Re: Modern Love: This One's A Little Different

1

Toward the end of the article, it seems that her problem is that she has The Sexual Experience up on a pedestal. Sex can only be enjoyed under the proper conditions: after a long absence, with the proper romantic atmosphere (no chance of Cheerios), in the library with a candlestick.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:02 AM
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1: Candlesticks are unhygenic. You have to be very careful when using them.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:11 AM
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That's what makes them so thrilling.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:13 AM
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Illuminating, even.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:17 AM
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Exactly when was sex so sacred? Apparently for this author, we've lost that sacredness, but I'm not clear on when we had it.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:19 AM
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This looks like a job for Leon Kass!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:20 AM
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This gonna be about ice cream cones or something agin, in'it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:25 AM
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Kass and Kass have written a book about courtship, you know. Naturally, extensively discussed here in the past.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:33 AM
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Whoa. Hello, intimacy issues.

I'm not sure what she means when she writes

My sincerest hope is that once we make it through these very stressful years, assuming we come out the other end, my husband and I will be able to reconnect.

Is she waiting for her husband's sex drive to go away? For hers to show up? To get through a period of depression?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:34 AM
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I think the first: she's thinking "Geez, once we're over (50? whatever age) no one's going to expect us to have a sex life, and I can stop worrying about it."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:42 AM
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So the short version: I married a man I wasn't much sexually interested in, and now have no interest in whatsoever, and that's just the way I am.

Deep.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:46 AM
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10: Ha! Even we ancients have sex lives. We just end up with more broken bones.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:49 AM
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Setting up sex in opposition to her vocation is also pretty troubling. There are plenty of people who manage to be passionate about their work and still find their spouse desirable.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:54 AM
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Just lie there lady. Read your Bible. Jeez.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:57 AM
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And if not that, what can a couple in that position possibly do?

Divorce, of course. And my judgmentalism says that she's being unfair, selfish, and cowardly for not going ahead and divorcing him, whether he says he wants it or not.*

*with the standard disclaimer that my judgment on the relationship between two people I've never met is less than worthless.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:57 AM
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But generically, putting to one side the specific writer, it's kind of an awful problem for someone with no sex drive. Conventionally, a sexual relationship is a large part of what holds a nuclear family together: what are you supposed to do if you want the nuclear family, but you have no interest in the sexual relationship?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:58 AM
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My 83 year old neighbor lady moved in with her 75 year old bf. I haven't had a chance to monitor their sex life.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:59 AM
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what are you supposed to do if you want the nuclear family, but you have no interest in the sexual relationship?

Establish that up front and find somebody who's similarly motivated.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:00 AM
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Establish that up front

Doesn't that require a really unlikely amount of self knowledge, and knowledge about how different you are from what prospective spouses are likely to be like? You figure someone like this woman probably thinks, or thought, of sex as a dating thing that most people were reconciled to giving up during a long term relationship, and was kind of surprised herself that her husband remained interested.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:03 AM
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was kind of surprised herself that her husband remained interested.

Given that it's the basic storyline for about 1/3 of English literature and 1/2 of American television, I'm not much inclined to grant her surprise much credibility.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:06 AM
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Much.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:08 AM
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The writing is better than the usual ML standard. Still pretty overwrought for my taste, but the metaphors are functional and there's no obvious howlers. That's a step.


Posted by: Marichiweu | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:08 AM
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18, 19 -- The author did have that self-knowledge, as shown by her post-engagement pre-wedding dalliance.

The line that Blume singles out struck me, then the anger at the boyfriend who brought her on, and then this: The Grim Reaper, who for me is not death but mental illness, visits me from time to time, drawing me down with his sword. And each time this happens I never know if I will return to love.

One wouldn't say that low sex drive is always a symptom of mental illness. But it sometimes is.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:10 AM
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2:Now you tell me.

18:Worked for me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:12 AM
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When it was over, I hated him. I hated that man (that boy, really). The intimacy was too much, too wrenching and shameful.

RED FLAG!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:13 AM
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23.3:"Madness is very unusual in individuals, but the usual case for groups, nations, and societies." ...Nietzsche

Back on the veldt, the tribe needed to reproduce itself.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:14 AM
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But, leaving this author aside, this is a terribly common scenario. I'm not one for rules that can encompass the wide variety of relationships out there. There are people who can live relatively sexless lives and be content with that. I don't pretend to understand them, but it's as valid a choice as any other. But really, it's cruel to maintain a relationship where one person is expected to have their needs unmet throughout.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:15 AM
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The author did have that self-knowledge, as shown by her post-engagement pre-wedding dalliance.

Not exactly, as I read it -- that affair seemed to be more about finding out whether she was capable of sustaining sexual interest in anyone, rather than establishing that she really knew that other people ordinarily did.

You can't analyze anyone's relationship from a one-sided two-page essay, but while I sympathize with the husband, my sympathy is qualified by the fact that they seem to have gotten married quite a while after their sex life died. It seems clear that he had enough information to figure our what he was getting into.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:16 AM
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Diagnosis: hysteria!

Anyway, CMIIW, but her protestations that she in fact loves her husband seem rather weak - only appearing in the headline and once later ("[my] husband, whom I love so imperfectly"). The following seems much more heartfelt:

A gulf of loneliness enters the marriage; the rift it creates is terribly painful. My sincerest hope is that once we make it through these very stressful years, assuming we come out the other end, my husband and I will be able to reconnect.

It makes me wonder how well-founded their overall relationship actually is.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:23 AM
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28 -- He should have known. He may have thought she'd "come out the other end." Poor sap.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:25 AM
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he had enough information to figure our what he was getting into.

This really drives how sympathetic she is. I am not sure I read the essay the same way. Mostly, I am struck by how little she seems to care about her husband. I am not fool enough to think that people do not change, or fall in love--unexpectedly and against all the rules--with someone besides their spouse, or find--against all expectations--that love or desire or friendship (or all three) have waned. These things happen and they are painful for all concerned. But she seems mostly unconcerned for the pain her husband feels and mostly simply annoyed with how it makes her life more difficult.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:26 AM
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Notwithstanding my 31, on reflection, 30 does seem likely.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:28 AM
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That's why I asked about the quote in 9. It's like she thinks this whole sex thing is something her husband is just going to get over one of these days.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:30 AM
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Who reaps with a sword?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:30 AM
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The person who sows the wind? The person who beat his other sword into a plowshare?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:32 AM
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33 -- Seems she's doing her best to bring that about.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:34 AM
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He may have thought she'd "come out the other end."

UR DOIN IT WRONG.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:35 AM
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It seemed to me that her novelty fetish is simply an avoidance mechanism. She's not willing to face the fact that she's seriously fucked up about sex and intimacy - vide her descriptions of her early fears:"I was afraid. I didn't want to bleed. Sheer fear of that plunging pain is what held me back" and "The intimacy was too much, too wrenching and shameful" and her refusal to seek some psychological exploration ["in this one small area of my life, can I claim, if not health, then at least the absence of pathology?"] She appears to find intercourse inherently disgusting/shameful and is terrified of truly getting close to someone - in effect, sex must be part of a fantasy world, idealised, not flesh-on-flesh, hot and sweaty and close; she cannot cope with the Cheerios reality. Even her pre-marital affair was with someone impossible - there was no chance of a relationship, even if the sex hadn't turn "revolting".

I agree with Idealist that she seems to put her own feelings above those of her husband. She's peeved because he's "miserable and cold and withdrawn", she doesn't like living that way. Yet, frankly, if she truly cared about him, she'd either get some therapy or fake it. This is all about her comfort; nothing in the article indicates that she really cares about this poor guy at all.

Hell, the husband may have thought that he'd figured out her underlying sex-is-shameful feeling and that she'd get past that when married. Then came children and well, would you want to divorce a woman who admits to severe depression, is clearly screwed up in a number of ways and drag all that into a custody battle? Some men stay in marriages that are inherently unhealthy simply because they care for their children.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:51 AM
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Some men stay in marriages that are inherently unhealthy simply because they care for their children.

What I don't get is his reluctance to find another sex partner. She's obviously ok with it. Either the lack of sex is the only major problem in the marriage --- in which case a suitable extra-marital partner should fix the problem, or he knows the whole thing is broken and exposure to the possibility of happiness or whatever will push him over the edge and he'll leave. So he's willing to stay this miserable but not more miserable? Sounds like fun. They both sound immaturely unable to deal with this issue head on.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 11:58 AM
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Yet, frankly, if she truly cared about him, she'd either get some therapy or fake it. This is all about her comfort; nothing in the article indicates that she really cares about this poor guy at all.

This is a little cold, no? If she really cared about her husband, she'd just quit having whatever psychological problems she has, or rearrange her fundamental level of interest in sex? Or at the least, if not cold, unrealistic.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:01 PM
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39: Yep. The husband appears to be very invested in this messed up relationship with this messed up woman. He's still to be sympathized with, as is she, but they're in a situation they mutually got themselves into.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:02 PM
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She's obviously ok with it.

All things considered, I can see why he might not take this at face value.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:05 PM
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Yeah, I blame him. He meets a woman who totally loses interest in sex, watches while she is clearly having a passionate affair with someone else, waits until she bores with him, and then marries her, only to spend the rest of his life waiting for her to want to fuck him? What it makes me want to know is if he married her because he loves her despite her sexual dysfunction, or if he was sort of like, "Ah, well; you know how women are."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:07 PM
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She buried the lede a bit with the whole Grim Reaper of Insanity business. It made the article a little bit strange, because one naturally thinks of all the usual reasons one might not be interested in sex, and then gets to the part about her periodic mental illness, and thinks 'oh. well, never mind thinking they might need to set aside some romantic time, that probably explains it.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:08 PM
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All things considered, I can see why he might not take this at face value.

Sure. But it would a perfectly reasonable position for him to take. And abstract fears about `falling in love' are nonsensical as stated. That doesn't mean it's the right answer, but it doesn't sound (not that we really know anything) like they've hashed this out properly at all. Waiting around for a broken relationship to magically fix itself is at best stupid.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:10 PM
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And abstract fears about `falling in love' are nonsensical as stated.

Really? It seems that one of the likely possibilities of an open marriage is one person falling in love with their non-spouse partner, and this couple weren't considering it out of a dislike of monogamy or a sense of adventure. I'd put the odds pretty high that he starts to care about a woman who he's seeing regularly.

The woman's in treatment for some kind of mental illness, which leads me to suspect that they probably have hashed the hell out of the issue. (If not, they probably need a new therapist.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:14 PM
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39, 45: Fix your name field, if you would? Obviously you're a regular, but I hate not knowing who.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:15 PM
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sorry LB! Didn't notice. 39, 45 me


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:16 PM
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What it makes me want to know is if he married her because he loves her despite her sexual dysfunction, or if he was sort of like, "Ah, well; you know how women are."

Mmm. The first is tragic, the second is a sign that someone should have smacked him awake before they got married.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:17 PM
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Was 43 a joke?


