File this one under “Heteronormative non-news”

By Caitlin Kelly



The New York Times (yes, for whom I freelance frequently) posted this enormous story (we call ’em ‘heaves’ for a reason), a front-page face-palm over the fact that women at elite colleges (the rest of you, meh) are not having committed sex with their fiances, but are in fact hooking up for fun and…you, know, sex.

Sex (Photo credit: danielito311)

And — because any story about: 1) sex; 2) young women; 3) elite university students; 4) hooking up is going to be fucking catnip for the finger-wagging crowd, the story had gathered a stunning and possibly unprecedented 788 comments within hours.

Here’s some of it:

These women said they saw building their résumés, not finding boyfriends
(never mind husbands), as their main job at Penn. They envisioned their
20s as a period of unencumbered striving, when they might work at a
bank in Hong Kong one year, then go to business school, then move to a
corporate job in New York. The idea of lugging a relationship through
all those transitions was hard for many to imagine. Almost universally,
the women said they did not plan to marry until their late 20s or early

In this context, some women, like A., seized the opportunity to have sex
without relationships, preferring “hookup buddies” (regular sexual
partners with little emotional commitment) to boyfriends.

And this:

But Elizabeth A. Armstrong, a sociologist at the University of Michigan
who studies young women’s sexuality, said that women at elite
universities were choosing hookups because they saw relationships as too
demanding and potentially too distracting from their goals.

In interviews, “Some of them actually said things like, ‘A relationship
is like taking a four-credit class,’ or ‘I could get in a relationship,
or I could finish my film,’ ” Dr. Armstrong said.

One of the things I enjoy about Broadside is that I have readers from their teens to people their grandparents’ age, some of whom are devoutly religious and for whom pre-marital sex is taboo. I get that and respect that.

But this is for/about people who are going to have sex and beyond the really tedious heteronormative strictures of getting engaged/married/pregnant, certainly right out of college — i.e. by your early or mid 20s.

You actually can be pretty, smart, ambitious and deeply ambivalent about wanting to permanently attach yourself to a man (or woman) before you have a clue who you are! That might mean years, even a few decades of sexual experimentation, travel, graduate study, volunteer work, returning home — or all of these.

You might never wish to marry at all.

You might not want to have children.

This hand-flapping over when, where, how and why young women are having uncommitted sex is — to my mind — pretty old hat. Many of us were having, and enjoying, uncommitted sex in the 1970s when I was in college, long before herpes, then AIDS scared everyone into abstinence or commitment for a while.

Now everyone with a brain uses condoms to protect themselves from both (and HPV, chlamydia, etc.)

The notion that young, educated women are incapable of — the term is accurate, if crude — sport-fucking — is absurd.

It may deeply comfort people to assume that all women, everywhere, all the time, from puberty to death, only want to bonk people with whom they are deeply in love and with whom they are really dying to rush to the altar.

For some, sure.

For others, absolutely not.

We’re not that simple.

We don’t want to be that simple.

Just stop it!

Plan B — the morning-after pill — soon available over the counter

By Caitlin Kelly

English: A woman swats away the stork which ha...
English: A woman swats away the stork which has brought her her child. Caption: “And the villain still pursues her”. (a turn-of-the-20th-century postcard). Русский: Женщина отбивается от аиста, который принес ей ее ребенка. Надпись: «Злодей по-прежнему преследует ее». (открытка на рубеже ХХ века). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was debating whether or not to blog this major news, but decided to do so anyway:

The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block
over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after
contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with
political repercussions for President Obama.

The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able
to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a

The essential issue, which never changes for women, is control of our bodies and their reproductive ability.

Our lives, in short.

The most fortunate of women have a few choices, many of them culturally pre-determined:

Never have sex unless or until you want to become pregnant

Never have sex unless or until you are married and have a partner to help you raise a child

Never have sex

Have an abortion

Put your unwanted child(ren) up for adoption

Many of us have, or will have, a sexual life beyond the boundaries of marriage or the explicit, specific desire to become someone’s parent. For some of us, it may result in an unplanned pregnancy — or pregnancy scare.

