partner B.
Why We Cheat
Darwin might have made a notation at the end of this essay, ‘I told you so.’ Darwin has died but cheating hasn’t, and this essay tells some tales of cheating that confirm the continuing dilemma of the age-old habit haunting human relationships.
Author Lisa Taddeo never really answers her own question but she writes some wild tales and arrives at some insightful lessons: “More than the illicitness of the sexuality, there’s a sexuality to the selfishness. To doing precisely what you want to do … I’m arguing for the Wild Moments, because you never know what your last one will be.”
Also recommended is the book, Sex At Dawn: Why We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. Available at the Love & Sexcess Bookstore (25% discount).
After reading, check out other articles on cheating and tips and advice for building strong relationships. Read more at Articles >>
Pornography by Gore Vidal (1966)
“Ever since our Puritan Republic became a gaudy empire, pornography has been big business for the simple reason that freedom of expression is joined with the freedom to make a lot of money.” – Gore Vidal, 1966
In his excellent book, Gore Vidal’s essay on Pornography (page 289) lays bare the basics of pornography that have existed through centuries, and still “capture another human being for use as an unwilling sexual object.”
Pornography is, obviously, almost always from a man’s point of view, both as participant and observer. The woman’s role, almost always, is to give the pleasure, not be concerned about being pleasured, and there’s little room for her to negotiate the delightful intricacies of a woman’s needs. First, we – men and women – must understand pornography, not superficially, deeply, and then integrate it into how we change the role of women in the male-female sexual relationship.
Read more. Enjoy free access to Vidal’s essay >>
12 Rude Revelations About Sex
Sex inherently sets up conflicts within us. We crave sex with people we don’t know or love and it can make us want to do things that seem immoral or degrading, like slapping someone or being tied up.
Alain de Botton, a modern day philosopher and man of letters, captures it in an article from Psychology Today and his book, How to Think More about Sex.
Boys on the side: Is the hook up culture good or bad for women?
Great essay in The Atlantic by Hana Rosin.
“We’ve landed in an era that has produced a new breed of female sexual creature, one who acknowledges the eternal vulnerability of women but, rather than cave in or trap herself in the bell jar, instead looks that vulnerability square in the face and then manipulates it in unexpected, and sometimes hilarious, ways.”
Simone de Beauvoir, and the forebearers of feminism, would whole-heartily endorse this article.
50-50 marriage doesn’t mean 50-50 sex
“I know what a 50-50 marriage should be like. But what is 50-50 sex supposed to be like?” Power — and the act of balancing it — is a common topic with the couples [heterosexual, gay, lesbian] … eager to talk about leveling the domestic playing field but tend to feel awkward about bringing the concept of power into conversations about sex, mostly because it can feel so confusing.”
It’s more than “confusing,” it’s frightening. We are not good at talking about so many of the most natural aspects of sex, and domination is one of them.
This is a well sourced, thought provoking essay from New York Times magazine, written by Lora Gottlieb.
Also recommended, the book, Passionista, available at Love & Sexcess Bookstore – 20% discount).
Safe-Sex Lies – who cares?
Lying to ourselves – denial – is a powerful force when the need to have what we want is greater than the need to be safe, smart and strong. Nowhere is it more obvious than with the dearth of safe-sex practices. This essay, written by Meghan Daumjan for the New York Times in 1996 is as relevant today, perhaps more so, as it was more than two decades ago.
“It seems there is a lot of lying going around. One of the main tenets of the safe-sex message is that ageless mantra ‘you don’t know where he’s been,’ meaning that everyone is a potential threat, that we’re all either scoundrels or ignoramuses.”
In the high-tech, high-sex culture of dating apps, we are more vulnerable than ever. And as emotionally stupid as ever.
The Confessions of a Male, Feminist Sex Addict
“Sex without companionship corrodes the soul. I know this because it happened to me.”
Eric Frances McKillen (pseudonym) has penned an essay in Quillette (Feb. 2019) telling a tale of sex addiction that’s more like art imitating reality than reality. It’s biographical and the author claims he learned early in life that “sex, at its worst, is toxic, traumatizing, violent and dehumanizing.” That’s not a good start.
It’s a twisted tale of a sex addiction with prostitutes that lies somewhere between reality and fiction – perhaps the reason for his convoluted pseudonym (male-female names). Regardless, there’s plenty of evidence and insight on sexual addiction for the intellectually and carnally curious.
Sex as it could be? Should be? And certainly has been.
Peter von Ziegesar has written in Lapham’s Quaterly, a illuminating essay on the Oneida Community (1848-1881), which, at its height, was home to some three-hundred men and women living in a free-love commune. Among many things, it promoted a sexual practice known as “amative intercourse,” where men learned how to refrain from having an orgasm during coitus, and played an assigned role, “as a skilled musician who received his pleasure through the mastery of his instrument,” focusing on the woman’s pleasure and orgasm rather than his own.
Ladies, it sounds like they were onto something. Well worth the read (13 minutes).