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Monday, November 7, 2011
The Blue Pill Or The Red Pill? Two Approaches To A Happier Marital Sex Life. And One Sucks.
In the course of doing some research for a professional project, I came across a couple of books which both purport to solve the age-old problem: How to get your wife to keep having sex with you after the honeymoon.
This is mostly a male issue, but it’s one that’s increasingly important to a lot of middle-aged men. And almost all married men. So with that in mind, I picked up “How To Get Your Wife To Have Sex With You”, by Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a sex researcher. I was recommended the book by the Good In Bed site, which includes a lot of sex experts, including one of my faves, the other Sex Nerd, Emily Nagoski.
So Dr. Levkoff is a sex expert. In fact, she’s “A recognized expert on sexuality and relationships”, according to the site (although it fails to mention who granted her that recognition) and “a thought leader in the field of human sexuality”, whatever that means. As far as academic credentials go, she’s an AASECT certified sex educator, she received her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Life Education from New York University and has an M.S. in Human Sexuality Education and a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
So she’s got some initials. She’s got some diplomas. On paper, she should have the answers. But does she have the goods?
I’m afraid to say, gentlemen, that no, she does not.
This book is essentially a long female manifesto of how you, too, can become the perfect Blue Pill Beta. That is, it encourages men to sacrifice their own sexual interests for the sake of their wives’, with little understanding or appreciation for male sexuality at all. Indeed, for a sex expert Dr. Levkoff seems profoundly ignorant of some basic issues of modern male sexuality, when applied to this particular situation.
A better title for the book would be “How To Capitulate To Your Wife’s Idea Of Sex To Minutely Increase Your Chances Of Having Any Kind Of Sex At All.”
Dr. Levkoff starts off in an utterly condescending manner in failed attempt to make it "easy to understand" for us poor, stupid males. She explains why wives don’t want to have sex with their husbands: “You guys act like such babies sometimes and we have those already.” She actually says that in the first few pages. It's a section dripping with barely-disguised contempt for masculinity.
If a male sex expert (such as myself, or even someone with initials after their name) began a self-described sexual manifesto with “You girls act like such controlling be-yatches sometimes and we’ve dealt with enough of those in our lives already”, you can imagine that there would be hell to pay. But Dr. Levkoff has no problem savaging men in general, and in particular on the subject of our sexuality. The subtext is clear: In a functional relationship, women naturally do not want to have sex with the men who have pledged their lives and fidelity to them. It’s our job, then, to make any sex that does happen occur. Because otherwise, wives would just rather not.
Great way to start off, Dr. Levkoff. I’m feeling more empowered already.
She completely ignores the potent role sexual rejection has on the male psyche, and the natural consequences of that rejection. Rejection is OUR PROBLEM, she tells men, not their wives. If your wife doesn’t want to have sex with you, according to Dr. Levkoff, it’s your fault, not hers. If she doesn’t want to have sex with you, then you’re supposed to ignore the deep, biting feeling of personal despair and loss of self-esteem that this entails, and “don’t take it personally”. Even though it’s the most personal possible subject.
There is virtually no discussion whatsoever about how a wife’s sexual rejection of her husband naturally transforms into emotional distance and sexual objectification in his mind – a handy hint to all of the wives out there. And there are no helpful hints about how to keep from spiraling into despair and depression over continuous rejection by the only person you’re legally allowed to have sex with. Just an admonition that you shouldn’t take her rejection personally because “it’s not about you”.
It’s about her.
That’s right, as Dr. Levkoff sees it, your sex life as a couple is about her, not about you. It’s her needs that matter, not yours. Your needs are a given, a constant, and therefore something she can comfortably ignorable. The fact that SHE is the one rejecting YOU, that doesn’t enter into the equation at all.
And that’s just the introduction.
In the first chapter of the “Out of Bed” section, Dr. Levkoff starts off her manifesto by insulting the erection. Not a good start. Ladies, Rule Number One For Dealing With Dudes: Never Diminish The Penis. Got it? Learn it by heart. Seriously.
