I've always been fascinated by monogamy, mostly because I am really, really fucking bad at it.
I mean, emotional monogamy I can totally do, though at this point in my life it's kind of hard for me to maintain on a serious level. My friend TOK likes to say that her version of true love is being in a crowded room at a party and just knowing where her partner is. Not in a creepy possessive way, or anything -- just being in tune with them to the degree that she knows what time they're ready to head for home.
I've known couples like that, and I've had shades of that with close friends, and it seems like a magnified version of that communication and trust is what most people are looking for in serious relationships.
Having that intensity with just one other person for a lifetime doesn't sound impossible to me. In fact, some days it sounds kind of nice. Cozy, even.
Sex, though, is a whole different story.
See, I've never been able to warm to the idea that the default way to declare your undying adoration for someone is to give up sex with everyone else. It's not that I think it's a bad tactic, really -- it just seems -- I don't know, unrelated.
Like, if someone wanted to show how devoted they were to our relationship, I'd much rather them swear to spend nights with me by my relatives' hospital beds or call me first when their novel gets published than steadfastly keep their dick firmly oriented in my direction. I mean, it's flattering and all, but it's not a requirement.
I know not everyone works this way, but it's not like my pussy closes for outside business whenever I start seriously falling for someone. Sex between me and my paramour might get better because of all that communication-magic, but it's not as if sex with everyone else loses the appeal.
I don't cheat on partners or anything like that; rather, up until this point I've avoided getting into long-term relationships with firmly monogamous people, because I sense it'll only end in tears.
In the past, I've felt like an outlier because of this. Most of us are probably familiar with the cliches about women craving one-time sex followed by emotional and physical monogamy. This urge is supposedly driven by our instinctive desire to raise babies in nurturing (presumably two-parent) homes; meanwhile, dudes spend all their time chomping at the bit and yearning to spread their seed (i.e., semen). As a result, women who have no problem with the idea of (safely) fucking a stranger in a nightclub and then going home to spoon their spouse don't tend to feature heavily in the cultural conversation.
The whole "evolutionary biology" aspect is pretty clearly moot at this point, since it's not as if a lot of Western society is inclined toward being hunter-gatherers. Still, there seems to often be an automatic assumption that once women get toward marryin' and birthin' age, they stop being interested in the multiweek bangfest that new couples enjoy.
Judging by the amount of literature centered around "Keeping the spark alive" in long-term coupledom, women are apparently akin to curmudgeonly trolls trying to snarl away any enterprising billy-goats-gruff from their crotch-bridges. It's all very "lie back and think of England," as if once a woman turns 40 her libido withers and dies. At the same time, men are left with desperate, angry boners, which is often where the whole "sowing wild oats" aspect comes in. If only women weren't such fun-suckers, you know? Then maybe men wouldn't be forced to take their dick-talents elsewhere.
Except that apparently, it's not that women lose interest in sex. It's that they lose interest in sex with their partners.
According to studies out of Ontario and the Netherlands, cis women may tend to be more interested in the "novel" aspects of sex (and sex partners) rather than the familiar. So it's not that women in long-term relationships suffer from a lack of interest; it's that their partners are not interesting enough.
On the one hand, this thrills me because I love the idea of dudes' magazines marketing Cosmo-style "Ways to keep your lady coming!" headlines underneath the best v-necks to show off chest hair or whatever. I like that in heterosexual couples, this theory puts the onus on guys to keep things fresh and fun, lest their ladies start turning their roving eye on all the cute office dudes. We've discussed how men seem to think it's a woman's duty to provide them with a perma-boner; in this case, for once, the tables have turned.
(In possibly less exciting news, the Center for Sexual Medicine in Baltimore is already working on a drug to possibly trick women's boredom-impulse into loving their partners' three standard moves again.)
On the other hand, though, I don't think research like this is going to automatically open a pathway to societal acceptance of prescriptive occasional non-monogamy. That scares me a little, because it feels like we're setting ourselves up for failure before we begin. If women require novelty to keep things sexy, but it's still not acceptable for us to go out for a fuck on the side, then what are we supposed to do (besides, apparently, drug our vaginas into thinking our partners are Michelle Rodriguez)?
I've always thought that even though I may not be great at understanding the logic behind sexual monogamy, I could probably eventually swing it if it was important enough to my future partner. Sure, I haven't managed it yet, but for the right person maybe I could make it work.
So I hate the idea that somewhere in my indistinct future, even if I were to overcome my natural non-monogamous impulses, there looms this evolutionarily honed dark cloud of sexual restlessness waiting to rain all over my carefully negotiated loving-relationship parade. I don't want sexual satisfaction and emotional intimacy to ever become mutually exclusive in my life, and it seems like that's all today's common relationship models would leave room for if I got struck by the Dread Lady-Boredoms.
I don't know. Maybe I'm not giving myself and my mystery partner enough credit. Have those of you in long-term relationships experienced anything like this sexual boredom reported in these studies? If so, would you take a pill to overcome it? And most importantly, am I doomed to yearn to sow my oats forever?
Kate is hoeing rows: @katchatters