Ready access to Plan B means any woman who fears she might face an unplanned pregnancy has the option to forestall that terrifyingly, permanently life-changing event.

It is not an abortion. Plan B’s exact method is unclear — except that it does what it promises. It makes sure you will not become pregnant.

Those of us who delay marriage — or may never even choose it — and wish to have a sexual life without the result of children must have access to safe, affordable, accessible choices beyond the Religious Right’s favorite method — snapping our knees safely shut from puberty to menopause.

Managing one’s sexual impulses and desires, let alone those of our male partners/husbands, is sometimes challenge enough. STDs are rampant and add another layer of worry or concern, as they should.

Then there is the matter of one’s fertility, for some a coveted gift, for others a burden. Shit happens. Condoms slide off, or break or, yes, sometimes never get used at all.

And I am speaking only of consensual sex, not the many women suffering rape and its aftermath, emotional and physical.

Plan B is a much simpler choice — on ever level — than abortion for many women.

This is huge step for American women’s reproductive rights, and one that’s only — really — about 40 years later than what Canadian women took for granted when I was in college and needed access to Plan B. There, it was an easy, quick, non-political issue.

I moved to the U.S. when I was 30, still unmarried. I have been nauseated, enraged and wearied ever since by the relentless, ferocious, get-the-the-fuck-away-from-my-uterus political battles in this country over when, where, or even if a woman should have ready, safe, affordable access to birth control information, birth control and/or abortion.

It’s my body.

I do with it — tats, piercings, hair color, shape and size, clothing (or lack of it) — as I wish.

Those who  remain utterly determined to control and manage women’s sexuality, by trying to demonize and/or politicize our most personal and private decisions, are anathema to me.

Healing is emotional as well

Doctor's office again
Doctor's office again (Photo credit: Sidereal)

One of the most essential elements of healing a body that has been injured, damaged or ill is to soothe and comfort the psyche, the soul of the person whose corporeal armor has, in a significant way, (even in the aid of better health), been pierced.

But it’s the piece that is consistently left out. When you leave hospital after a major surgery, you’re handed a thick sheaf of instructions, some in boldface type, all of which are — of necessity — focused on the physical.

Who addresses the needs of the soul?

Which is why, when I met a fellow hip patient in the hallway, a former dancer, a woman my age, we couldn’t stop talking to one another about how we felt.

Not our bones or muscles, but our hearts and minds.

A sense of shame and failure that years of diligent activity and careful eating and attention to posture…led us into an operating suite. The feeling of isolation, of being cut from the herd of your tribe, the lithe and limber, the fleet of foot. The fragility of suddenly relying very heavily on a husband whose innate nature may, or may not be, to nurture.

And a husband who knows all too well that physical intimacy is almost impossible, sometimes for years, when your loved one is sighing not with desire but in deep pain. When your hips simply can’t move as you wish they would, and once did. It is a private, personal loss with no place to discuss it.

I’m deeply grateful to know a few women like me: feisty, active, super-independent and all recovering, now or a while ago, from hip replacement. Every tribe has a scar, a mark, a tattoo.

Ours is  a vertical six inches.

Time to wear it proudly.

Doing Laundry, Changing Lightbulbs And Other Essential College Skills

U.S. Patent by Thomas Edison for an improved e...
Image via Wikipedia



There are kids going to college who have no idea how to —- change a lightbulb?

According to this recent piece in The New York Times, possibly not:

I will end with a bunch of random, yet helpful, tips garnered from a variety of sources. Make sure your son or daughter knows how to sew on a button or a repair a hem, change a light bulb (yes, honestly some have never done that at home), tie a tie, defrost a refrigerator (some dorm fridges aren’t self-defrosting) and judge how long different foods can stay in a refrigerator before going bad.

And here are a few more: How to tip properly, use a microwave safely, strip and make a bed, pack a suitcase and safeguard valuables.

