Sometimes you hear it when you’re on holidays. Other times, anniversaries.
The voice that occasionally crops up with a little message that says: “You should be having sex.”
I myself thought I was immune to that voice, until what is now known as “the Valentine’s incident”, where I sadly fell victim to its powers.
It was the weekend after Valentine’s Day, and my partner and I ended up getting a hotel. I checked in before him to “freshen up” – I thought I’d do, or rather wear, something special; a lacy red number with a lovely uncomfortable garter and stockings.
Right from the get-go I could hear those voices creeping up: “That’s right, snare your man! Don’t dress in those daggy baggies, get out that red ensemble and seduce him like Giselle would!”
After much grunting, sweating, huffing and puffing, I was finally in my unforgiving, uncomfortable and highly unnatural get-up.
How badly I wanted my pink Peter Alexander baggy pj’s and fluffy slippers at that moment, you do not know.
But alas, this was happening and there was no turning back.
Let me tell you why this situation is always potentially embarrassing. The fear of rejection when you’re in these outfits – even though it’s with someone you love and trust – tends to creep up. You’re pretty vulnerable, whether you like it or not.
See, there’s no other reason you would be wearing these outfits. It’s not like you can say “It’s ok; I just wear these around the house when I’m just sitting around watching TV by myself anyway!!” (Sorry to disappoint you male readers but no, women don’t do that. Unless you’re Lady Gaga who from what I hear does her ironing in them).
Needless to say the night didn’t really go as I’d planned. After arriving at the hotel my other half proceeded to throw himself on the bed, exhausted, and tell me how terrible his day was. Fine, I thought, slightly panicky, this isn’t really setting the mood but he’ll get there.
Moments later he noticed my lovely little garment underneath my work outfit, smiled, but continued the discussion about work.
A whole HOUR later, with not another mere mention of said garment, we were still watching the news and the “things” were still, mercilessly, on.
Well actually, he was watching while I tried to sit in a position that was comfortable and slowly counted the seconds until I can rip them off and be done with it. I think the exact words in my head were “let’s get this over and done with so I can tuck into the thai takeaway we’ve ordered.” Romantic, huh?
Suddenly I went from being Mad Men-style sexy to on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And what for? I don’t exactly know. But I think there was something in my head going “there’s something wrong if you’re not having sex rightnow.”
In fact it got to the point where I shamelessly blurted “why aren’t we having sex??”
And that pinpointed it for me. I wasn’t even that keen to do it at that minute either; I’d have a hell of a day and wanted to snuggle in my daggies like he was and watching mindless television.
But thanks to my ensemble, Valentine’s, and the hotel room, I was destined to go through the whole thing with the mind frame: “we HAVE to have sex now if I’m wearing this get-up, there’s something wrong with us if we don’t! You hear me??” Terribly sexy stuff.
But who is that needy, panicky voice? And why is it so quick to judge and put pressure on our sex lives?
I know plenty of couples who have lulls, or don’t do it ten times a day who are completely crazy in love. I, myself, have never been more in love.
Yet when the topic of sex reaches the conversation at coffee with friends, the statement “we’ve only done it once this month” is, without fail, backed up by a hurried “but he’s been really busy and it’s been that time of the month and then he was sick”…cue an endless string of rushed excuses.
Whether that need for justification stems from a compilation of women’s or men’s magazines we probably shouldn’t be reading, or from other women, or other men – it’s safe to say many women feel they have to justify themselves when it comes to sex.
But we don’t need excuses. There should be no ‘normal’. No ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. After all, who’s to say what’s normal when each relationship is as diverse as the next? Certainly not me.
If Kendra and Hank or Angelina and Brad want to brag about how they go at it five times a day to “keep their marriage alive”, that’s fine. Whatever. But we don’t need this presented as an ideal, or a challenge to others. Same goes with men’s magazines presenting to men a vision of how women should be, which is often so far from reality.
We often get so much pressure to compare ourselves to other women. We really don’t need that judgement following us to the bedroom, do we?
I’m certain not everyone thinks this way, and that there are some women (and men) out there who don’t feel any pressure at all in their sex lives. But I know I have felt this pressure at times, and I know other women who have, too.
The crux of it is, when sex becomes a competition, even if it’s in your own mind, it’s just not fun anymore. And it’s certainly not sexy.
Later on in the night, in my comfy Bonds and sans garter, the deed was finally done – but by that point, I don’t think I would have felt weird or worried if we hadn’t.
Maybe that’s what it’s all about: just being comfortable – and scary suspenders don’t hold a candle to comfortable in my books.
Laura Edwards is a Canberra-based journalist and freelance creative writer. You can visit her blog here.
Do you ever feel pressured to have sex?