Details, Details 3: Distraction

Women seem to have a tendency to subsume their libidos beneath their daily activities and mental lives, but this isn’t a deliberate process. It was probably adaptive in early human societies, when the tribe relied on women’s ability to maintain a an unwavering focus on a huge number of small daily details: caring for infants or watching young children; gathering, preparing and preserving food; creating and maintaining clothing and other possessions; and — perhaps most important of all — understanding and manipulating the society’s structures and cultural mechanisms to ensure the best for themselves and their children.

Given that their survival and that of their offspring might have depended on whether their sexual desires intruded too much on that focus, it’s not hard to believe that women might be somehow “hardwired” to lose interest in sex in direct proportion to the demands their daily lives make on their mental and physical resources. Thus, for women, a busy schedule or sustained intellectual focus, in which their attention is constantly caught or centered on non-erotic or even anti-erotic details, can significantly (if in most cases temporarily) diminish their interest in sex.

This might seem absolutely alien to you. You probably see sex as a natural upwelling of urgent desire that is automatic and virtually unstoppable in any “normal” person, and for you sexual activity is likely to be something that can both relax and invigorate you when you’re stressed out. You might even tend to want it more when you’ve had a tough day or have a lot on your mind. Many women, however, don’t see it that way at all — and it’s not because they’re “abnormal.”

This is not to say that in order to preserve their libidos women Shouldn’t Trouble Their Pretty Heads about anything important. What it does mean is that they — and you — have to understand and be vigilant about potential distractions. Although there isn’t much you can do about many of the demands that life makes on your wife, you might be able to fix some little things that are focusing her attention on the non-sexual aspects of her life.

There are two different kinds of distractions that can diminish your wife’s enthusiasm and enjoyment of sex: distractions in the bedroom, in and around the act, and what might be called “free-floating” distraction.

Discomfort, as I noted last week, is only one of the bedroom distractions that can undermine your sexual relationship. While having a TV in the bedroom is a luxury many of us wouldn’t want to do without — and I have to confess that we have one — it can be a real problem for your sex life.

First of all, when your wife becomes involved in a television program, she’s likely to find your sexual overtures an irritant, because you are probably being perceived as “intruding” on her enjoyment of the show. Even though you really want to have more sex, would you always be willing to stop watching the Big Exciting Game if your wife wanted to have sex right that minute? Be honest.

At the very least, when you start to have sex, turn the TV off. I can remember an incident from my early marriage when my husband somehow seemed completely oblivious to the television blaring news of death and destruction while he was making love to me. It was as if he couldn’t hear it. But I could, and a steady stream of bloody and infuriating details in the background was not an enhancement to my erotic enjoyment.

There is one tricky area of bedroom distractions that is sometimes difficult to resolve one way or the other.     … continued …

Some women, especially when their libidos have lost some steam, find the many of the sounds of sexual activity distracting and off-putting. Others, of course, find them exciting, and still others — perhaps the majority — find them distracting at some points in the process and exciting at others. