Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Sexes See Sex Differently

Why 70 percent of women would rather have chocolate than sex

In the February 2007 issue of Redbook magazine, a survey said 70 percent of women would rather have chocolate than sex. I read this statistic to my husband, my brother, and my dad. Their faces froze.

"Wow," my brother said and raised his eyebrows.

"Wow," my dad said and shook his head.

My husband, Loyd, just looked at me.

This is a generalization here, but most men want sex often. And more than that, they want their wives to want it often too.

Sexual intimacy makes marriage different from every other relationship. But in my marriage I've found that "intimacy" means different things to Loyd and me. I like to cuddle; he wants to make love. I like to talk; he wants to make love. I like to share time together; he wants to make love.
Early in our marriage, I was hurt to think he had one thing on his mind; he was hurt to know I didn't have the same thing on mine. After 34 years of marriage, we've forgiven each other for being different, but we are still different.

Most Men Crave Sex, While Most Women Crave Romance

Recently, we prepared separately for three days together in the mountains with no electricity or cell service. I packed a good read-aloud book, walking maps, and a deck of cards. When we arrived at the cabin and pulled out our supplies, we both laughed. Loyd had packed a couple bottles of wine, his MP3 player with speakers, and a few blue pills (Viagra). I teased him about being such a man, and he made fun of me for being such a woman.

Although not all men and women are wired this way, generally, most men crave sex, while most women crave romance.

As newlyweds, Loyd told me men want a woman who acts like a lady in public and like a hooker in the bedroom. He wanted me to flirt and tease, to be seductive and to want him with wild abandon. He believed the cliché, "A good wife needs to be an angel at home and a devil in bed."
But instead of that type of wife, some husbands have found that their wife make them beg for sex or withhold sex to get something they want.

And many women, that 70 percent who would rather have chocolate, settle for just enough sex to get their husbands to stop pestering them. They shrug and say, "I'm tired." They push their husbands away with, "I'm not in the mood."

I've been there. I've been tired and not in the mood, and I know this rejection puts my husband on the defensive. I'm sure it works that way with other men too. They want sex all the time, and they just don't understand why women don't.

According to research, sex is the number one way husbands feel close to wives. When they are close physically, they feel close emotionally. But to get close physically, women need to feel close emotionally. Romance ignites that desire.

I used to read romance novels and watch soap operas. I'm not alone. Romance is a best-selling genre, and a huge market supports daytime dramas. I indulged until an older woman told me that romance novels and soap operas fill the same need for a woman as pornography fills for a man. I don't know if this was her opinion or if she'd read research, but I do know I was shocked.

As I pondered her words, I saw the correlation. Porn objectifies sex. Romance genres glamorize it. Neither matches reality. Just as my body pales in comparison to the women in Playboy, my husband's charm fades in comparison to romance heroes. When I realized my passion for romance could be just as destructive to our marriage as Loyd's viewing pornography, I quit reading the novels, turned off the soaps, and told my husband I needed him to romance me. I needed him to be attentive, affectionate, and tender. I needed him to talk and cuddle and kiss. I needed him to do these things so I would want him in bed.

Men Want the Lights On While Women Want Them Off

Many women hide their bodies from their husbands. I did. Like those fertility goddesses in the paintings, my breasts are large, my abdomen full, and my thighs big. I didn't like what I saw when I looked in the mirror at my naked body, so I thought Loyd wouldn't like it either. I turned off the lights to undress. But he would always turn the lights back on. Why? Because he likes looking at me—big thighs and all.
Loyd thought I was sexy, and it insulted him when I complained about my body. Of all the women in the world, he had been attracted to me. He considered me a prize. When I belittled myself, I berated his taste in women. He wanted to believe he had good taste. When I shared with him my shame at resembling those statues, he reminded me that female form was the representation of a goddess. As long as I worry about how I look, I don't act sexy, and my husband wants me to act sexy. Men love to be stimulated visually.

We Need to Communicate Our Needs and Desires

I recently drove past the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo with my daughter-in law. I pointed to the white lighted venue and sighed. "Loyd and I spent our twenty-fifth anniversary there in the caveman room."

She laughed. "My Mom and her second husband spent their wedding night in that same room!" she said.

Over the years when I've mentioned the caveman room, others have shared their desire to spend a night there. Something in us longs for the primitive passion the caveman room implies. Sex is one of a human's basic needs, rating after air, water, food, and shelter. So why would a majority of women say they prefer chocolate to sex? Maybe they aren't asking for what they need.
The Song of Songs is a collection of love poems exchanged between a man and a woman, but the woman speaks more often than the man. She enjoys her sexuality. She speaks provocatively. Here in the Bible is a clear celebration of physical love. The man expresses his desire to touch the woman, and she welcomes him with the expressed desire to give herself to him. They relish sensual bliss. They talk. She tells him what she likes, and he tells her.

In the late 1940s, zoologist Alfred Kinsey's research on human sexuality challenged the status quo. He had trouble consummating his marriage. His inexperienced wife wasn't open to his untrained and awkward advances. When he discovered he and his wife needed help, he went with her to a professional. They learned to enjoy lovemaking. As a consequence, he pushed for open sex instruction. He believed the inhibited society of the '40s caused sex problems. Kinsey encouraged people to ask for what they needed, and his teachings were scandalous.

On our wedding night, Loyd confessed he would never welcome pajamas in our bed, because he would read my wearing them as a "Not tonight, Dear" message. Yeah, I've gone to bed on occasion in pajamas and the message has clearly been, "Don't even think of it. I'm mad at you!" But generally, I've honored his wishes. If he hadn't told me about his feelings toward night clothes, I would have gone to bed each night unaware of the hostile message I was sending him with my pajamas.

The Quality of Your Marriage

In a women's group my pastor's wife shared: "As your sex life goes, so goes the rest of your relationship." When their relationship was good in the bedroom, they enjoyed harmony in other areas of their relationship too. But when they weren't making love, everything seemed out of sync. My pastor's wife was right: Research suggests that there's a direct correlation between frequency of sex and satisfaction with the quality of a marriage.

Sex was God's idea. He created the different parts, made them fit together, and told the man and woman to become one. Sex is a drive. Barring physical limitations, if a husband and wife don't enjoy a healthy love life, they don't share a full and complete marriage. Sex is that significant.
One morning The Today Show broadcast a statistic that on the average, married couples make love once a week, and newlyweds make love twice a week. If frequency of sex increases marital satisfaction, why aren't married couples having sex more often? Maybe they aren't because 70 percent of women would rather have chocolate. They see sex as duty or drudgery.

In a marriage sex isn't always romantic. It's often just functional. I've had mountain peak sessions of ecstasy with my husband, but there have been a lot more Larry the Cable Guy sessions of "Get 'er done!" This is a fact of life. However, if a husband works to feed his wife's need for romance—cuddle, talk, share time together, bring chocolates and roses more often—that 70 percent might have chocolate and sex too.

Sherry Van Zante lives on the central coast of California. After 34 years of marriage, she and her husband, Loyd, still work to communicate and understand each other.

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