Women hate sex. At least, that’s the prevailing “wisdom” handed out via jokes, beer commercials, sitcoms, movies, e-mail forwards and so on. Women hate sex. Therefore, to have sex with a woman, you must be trick, romance, manipulate, beg, etc.
I have often found this “wisdom” to be a joke in itself. At best, this little nugget cock-blocks hetero pairing. At worst, this little nugget is misogynistic. Maybe women don’t want to have sex as often as men. I don’t know. I’m sure that’s true sometimes, for some women. I’m also sure that I know women who want sex more often than their male partners. I think the root of this is that heterosexual men think hetero women don’t like sex. (And for brevity’s sake, I’m just going to talk about hetero sex from here on out. No offense to the LGBT crowd, but I don’t want to speak in ignorance.) I would beg to differ. And so would a popular little franchise called Sex & The City (not that SATC is the best source of what women want or who they are, but they do have a lot of sex on that show).
Why am I talking about sex? Well, it’s a part of humanity, for one. And for another, it’s a part of getting back to your old self after having a baby. I’m no expert on this, but I think it may be one of the last things (besides your baby weight) to come back after having a baby. Being a slightly neurotic overachiever, I read up on the topic during my last weeks of pregnancy. After all, I did hope to have sex again…someday. And there is a lot written on the subject. The basic advice seemed to be: Once your doctor clears you, you should go for it when you’re ready. But expect that some things might have shifted during landing.
About six weeks after I gave birth to my daughter I found myself at a family friendly barbecue. There were loads of parents and kids, food, splashing in the pool. It was like a Koolaid commercial, without the Koolaid. It was one of the first times I had left the house with the baby since she was born. I was still recovering from the c-section and it still felt like a lot of work to move around and be around people. Although I knew the hosts and a handful of folks, most of the people at the BBQ were strangers to me. But after a while, I walked into the kitchen to find all the women laughing at a joke. I asked what they were talking about and one woman stated bluntly, “Sex.” Not exactly the conversation I expected, but there I was. So be it. I’m not a prude.
As it turns out, it was not the sex conversation I expected, either. The women went on to talk and joke about how they no longer had to have sex with their husbands because they have children. “Yep, I’m done,” said one woman. “Yeah, ‘Too bad honey. I don’t have to do that anymore.'” And, “That’s what porn and your hand are for.” Interesting.
Now, I admit that in those first weeks after having a baby I did not feel sexual nor did I have a sex drive. I mostly felt pain and exhaustion. In fact, I worried that the horror stories were true; that I would not want to have sex again. But as I approached six weeks (the time I had to wait for full medical clearance for any physical activity, including sex), it turned out that part of me was waking up and coming back. To me, it was a relief. I did not want to lose that part of myself just because I am now a mother.
But the moms at this BBQ were not weeks from postpartum. They were many months and years from giving birth. And while it is true that it is a lot trickier to find time for sex when you have a child, I do not believe that part of your life should end. The idea of that seems very sad to me. However, these women were not only saying that it was over, they seemed genuinely relieved to kiss it goodbye. Now, I grant that they were also joking and probably exaggerating in some cases. But it also seemed like there was a thread of truth running through the conversation and, dare I say it, a badge of honor. “I’m so busy and devoted to being a mother, I don’t have the time or desire for sex.”
I was a bit stupefied by this conversation. Why would you be proud of a lack of intimacy in your marriage? (Of course, there are other forms of intimacy than sex, but it is a primary one.) Why would you feel like you had to let go of your sexual desires to be a better mother? Which begs the larger question: Why do mothers have to be sexless?
This is all part of a larger picture I’m discovering as I navigate my way through early motherhood. To be a “good mother” I have to be sexless, have no style (in fact, a desire to be fashionable is a sign you are a horrible mother), no hobbies or interests not related to my child, don’t work outside the home… just be a mom-bot and all-consumed with parenting in every way at all times. Your marriage? That’s on the back-burner! Hope your husband can remember the good old days and has full use of his hands!
How depressing! How limiting! How single-minded and judgemental! I thought the whole point of the feminist movement was to give women, and men, choices! This whole mind-set just seems like we never left the 1950s.
Mothers of the world: Throw out the useless and limiting mantras that tell you that you have to hate your husband, hate sex, hate living life on your terms! Be all you can be. Have sex!