Apparently the whole “men like their erections, and their penises in general, and generally don’t appreciate it when you diminish them” message didn’t get across to Dr. Levkoff during her professional education, because throughout the book she treats them with disrespect and thinly-disguised scorn and condescension. There is little respect for the organ, or the use to which it is put – at best, it’s amusing to her; at worst, it’s an annoyance that wives can do without. While she casually mentions how vibrators aren’t replacements for “a hot blooded man” in the extensive section of the book dealing with vibrators, she fails to enumerate her reasoning in any convincing fashion. In fact, she gives far, far more attention to sex toys than the penis in this book.
That should tell you something.
Throughout the book Dr. Levkoff treats men like idiots who have never heard of foreplay. While a certain amount of that is understandable, given the erotic ignorance of some men, the fact is that most men actually seeking answers in Dr. Levkoff’s book have likely long ago studied all about foreplay. Indeed, most men in a sex-lite marriage would be thrilled to death to indulge in foreplay, instead of the “Oh, GOD, you want to do it again?” quickies they survive on. The complaint of men who are searching for these answers usually has little to do with their willingness to enjoy foreplay. It’s when their foreplay doesn’t come to fruition that they become frustrated – and Dr. Levkoff has little to offer during that instance except “get over it”.
She declares “Begin the day with a hug” . . . and apparently no expectations of sex from your wife. Her attitude seems to be that if you remove every last thing that is bothering her then she won’t have any reason to turn you down . . . unless she just doesn’t feel like it, in which case you just need to get used to it. Expecting sex after you’ve devoted your day to the kind of intense arse-kissing and ego-massaging of your wife, often to your own detriment, is just a bad idea, according to Dr. Levkoff. If she does have sex with you, it won’t be because of anything you do or don’t do, it will be purely because of her whim and her grace. “Begin the day with a hug” is indeed great advice for men who follow Dr. Levkoff’s book, therefore, but the rest of the sentence should read “. . . because that’s about as close to her vagina as you can reasonably expect to get.”
Other examples of great advice from the book? Don’t piss her off. Dr. Levkoff freely acknowledges that women use sex as a weapon to keep and maintain power in their marital relationships: “We will hold a grudge and the last thing we’ll want to do is give you sex.” In no way does she suggest that this application of power is unfair or exploitive, demeaning or harmful. As a matter of fact, she seems stubbornly proud of this willingness on the part of wives to cut off their husbands if they irritate them. So a vital part of her program involves utterly capitulating to your wife in an abasing attempt to lure her into sex. Because, as the good doctor points out, “We’d rather withhold than give you what you want”.
Of course, when a husband withholds non-sexual physical affection or verbal affirmation from his wife, that’s considered “emotional abuse” in some places and by a number of sex therapists, because that hurts your wife’s feelings. Your feelings – especially about sex – clearly just do not matter to Dr. Levkoff here. The important thing is to keep from pissing off your wife.
Dr. Levkoff goes on to recommend that you shower your wife with appreciation –and of course she doesn’t have to appreciate you in return – in the form of near-constant attention to her. You should buy her things, be emotionally vulnerable to her, be verbally expressive of your (only positive) feelings about her, and flatter her incessantly. You should be willing and eager to listen to what is going on in her life (although Dr. Levkoff has little to say about how involved and interested she should be in yours) without expectation that this will lead to sexual intimacy. But I do give her credit on this point: she graciously admits that, gosh, sometimes women use rote “I love you” responses too, and maybe they should put a little more effort into it.
In Dr. Levkoff’s plan, daily undying expressions of love and heartfelt devotion without any reciprocation are expected, if you want to get laid by your own wife. “It’s the stuff of cheesy romance novels and we don’t want to hear it all the time” she says, inadvertently putting her finger on a serious part of the problem.