Rant alert, dearest readers. I was out on my own, living in a minuscule studio apartment on a not-very-good street of downtown Toronto when I was 19, the fall semester of my sophomore year. Was I ready? Not really. But my family had sold the house and were headed off to live on a boat in Europe. Jump!

My rent was $165. I was on the ground floor (wrong!) facing an alley (wrong!) in a vaguely seedy/affordable neighborhood. I would not have qualified for student aid or loans and didn’t want dorm life after a childhood and adolescence spent at boarding school and summer camp sharing space with four to six strangers. I wanted privacy.

I still remember the price of a can of tuna then — 65 cents — as I ate a fair bit of it. I was not a very chic dresser as my budget was so tight; it took me months to save the $30 I then needed for tights, a leotard and slippers to take free ballet classes on campus. I bought and cooked my own food, did my own laundry, played “Hejira” on my stereo, entertained members of the opposite sex whenever I felt like it.

I lived there until June when, one terrifying night, a man leaned in my bathroom window and tried to pull me out of the bathtub. It’s true — you can be too scared to scream.

I moved into a sorority house the next week, safely on the top floor surrounded by other young women. That fall I moved into another tiny studio apartment, this one — like where I live now — overlooking nothing but trees, safely completely inaccessible in height and design on the sixth floor in a better area.

I learned a lot by living on my own so young: how to budget, how to deal with adults and professors and landlords without any help or intervention or advice from family; my parents were both very far away, both traveling and often unreachable. Whatever the problem, as an only child and already writing and selling photos to national publications to pay for school, it was mine  to solve.

My best advice to freshmen:

Learn how to get along with your professors. Don’t text them or expect hand-holding. They’re not Mummy. They are professionals paid to help you learn. Period.

Understand and respect the complex interplay between being drunk and stoned and the increased chances of a sexual encounter — or several — you did not anticipate, plan or want. Learn to say no, mean it and leave in sufficient sobriety you remain in control of your safety.

Practice using condoms. Use them.

Practice saying no. Mean it.

Enjoy the extraordinary array of facilities your campus offers you — socially, intellectually, physically. Even getting into a gym or pool as nice as yours right now will cost you a fortune post-grad.

Grades matter, but not as much as you think or fear (short of those applying to grad or professional programs.) That stellar GPA often means very little to most employers — who really crave ethical, hardworking and highly disciplined employees. Yes, a GPA is meant as proxy for all those qualities, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The “skills” you acquire by sitting in a college classroom and (only) striving for top grades may not translate tidily to a job in the real world.

You do not need to keep up with the materialistic cravings of your fellow students, whose parents may out-earn yours by many multiples. College is the first set of steps to adulthood, not four (or five or six) years of shrugged-off do-overs.

Work your ass off. Just do it. If you get into grad school, you’ll need to be in the habit. If you get a job, you’ll need it. If you have to work for yourself, self-discipline will prove far more valuable than your diploma.

A deadline  — i.e.  the paper is due Friday morning —  is not a suggestion. It is not negotiable. Not Friday afternoon six months from now.

Just because your BFFs are: bulimic or anorexic or tattooed or multiply pierced or high most of the time doesn’t meant this is a great trend to follow. College is a great place to locate and stiffen your spine.

Have fun! Get to know the sort of people you never even acknowledged in high school, The real world is going to put you face to face with all sorts of people from now on, so start discovering and enjoying them.

If someone comes on to you — whatever your sexuality or theirs — be flattered and polite, especially if sexual behavior is new to you, but go slowly. Sex is fun, but not worth getting an STD  or pregnant. Don’t confuse attention with affection.

Don’t focus all your energy on how much better everyone else is doing — socially, sexually, intellectually, athletically. If you’ve gotten into a good school, you’re now surrounded by some kick-ass talent. Watch it, learn from it, but don’t let it intimidate you.

Professors are not God. If you have a solidly researched and thoughtful opinion that differs from theirs, share it, politely. But your feelings are not facts. Learn the difference.

