On my typical morning walk, with cows on either side of me, I trudged through muddy farmland the day after a summer storm. As I walked, I listened to a Belgian woman inform a couple that, ‘sex isn’t natural’.
The woman was Esther Perel, and it was through her podcast ‘Where Should we Begin’ that the message was relayed. It was different, for sure. In the sex positive community we often hear, ‘sex is natural!’ as a sub-heading under why it’s okay to have sex and talk candidly about it.
Perel’s meaning was logical – people aren’t naturally inclined to monogamy, or to even have sex for extended periods of time. This is the premise of her book – Mating in Captivity – which discusses the work necessary when it comes to keeping desire alive in long-term relationships.
The promise of modern monogamy, romance, marriage and the Victorian-era morals that surround these societal institutions, tie our beliefs, ego, and emotions up with how our partners behave toward us and vice versa. Perel pushes intimacy to the side – suggesting that for long-term couples, their closeness can become the enemy of sex,. After all, desire thrives on chase, and mystery.
“Autonomous will is essential to desire; desire means to own the wanting. People can be massively attracted, but have no desire. Desire is a motivation.” Perel tells Goop. Explaining how the subconscious beliefs we associate with the institution of marriage and long-term monogamy become detrimental to sexual relationships.
When we look at the role of female-presenting people within society we can see an extension of this – look at the backlash Kim Kardashian faced upon releasing semi-naked photos after her first pregnancy. We see women in their ‘roles’ – and we can internalise this, and project our beliefs about the role of the ‘wife’, ‘mother’, the ‘good’ girlfriend or life partner (not to mention the maiden, mother and crone) and become somewhat sexually devoid. Why? Because we aren’t used to seeing wives and mothers in sexual roles. If we begin to shape our own identity fully as these things – we might find ourselves facing a couples deathbed.
As females are naturally painted as caregivers, it can be difficult to compartmentalise and differentiate the ‘self’ – desirous, and wanting – to the duties and roles taking up space within the relationship.
Sex isn’t something we’re naturally ‘good’ at or amazing at. In that first Podcast episode of Perel’s, as she guides the same couple through their infidelity issues, she explains this. The idea that we’re all naturally not only good at sex, and that if you’re with the ‘right’ person you should always know what they’re thinking – not to mention the idea that sex must die when you give birth, or get old, is a complete myth perpetuated by lazy Hollywood scriptwriters.
In fact, in her podcast, Perel discusses how our society thinking this has created many, many problems for people and relationships.
Sex, relationships and love are work – and they’re also a choice you make daily. They are things you need to practice and work on and learn about if you want to be good at them.