Posted by: Brains in Vats | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:19 PM
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And will somebody let me out of this vat? It's cold and drafty.


Posted by: Brains in Vats | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:20 PM
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46: Really?

Really. There are all sorts of problems that come out of that sure. But labeling it as `oops, I fell in love with this other person, and we're screwed' is pretty much universally bullshit.

Sure he can and in fact, hopefully would care about another woman he was seeing regularly. Which may or may not be a problem, depending how it's handled. My point was that this doesn't cause the underlying problems in a marriage. At most it might reveal them. More likely, it's a form of running away from them. `Everything was fine until I fell in love with this other person' is a cop out. That's why I said if really the only thing wrong with there marriage is the lack of sexual interest on her part, it should work out fine if properly handled. I suspect that's not the case, but what do we know.

I'm not suggesting that it's the right answer for this couple or for any other, and I'm not suggesting it doesn't have risks. What I'm suggesting is that that particular characterization of the risk is laughable, at least how I'm interpreting her statement.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:22 PM
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50: Didn't sound like a joke to me. While you can pity someone despite the fact that they're in a situation they got themselves into through massive self-deception, that seems to be where the husband is -- he didn't marry a woman he had a healthy sex life with, he married a woman who had lost sexual interest in him. It's still a lousy position for him to be in, and I sympathize, but it isn't something that happened to him without his cooperation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:23 PM
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watches while she is clearly having a passionate affair with someone else,

It's uncertain how much he knew about this from the column, to be fair.

Clearly they are both pretty dysfunctional about sex.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:23 PM
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54: Mmm. Once you're asking your fiance whether she was having sex with anyone else when she was out until 3am and getting technically accurate but deceptive denials, while you may not have full knowlege of what's going on, not being able to see that there's something significantly wrong seems to involve a certain amount of denial.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:27 PM
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Oh, gotcha, soup. I had read you as saying that the risk that he'd fall in love was negligible.

the second is a sign that someone should have smacked him awake before they got married.

Wingnut sister and I recently met a crazy Republican man who claims that women categorically do not enjoy sex. It is to wingnutsister's credit that she had the same thought as I: "not with him, for sure."

I suspect the husband in the article more likely figured their sex life had just cooled off and was going to re-ignite any day now, rather than him thinking that women just didn't like sex.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:27 PM
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But, leaving this author aside, this is a terribly common scenario.

Yes; surely it happens to a great many people, and I'm therefore quite sympathetic to both husband and wife in this case. It puzzles me that the writer insists that she's "in love" with her husband, sans desire; though I'm not sure I'd want to get into the difference between being in love, and simply loving (deeply) another.

When something like this does develop, I imagine a lot of people do have affairs, perhaps with their spouse's consent, and find this an acceptable solution. There's really no clear blame to be laid, though; it's just a question of how much each party (in this case the husband) is willing to give up. More personally, I will say that I once basically blew up a long-term relationship in order to end it, because I no longer desired my partner and he was suffering for it. (I do not recommend this method of addressing the situation.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:29 PM
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It is to wingnutsister's credit that she had the same thought as I: "not with him, for sure."

Or in Lolcat speak: UR DOIN IT RONG.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:30 PM
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significantly wrong seems to involve a certain amount of denial.

Oh, absolutely. I just meant that he could plausibly be fooling himself about this, as opposed to them having had a clear discussion about what happened. I worded it badly.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:30 PM
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I suspect the husband in the article more likely figured their sex life had just cooled off and was going to re-ignite any day now

The thing that makes me doubt this is that they were together for years before getting married, and she seems to have been pretty aware of her sexual issues since she was quite young. If anything, I could see him taking the affair for a sign that she could be interested in sex, but wasn't right now, with him.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:35 PM
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57: Parsimon, I was sure that you were aware that you can't blow up a social relationship.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:40 PM
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Eh. I had this marriage. You get over it.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:41 PM
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I have a neighbor downstairs who regularly has 2am screaming matches with his girlfriend every time they have sex. He initiates sex by going down on her, she seems fine with it, and then she cuts it off in the middle before he can penetrate her. She's really clear about the fact that she doesn't like intercourse; she just likes getting head. He screams and screams about how unfair this is and how cruel she is, and this has been going on for like three years. While I would also get really frustrated in a relationship with someone who can receive pleasure but give none, I just don't get why he doesn't break up with her. I just keep thinking, what is he getting out of this? Surely he must like being rejected or something. Six months of frustrating sexual dysfunction? Maybe she'll come around or something. But three years? This is not going to change.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:42 PM
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63: Sounds like the optimal time to discuss their sex issues, too.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:45 PM
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I'm also curious about the wish to assign blame to either the wife or the husband in this case, because we've talked on this blog before about various columns advocating so-called settling, for some guy a woman ain't necessarily absolutely mad for, in order to construct a life (children, home, nuclear family for a time, until the likely divorce) she wants.

I'd gotten the impression that people here generally granted that such a course of action wasn't outrageous. Unromantics that you all are!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:46 PM
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61: I have no idea what this means. Please sign your comments.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:49 PM
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"It" being the marriage.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:52 PM
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I think what bothered me most about the article was her claim that the whole problem with sex is that it's no longer sacred while at the same time she completely trivialized it.

If something is sacred, ostensibly that means you put a great deal of weight on it, you work hard to maintain it, you devote rituals to it. She seems to just want to forget that it exists.

Putting the "sex should be sacred" gloss on it is a feint, one meant to draw her in closer to this culture's habit of valuing sex when in fact she doesn't seem to value sex at all.

(Also, I suppose that why that makes me particularly irritated is that I perceive an air of superiority surrounding her denigration of sex - she's got much better things to do than bother with the fuss and muss of imperfect bodies meeting, and shouldn't you too?)


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:53 PM
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60: Really, nothing about this is remotely surprising. I led myself on for years thinking, "We'll get this right eventually. Something will change." We were married after years of doing things like having 30-day moratoria on intercourse, long periods of no sex followed by resentful sex. In between, there was lots of tender touching, fun adventures, intellectual companionship -- just enough to think that the whole project wasn't doomed.

What changed was my wife decided that the path for her involved novelty (unlike Slater, she woke up to her sex drive and found it thwarted by our marriage). She went after it, and that made it a little easier to dismantle things, although even then it took me six months to declare things over. (I was pursuing novelty, too--everything was above board. She was furious that I hadn't dedicated myself to emotionless liaisons and instead developed something of a relationship, although that was doomed too.)

But so many details ring true. The anger at people who have gotten close to her, especially. That makes novelty the only way to avoid violation. Not good for marriage.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:54 PM
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68: The sacred thing is meaningless. "Sex should be sacred" means "everybody wants this thing that I fear and hate, so they are animals."

The granite thing at the end is priceless. They're not exclusive, sweetie -- you could probably fit a quickie in between chisels here and there and the whole thing would go better.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:56 PM
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I have a friend in a similar situation -- years or unilaterally declared celibacy, plenty of individual and couples therapy, and now the apparent acceptance of the fact that they are most likely never going to have sex again. I know him well enough to suspect that he bears a fair share of the blame for her lack of desire for him, though I know myself well enough to know that blame also stems from seeing quite a bit of myself in her and quite a bit of UNG in him. I have a very hard time understanding either of their desire to stay in the relationship or the refusal to even consider an open relationship. He insists that, though the lack of sex is a very big deal to him, they otherwise enjoy one another very much.

Still, I find it very hard not to see this through the filter of my relationship with UNG, the complete lack of desire I eventually had for him, how long it took me to recognize that this was not some inherent sexual dysfunction on my part, but a symptom of everything that was wrong in the relationship. So my friend can maintain that aside from this one thing everything is great, and yet I have a very hard time not believing that he is deluding himself.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:56 PM
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65: There seems a huge difference to me between a relationship between people who have both settled for one another because they want a family, in which sexual desire may be negotiable (because they do both like having sex together sometimes, because they're good with an open relationship, or because they are both not terribly desirous to begin with), and one in which one person wants the whole package and the other is really gritting his/her teeth about feeling expected to have sex.

My ex's marriage was rather similar to the one described in ML. They both wanted to start a family, they were together long enough before marriage to find out that she only liked sex during the first few months of a relationship, and he really thought sex was important. He claims they married because it felt, at a certain point, just too late to turn back; their families were involved, etc. Ten years later, when I met him, her bouts with mental illness had grown increasingly frequent and her affairs outside the marriage more demanding. She told him to go get a girlfriend if he wanted sex so badly, and because he kept holding out hope that it would somehow magically work out with her, he didn't. She convinced him that he was a sex addict and needed to be put on libido-lowering depression meds, while she was starting an affair with a guy from work, for whom she left him.

As much as her behavior was really traumatic to him, it's not like they had ever been on the same page sexually or emotionally. I felt bad for him, but then could never figure out why the hell he'd marry someone who was so crystal-clear about the limitations on their relationship, which were unacceptable to him.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:57 PM
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Yeah, I blame him.

Oh, come on. Can you really assign blame to one and not the other?

Since when did relationships become a one-way street of blame?

This issue isnt that surprising or unusual.

Many couples are unhappy with one significant aspect of their relationship. They just choose to continue muddling through it.

Who are they to expect to have it all?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:58 PM
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The "you should sleep with other people" thing is familiar too. This started about a year into our relationship, and came up three or four more times throughout. I always explained that it wasn't what I wanted. The last time it came up, I responded, "Are you trying to tell me that you want to sleep with other people?"

And lo, she was.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:58 PM
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71.2: I love when Di and I start acting out each other's marriages.

It's a good lesson in compassion, I suppose. Although also keep in mind that both of us are right, and our exes are wrong.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 12:59 PM
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There's a difference between 'settling' and 'no longer striving for perfect partners of one's fantasy and rejecting all others.' The first involves resenting the other person for not being the perfect fantasy partner.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:01 PM
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70.1 sounds about right. It's only a gloss.


but then could never figure out why the hell he'd marry someone who was so crystal-clear about the limitations on their relationship, which were unacceptable to him.

I've run into similar situation many, many times. It no longer surprises me when people tell me they've walked eyes open into a situation they can't live with and then proceed to try and live with it (miserably) for years, but I still can't understand it well --- particularly in the case of repeats by people who've had every opportunity to learn.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:02 PM
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75: See? This is exactly why I get paranoid that you are secretly UNG. But for your ability to string together coherent thoughts, and your basic humanity, that is.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:03 PM
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I have little sympathy with the writer. I was in a relationship with a woman who matched the reported sexual profile of the writer and we were able to work things out OK by just dealing with it up front. It meant that sex sort of tapered off a bit later in the relationship, but we were able to keep things fresh with a modest amount of ingenuity.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:05 PM
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Can you really assign blame to one and not the other?

I was overstating, but my point was that she seems relatively happy with the relationship she has, with no sex in it. He's the one who has always wanted more. To marry someone who can't give you what you need and eternally resent them for it seems wrong to me.