Allow me to digress a moment to explain to the ignorant:
Romance novels fuel female romantic fantasy life. While this is usually a good thing, they also promote certain tropes which give highly unrealistic expectations to women about how real relationships work. In romance novels the hero is always tall, good-looking, rich, successful and in love with the heroine for no good specific reason except she’s beautiful. He always struggles with his desire for her and ends up passionately declaring his love for her, no matter how much of a miserable creature she is, his absolute need to be with her to the exclusion of any other person or thing being foremost in his mind. The romantic hero routinely reveals his deepest emotional vulnerabilities which she – and only she – can evoke. And he does this like six or seven times each novel, until any sane man who has experience in a relationship wants to throw up.
Here’s a hint, ladies: span style="font-style:italic;">real men don’t do this. You shouldn’t expect real men to do this. You can be a real good man and not do this. In fact, the number of men for whom this is possible are usually either gay or players. In other words, you should be immediately be wary of any man who actually can do this.
But the deep, eloquent, heartfelt declaration of love from your man is right up there with the moans and howls that porn stars use when they fake an orgasm. It builds up the same kinds of highly unrealistic expectations, the same inevitable disappointments, and the same dissatisfaction with your marriage that watching too much porn can for your husband. Romance novels are about FANTASY, after all. At least, that’s what women keep telling us. So the next time you want your dude to bust out with the expressions of undying love, perhaps you can find it in your soul to talk a little dirty to him during sex, and see how natural it feels when you do it. End of digression.
But the point is well-taken: wives are getting their cues for what constitutes “romance” from such things as romance novels and soap operas and supernatural thrillers written from the vampire’s point of view. Which means that the romantic expectations they have of their husbands are highly unrealistic to begin with. Does Dr. Levkoff address this glaring discrepancy in inter-gender relations? No, she invites men to start reading “erotic” romances instead of watching porn, essentially telling them to capitulate – once again – to their wives’ ideas and ideals about sex at the expense of their own.
She brings up that old marriage counselor standard for saving marriages, Date night (duh!), although she’s quite explicit about what this entails: YOU plan dates for US. YOU can BUY US things and ENTERTAIN US, without any expectations for reciprocation or even appreciation. Levkoff trots out the trite old “just make her a mix tape” suggestion as if it’s a novel idea. News flash: most of the guys reading this book tried that long ago. Hell, for some dudes the mix tape is the only game they ever had.
And then there’s this heartbreaking lie: If you clean the house, you get laid.
I’m going to call bullshit on that one.
The myth that women do all of the housework is long over, and within my generation the split is about 50/50 now. If your mileage varies from that, you’re an exception in this day and age. It may be even more tilted in favor of husbands, once you add in yard, house and lawn maintenance into the equation.
Here’s the fact: your wife might freak out over a messy house, but cleaning it won’t get you laid. It won’t get you a BJ. It won’t even get you bragged about to her girlfriends. It might get you verbally appreciated – the first time – but after that it’s expected and goes unrewarded. Sure, she might be able to unwind more in a clean house – I’m sure we all would – but the reality on the ground is that any house with kids is always going to need more cleaning. Using that as an excuse not to sleep with your husband is both gallingly disrespectful to him and a tacit admission of control and manipulation on your part.
And so on.
Mostly this book is tacitly about female entitlement, and what women “deserve”. Nowhere in the book does it mention a man deserves jack squat. It reads like a litany of female entitlement and male blame: if a couple isn’t having sex enough, then the answer is always about how HE isn’t doing it right. Obviously the way to cure this is for HIM to re-design his sexuality around HER needs and desires, according to the good doctor. If she’s stressed about housework, it’s because HE isn’t doing enough. If she’s stressed about her body image, it’s because HE isn’t paying her enough compliments. Even when she occasionally drops us a bone by admitting that women have some responsibility for their own sexuality in the relationship, she rationalizes it away as “that’s just the way things are”. Get used to it.