Take on leadership roles. You never know until you try if people will follow your lead. If they do, you know you’ve got the goods. They don’t teach that in the classroom, but the confidence it will give you will play out for years to come.

Here’s an interesting ongoing debate at the Times’ website on whether college is even worth it.

What’s your best advice to the class of 2015?

Why No Pill Can Make Women Want More Sex

Let's talk about sex!
Image via Wikipedia

If only.

Life would be so much simpler if all those women who only vaguely remember the last time they had sex could just pop a pill, as the makers of flibanserin, aka female Viagra, are so hoping.

Every woman knows it’s not that quick or easy.

Loved this example from a story in The New York Times:

Boehringer has also sponsored medical education classes for doctors and nurses about hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

In one course, released online in May, a quiz asked doctors to diagnose the condition of a 42-year-old working mother who takes care of three children and her own sick mother, and who had no desire for sex. (Her husband is mentioned only in passing.)

The correct answer? Schedule a follow-up visit to evaluate whether she has diagnosable hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

Gotta love the dogged persistence of Boehringer-Ingelheim, makers of such popular drugs as Mirapex (about which I wrote, whose bizarre side effects can cause sexual addiction). Think of all those frustrated, sex-less women dying for the Big O. Profit city!

Truth is, you can pop a fistful of pills and still lie there dead to the world….because, reality intrudes. Recession, unemployment, underemployment (yours, your kids’, your spouse’s or partner’s), college tuition bills, kids back home after college, your illness, your spouse and/or parents’ illnesses…

None of which makes you want to rip off your panties and chase your man around the bedroom. Many men these days are so whipped from even trying to keep their job, let alone find a new one, they’re not up for much either.

And, like it or not, some men are simply really lousy in bed. Their wives married them and some stay with them — for the kids, for the emotional security, for the lifestyle, for the companionship. But not, sad to say, for their horizontal abilities. (When in doubt about women’s ability to pretend everything’s great in bed to soothe male egos, rent “When Harry Met Sally” and watch her faking an orgasm in a very public place.)

No pill can make a man into a better lover. So a pill that rewires a woman’s brain to want more sex basically gives sexually lame men a Hail Mary pass, ignoring the deadening effect of their too-fast, too-slow, inept or inattentive lovemaking. Great!

Infidelity's A Dealbreaker, But So-So Sex With Their Partner, Not So Much, Say 6,096 Women

Two Hearts Just To Hold Love
Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

From the April issue of “O” magazine, an online survey finds that a third of women would take a hike if their partner or husband was unfaithful — but only seven percent would bail due to sexual incompatibility. Hm.

Are American women shortchanging themselves? Sounds like it to me.

Eight percent said boredom would end things, 24 percent if they were “no longer in love” (seems a little vague), 28 percent for “chronic fighting.”

I was saddened to read that 31 percent of women say they don’t get enough emotional support — how’s it in your house? — but maybe they’re being unrealistic? Guys are legendarily not the greatest at hand-holding. Yet 61 percent of women said they turn to their partner in times of crisis, and only 20 percent to their best friend. Which begs the question — where, then, do women get their emotional support, if not from their sweetie or best friend?

A third of women said self-help books were helpful in improving their relationship, 22 percent regular date nights and only 12 percent said couples therapy.

A miserable 12 percent said they feel trapped in their relationship and 10 percent griped “better than being alone.”

In recent months, both Elle and Vogue have also run long pieces on women’s lack of sexual desire — and the ongoing paucity of effective/safe drugs to alleviate it. From Vogue:

Women have slim pickings in the sex-drug marketplace… Doctors have jumped in, giving women an estimated 2 million “off label” prescriptions every year for high-dose—and potentially risky—testosterone pills, creams, gels, and ointments. For now, though, there are no FDA-approved sex drugs for women. Pharmaceutical companies and device-makers have been scrambling for years to cash in on the largely untapped market in female desire: an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion in annual sales.

