During the gathering of accomplished middle-aged women that I mentioned in my last post, Oprah asked what sex was like at this time of life.
One woman said that sex with her husband “is definitely something I savor…when I remember I have a husband.” She has a very young child. (This helped me define middle age, which has eluded me numerically. I think of the middle-aged as having children who have left the home, or are about to; or as having and planning to have none.)
Another woman said, “You always hear stories of married women going to the doctor because their libido is too low. But how come you never hear about married men going to the doctor because their libido is too high?…Why are men’s desires considered the norm? Maybe instead of us going to see doctors, they ought to see doctors to get their testosterone lowered!”
This woman preferred chocolate to sex, and was defiantly owning it. Oprah said that this was a common attitude (about both sex and chocolate, apparently). Husbands of these women had learned to adjust–or to keep their mouths shut.
This is consistent with a running theme in TV sitcoms–if the husband does something especially noteworthy, he will be rewarded with sex; if he screws up, he doesn’t have to be told a dry evening is in store, because he is well aware of it.
However, in conversations I’ve had with women over the years, I’ve found that this is by no means common. (I should say that I originally met all the women in my book online, where they were, or had been, looking for romance and/or sex; they are not a neutral sample.) Many said that when the marital bed cooled, it was more often due to the dormancy of the husband; or else it was a product of trouble between the couple. Women did not spontaneously lose interest.
This attitude burst onto the TV scene in the 90s, in “Married With Children.” Peg Bundy is sexually inexhaustible; her husband Al, a failed shoe salesman, is content to watch television, with his hand down his pants. He is the one in need of ignition; she is the one always begging for action–or insulting him for the lack of it.
The show was very popular, in part because of the charming cast, and the comedic anarchy of the family relationships. But my impression was that the sexual portrait of the couple found favor with viewers because there was a lot of truth in it–and no other show dared go there.