She’s condescending. She’s insulting. She treats men like the idiots she obviously takes them for. In the same book that she complains that men shouldn’t watch porn when they have a willing partner in the next room, she also explains how it ordinarily takes many long hours of foreplay for a woman to be ‘ready for sex’. (So much for a “willing” partner . . .). With the picture she paints in this book, including the focus on how much non-sexual intimacy a man should have to perform before he is granted access to sex by his wife, one would wonder why any husband would demean himself over that length of time for the pleasure of twenty minutes of erotic mediocrity, when he could have big busty co-eds at his fingertips on-line without expending more energy than locking the door.
In fact, for a sex researcher, she seems to have an abysmal understanding of male sexuality beyond the basic “men want to have sex all the time” thought. The underlying premise in this book is that if a husband doesn’t piss off his wife and kisses her arse all the time – essentially capitulating to the feminine ideal of romantic and erotic love at the expense of the male ideal of sexual romance and adventure – then the woman in your life will graciously bestow on you that which you seek.
Maybe. If you’re lucky. And she feels like it. And if she doesn’t, then don’t take it personally, it’s still your fault, and you probably screwed it up somewhere along the line anyway, so you don’t really deserve it.
Most galling, she compares marriage to a fairy tale, and expects the men who are her supposed audience to relate to that analogy. It stands to reason, as “marriage-as-fairy-tale” is clearly at the heart of the female marital fantasy. But let me spell something out for the good doctor, and all of the women who are reading this: Men do not, and have never, envisioned a successful marriage as a fairy-tale romance. And anyone who purports to know male sexuality enough to be able to sling around the term “sex expert” should recognize that.
Women see marriage as a fairy tale – it’s there from the moment they watch their first Disney movie, if not before. The culmination of every successful romance novel is the heroine and the love interest heading down the aisle. It’s so commonplace that professional romance writers even use it as shorthand for the end of the book: “HEA”. To women, the wedding is the prize that they get at the end of the passionate courtship, the culmination of all of their romantic thoughts and feelings. There’s a reason why it’s usually the bride, not the groom, who’s freaking out over wedding preparations. It’s her “Princess Moment”, when her husband takes her away to live in a state of bliss like some Prince Charming.
Only, that’s not how men see marriage. It’s not a fairy tale. We know it’s a lot of hard work because we saw what our fathers went through with our mothers. We know all of the downsides from the start, including just what might happen if children become part of the equation. We saw the looks of despair and suffering on our fathers’ faces every time they sacrificed some shred of dignity or respect on the altar of their marriage. That’s no fairy tale.
When men decide to get married, and marry a particular woman, they aren’t seeing it as a fairy tale come to life, they’re envisioning it as a never-ending porn flick. Our “Happily Ever After” includes frequent, lusty, adventurous sex – the kind of sex we usually get in the months leading up to the marriage, if we’re lucky, as our intended brides try to keep us from bolting. Our HEA has spontaneous oral and lazy Saturday mornings and lunch-hour surprises and regular weekends away for mind-blowing hotel sex and far too much of the household budget spent on lingerie and sex toys. It involves explaining scratches on your back when you whip off your shirt at basketball practice. It involves telling an attractive stranger who asks for your number that you’re happily married, without having to explain just why you’re happy you got married.
To men, the idea of marriage revolves around the idea of access to sex with our wives, with just about everything else as a secondary issue. It has little to do with declarations of undying love or doing a load of laundry. As much as we value their companionship and friendship, sex with our wives is a central – if not the central – component to our conception of marriage. You take the sex away, or reduce it to occasions memorable for their rarity, not their inspiration, and you kick a supporting pillar out from under the marriage whether you recognize it as such or not.
Because one glaring issue that Dr. Levkoff ignores or takes for granted is that the men reading this book, who are obviously distressed about their marital sex lives and want to repair the problem, aren’t looking at it from a “how can we add spice in the bedroom”-Cosmo-article perspective, where the price of failure is an indulgence in some retail therapy and a grande mochacino. The men who are reading this book are doing so because they are, consciously or subconsciously, contemplating infidelity, and they are desperate for options.