That lure has revved up American ingenuity in previously unimaginable ways. Having trouble reaching orgasm? In just a few years, the Orgasmatron spinal-cord stimulator—now available only in a nine-day-trial version—may be fully implantable, with a subcutaneous battery lodged inside what its inventor calls “the anatomical love handle.” Stuart Meloy, M.D., says his device delivered orgasms on demand for four of eleven women in his small study. He hopes to persuade others to spend about $12,000 for the semipermanent gadget. The catch: First Meloy has to convince regulators that the benefits of the Orgasmatron outweigh the risks of lodging electrodes near the spine: paralysis, infection, and incontinence, to name a few.

Bremelanotide—the arousal injection—generated a lot of buzz when it was first introduced as an aphrodisiac nasal spray. But the spray spiked blood pressure in early trials and had to be yanked. The hypodermic version appears to avoid that problem, but testing is still under way.

A more appealing aphrodisiac may be within reach. Two firms are racing to develop the first prescription drug for women’s most common sexual complaint: distressingly low libido, which psychiatrists call hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). In the last few months, the makers of LibiGel and flibanserin claim they’ve discovered how to stimulate nerve centers in the female brain that control libido. Just how effective the drugs are remains unclear. The German drug giant Boehringer Ingelheim reported last November that in a six-month study of more than 1,000 women, a daily 100-mg dose of flibanserin gave premenopausal women 0.8 more “sexually satisfying events” per month over a placebo. (That metric doesn’t necessarily mean a woman has more orgasms, or even more sex. SSEs can include greater fantasies, arousal, and orgasms—or just feeling closer to a partner.) BioSante, the Chicago-area company that makes LibiGel, announced that 46 postmenopausal women who used it for three months had three more sexually satisfying events per month than women who received a placebo.

Maggie Bullock, in Elle, points out many reasons a woman can say “No thanks” including: emotional and psychological trauma, stress, relationship problems, depression, weight gain, body image issues, anger, tiredness, infidelity, childbirth, power issues, past abuse — not to mention the routine and ennui that can come with long-term relationships.”

I would add to that sadly long and realistic list a few other issues I’ve experienced — injury, arthritis, chronic illness, surgery and recovery. My severely arthritic left hip now works like a poorly designed hinge. I’ll figure it out, but it’s not erotic.

Does any of this ring true for you?

Ten years together, ten lessons learned

Two Hearts Just To Hold Love
Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Ten years ago this month — we can’t remember the exact date we met — I met my partner. A decade. We can’t quite believe it. We met on-line when I was writing about on-line dating for Mademoiselle and he saw my profile and photo.

My miserable marriage, a man for whom I left Canada, friends and a staff newspaper job, lasted barely two years.

The first few years with my current partner were a rough ride. Lots of fights. Scary ones. A really loud public one right on Houston Street across from the Angelika Theater. We are, and were, two stubborn, ambitious workaholics with very clear ideas what we want. We weren’t going to bend, dammit!

Counseling helped. Growing up helped. Being a little less mistrustful, which can take longer than it should, helped a lot.

Here are ten things we’ve learned in those ten years together, and yes, I asked him if it was OK to talk about them here:

Know your boundaries, set them and keep them. Not very romantic, but crucial. He and I are both career journalists, accustomed to doing whatever the job demands — he worked for weeks without showering while covering the war in Bosnia; I covered a political campaign on crutches. We both had demanding, severe families whose needs we accommodated at the expense of our own. It took us a while to figure out, even in love (maybe especially in love) that we do have boundaries and limits and you mess with those at your peril. He once kicked me out of his Brooklyn apartment at midnight on a rainy St. Patrick’s night, the streets filled with drunks. Months later, I kicked him out at midnight — a $150 cab ride home because the commuter trains weren’t running that late. It taught us both to respect our limits, and we do.

You’ll do some things you might never have imagined because you love this person. I decided to marry my partner (we’re getting there, slowly) the day we arrived at my mother’s house in rural British Columbia; she was in the hospital with a massive brain tumor (she’s fine.) She had lain on her mattress for days, unable, because of the tumor, to get up — soiling it. My sweetie took her mattress to the verandah and scrubbed it clean. I can’t imagine a kinder gesture, to me or my Mom. I have taken him to the hospital with a concussion, waking him up several times in the night to make sure he was OK.

Sexual dry spells will not kill you. They happen. We’ve had dry spells that make the Sahara look like a small, verdant backyard. I’m not talking days or even months. Even my ob/gyn told me to dump him. I didn’t and he didn’t. We both had plenty of sex before we met. It’s not like we didn’t know what it is or how great it can be. But it’s not the central, defining engine of our relationship, which it is for some. It’s one facet of our life. When you’re not feeling sexy or sexual there’s a lot of reasons this can happen — fatigue, depression, a health issue, unexpressed anger. Allowing those feelings and issues to stand on their own, taking the time to see and acknowledge and resolve them, can take much longer than you think — or the magazines tell you is acceptable. My ex had an affair, left me and re-married within a year, so a prolonged lack of interest in sex can be a terrifying warning your marriage or relationship is in deep trouble. But it may not.

Their rage may have nothing whatsoever to do with you. Don’t take everything personally. We had two defining fights early in our time together. In each one, he stood, and I stood, railing, shouting, red-faced…but not, really, at the other person. At some distant old ghost. Once we could recognize each other’s older demons, our soul equivalent of bone bruises, we knew where they were and when we’d hit one.

Laugh loud, long and often. My sweetie works at The New York Times, a place about as raucous and kooky as the Library of Congress. In one of his jobs there, I would see nearby heads whipping about in disapproval when I came to visit because, within minutes, we’re always laughing with one another. Whenever he starts snorting into his headset, current colleagues — many of whom are my friends and colleagues too — know he’s talking to me. When my Dad stayed with us recently, he noticed we laughed into the night. Life is crazy, too often full of pain and disappointment and loss. Laughter heals.

Say please and thank-you. All the time. Last year we met someone new who thought my partner and I had only been dating a few months. I think it’s because we keep a bit of formality, even now. I never take his presence for granted, nor he mine. We have both been married and divorced. We work in an industry legendary for its inability to praise or nurture even its very best. Gratitude matters.

Jewelry! OK, I’m kidding. Sort of. Maybe your sweetie hates jewelry — but whatever it is s/he does love, treat them to it: tickets to the opera, a gorgeous sweater, a great meal. My sweetie learned early, poor man, I adore jewelry and he has given me lovely things; the earrings in my T/S photo were a Christmas gift. He knows my taste and knows the extraordinary pleasure his gifts give me.

A shared spiritual life. Maybe neither of you professes any religion at all. Or ever wants to. I do think the happiest partners have some notion of what matters most deeply to them, individually and as a couple and support this in their partner. Mine is a deeply devout Buddhist; when we met, his apartment had an entire room filled with prayer flags and an altar. He routinely went off on week-long, costly retreats. I felt a little alienated by our deep differences in how we handle faith and belief, but I met, and became friends with Surya Das, his lama. I saw, and see, the daily effects of his faith in our lives. He comes to church with me and sits beside me. We both value a deeper set of questions and ideas about how to live an ethical life of some value to others. I have never had this with a partner and it, I think, is both helpful and important.

Shared projects. He’s seen me through two books, two surgeries (so far) and a few jobs. I’ve seen him through three major changes at work, a terrifying month when we thought he’d lose his job, a new wedding photography business. Knowing what’s really happening with your partner, and how they really feel about it, orients you. If your income just dropped through the floor with a job loss, deal with the reality and start rowing your boat. Knowing your partner has your back will, metaphor intended, keep your spine stiff.

A lot of space, both physical and emotional. He has a quiet, solitary hour every morning sitting in the living room armchair, watching the sun rise. There are entire days he’s gone, playing golf. There are entire days I’m off at an antiques show or with a girlfriend or at the movies. I was gone for three weeks overseas, his gift to me, when I finished my first book in June 2003. I called him from a phone booth in Tunis — he was in San Francisco, serving as one of the judges for the book “A Day In The Life of America”, the furthest we had ever been apart. We check in with phone calls or emails, sometimes several times a day. But we both like a lot of air in the room, and the time and space to nurture our separate interests. We have many we share. We do not have to be, nor wish to be, joined at the hip.

What has kept your love alive and thriving? What’s been the kiss of death?

Moving In With Your Sweetie? Buy Bigger Pants — Study Finds Co-Habiting Adds 15 Pounds

Kimbap and Kimchi
Not what I had in mind, but healthy! Image via Wikipedia

Here’s some happy news. Move in with your partner and your waistline expands:

After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions.

There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study.

I can see it. I’m living it.

As a woman with no kids, I can think of a few reasons women happily shacked up are getting chubby.

You’re staying home happily watching DVDs on the sofa because you’re not out prowling for your one true love. You’re cooking for two (maybe 4 or 5, leftovers are good) and maybe finally cooking at all, now you have someone to enjoy meals with. Maybe your partner, like you, loves to eat and drink, so instead of running every morning you’re feeding one another croissants in bed. I love throwing dinner parties and do it more often with the help of a partner. Oh, no, more eating!

Cooking and serving lovely food, in many cultures, is also a time-honored way to show your love and attention. My partner beams when I offer a great home-made meal, and vice versa. I’m not sure I’d last very long with a guy who offered me protein shakes and 15-mile runs, but maybe that’s just me.

One factor in partnered women’s weight gain is acceptance.

If someone really loves you, they love you, curves and all, whether you’re a size 6 or 16. No one should head for obesity and happily stay there, for health reasons, but someone who still adores you at size 14, (the U.S. average), is a welcome change from Rejectionworld, all the vicious hand-flappers who insist all attractive women wear a size 0 — or else!

Years ago, a wise friend suggested that a Hispanic partner might more appreciate my curves than the WASPy boys who hated me, preferring their women with shoulder blades you can cut paper with. And she was right.

Being loved for who you are, and not just what you look like, has healing properties in itself.

(Thanks to fellow T/S contributor Scott Bowen for the tip.)

Thirty Percent Of Women Lose Interest In Sex. Because….?

Woman Statue
If she's carrying the world,maybe sex isn't top of mind? Image by celesteh via Flickr

Thirty percent of young and middle-aged women, according to a recent New York Times Magazine piece, are going through extended periods of low sexual desire — or none at all. That’s a pretty interesting subject, although the Times‘ take managed to make it so polite as to be snoooooozy. The official term is hypoactive sexual desire — which, like every term describing something emotional, carries a value judgment that there is a specific set-point.

The story, typical of the Times, focused on dry, intellectual academic research and its findings, essentially wandering as far away from the forest as possible to examine a few trees. The larger question is why women feel this way, and research into sexual desire has often focused on men.

The story’s protagonist is a Canadian researcher, Lori Brotto, who uses something called “the Basson Sexual Response Cycle”, filled with arrows and circles. Have we really come to this?

Here’s my personal take on why some women are losing interest in sex:

1) We’re exhausted. If you have kids, certainly several and/or several under five, you’re tired. If you have kids and work out of the home, you’re tired. If you have a long commute on top of that, you’re wiped. If you’re lucky, your commute is by bus or train, allowing you time to sleep. If you don’t have kids, and you’re not super-rich, you’re working yourself to death to grow your income and net worth. Or maybe just trying to find a new job.

2) We’re scared to death — of losing our jobs or of our husbands or partners losing their jobs. Fear doesn’t make you want to shimmy around the boudoir. It makes you want to hide in the closet.

3) We’re broke. Credit card companies have jacked their rates sky-high recently and the stress is insane for anyone carrying large balances. Banks are restricting credit. Anyone who needs access to credit is largely SOL. If you have enormous debt(s) and have lost your job or might, money beats sex on your list of things to think about, probably 24/7.

