We need to talk about sex. Yes, we need that conversation again. You might think that everything that could possible be said on this subject – and then some -was already covered last century. The 1960s, after all, gave us the Pill, the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and the legalisation of homosexuality. The lock was well and truly off the bedroom door. Free love was the buzzword of the day and we were all set to practise it happily ever after.
But something pretty fundamental, it seems, has now gone off the boil. Raunchy novelist Erica Jong, fiction’s first ever flag waver for the no-strings encounter, now observes ’Sex itself may not be dead, but it seems sexual passion is on life support.’ Writing recently in the Sunday Times she quoted her happily married daughter, a 38 year old writer as saying of the elder generation ‘They had sex, so I didn’t have to.’
Has there been some generational shift, perhaps, with the over 60s allegedly seeking out more pillow pzazz and now suffering more STIs than ever before, while the thirty and forty-somethings share a chaste double bed with onetime partners in passion?
Is it unfashionable to feel sad that UK studies find that up to 50 per cent of women suffer loss of desire for prolonged period? And that 20 per cent of men also experience loss of libido. In a 2013 survey of 2,000 British women, 39 percent said that they would rather watch TV than have sex. The shirtless Messrs Darcy and Poldark have become heart-fluttering substitutes for the real thing.
Stress, depression and anxiety all contribute to loss of desire, and these mental health buzzwords now bring more and more clients into therapy. Couples often report that they haven’t made love for months, even years, yet claim that being a ‘good team’ when raising their family, is their number one reason for staying together. ‘I don’t know why I’m not happier’ fretted one such client, as if oblivious to the experience that physical closeness fires up the pheromones. Dual career couples are too often tired and short of time, tapping away at individual keyboards before turning in at night. Of course, some lucky punters find love online, but others settle for short-lived hook-ups with someone they really don’t know. ‘You find out what they want in bed before knowing how they take their tea’ says one sad seeker ‘In the end it becomes a turn-off.’ Online porn can also kill passion: 70 per cent of men click on an average 7.5 times a month. Research links the habit with increased impotence, especially in younger men. While some women join in and enjoy porn, many feel demeaned, lonely and sadly less desirable than their pneumatic on-screen rival.
If both partners are happy with the low-sex, no-sex status quo, that’s cool. Trouble comes with a mismatch of desire where only one of you wants to get it on, while the other acts indifferently. Counselling can revive that frisson and closeness, but first the talking – and the turning to each other – has to start. Rampant swinging from the chandeliers may seem tiringly 20th century, but a little romp and seduction could tenderise our own tough times.
What do you make of this?
Has the TV box and online porn really gone some way to displacing sexual passion?
Has work, societal and global stress manifested to such a degree that we no longer feel we have the energy, inclination and time for sustaining love and loyalty?