My ex just kept saying that he married his wife because he just didn't think he could meet anyone else. I never bought it, and I don't think he did either--he's always been very attractive to women--but that's how it felt at the time, that if he didn't settle at 32, he'd die alone, or necessarily end up with some other unsexual woman with borderline personality disorder. It just seems like a failure of imagination to me.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:05 PM
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53: It seems like an awfully contractual view of relationships, which may be the height of wisdom but is not actually how anyone lives their lives. Other than in the level of suffering, I don't see it as all that different from blaming a woman who stays with an abusive spouse, even though she knows perfectly well he's abusive.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:06 PM
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"Are you trying to tell me that you want to sleep with other people?"

I think this is pretty common. People seem to have trouble talking about changing parameters of their relationships, and `anything you can do, I can do' is a form of permission.

Di hit a particular point well earlier. Often sexual dysfunction in a relationship is symptomatic of everything else.

I think various forms of open relationships actually work very well, but only if what they are about is addressing sexual incompatibilities, or a genuine (and mutual) dislike if the institutionalized constraints of this monogamous marriage model. I suspect people who can talk very openly about these things with their partners (regardless of the eventual decision to open the relationship or not) are in better shape than most relationships. Deciding monogamy is the right thing for you based on actual discussion of the options and how you both feel about things is a hell of a lot healthier than vague, ambiguous words and a double helping of social expectation.

However in a huge number of cases, I think that couples agree on an open form of relationship not because it's what they need, but as a way of holding onto a relationship that's already very damaged, if not doomed. This is a terrible idea, and I think the reason that many people are distrustful of the idea of open marriages, etc. It's a shame really, because in these cases the extra-marital sex is never the problem, really, but it sure can be a convenient excuse.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:11 PM
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I was overstating, but my point was that she seems relatively happy with the relationship she has, with no sex in it. He's the one who has always wanted more.

Similarly, I'm fine living like a slob, and if you want anythign to be clean, that's your problem.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:13 PM
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Yeah, the sacredness of sex thing is odd. But here's the whole quote:

In our culture, sex has lost its sacred quality. If I were mayor or president, I think I would institute some rules for the good of the American Marriage, a prohibition or two -- no touching allowed until Tuesday -- because longing springs from distance. It is ironic but also absolutely understandable that proximity can kill sex faster than fainting.

This is about the desire that builds through distance, through longing. Sure, that's just ture. It doesn't appear to be about the bad, nasty form that the 'sacred sex' mindset can sometimes take, that thing where people want to be transported via heavenly scented candles to some sweat-free brain orgasm.

Except. The writer seems clearly squicked out by the sweaty aspects of sex -- what would she do if someone farted in the course of the act ?!?

I dunno, I have one friend who can't stand the sweaty aspect, and another friend who was with her for several years has confessed that he couldn't stand her need for everything to be transporting all the time.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:15 PM
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Other than in the level of suffering, I don't see it as all that different from blaming a woman who stays with an abusive spouse, even though she knows perfectly well he's abusive.

Actually, it is exactly how I felt about myself when I finally got out of an abusive relationship. The suffering does matter, and not all abused women are as free as I was to leave the relationship (fear of being murdered is quite different from fear of losing the little sex and companionship your partner resentfully grants you), but after a year with someone who was a violent psychotic, I felt really angry at myself for staying with him so long afterward. Did I get off on the drama of it? Sure. Did I stroke myself with the thought that I was caring for him in his mental illness? Absolutely. What really made me sad was realizing that he was so much worse at the end of our relationship, because I provided him with a sort of buffer between himself and the world, and he never, despite my pleading, got any psychiatric help until I broke up with him. I let him use me because, at 19, I guess I sort of liked being used. I was totally to blame in that situation, and have not forgiven myself for it.

None of that applies to women who are afraid that breaking up will result in further trauma, of course, or people who are trying to stay together for kids. It applies to me because I was young and unconnected and could have helped both of us if I hadn't been so addicted to what I thought was taking care of him.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:15 PM
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83 reads like a transcript of my marriage counseling...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:17 PM
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Do they have male RealDolls? They wouldn't sweat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:19 PM
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My 84: Sure, that's just ture

This typo is amusing me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:21 PM
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I have also broken up with guys who couldn't maintain sexual interest beyond the initial flush of a relationship, and in one case, with a man who was imagining a possible marriage with me. And no, it's not like I ended it after one night of being rejected, but somewhere between a month and three months of being denied sex, with no sign of a return of desire, and yet the guys in question never would have ended it themselves. They were perfectly happy to feel desired and not return it. It was me who wanted more and was unhappy, so it was my duty to end it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:30 PM
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I imagine that some of the overt hostility to sex that she shows is rooted in feeling like the culture that surrounds her is always pushing sex as the great good, an essential of life.

Perhaps she would have been happier in the 19th century (as she seems to think), when no less a person than Sylvester Graham argued that sex should happen no more than the number of months in the year between married partners. Then again, she probably wouldn't be able to find so much joy in her granite...


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:30 PM
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84 focuses on what I would identify as the root of the problem -- the sense of expectation and the pressure that comes along with it. And, honestly, in the situation described by the article and in the situation as narrated by my friend, I don't know how you ever fix that. For her, it sounds like an obligation, a chore like washing the dishes or folding the laundry, work that must be done to make the household run smoothly. As much as I despise Therapist #2 for her idiotic "Can't Refuse" sex game, it really opened my eyes to what was so distasteful to me about sex with UNG -- the sense of never really being able to refuse without being subjected to the interminable guilt trip, feeling pressured to call up the desired mood on cue. (It's hard to explain that without making it sound like a horrible overstatement.) It's awfully hard to get in the mood when you've got "Get in the mood, NOW!" in the back of your brain.

At the same time, I can see it from the other side too. (UNG is just an ass, of course, but other guys might have a valid perspective.) When you haven't gotten any for a very long time, it's rather difficult to be easygoing about the whole thing, to approach your partner with a sense of relaxed, let's-see-where-it-goes enjoyment. However hard you might force yourself to not get too wound up, the fact is once you get that hint of a signal that maybe this is going to go somewhere good, the fact that you are really, really pushing on the inside is going to come through no matter how restrained you try to be.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:32 PM
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Dear god, people. Why is it that essays about relationship problems always require the blame response?

Relationships are difficult. Very few people are completely unfucked up.

She's not willing to face the fact that she's seriously fucked up about sex and intimacy

It seems to me that the point of the essay is that she is acknowledging that, actually. She's saying that it doesn't bother her, and so she wishes she weren't expected to "do" something about it. God forbid someone should want to have autonomy about their sexuality. And yes, she's in a relationship, and yes, that means that one doesn't have autonomy, but I don't see what's so damn wrong with saying she wishes she did.

What I don't get is his reluctance to find another sex partner.

Really? The idea that one might want to have sex with *this specific person* rather than with whoever comes along, is so alien?

if she truly cared about him, she'd either get some therapy or fake it. This is all about her comfort; nothing in the article indicates that she really cares about this poor guy at all.

Maybe she cares enough about him not to fake it. Maybe he doesn't want her to fake it?

I am struck by how little she seems to care about her husband.

I'm not sure what the author could do, in a published column, to reassure them that she loves her husband without violating his privacy even more than the column already does. In any case, the column is *about* her feelings about sex; the fact that her lack of sexual interest seems impersonal suggests to me that it isn't about him, which makes it all the more understandable that she can say that she loves him but doesn't want to have sex with him.

it's cruel to maintain a relationship where one person is expected to have their needs unmet throughout.

This is the main objection to the article that makes sense to me. Her statement about hoping they'll "reconnect" (which seems *obviously* to mean that they'll start having sex again) suggests that she hopes, possibly delusionally, that she isn't expecting him to have his needs unmet forever. But in any case, isn't that the hard part abut marriage, regardless? That there are inevitably the difficult times, and it's impossible to tell when you're in the middle of them whether or not they're temporary?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:37 PM
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in a huge number of cases, I think that couples agree on an open form of relationship not because it's what they need, but as a way of holding onto a relationship that's already very damaged, if not doomed. This is a terrible idea, and I think the reason that many people are distrustful of the idea of open marriages, etc. It's a shame really, because in these cases the extra-marital sex is never the problem, really, but it sure can be a convenient excuse.

Amen to that. May I quote you the next time someone emails or comments asking if they should try an open relationship because they're having problems?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:41 PM
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I don't see why faking it is the only option for her to interact sexually on a semi-regular basis. Take all the romance out of it. Set up some sort of minimally acceptable schedule. She doesn't have to have penetrative sex, or even to be stimulated, or even to touch him, to be emotionally connected and erotic while he masturbates, or something.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:41 PM
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Really? The idea that one might want to have sex with *this specific person* rather than with whoever comes along, is so alien?

Except that's not how she characterized it at all. So sure, I can understand "I only want you". Not so much "I don't want to do that, what if I accidentally fall in love with someone else" .


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:42 PM
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94: Dan Savage recommends almost exactly that for incompatible sex drives. I dunno, though -- it seems as if it would be somewhere between sad and humiliating for the more desirous partner.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:43 PM
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The writer seems clearly squicked out by the sweaty aspects of sex

She does? It seems to me that she's freaked by intimacy, which isn't the same thing at all, even while at the same time she finds the intimacy--part of which is the sweaty aspect, the private things--very moving. She has a difficult time integrating that level of intimacy into her everyday life about everyday things, and right now she's enjoying the everyday things.

We're all very familiar with stories that go the other way--the person who's so transported by intimacy that everyday things don't much matter. This is just the converse. It's obviously a huge problem for her (and probably for lots of people), but I don't think it follows that it has to be, like, pathological.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:45 PM
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further to 95:

so once again I was inarticulate: it's not that I don't understand reluctance to have sex outside the marriage, it's that I don't understand her characterization of his reluctance --- or perhaps more precisely that it doesn't ring true for me. This may be complicated by the fact she may well be quoting him exactly, and he doesn't understand or explain his reluctance very well.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:45 PM
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94: From my own experience, heebie, this sort of thing would only make the experience even more undesirably obligatory. I have no objection, to be clear, to the idea of having sex with your partner even though you personally aren't particularly in the mood, because you want to make your partner happy. It's the part where you layer that with "minimally acceptable" standards for frequency or whatever and the idea that you *have to* do this to make your partner happy that (again, IME) can really fuck things up.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:46 PM
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96: I think the sad/humiliating would be a risk, but the less desirous partner could counteract it by being TOTALLY on board, and initiating, etc. So that it's clear they don't have one foot out the door. The more desirous partner might still have to check some ego at the door; it's definitely not everybody's fantasy solution.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:46 PM
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Not so much "I don't want to do that, what if I accidentally fall in love with someone else"

I read this as saying that falling in love and having a great sex life with that person is a game-ending threat to an obviously seriously troubled marriage. It might not be were they otherwise happy, but in this specific case, he thinks it would be enough to end things, so he's avoiding putting himself in a position where he suspects he'll end up not saving the marriage by getting sex elsewhere, but ending it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:46 PM
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94, 96: This reads like a good idea, but I tried it in three different sexually-unequal relationships, and it just made it worse. All three guys told me it felt like I was flaunting my unfulfillable sexual desire in front of them, making them feel like they were never enough for me, and basically forcing them to become even more hopelessly impotent. (All of them seemed really wonderfully into it at the time, but the emotional aftermath was worse than if I'd actually pressured them to have sex.) If you're embarrassed by bodies and sexuality, being with someone who is enjoying his/her own body is going to be embarrassing.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:48 PM
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66: Sorry, 61 was me. Stupid new browser/OS keeps deleting the saved info at random. Anyhow, It's an anarchist slogan. Which is kinda problematic, for just the reason I gather you chose to describe your break-up in that way. Of course some kind of serious action, like having an affair, or otherwise jerking somebody around is going to blow up a romantic relationship, just as, in the political sense, some kinds of violent action can precipitate a change in the social order. It sounds like the ML writer and her husband have erred too much on the side of assuming that any radical change is perforce bad. Which, from the perspective of their children might be true, but considered just as regards their interactions with each other, I'm firmly in the camp of commenters who are advocating some kind of change.