4) We’re worried, those of us who have kids, about their futures. I know many people losing jobs who have several kids in or about to enter college or job-seeking. We’re worried about them, too.

5) Media images of women deemed sexually desirable are a nasty joke: skinny, white, young — and did I mention skinny? The average American woman is now a size 14, not the size 2 or 4 or 6 shown us relentlessly by women’s magazines edited by women. Every time I see another editorial spread on –ho hum — Sarah Jessica Parker, reputed to be a single-digit size, I want to throw the magazine across the room. Enough already! Fat women love sex too. And fat(ter) women are having and enjoying great sex with men who love them and their curves, but you’d never know it because the only women we ever see held up to us as Gorgeous (i.e. desirable) literally have their bones sticking out above their $5,000 gowns.

6) Power struggles. It’s largely unspoken, but I think it’s real for many women on a daily basis. Micro-insults can sap your confidence and joy. If you head off to work, forced to do battle, (no, not overtly or directly), with sexist and/or racist stereotypes of what you’re actually capable of or educated for or dream of accomplishing, let alone earning almost 25% less than men, you’re pissed. And pissed isn’t going to do a pole-dance for anyone.

Here’s what I think might help:

1) Clean house! Yup. Free the woman you love from the chains of toilet-scrubbing, oven-cleaning, vacuuming, grocery-shopping — soooooooo tedious! — consistently and you’ll find someone with new energy and interest to spare. Most women are still expected to do the bulk of the housework, on top of working and even childcare. Yeah, that’s sexy.

2) Listen carefully. Not with one ear or while texting or scrolling through your Blackberry or while watching TV. There are few things more deeply alluring than someone’s loving, devoted and undivided attention. Remember those first dates when you were trying so hard to impress us? Women are socialized to be indirect, so as not to hurt people’s feelings by really saying what what we want or need. Our most crucial messages may not come through loud and clear.

3) Slow down. We live in a culture addicted to speed and productivity. Great sex is often an activity conducted without some grim-faced, determined goal. It’s fun, relaxed, needs and takes time — as in an uninterrupted, quiet, private hour or more.

4) Address the anger. If a woman isn’t opening up to you, literally, there’s usually a good reason for it. She might be furious, with you or with herself or others. Not fun. It can be hard work to get to the reason(s) and resolve them, let alone talk about them. But until they’re gone, so’s (good) sex.

Keeping it PG, please, what’s turning you on these days? Or off?

Why do you think so many women have lost interest — or never found it — in sex?

Designer Labia? Count Me Out, Boys

Doctors conduct a vagina surgery on a patient ...
Is this really the place for a scalpel? Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

British women are lining up to nip and tuck their lady parts, reports the BBC. The surgery, performed to make the labia, the external vaginal lips, more attractive isn’t new, but last year saw a 70 percent jump in its popularity. Labiaplasty (warning, graphic photo attached), is done for a combination of aesthetic and functional reasons, surgeons say. It’s increasingly popular worldwide, sorry to say.

One doctor tells the BBC:

“They’ve gone a bit over the top. Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring. The procedure won’t interfere with sexual function.

“Women want this for a number of reasons – some find it uncomfortable to ride a bike for instance, but for the majority it is aesthetic, that’s true.

“Lads’ mags are looked at by girlfriends, and make them think more about the way they look. We live in times where we are much more open about our bodies – and changing them – and labioplasty is simply a part of this.””

“Elegant-looking”? Please, show me (no, not literally, thanks) a chic set of male genitalia — or a bunch of guys lining up surgery to make sure their boy-bits are as attractive as all those in porn magazines, terrified to be considered unattractive by their female (or male) sexual partners.

Any guy who’s wigged out by a woman whose vagina doesn’t match his porn-fueled fantasies is really a very sad little thing and any woman who cuts her flesh to please him and his ilk needs to re-consider.

Want sex, even with your allegedly imperfect labia? Try a little candlelight, a little wine, a little — acceptance?