-Moshe Kedan, MD
I’m going to share another deeply personal story with you, readers.
1. All of Kedan’s wisdom goes for straight and LGBTQ+ folks.
2. If you are in an abusive relationship physically, mentally or emotionally, this is NOT for you. Get help now!
3. If you’re in an overall healthy relationship and have gotten off track (i.e., busy with kids, work, etc.), this is for you.
As you may imagine, I talk with couples and individuals about their sex lives. I have read countless books written by sex educators, therapists, and doctors about how to improve your sex life. The advice was everything from accepting yourself as you are (which is always a good idea--if not helpful in this context for me) to scheduling sex, touching exercises, etc.
Most couples don’t talk about sex (when I use the word “intimacy” I’m referring to emotional intimacy). Here’s a huge generalization that I have found to be true: Women want to feel connected to their partner IN ORDER to want to have sex. Men feel connected to their partner BY having sex. What a conundrum!
In 2011 my husband went through cancer treatment; thank goodness it was cured and we enjoy each day together. He was out of commission to life for a year, while I cared for him and worked. He and I have eternal gratitude to our community who helped us through that dark time. (If you’re interested in reading that journey, look for A Hard Road: A Story of Cancer Survival for Patients and Caregivers on Amazon.)
I went through menopause while he was in cancer treatment. My libido died.
There is no Viagra equivalent for women. We tried everything we read about. Our communication was very open and ongoing. None of it worked for me. I tried having sex because he needed it. That made us both feel bad. We retained our sex life, though it was a challenge for me, and difficult for him to hear, “No” or “Not right now” a lot. It seriously dings a man’s self-esteem to be rejected so much. We were lucky it didn’t drive us apart; we both put in the effort to work on this together. He told me that if we never had sex again, he wasn’t going anywhere. Neither of us wanted that outcome! And what a gift for me to hear that.
In Breaking the Silence, I read in this order:
1. Chapter Eight: Better Sex as We Age? Yes!
2. Chapter Three: Two Different Machines (the differences between men and women sexually)
3. Chapter Five: Why Women Should Treat Sex Like Going to the Gym
Chapter five was the breakthrough! “The libido is like the appetite for food: it can change from day to day. The trouble begins when women assumed that one bad day means desire is gone forever. If a woman does, she will build on the wrong assumption and begin to live her life without sexuality. That is the wrong way to go for any woman. It is against the feminine character. Is against her physical and emotional needs, it is against her own well-being, and it is against the well-being of her husband and family. If a woman surrenders to the negative forces pushing her to accept a life without sex, she may say to herself ‘I am in a comfortable position, so my husband should just accept life without sex, and everyone will be happy.’
That is a recipe for suffering. First, as we have discussed, men are not like women. Men need sex, and depriving them of it is a sure path to anger, conflict, and alienation. But while they are not the same as men, women also thrive when they enjoy sexual pleasure! It is a gift that adds excitement, charm, and glitter to life. A woman who becomes an asexual being is cutting herself off from all of that. The true tragedy is that none of that is necessary, but there is no one guiding women and telling them ‘Things do not have to be this way.’ So millions of women become victims of the cultural taboo of talking about sex, when in reality it should be discussed alongside any other health issues, such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart conditions, kidney dysfunction, and so on.
In fact, when it comes to sex in the bedroom, women have all the power. Men should take care of and respect women because they bring sensitivity, tenderness, and love to the world for all of us. We care for them by loving them, treating them with tenderness and respect, taking seriously their concerns about things like consent and sexual harassment, and helping them to feel seen, heard, and safe in every way.
Consider if you lost your desire to exercise or cook your meals. You would have two options: give in to the lack of desire and not cook a meal or exercise. The result will be unpleasant: you would gain weight and become unhealthy from getting no physical activity and eating packaged or junk foods. With the second option, you ignore the lack of desire and force yourself to go for exercise or cook healthy meals because you know they are good for you. Over time, you will feel better, look better, and be healthier by doing this even though your lack of desire would have stopped you if you had given in to it.
When it comes to sex, woman should also take the second option.”
Kedan’s recipe is simple (I’m simplifying even more here):
1. Learn about men’s and women’s differing sexuality.
2. Talk to each other.
3. Women, start having sex for YOUR OWN PLEASURE.
4. Talk to each other.
Long story short, several months after reading Breaking the Silence, I recently told my husband how sad I feel about having missed so much pleasure and joy with him over the years.
This doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I have aches and pains now and then, at times intercourse is uncomfortable (not painful very often--and if it is, I tell him and we adjust). I don’t like stubble (despite the glorification of it in romance books, movies, and celebrity photos), it still takes time for me to shift gears. During the day I make the effort to think about how much I love him, find him handsome, plus I adore how to he treats me, treasures me, and supports me in all my endeavors (like writing this and making it public!). I have an alarm on my phone at 4pm to remind me to think about making love--and I do. These days I don’t always say “Yes”, but I always consider saying “Yes”. I initiate more now, too.
If either of you are not satisfied with how you have sex (the mechanics), become better lovers for each other. Be a bit risqué; play, try new or uncomfortable things, laugh together through your discomfort. Read (e.g, The Joy of Sex), watch, learn and experiment with different “techniques” and find what makes you happy.
Sex is messy, noisy, and even funny at times. Loosen up. Embrace it! Be kind to yourself and each other. Talk about it. Enjoy your re-found pleasure in one another.