Also, there's a disconnect in the column between "sex" and "everything up to but not including". It's unclear to me, since the writer makes a pretty definite distinction between one and the other, whether she's totally uninterested in doing anything sexual at all with her husband, or whether the sticking point (as it were) is coming down to whether or not they're going to have regular heterosexual intercourse. It's kinda hard to determine exactly how fucked up things are, without knowing that..


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:48 PM
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What's really pathological in the article is the phrasing "bored *of* sex."

98 is my guess. I mean, people *are* illogical around these issues. And the whole "I don't want to fall in love with someone else," if you think about it, does basically mean "I love *you*"--doesn't it?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:49 PM
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98 -- Soup I think your instinct on this is basically correct. My read of the account was that he was telling her 'I don't want to embark on plan B; I want you to step up so that plan A works.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:49 PM
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96: I think that depends a lot on the ability to work out something that is both hot for the desirous partner, and acceptable for the non-desirous partner. This is going to vary a lot couple to couple, but I also have the sense that many people have not been very creative in their sex-play, and might be surprised at what works for them.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:49 PM
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102, cont'd: That is, it wasn't sad and humiliating for me, because I'm not freaked out by sexual intimacy. But it was sad and humiliating for my partners, after it was over.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:50 PM
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May I quote you the next time someone emails or comments asking if they should try an open relationship because they're having problems?

Absolutely.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:51 PM
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the idea that you *have to* do this to make your partner happy

That is the poison at the center of monogamous marriage, I think. Who wants to be intimate with someone who's doing it out of obligation? And who wants to feel obligated to provide intimacy? Once you get into this territory, I imagine it's pretty hard to get out.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:52 PM
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and the idea that you *have to* do this to make your partner happy that (again, IME) can really fuck things up.

But part of why a low sex-drive feels like a problem is the obligation of being revved up and turned on. Allowing it to be okay if just one person is turned on seems to at least enhance the amount of experiences available.

And the schedule I think would allay a bit of the more desirous partner's fears - even if it puts it in "chore-mode" for the less desirous partner, "chore-mode" without necessarily touching strikes me as not particularly violating.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:52 PM
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he thinks it would be enough to end things

He's probably right. There's another (dysfunctional) aspect to the long-suffering spouse role that keeps people from bolting: it gives you an unspoken advantage in pretty much every other aspect of the relationship.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:52 PM
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I imagine it's pretty hard to get out.

Yeah, this is a really nasty fork to pin relationships on. I went a little ways down that road once (it was a bit more complicated, but isn't it always) and it was no fun.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:53 PM
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97: It seems to me that she's freaked by intimacy, which isn't the same thing at all, even while at the same time she finds the intimacy--part of which is the sweaty aspect, the private things--very moving.

True.

I've missed you, B., by the way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:53 PM
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102: And I can say from experience that the emotional aftermath of gently pressuring someone into having sex with you (as in the scenario above where the other person isn't actually in the mood but does it to make you happy) can also be difficult to deal with. Resentment (and, if you're me, guilt) builds and can explode. And this was in a relationship that was fundamentally sexually healthy, there was just a period of vastly differing sexual drives due to work-induced stress. I really can't imagine being in their situation - I would think that these emotions have built up so much over the years that it would be hard to find the way forward.


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:55 PM
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And who wants to feel obligated to provide intimacy? Once you get into this territory, I imagine it's pretty hard to get out.

I don't agree with this. Almost every couple has one person who's nudging their frequency of sex faster than their ideal, and one person who's nudging their frequency slower than their ideal. The person who's speeding up knows that even though they aren't turned on, they'll get revved up, given foreplay, so they shrug and go for it.

There's a healthy amount of nudging, and an unhealthy amount of nudging, and it's hard to nail down which relationships are dealing with what, of course.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:56 PM
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Or, you know, what B said.


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:59 PM
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112 was me

I read this as saying that falling in love and having a great sex life with that person is a game-ending threat to an obviously seriously troubled marriage.

Right, but a lot of the rest of it read as if we were to believe that the only thing wrong with the marriage was the lack of sex. Doubtful, sure, but see comes across as everything would be perfect if only he didn't want to have sex. We don't, obviously, have his side of it.

I believe you're right that falling in love with an outside partner and having a great sex life with that person is often a game ending threat to your seriously troubled marriage, but not really because of the love or the sex. It just works out that way often for people who are too afraid to leave a relationship they no longer believe in , and have just been offered a soft landing. The new relationship didn't actually cause any of the underlying problems, just cast them in stark contrast. Especially with a new, exciting, yet-to-reveal-it's-flaws relationship.

So yeah, if the case actually is that sexually incompatibility is the only big problem, I don't think the risk is very high. It's just that sexual incompatibility, as Di pointed out, may often be the tip of the iceberg.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 1:59 PM
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But part of why a low sex-drive feels like a problem is the obligation of being revved up and turned on. Allowing it to be okay if just one person is turned on seems to at least enhance the amount of experiences available.

I think this depends alot on the root of the "low sex drive." For me, there is something deeply distasteful about chore-like interactions in which your partner doesn't care at all whether you are turned on. I'm still reading that bit parsimon quoted above re: "longing springs from distance" as something like "if you could just back off and give me a chance to get into it, that might could help!" I project, of course.

But seriously, I am very skeptical of the "no/low sex drive" thing having found my issues in this regard miraculously cured by divorce.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:00 PM
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It's possible that 94 didn't work for me because of gender, in that trying to be really understanding and gentle about male impotence is sort of impossible, since it inevitably sounds humiliating to the guy. But maybe it just never comes out sounding kind, no matter the genders. Is there any way to say (especially while one is oneself aroused and frustrated) "Hey, it's OK that you don't want to have sex again tonight; I won't pressure you" without sounding resentful?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:00 PM
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Allowing it to be okay if just one person is turned on seems to at least enhance the amount of experiences available.

I completely agree. But it can be difficult to get there, especially for the husband in this case, since what he wants is (presumably) not just "sex" but the intimacy that comes with it.

it gives you an unspoken advantage in pretty much every other aspect of the relationship.

Oh god yes. Which only increases the pressure aspect of the sex thing. What a vicious spiral.

115: Sure, but there's a diff between "I'm not turned on but I'll get there and am okay with being nudged a bit" and "I'd really rather not but I'll 'let' you fuck me." Ick. (Or, what 114 said.)

I've missed you, B., by the way.

Thanks. I'm cursing having been drawn into this discussion because I want to get my grading done so that I can (ironically) spend some time with my husband today.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:01 PM
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There's a healthy amount of nudging, and an unhealthy amount of nudging, and it's hard to nail down which relationships are dealing with what, of course.

You're right that this is a common factor in relationships, but B is I think talking about a pathological case. It's entirely possible to get to a space where your sexual relationship is entirely defined by this balancing of obligation and need, and it's not a good place to be.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:02 PM
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But seriously, I am very skeptical of the "no/low sex drive" thing having found my issues in this regard miraculously cured by divorce.

I'm experiencing a total range of drives from my normal standard with this pregnancy, which is giving me the opposite grounding.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:03 PM
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117: I think we're in agreement; I just read 'the only problem is the lack of sex' as obviously false and so skipped ahead a bit.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:03 PM
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Sex cannot compete with the massive yet slender body of granite I excavated last week, six feet long, this sedimentary stone, packed with time and stories if only it could speak.
Granite is igneous rock, not sedimentary. She's not an expert, the whole column must be fake.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:04 PM
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"Hey, it's OK that you don't want to have sex again tonight; I won't pressure you"

I'm not sure, but it's probably a lot easier than trying to say "Hey, it's OK that you don't want to have sex this weekmonthterm; I won't pressure you" and not sound resentful.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:05 PM
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119: I think I've managed it without sounding resentful (I'm a girl too), but it is always a source of friction. One of the (not really recommended) ways I've dealt with it is casting my own sex drive as somewhat excessive, and thus relieving him of the burdens of feeling like he should be, could be, meeting it. It's an agreed upon fiction, of course, but for some reason it works - he gets to feel ok about not being in the mood, and I get to let him know I want him without it being too much pressure.


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:05 PM
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But seriously, I am very skeptical of the "no/low sex drive" thing having found my issues in this regard miraculously cured by divorce.

I think it's really easy to conflate two cases here, especially if you've only experienced one. It's possible to have a low sex drive be a reflection of other things, but it's also possible to just have a low sex drive.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:06 PM
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124: Hah! That's where you're wrong! Granite is metamorphic, which invalidates your entire comment.

(For some reason, all the science in my kids' elementary school seems to be geology. Kindergarten through fourth grade, it's rock rock rock rock rock.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:06 PM
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It's possible that 94 didn't work for me because of gender, in that trying to be really understanding and gentle about male impotence is sort of impossible, since it inevitably sounds humiliating to the guy.

I wondered if bucking traditional gender roles affected things in your case.

But maybe it just never comes out sounding kind, no matter the genders. Is there any way to say (especially while one is oneself aroused and frustrated) "Hey, it's OK that you don't want to have sex again tonight; I won't pressure you" without sounding resentful?

Probably only if both people are total straight-shooters who say exactly what they mean, and hear only what the other person says. Which is probably just synonymous with having a pretty great relationship already.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:07 PM
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128: (Or, after checking, I'm wrong. Igneous it is. Never mind.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:09 PM
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103: Thanks. I think we understand each other.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:10 PM
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132

One of the (not really recommended) ways I've dealt with it is casting my own sex drive as somewhat excessive, and thus relieving him of the burdens of feeling like he should be, could be, meeting it.

