I put up an essay last month under the heading, "We must abandon expectations of sexual fidelity". The point of the article was that instead of condemning a partner for infidelity we should concentrate on handling the matter constructively
Nadia Bokody below also has a way of coping with the instinct to infidelity. She highlights infidelity by agreement.
I did myself do the sort of thing she recommends. I told my partner that what she did when out of my sight was her business. And she did have a number of sexual relationships while we were an item.
The big risk with that, of course is that the partner might find someone else that she likes better. And that did happen. After 14 years my partner met a gem of a man who was miles better for her than I was. So she shacked up with him. All was not lost however as we have continued with the warm relationship between us but with much less time together
About a month ago, I met a woman I matched with on Tinder for drinks at a bar in the city.
A few cocktails down, she leaned across the table and whispered, “So, how shall we do this? Do you want to go back to your place or mine?”
It was the first time I’d had sex with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend, and it represented freedom from everything I grew up believing a relationship should look like.
My boyfriend and I discussed our thoughts on monogamy early on. Perhaps because I write about sex for a job, or maybe because I have a hard time filtering myself, I told him in the second week of dating I wasn’t interested in sleeping with one person for the rest of my life.
It wasn’t until three years into our relationship though, we decided to explore what that might look like.
As someone who’s never been exclusively attracted to men, but only recently come to terms with my bisexuality, we agreed I’d see other women from time to time.
And my boyfriend could do the same, under the proviso the arrangement would be purely sexual.
If this is all sounding familiar, it’s probably because I wrote about my first foray into ethical non-monogamy a few months ago.
Having spoken frankly about my sex life online for the better part of a decade, it didn’t occur to me I was doing anything particularly revolutionary by chronicling the experience.
But the response I received from women within moments of the column going live, was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
I want to go back and reiterate something here: it was women, not men, who wrote to me in overwhelming numbers – and it wasn’t to criticise my non-traditional relationship stance. It was to ask for advice on how to do it themselves.
This didn’t entirely surprise me. Research confirms most of what we’ve been led to believe about female sexuality – namely the idea women want sexual monogamy, while men want sexual variety – is wildly inaccurate. Like, it actually couldn’t be more wrong.
Take, for example, a paper published in peer-reviewed British medical journal BMJ, which found women are more than twice as likely as men to lose interest in sex after cohabiting with their partner for a year or longer.
Or a 2012 study of people in relationships of up to nine years, which determined women’s sexual desire – not men’s – “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration”.
These findings are backed up by a seven-year longitudinal study of over 2100 Finnish women, which found a direct correlation between women’s level of interest in sex, and their relationship status – with those in long-term, live-in relationships reporting the least interest in sex.
Bizarrely, instead of recognising this biological fact, we’ve continued to push the narrative women simply don’t like sex very much.
In reality, women not only like sex, but crave it just as much as – if not more than – men. Studies show we outperform the guys in terms of the amount of porn we watch, are the largest consumers of sex toys, and that men consistently underestimate how much sex we want.
However, Google “low libido in women” and you’re sure to find hundreds of thousands of articles pathologising what is really just a need for greater sexual variety.
If we’re to take the low female libido argument seriously, we’re to assume roughly half the population suffers from a condition responsible for grinding our sex drives to a halt, which mysteriously only takes effect after our boyfriends move in.
Most of my coupled-up female friends are convinced their libidos are broken, when they’re actually sexually bored.
I know this because these same women masturbate, watch porn, and do double-takes at attractive men on the street.
Their sex drives are alive and kicking, they’re just not being stimulated by the monotony of predictable, partnered sex.
Nadia says women don’t lose their libido, they just get bored by predictable sex. Picture: Instagram/@nadiabokody.
Nadia says women don’t lose their libido, they just get bored by predictable sex. Picture: Instagram/@nadiabokody.Source:Instagram
The consequence of failing to recognise what drives female desire has been an epidemic of sex-starved relationships.
Research suggests up to 20 per cent of married couples are currently “sexless” – which means they have had sex less than 10 times in the last year.
This positively miserable scenario, we have determined as a society, is a far greater marker of relationship success than both partners agreeing to bonk someone else every so often.
And yet, despite the taboos still surrounding ethical non-monogamy (that is, dating or having sex with people outside of the relationship with the consent of your partner), thirst for information on it is sky high among women.
Because of its stigma, many of the female readers who wrote to me after I talked about my “monogamish” lifestyle expressed embarrassment around their sexual restlessness.
“What’s wrong with me?”, one woman asked. “I’m so scared to admit this to anyone,” confessed another.
Each message reflected back the shame and misinformation I’d been taught about my own sexuality growing up; mainly that I wasn’t allowed to express it in ways which weren’t performative for a male partner.
Though we regard sexual exclusivity as something women naturally covet, the truth is, monogamy is neither instinctive, nor something we’ve always done.
The institution of marriage didn’t even take off until the advent of agriculture, after farming practices tied humans to land, allowing us to accumulate wealth.
Thus, it was invented as an economic arrangement to ensure the maintenance of family property.
Interestingly, we’ve had a far easier time accepting male promiscuity throughout most of history.
The Old Testament of the Bible contains numerous references to men having more than one wife, and according to 1 Kings 11:3, Solomon had 700 of them (with 300 concubines to boot. Clearly a very busy guy!)
But instead of letting women in on the same sexual freedoms as men, at some point we decided it was a better idea to stop men from having them (which, if the infidelity rate among married men is anything to go by, wasn’t a great move. But more on that in another column).
What we need, is more of a flexible approach to relationships; one that recognises the fact the female libido is far more potent than we’ve been treating it.
Rather than attempting to box it in and risk diluting it, we could benefit from treating women’s sexual desire in much the same way we’ve treated men’s throughout most of history – as something that can’t be quenched by a single person, but via multiple concubines. Or, you know, Tinder matches.