That’s the part that she takes for granted: the competitive nature of the situation. Dr. Levkoff blithely assumes that the men who are reading her advice are going to remain faithful to their wives regardless of the sexual situation in the marriage. She pretends that they have no other options. She presupposes that they will have to either capitulate to the whims of their wives at the cost of their own sexuality and sexual interests, or they will live just have to learn how to live in a low-sex marriage. She ignores the very real possibility that a man who tries her betamizing approach and does not get the desired response will eventually end up with recourse to Craig’s List, an office affair, or the good old fashioned neighborhood massage parlor.
In an age when a man can get sex delivered discreetly to his door with an email and a credit card, and where the number of single women looking for husbands has hit epidemic proportions, men have far more practical options for infidelity than ever before. When he can go to a website that guarantees a no-strings-attached discreet affair with a like-minded dissatisfied wife of some other husband, or a lusty single woman seeking some other woman’s unappreciated husband, it's hard to think that he can get consistently rejected for sex by his wife and not seriously contemplate an affair..
Believe me, there are plenty of folks who think the grass is greener out there. The middle-aged husband who unsuccessfully begs his wife for sex is going to look like a rock star to some other woman out there who will be more than happy to appreciate him sexually while she’s appreciating the security he provides her. The alternatives are there, they’re easy to find, and the only thing holding most frustrated husbands back from plunging headlong into the sexual smorgasbord they see online every day is a heroic dedication to their marriages and their wives and their families.
The rise of internet porn has likewise provided a sexual outlet for the husband that Dr. Levkoff does not fully appreciate in her book. Yes, she mentions it – somewhat distastefully, even as she graciously agrees that masturbation and fantasy is good for both men and women – but she doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of what it can mean within a marriage, both positive and negative.
For good or ill, porn has raised the level of competition in marriage by exposing husbands to a nearly endless variety of erotic whackfodder, offering documentary proof that women other than his wife “do those things”, and some with breathtaking regularity and eagerness. It has contributed to liberalizing sexual mores in our culture in a way not seen since the early days of Cosmopolitan and Playboy.
No longer does the simple possession of a vagina make a wife irresistible to her husband – now she’s expected to know how to use it effectively. If women have high expectations of men, thanks to romance novels and softcore vampire smut, then you can blame porn for men having higher expectations of their wives than they did a generation ago.
The draw is almost irresistible to the frustrated male rejected once too often. Indeed, the one leads to the other: men naturally disconnect and distance themselves after a rejection, and go into hard core (excuse the pun) objectifying mode when they are sexually rejected . . . and porn lets them do that better than Half Off Wing Night at Hooters. The advantages are clear: Internet porn doesn’t need foreplay. It doesn’t need to be told you don’t think it looks fat in those jeans. It doesn’t have to be assured, or flattered, or appreciated, and you are always assured of the outcome before you go there. You know if you watch porn, you’re probably going to have an orgasm. It’s quick, easy, and comforting to the soul. To married men, internet porn is like a sexual safety net.
But it’s not “real sex”. We know that. You know that. We never thought it was, and we never wanted to replace “real sex” with porn. But especially where a disparity of desire – or serious relationship issues – conspires to make everyone’s life miserable, porn is a way to keep the pressure off and keep you from doing something stupid.
But I digress. The upshot is that this is the perfect book of advice for the Blue Pill dude who wants to learn how to kiss his wife’s butt more, and maybe get laid a little bit more, maybe. The tone of the author to the intended reader is condescending and at times insulting, and despite the author’s credentials as a Ph. D. there is a startling lack of science in this book. Hormones are only touched on briefly, and only in the context of women’s hormones. Pheromones are barely mentioned at all. Men’s sexual needs are treated as a trivial option, and there is nothing here to help a man in a low-sex relationship convince his wife to take it up a notch – on the contrary, relying on this book will, indeed make your wife happy . . . but your penis won’t be impressed.
Next time, I’ll take a look at the book on the same subject that’s taking the Manosphere by storm: Athol Kay’s Married Man Sex Life Primer 2011. If this is the Blue Pill book for men to try to get laid in their marriages, Athol’s book is the Red Pill book – and it doesn’t suck. In fact, it seems to actually work.