Yeah, this doesn't work so well, especially when the relationship started as a sexually satisfying one. The initial flush of dating someone with a higher sex drive than your own can be really stimulating, but then, eventually, it gives way to your own nature, and that can be really humiliating, especially, it seems, for men. But for women who want it less often after a while, it seems like it can turn into feeling a rather scary amount of pressure and guilt.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:10 PM
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127 -- Oh, yeah, I don't mean to imply that I am skeptical that genuine low sex drives exist. I suppose I still would resist the idea that the person with the low sex drive should be the one that needs to adapt to the partner with the higher sex drive.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:11 PM
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And of course, all of this is going to vary a lot by couple.

I knew one couple where she really particularly like or dislike sex, it mostly bored her. But she was perfectly willing to go along with it nearly whenever, so long as she wasn't asked to participate much. He on the other hand, found this part unmanageable, and was doubly hung by social expectations. Hard to complain to your beer drinking buddies that your wife lets you have sex any time you want but doesn't ask anything of it. She mostly felt up to the act, but not to acting enthusiastic.

Yeah, people actually do hash stuff like this out with me in all detail. Always have. I don't know why.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:14 PM
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But she was perfectly willing to go along with it nearly whenever, so long as she wasn't asked to participate much.

"Are you sexually active?"

"Nah, mostly I just lie there."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:16 PM
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132: Yep. It really only works where you're at least somewhat similar and it's more of a matter of fine-tuning here and there a la Heebie-Geebie's nudging of desires comment, as opposed to huge disparities. I just found it a useful way to frame the whole discussion to avoid the humiliation aspects, since I was perfectly fine being cast in that light. It was a way into the discussion that allowed for a healthy expression. And of course I think that open talking about such things is key.

Well, that, and I think a certain recognition of your ability to provide a level of sexual satisfaction for yourself regardless of your partner.


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:16 PM
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I suppose I still would resist the idea that the person with the low sex drive should be the one that needs to adapt to the partner with the higher sex drive.

Surely there's some middle ground, in general.


What I don't understand really is how surprised people seem to be that sex isn't special in this regard. Forming a lasting relationship is in a lot of ways figuring out compatibilities and workable ways to deal with incompatibilities. People who are quite understanding about the concept that an obsessive traveler athlete paired up with a couch loving homebody might have some serious taking and thinking to do about the long term implications still often seem floored by the idea that sex doesn't magically work itself out.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:18 PM
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128: (Or, after checking, I'm wrong. Igneous it is. Never mind.)

Yes, as we learned in parochial school as children: "Basalt below ground / is Granite above / Don't get married to sickos / Who are warped about love." Very handy bit of doggerel that addresses all the main issues in this thread, and indeed in life.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:20 PM
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Hard to complain to your beer drinking buddies that your wife lets you have sex any time you want but doesn't ask anything of it.

Ugh. One of the horror stories my ex told me about his marriage was that his wife decided she would manage his excessive desire by allowing him to fuck her, from behind only, for exactly two minutes, on a set day each week. It made him feel like a serial rapist, which, after a few years of this, she accused him of being. It seemed like a possible solution to both of them in the beginning, since she was clear about what, exactly, she could offer without feeling violated, but it took a horrible emotional toll on them both, and, in the end, it still felt like violation to her and torture to him.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:22 PM
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Yeah, this doesn't work so well, especially when the relationship started as a sexually satisfying one. The initial flush of dating someone with a higher sex drive than your own can be really stimulating, but then, eventually, it gives way to your own nature, and that can be really humiliating, especially, it seems, for men. But for women who want it less often after a while, it seems like it can turn into feeling a rather scary amount of pressure and guilt.

I don't see why this should be sorted by gender. Whichever partner's desire begins to wane, he or she begins to feel pressured, feels guilty, maybe begins to become resentful of real or imagined pressure. This is basic human stuff. It can take a year or two or more for the patterns to emerge, which is why it always surprises me when people become engaged after a few months: heavens, have you lived together yet?? You should do that!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:26 PM
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139: Yeah, I can see this being really dysfunctional. I don't think it was quite as bad with the couple in question, but with this:

Hard to complain to your beer drinking buddies that your wife lets you have sex any time you want but doesn't ask anything of it.

I was trying to illustrate not that the situation was ok, but how he felt stuck by social expectations, like there was something wrong with him because he wasn't happy with this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:26 PM
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130- Don't worry about it, I'm sure you'll get it right by sixth grade.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:28 PM
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What I don't understand really is how surprised people seem to be that sex isn't special in this regard.

Ben's comment about the slob/neat-freak pairing captured this idea really well. There are a whole lot of issues in a long-term relationship that require pushing different comfort levels and negotiating where the absolute boundaries lie.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:30 PM
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Also, have I ever mentioned that Soup is, like, one of my people, who makes total sense to me pretty much all the time? Yep. Even though he's an engineer or something, and makes some wicked typos.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:31 PM
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Hard to complain to your beer drinking buddies that your wife lets you have sex any time you want but doesn't ask anything of it. She mostly felt up to the act, but not to acting enthusiastic.

I find it hard to imagine ever being happy with a partner who isn't all that excited about you. (Not saying this is that couple's situation, but it's certainly the fear I'd harbor in his position!)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:34 PM
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135 made me laugh out loud.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:36 PM
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But seriously, I am very skeptical of the "no/low sex drive" thing having found my issues in this regard miraculously cured by divorce.

This seems like something that you'd really, really, really want to have a way to diagnose as soon as the incompatibility became a problem at all -- whether the lower sex drive partner was just set that way, or whether it was related to other issues in the relationship. A genuinely lower sex drive seems like something you could get around with something like heebie/Dan Savage's idea, or an open marriage, or something.

But trying to address other issues in the marriage that are showing up in the sexual relationship by doing stuff to fix the sexual relationship before anything else is worked out seems doomed to failure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:38 PM
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145: It makes perfect sense --- but in many social circles it's not the sort of thing that you are supposed to profess. After all, paradoxically men are supposed to transport any woman into paroxysms of lust and desire with their mad (but innate) skillz .... but they aren't actually supposed to care about how the woman is getting on, rigth?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:38 PM
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146: Try the veal. I'll be here all week.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:38 PM
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Even though he's an engineer or something, and makes some wicked typos.

The first is slanderous! but I'll freely admit the second. I can't speel, type quickly and inaccurately, and am too lazy to edit most times.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:40 PM
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also, i can never tell the difference between slander and defamation.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:41 PM
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tell s/b remember.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:41 PM
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148: I can see why people tell you these things, soup. IME, it's hard for straight guys to find straight guys to talk earnestly about sex and relationships with, without it devolving into very surface-type stuff. I'm sure most people, men and women, really do care if their partners are into them, but if sexual success is only socially measured in terms of whether someone will let you penetrate their lifeless form semi-regularly, you can't have that conversation. Everyone wants someone to be excited to see them, excited to be touched by them, etc. It's deeply gratifying and de-shaming, and makes you feel like your existence is somehow noncontingent.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:45 PM
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The first is slanderous!

Sorry -- something sciency, isn't it? But I'm teasing in any case.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:46 PM
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Whatever Soupy's vibe is that gets people to open up and be all TMI-ey, there is something about me that gets crazy people to muster and fake-sane for me. I think it's about them being able to smell and anticipate the reaction, and they can smell that I'll be somewhere between bemused and indifferent. I hardly ever, ever get crying undergrads in my office unless it's something truly unmanagebly big for them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:50 PM
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||

Oh Jesus. I just picked up the reading for tomorrow's Welcome to College class, (uh...end of semesteritis...) and it reads like it was written by Ben. Tomorrow is going to be a blast. They are not going to be able to comprehend a single sentence of this thing.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:53 PM
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Everyone wants someone to be excited to see them, excited to be touched by them, etc. It's deeply gratifying and de-shaming, and makes you feel like your existence is somehow noncontingent.

I think we need a word for these normative assumptions. "Socionormative"?

I am not ashamed when I am alone.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:55 PM
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This is a great thread on sex, the column was a springboard to a really good conversation. But just in terms of the author herself, clearly no one here is familiar with Lauren Slater. She is a special woman, normal human rules do not apply to her. I've been reading her for over ten years now, since her brilliant first book . She's sort of a brilliant mentally ill workaholic genius. For a while she was running a very successful mental health clinic, battling nervous breakdowns, and winning all kinds of major writing awards at the same time (either she's getting lazy with age, or the Modern Love editors screwed with her style). Anyway, she's right on the line where the oversensitivity involved with mental illness intersects with the oversensitivity that makes a great writer. I guarantee you her husband signed up for the ride in marrying her -- she's not normal.

Obviously, lack of sexual desire in a long-term relationship *is* sort of normal, but Lauren Slater feels all normal emotions at almost unbearably heightened intensity. It's pretty evident reading her better writing -- that gives her a big descriptive gift.

Reading this after reading her earlier work made me think, wow, sounds like she's really together and things are going great.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:55 PM
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I hardly ever, ever get crying undergrads in my office unless it's something truly unmanagebly big for them.

You and I are the opposite, apparently. I give off some kind of vibe that gives everyone permission to crack open for me the innermost recesses of their shame and self-loathing. My undergrads cry all the time, not about the assignments, but about, like, how the texts and our discussion made them realize that they have rape fantasies or rape phobias, that they're gay or that they are homophobic, etc., etc. I don't think it's anything I do, but maybe some attitude of unshockability or something.

Just this weekend, I was hanging out with my best friend from undergrad and his friend, and when BF and I were talking about relationships and sex in our usual way, his friend got REALLY EXCITED because it was the first time ever that he felt like he could talk openly about his sexual anxieties with friends. I'm glad he felt comfortable with us, but the first time someone does that, it's really obviously scary and intense for them, while for BF and I, it's just what we do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:58 PM
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157: I am not ashamed when I am alone.

I wasn't comparing with being alone, but with being with someone who is not excited to be touched by you.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 2:59 PM
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156: what is it?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:06 PM
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161:

Well, keep in mind I haven't read it yet, just the first two paragraphs. In case I'm inadvertently delivering some insult and I will want to backpedal.

It's the first ten pages of Chapter 3 from Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire.

"An unauthentic word, one which is unable to transform reality, results when dichotomy is imposed upon its constitutive elements." Mmm yes, they'll understand that perfectly well.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:10 PM
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I even forgot to go over what the word "pedagogy" means, before break. They aren't exactly the lookin-stuff-up type. I didn't get around to inculcating that, either, partly because the first two books we read had pretty conversational language.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:12 PM
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163: From what you've said about them, the concept of "oppressed" is going to come rather hard to them as well.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:13 PM
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I had a German prof who strongly discouraged looking words up on the principle that if you get it from the context clues you will know the word more completely. Maybe that only applies to foreign language learning.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:14 PM
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164: No, no, they're all quite oppressed. It's the brown people who need to quit bitching.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:15 PM
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40: Don't interpolate something I didn't say. In the essay, she a) complains that her husband has become "miserable and cold and withdrawn" - who wouldn't, being rejected on a constant basis? - and b) admits she has no interest in delving into the psychology of the situation: "I could get treatment, but I've had so much treatment -- for cancer, for depression -- that in this one small area of my life, can I claim, if not health, then at least the absence of pathology?". [No, she can't; there's clearly a pathology.] I certainly don't believe in instant cures, but I do believe in making an effort, especially if the problem in question is damaging someone one supposedly loves.

It doesn't seem that she has no sex drive, as she claims; she has a lack of intimacy drive, as it were. Her reaction to a marriage proposal is to run off and have hypocritical "not sex" with another man. And to lie about it to her now-husband, putting that duplicity between them and possible intimacy.

As for faking it - no, I don't mean lying there and thinking of the Empire. She says "He wants hot sex. I turned tepid long, long ago." That's where one can fake it, it seems to me - evince a more interest, jazz things up; if she's willing to have sex at all [How did she get those children? Turkey baster?], she could show some enthusiasm.

As for the offer that he should have sex with someone else - no wonder he demurred. Here's a red flag: "I'd kill you," I say. Of course I wouldn't. But I just might kill myself." So she denies him intimacy, suggests he get the dirty bits somewhere else, but he isn't supposed to connect emotionally with this other woman. Basically, she's telling him to get a hooker and use that body to masturbate into. But if he develops a relationship with any other woman, oh, there's that nice threat of suicide...

This woman strikes me as narcissistic and manipulative. It is all about her comfort levels, not about anyone else's. What ever happened to the concept of finding a middle ground? Of a little give and take, of generosity toward those we say we love? Of a little less "my" and a little more "our". Of not ending an essay with "Don't bother me. I'm busy."


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:18 PM
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161: Yeah, they're not going to enjoy Friere. Oh well.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:21 PM
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Yeah, they're not going to enjoy Friere. Oh well.

But if they love heebie at all, maybe they can fake it....


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:22 PM
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Who picked this reading for a bunch of disgruntled, under-educated 18-year-olds anyway??


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:23 PM
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I think I used up any loving goodwill they had towards me last week with Malcolm X.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:24 PM
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she a) complains that her husband has become "miserable and cold and withdrawn"

I didn't read that as a complaint. If anything, the word "miserable" in there suggests that she's being empathetic. And I don't think she's admitting to having no interest in figuring out what her intimacy issues might be; I think she's honestly, and rather bravely, describing the state of mind of someone who has had a lot of therapy on realizing that there's a whole new issue they have to delve into.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:32 PM
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92: No, she explicitly denies that there's a pathology there - and as I think many have remarked, it's clear that fear of intimacy is the problem, not sex per se. That is not acknowledging; it's excusing, it's blaming a low libido for emotional issues. It has little to do with sexual autonomy and more to do with avoiding facing what is really making her marriage "[a] gulf of loneliness... [a terribly painful] rift".

People can have good relationships without sex; without intimacy, well - why bother with a "relationship"?


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:38 PM
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I nominate 169 for Comment Of The Week.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:41 PM
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172: Read her whole sentence - she's miserable because of his emotional reaction; that's what's important here. That isn't empathy.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:44 PM
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Lauren Slater is a really shitty writer. She reminds me of that woman a few years ago who wrote about reading her slut-nanny's blog.

Why does the NYT publish such goopy writing by women?


Posted by: Kyle | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 3:50 PM
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158, 176: What we've got here is a failure to communicate. A frank exchange of views is required.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:02 PM
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IME, it's hard for straight guys to find straight guys to talk earnestly about sex and relationships with, without it devolving into very surface-type stuff.

Yeah, that part makes sense.. but it's as likely to be women as men, and it's as likely to be other difficult topics (i.e., not sex/relationship stuff, but still hard to talk about). Including sometimes much more risky information. I guess I do have a `vibe' as heebie put it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:03 PM
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Sorry -- something sciency, isn't it? But I'm teasing in any case.

Yeah, I was teasing too. Maths, for what it's worth.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:05 PM
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What we've got here is a failure to communicate.

Some things you just can't change. So you get what we had here this morning. Which is the way he wants it. So, he gets it. I don't like it any better than you do. I don't need your civil war.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:05 PM
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heebie! did the brunch happen? How jealous should I be? (still working here. bah. well, that an procrastinating with unfogged).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:07 PM
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Verrrrrrrry jealous. It was delicious and the company was lovely to match. How is all the job search and miscellaneous going?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:10 PM
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Why does the NYT publish such goopy writing by women?

Probably because writing about the realities of relationships, especially if one does so in a way that demonstrates one's own shortcomings, is both inherently "goopy" and something only women are stupid enough to do.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:11 PM
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writing about the realities of relationships, especially if one does so in a way that demonstrates one's own shortcomings, is both inherently "goopy"

Nah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:13 PM
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The market kind of sucks this year, I've a meeting tomorrow midday I'm not prepared for, and I got strong-armed into covering 3 hours of lecture this week I wasn't expecting and have to create slides and a plan for them..... bitch moan complain whine....

So yeah. Excellent.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:16 PM
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Do you really make slides for your lectures?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:21 PM
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I bet even Bitch PhD herself could manage non-goopy writing about relationships.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:21 PM
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I make stained glass for my lectures.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:22 PM
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Like an undergrad course? (I get slides for talks. It just took me a moment that that might be what you meant.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:22 PM
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What do you stain your glass with, Ben?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:23 PM
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My sins.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:24 PM
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186: No, not usually. Which is part of the problem, as I agreed before I knew this was expected. Makes 3 hours lecture look more like 15 of work.

This is a graduate seminar thing in a different department, and they've got a setup where they record the audio and sync with slides so they can give it to later courses, I guess.

I'm this close to saying screw it and writing things out on the board as usual.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:25 PM
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OT:

Someone at Nike's ad agency was a bit clueless. Their new ad features a variety of schoolkids and athletes all tossing white powder into the air in a celebratory fashion to a song repeating the refrain "the candyman is back". Hmmmmm...


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:28 PM
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||

Good lord, I do not want to explain this tomorrow. I just got to the part about how revolutionaries act out of love, and true dialogue cannot exist in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people. And how love is an act of courage. And so on. Their eyes are going to roll out of their fucking heads when I explain what he's talking about.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:49 PM
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You're making me feel better about having to explain maximum a posteriori estimators anyway, heebie.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 4:52 PM
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"People can have good relationships without sex; without intimacy, well - why bother with a 'relationship'?"

Word.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:14 PM
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Perhaps this is magically peculiar to Modern Love, but the demonstration of the shortcomings always comes off as breathtakingly narcissistic, not as a touching illustration of weakness. I read it like DE did.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:21 PM
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I AM a captivated by things, by solid, actual concrete things that can be assembled, made, whether books or babies. For me, sex does not even come close to the thrill of scoring gorgeous glass for a window I will use, of hearing the grit as the grains separate and the cut comes clean and perfect.

This doesn't even make sense. In what sense is "scoring gorgeous glass" a "solid, concrete" thing?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:24 PM
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195: you can explain them here if you want the practice.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:26 PM
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You wouldn't even be able to see through a concrete window. This woman is clearly nuts.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:27 PM
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if scoring means cutting -- which i assume by the second half of that sentence it does -- then it's a solid and a concrete (as in highly specific) act, but the argument she's waving at is actually an argument for her preference of the abstract, non-solid content of the act (that it goes towards the making of nice windows; and sex is ok if it makes babies; and talking is OK f it makes books) than (in fact) her liking for solid or concrete acts (sex for its own sake is plenty solid and concrete)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:33 PM
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dichotomy is imposed upon

Will any of heebie's students say Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:34 PM
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199: you want to hear what's good about them, or what's not good about them?

202: one can only hope.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:36 PM
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I'm being oppressed here, for the record. Help, help me teach this dang mess.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:37 PM
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@201 Ah, that actually makes sense. The solution: always be having babies.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:42 PM
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(sex for its own sake is plenty solid and concrete)

If it isn't, you're stuck having the awkward conversation that AWB talked about in 119. Which incidentally happened for the first time last night... Odd experience. A part of your body just refusing to obey the signals you're giving it; really makes you wish it would suck it up and be a team player. She wondered why I thought it was funny, but it was kind of hilarious.


Posted by: Grover Cleveland | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:46 PM
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Nor is it something that results in a concrete and solid object, the way etching or cutting glass does.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:48 PM
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204: Give out a questionnaire to determine who in the class is most capable of love, and then announce that person has to become a revolutionary to get an A in the class.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:48 PM
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This doesn't even make sense. In what sense is "scoring gorgeous glass" a "solid, concrete" thing?

Scoring as in drawing a blade across the glass to make the line where the glass will break, cleanly. It's a concrete activity, I'd say.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:50 PM
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Okay so the object's a liquid. Big deal!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:50 PM
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Scritchy, though.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:50 PM
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I'm a little further on in the reading now, and it turns out you need more than love to get a dialogue. You need love, humility, and faith in humankind. With these ingredients, you get mutual trust. Throw in some hope. You also need hope. Lastly, you need critical thinking.

The thing is, I'm sure this book is excellent. It's just so painful that it will be so lost on these students. It's such a terrible fit, and I'm not the one to build the bridge.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:51 PM
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my pals who teach pedagogy -- and my sister who stopped -- all love friere to bits: but they ARE all revolutionaries...


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:54 PM
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than (in fact) her liking for solid or concrete acts (sex for its own sake is plenty solid and concrete)

Seriously. What she likes is tidy and non-sexual acts. There is nothing wrong with this preference, but she has identified it incorrectly.

Perhaps this is magically peculiar to Modern Love, but the demonstration of the shortcomings always comes off as breathtakingly narcissistic, not as a touching illustration of weakness.

Yes, it's impressive. The confessions always come off as a loving portrait of the author's own fascinating specialness. Look at me! My foibles are so poignant, don't you think?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:58 PM
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He seems awesome! He really does. But I just do not feel like they're in a place in their life where it will be very meaningful. And they'll find it totally impossible to understand any single sentence.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 5:58 PM
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124: And she intends to use a silver chisel? [Does anyone actually make such?] Mohs scale around 3 v. Mohs scale around 6.5? There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking here.


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:02 PM
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The confessions always come off as a loving portrait of the author's own fascinating specialness. Look at me! My foibles are so poignant, don't you think?

I haven't read many confessionals, so I don't have much point of comparison, but I wonder whether what's basically a therapy session can avoid sounding narcissistic. I guess you could cry all over the page, or do a mea culpa. Perhaps it's just a matter of tone.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:06 PM
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this is the first site on google where the phrase "silver chisel" actually meant a chisel made of silver


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:08 PM
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I cheated and looked at the wiki page (as some students might). I do wonder if Freire would say these seminars are not transformative dialogs. That it is too out of balance so the students are at a real disadvantage in the game. (Then again, perhaps a strategy of heebie's could be "I was as lost as you" and dialog from there.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:10 PM
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did the brunch happen? How jealous should I be?

Verrrrrrrry jealous. It was delicious and the company was lovely to match.

Heebie, it wasn't just a brunch, it was UnfAUggedCon III!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:10 PM
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Freire reminds me of Gramsci, in that his writing is difficult standard Marxese even though his ultimate message is or might be liberating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:12 PM
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and this "modern love" page is the eighth in line after it, googlewise -- silver chisels are apparently used either in surgery or elvish warcraft


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:14 PM
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UnfAUggedCon

All that's left is solid gold?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:37 PM
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I mean, of course, "What's left but solid gold?".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:38 PM
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I think it must be a matter of tone, because other literary confessionals have left my feeling sympathy. Modern Love, not so much.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:41 PM
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213: I think we need to institute a 3 drink Molotov cocktail minimum at the Revolution bar.

I used to know a 35-year old Korean ESL student who in his mid-20s went to jail for throwing Molotov cocktails at the police. He was part of a communist revolutionary movement that wanted South Korea to be annexed by North Korea. I asked him why he wanted to learn English, and he said that it was because capitalism had won.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 6:58 PM
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225: It's the short format, and presumably editing. Many Modern Loves (or the ones that are pointed out here) read like deliberate trolls. Ending this one with "I'm busy" is a clear challenge.

But we've said these things before: it's designed to get people talking and linking, and appears to work in that regard. I'd need to hear a separate case for it as a literary, or journalistic, genre that should somehow avoid a narcissistic tone.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:10 PM
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in that his writing is difficult standard Marxese

These kids are so, so unequipped to read difficult standard Marxese.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:16 PM
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Flunk their bourgeois asses.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:26 PM
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They are the opiated masses!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:38 PM
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I bet even Bitch PhD herself could manage non-goopy writing about relationships.

She hasn't managed to write about relationships in a way that prevents people from calling her narcissistic, being certain that she doesn't love her husband because she hardly talks about him!, predicting her inevitable divorce (which she so richly deserves), and detailing all her character flaws.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:40 PM
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No need for sarcasm, now, B.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:44 PM
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Furthermore, if I hadn't been so lazy as to not read it in advance, I would have just skipped the damn thing. But I already xeroxed, handed it out, and assigned a journal reading on it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:46 PM
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Yeah, but was it goopy?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:48 PM
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Far from being goopy, B. is strident and hard-edged. You know that.

Sophisticated people are goopy only about dogs and cats.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:54 PM
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I don't think so. But I've also had plenty of "god, why do women write this narcissistic navel-gazing crap? And why does anyone read it?" So you know, same thing, basically.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:54 PM
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What's a journal reading? Where they have to write a journal entry about it and turn it in to you, and you have to read it?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:55 PM
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Hey, the concrete product of sex is goopy! Now I'm getting it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 7:59 PM
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I was really struck by the instances in which the ML writer admitted to lying about really important stuff, and then just moved on. Maybe there was some reflection on those instances that got edited out because for this marriage to have even gotten to the reprodutive stage, let alone the public confessional essay stage, the couple had to have talked a bit about these lies.

God, can you imagine what sort of monster the ML editor must be? She's creating "productive lacunae" out of people's lives! Like a De Man or a Derrida gone over to the dark side.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:01 PM
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How do you know the ML editor is a woman?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:06 PM
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I'd say it's a much greater than 50% chance. I also picture her as my tightly wound, former ballet-dancer, completely over the top obsessive, DeManiac, first-year advisor.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:11 PM
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Turned sloppy and goopy, somehow.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:12 PM
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She was profiled in that behind-the-scenes a ways back.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:12 PM
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And by "she", I apparently mean "he"?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:13 PM
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I've heard that santorum is especially goopy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:14 PM
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The editor is a man. It was revealed.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:16 PM
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His name is Daniel, and as Becks observed back in the day, he himself can't write.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:17 PM
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It occurs to me that all the Modern Love columns that have been linked and discussed here have been by women. I think. Are they all?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:18 PM
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Damn. The way to success as a writer is through Modern Love.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:18 PM
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I suspect there's a gap between writing thoughtful relationship stuff and getting published as a light "styles" essay in the Sunday Times. But I do think it's kind of cool that the Times is publishing this sort of thing at all. There's a lot of potential for styles pages to be genuinely interesting and informative, and I think publishing real, non-consumer-goods-driven pieces about Our Modern Lives is a good way to try to start doing that.

Plus, as I implied above, I also get irritated by criticism of writing that focuses on the writer's presumed personality flaws.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:29 PM
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There is something about the form, however, that seems to invite over-personal judgment, which I would argue is the basis for the series' success, such as it is. Maybe it's the truncated narrative arc? The shoehorned optimism?

Mea culpa about the editor!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:38 PM
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There is something about the form, however, that seems to invite over-personal judgment

Or maybe it's just that that's what unfogged does. I'm not sure. Certainly, if you ask yourself how you'd write -- in 1700 words -- some confessional thing about your relationship to relationships, it's hard to see how you'd not come out seeming like a freak or a loser or an ass in some way. That's what you're confessing to.

But yes, it's the truncated form.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:50 PM
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We have to hate on someone, B. Everyone here agrees on that, except for Read.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:52 PM
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why, i hate too, Indian terrorists for example


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:55 PM
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It's not a hobby for you, though, Read.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:56 PM
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If you start with LB's synopsis in the first paragraph of her post, you have the situation of the essay, which the writer has just enough room to expand into a problem. And, given the confessional nature of the form, the problem is usually glossed psychologically. There's not enough room to do any of the work that would build empathy for the writer (and the column appears in a newspaper that caters towards a more critical readership), so instead, we're left in the position of analysing her psyche for the solution to the problem. The whole set-up is a betrayal and I don't know why anyone agrees to it.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 8:58 PM
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See 249, JM. Almost 10 authors have parleyed ML pieces into book contracts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:00 PM
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Also, attention! Who doesn't love attention?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:03 PM
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regarding ML posts i never thought it's real people lives, just fiction, strange that people would tell so much about their real selves
the writer's position is understandable, just that suicide threat is selfish, if you can't give at least don't keep on the leash, emotional i mean


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:09 PM
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his wife decided she would manage his excessive desire by allowing him to fuck her, from behind only, for exactly two minutes, on a set day each week

And he agreed to this??


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:12 PM
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The whole set-up is a betrayal and I don't know why anyone agrees to it.

Agreed. I had the same passing thought at B's 231, and similar sentiments: this kind of writing is sure to get you kicked. It's like deliberately standing up in order to be knocked down, over and over again. You have to be a really stubborn lass person in order to keep standing up again.

That is, I realize, a digression of sorts. It's also possible that some people who pursue that kind of writing are exhibitionists. Which is also okay.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:13 PM
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257.---Ah, so. It's the vale of sorrows at the end of which The Graal!

It's clearly time for bed.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:17 PM
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But when you're trying to become a writer, or any star-system profession, isn't it standard operating procedure to take all sorts of quasi-abusive gigs to try to get your career going? Not excusing the Modern Lovetrap, just saying it's not especially unusual for the profession.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:17 PM
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Modern Love: the scheming narcissist's other Producer's Couch.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:27 PM
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260: He didn't have much choice.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:28 PM
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I also get irritated by criticism of writing that focuses on the writer's presumed personality flaws.

The fact that she told her boyfriend that she couldn't have sex because she had been raped, that in fact she had not been raped, and that she justified this lie by saying that otherwise, her boyfriend might have expected her to have sex! puts her in the same category with the boy who sent my sister a couple dozen roses and told her that he had a fatal brain tumor in the hope that she would hurry up and have sex with him before he died--that is, the category of manipulative weirdos.

I'm not criticizing her writing.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:41 PM
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265: how do you figure?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:47 PM
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267: Well, there's leaving the marriage and his sons, there's giving up sex altogether, and there's having affairs, which he wasn't really capable of. You mean, why didn't he negotiate for something else? I don't know. That sonofabitch was crazy to marry her to begin with.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:50 PM
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268: I blame him.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:52 PM
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it's hard for straight guys to find straight guys to talk earnestly about sex and relationships with

I have two friends who are going through breakups of long-term relationships right now, and I've had a lot to draw on to talk to them about.

One of them has been giving me up-to-the minute updates on his new sexual adventures. My fiancee has been really amused to hear the level of detail we go into. "My girls don't even talk that way."

They've both encountered the mind-body split problem that Grover talked about in 206, too. I'm beginning to think that's de rigeur for men racing to get their swerve back on after (or during) breakups. The woman it happened to me with was exceptionally good-humored about it. Inspired a song, even.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:56 PM
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268: well, so, he did have choices. I'm not really convinced that two minutes of joyless pokin' per week is actually better than not having sex. He could've bought a fleshlight! The stigma, in this case, doesn't seem applicable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:56 PM
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ben, you make me laugh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:57 PM
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269: So do I.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 9:59 PM
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I'm beginning to think that's de rigeur for men racing to get their swerve back on after (or during) breakups

At least it's not unusual. To the extent that I've begun to beware of men on the rebound.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:00 PM
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You're blowing your pseudonymity, Wrongshore.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:00 PM
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To the extent that I've begun to beware of men on the rebound.

It's like a trampoline with too much slack; you might end up crashing to the ground by accident.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:02 PM
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275: better'n no blowing at all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:03 PM
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I've begun to beware of men on the rebound.

That's a very sound strategy, parsimon.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:03 PM
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Come on, give me another straight line here, somebody. I want the threepeat.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:04 PM
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There's an analogy ban for a reason, Sifu.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:05 PM
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I have a hard time meeting guys who stay single for a while after a breakup who also have a healthy sexual appetite. I'm sure that's just bad luck.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:07 PM
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Maybe it's you.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:07 PM
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275: I do that from time to time.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:10 PM
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280: so that my stupid innuendos might better be understood as such?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:13 PM
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278: I feel kind of badly about it. And maybe it's a bad idea, lost opportunities.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:15 PM
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284: Your stupid innuendos are like some people on the rebound, viz., they go down easily and are amusing to the rest of us.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:17 PM
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Men on the rebound are tempting because they make you feel really good about yourself for how unlike their ex you are, and they seem to offer themselves so freely. And yet! There be dragons.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:18 PM
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287: No, it has nothing to do with how unlike their ex you are. You might be just like her or just different or whatever. It has nothing to do with that. The guy (or woman) just has emotional things connected to sex and intimacy that he or she needs some transition time for. That's normal, but I'm thinking that the transitional person is rarely going to be a candidate for a serious relationship.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:27 PM
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I'm thinking that the transitional person is rarely going to be a candidate for a serious relationship.

You really want to know what kind of genitals you're going to be dealing with from the outset if things are going to be serious.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:29 PM
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Eh. As I said, I think it may be unfair of me to be gun-shy about rebound men. But the possible impotence thing isn't the point, it's the disconnect between what mind and body are trying to do. Sometimes you like a guy enough to want him to be fully with you. If the liaison doesn't have potential, then fine, carry on, but if it does, it's a sad thing to find that he can't be fully present.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-30-08 10:39 PM
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Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.


***

"the need for the new love is faithfulness to the old" seemed to me the sweetest thing to be said about rebounds. But sweet to the rebounding ball, not the lucky player.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 12:31 AM
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287 is true for either gender, but most people need time alone after a serious relationship in order to succeed in the next one. And rebound relationships are great for the rebounder initially, because it's the most effective anesthetic imaginable at a time when you're in a lot of pain. But once the effect wears off, you generally realize you've been chewing your tongue and lips into hamburger while you couldn't feel it and now you've got two break-ups to sort through because you never really got the first one squared away.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 12:46 AM
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But once the effect wears off, you generally realize you've been chewing your tongue and lips into hamburger while you couldn't feel it

Are you talking about rebound relationships or ecstasy, here?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 1:04 AM
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Every analogy has to come from somewhere.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 1:11 AM
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294: so when you first get into a rebound relationship do you have to take a giant shit before it really starts working?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 1:25 AM
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I also find it interesting that shame, an emotion that's supposedly deeply rooted in the human limbic system, untouched by time or class, is in fact very much subject to time, class and culture, too. In the 19th century, to be raped was to be shamed, forever. In the late 20th century, to be a virgin was to be shamed.

What terrible writing. What, pray tell, is an example of an emotion that's not "supposedly"--or for that matter, in fact--deeply rooted in the human limbic system? Her point, apparently, is that context effects how you feel about a set of circumstances, which is too banal to say straightforwardly, and is equally true of every emotion, so she dresses it up with this irrelevant buisness about the limbic system. Why did she not just make the interesting if not earthshatteringly novel observation that the shame in the appearance of frigidity has partly supplanted the shame in the appearance of despoilment? Why drag the limbic system into it? It does not inspire confidence in her writing about psychology more generally.


Posted by: cynique | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 2:06 AM
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295: Wow, did I write "analogy"? I meant "anal orgy."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 2:43 AM
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297: I'm sure we can get ben or Becks to write a "find and replace" script for that. No biggie.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 2:57 AM
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Lots of stuff I could comment on here. For starters, I have a lot of sympathy for both the author and her husband, even if their problems are partially self-inflicted. It's a difficult thing to struggle with sexual incompatibilities with the person you love the most. Re 9 and 10: I think I get what she was saying with that sentence: My sincerest hope is that once we make it through these very stressful years, assuming we come out the other end, my husband and I will be able to reconnect.

I think it has to do with trying to reconcile the seeming impossibility of bridging the sexual gap between them with the desire to enjoy the rest of what the relationship offers, once they either reach a point of mutual acceptance or the sexual difference becomes moot with the loss of desire. I think it was conveyed more powerfully in a passage from this Modern Love column from a couple of years ago, in which the author speaks of the relationship between her late gay father and her mother:


My mother's willingness to embrace my father and accept his sexuality allowed them to remain tender and close despite the deterioration of their marriage and of my father's health. My father, she claimed, was still the love of her life, and he maintained that she was the love of his.


Just before he died, he told her he had always hoped that once his sexual needs had quieted and he was just an old man looking for comfort and companionship, they would reunite and grow old together, sitting on a porch with blankets draped across their knees.


(via Tia and ac).



Posted by: EDguy | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 4:44 AM
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but in many social circles it's not the sort of thing that you are supposed to profess. After all, paradoxically men are supposed to transport any woman into paroxysms of lust and desire with their mad (but innate) skillz .... but they aren't actually supposed to care about how the woman is getting on, rigth?

if sexual success is only socially measured in terms of whether someone will let you penetrate their lifeless form semi-regularly, you can't have that conversation.

bizarre. Life is not actually a Neil LaBute play. Straight men talk about this kind of stuff all the time, if not generally in explicit/sexual detail.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:11 AM
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Also, anybody see the innocent yet also weirdly obnoxious cover piece in the Sunday Magazine by the Manhattan journalist who had a surrogate carry her baby? Here's a quote:

AS THE MONTHS PASSED, something curious happened: The bigger Cathy was, the more I realized that I was glad -- practically euphoric -- I was not pregnant. I was in a daze of anticipation, but I was also secretly, curiously, perpetually relieved, unburdened from the sheer physicality of pregnancy. If I could have carried a child to term, I would have. But I carried my 10-pound dog in a BabyBjörn-like harness on hikes, and after an hour my back ached.

Cathy was getting bigger, and the constraints on her grew. I, on the other hand, was happy to exploit my last few months of nonmotherhood by white-water rafting down Level 10 rapids on the Colorado River, racing down a mountain at 60 miles per hour at ski-racing camp, drinking bourbon and going to the Super Bowl.

I had several friends around my age -- 37 and up -- who were pregnant with their first children at this time, and I was amazed at how their feet swelled like loaves of bread. They were haggard. They seemed sallow and tired, and they let their hair go gray. I decided to call all of us Gummies -- grown-up mommies -- with the implication that some of us were so old we could have dentures.

I would soon be a Gummy. I just didn't have to do the hard part. I had the natal equivalent of a hall pass, a free ride, an automatic upgrade to first class. According to the expectations that govern modern womanhood, I should have been moaning to a shrink or to my girlfriends over cosmos about my inadequacies. But I tried hard not to see myself as a failure

you go girl! Her last book was about her addiction to plastic surgery, which on the evidence of this article did pay off with a marriage to an older and very, very, very wealthy investor husband.

It's probably mostly envy that makes it obnoxious, though -- the woman clearly has life wired. She tried to get pregnant, couldn't, so surrogacy makes sense, etc.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:27 AM
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I'm beginning to think that's de rigeur for men racing to get their swerve back on after (or during) breakups

At least it's not unusual. To the extent that I've begun to beware of men on the rebound.

On the bright side, we can totally tell Ev. Psych. types to put that in their pipes and smoke it. If guys are really just hardwired to screw as many new women as possible, why do they seem to fail more often for no particular physiological reason when they're with a new person?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:29 AM
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What happened was, for a few years she acted ambiguously so that her husband retained some hope of someday having a conventional love life, until after they had had kids when she said, "I'm not going to bother to fake it any more. Give up hope. Fuck it, and fuck you." Now he's stuck - affairs, ptui, canaille - until the youngest kid moves out, at which point he's going to walk out. Of course, that's right in the time range when she hopes to "reconnect"; Hell will freeze solid first.


Posted by: W. Kiernan | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:31 AM
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when you're trying to become a writer, or any star-system profession, isn't it standard operating procedure to take all sorts of quasi-abusive gigs to try to get your career going?

A) writers are not stars. Publishing a book does not generally earn you money.

B) in this particular case, Lauren Slater is already a very successful writer.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:37 AM
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A) That's not what star-system means. Academics aren't stars either, but the academy is a star-system. Unequal rewards are heaped on a very lucky few.

B) Yeah but we're talking about Modern Love as having ongoing, predictable exploitative features, and I was saying this is probably because the submitters have no power. Sure, she's an anomaly.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:40 AM
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ok, got it. I think you're right that the normal Mod Love contributor does so because they think it's a ticket to some form of "stardom". But they are buying into a silly premise, since the potential rewards are often not really worth it (even less than academia, your chance of being able to make a secure living as a writer are at least an order of magnitude lower than as an academic). It's an ego thing -- pay attention to me! What I'm saying is that I think it makes more sense to think of Mod Love as a form of pure exhibitionism, a need to be listened to, rather than a rational tradeoff of self-revelation for material reward. Like reality TV or something.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:47 AM
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I decided to call all of us Gummies -- grown-up mommies -- with the implication that some of us were so old we could have dentures.

By "us" she means "several of my friends, but definitely not me".

This is even worse than the common political-editorial trick of using the word "We" to mean "Everyone in America except me".

"We need to realize that the race is not always to the swift."


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 9:55 AM
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Bonus in the Times Magazine surrogacy article is this picture of the fabulously slender new mother holding her new baby in the garden of her gorgeous Southhampton house, expressionless black nanny standing beside her. Not only did she farm out the pregnancy, she's got someone to handle the 3 AM crying too!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 10:04 AM
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There is something about the form, however, that seems to invite over-personal judgment

I think that's true. Partly it's blurring the author/narrator distinction. Partly, I think, it's the gender thing--e.g. the questions upthread about whether ML is only ever written by women (no) and the sex of the editor. Novelists were once scandalous (ladies) who wrote about scandalous things; now its memoirists.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 10:21 AM
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the normal Mod Love contributor does so because they think it's a ticket to some form of "stardom"

Or maybe because they're *working writers* and it's a publishing outlet.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 10:24 AM
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B, how could anyone not hate on the lady in 309? You're asking too much of us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 10:36 AM
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It's funny, I read the article and didn't hate her. I was primed to, but the article didn't come off particularly hateful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 10:40 AM
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The whole problem with that column is that:

a) they never, ever (presumably as a result of editorial policy) drop in a line saying "oh and by the way, all the people I'm writing about here are totally cool with my doing so, or maybe not 100% cool, but they realise I'm doing it".

b) and therefore everybody reading it assumes that they haven't, because most of us wouldn't be OK with that.

c) and therefore it looks as if the author is talking about these people behind their backs

d) which is a really nasty thing to do.

e) and we therefore assume that the author is

e) i) most probably stitching up the other parties and giving a really one-sided view of how things really happened, because that's what people usually do when talking about others behind their backs, and

e) ii) a real hell of a show-off and exhibitionist, because that's the only sort of person who'd regard stitching up their loved ones as suitable material for a NYT column.

Everything stems from the editorial decision to make the column more salacious and interesting to the weekend reader by editing all the voices out of it except one (giving the sensation that you're reading someone's private diary, albeit the private diary of someone who's been to a creative writing class and writes their private diary in that particular and IMO quite irritating pastiche of a heightened style). Given that, the contributors can't possibly come across as other than loathsome, which is why I too wonder why the hell they bother with it. I'd be interested to see their original drafts of these pieces and suspect that they'd all look rather better in them.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 11:14 AM
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Who among us is not, deep down, loathsome? When reading these pieces, rather than judge, we should bask in the warm sun of the common humanity we share with our loathsome brothers and sisters.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 11:53 AM
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I went through several years of impotency and low sex drive with a gf due to depression and a horribly dysfunctional relationship. I blame both and neither of us - unhappy people in fucked up relationships act badly, though we should have had the courage to end it much earlier. The problem is that in a once wonderful relationship that has fallen apart you still get the occasional moments of the pure happiness that only comes from being with someone you're in love with. It's hard to just walk away from that, so you hope that if you can work out whatever specific issues you have, things will get better. On the sex part, I very much wanted physical intimacy, she felt horribly frustrated if it didn't come with PIV sex resulting in a predictable vicious circle.


Posted by: herbert hoover | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 12:41 PM
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291: Wrongshore, you are a such a sweet guy!

Also the column excerpted in 301: I decided to call all of us Gummies -- grown-up mommies -- with the implication that some of us were so old we could have dentures.

Gummies? At age 37 and up? Oh, sigh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12- 1-08 1:22 PM
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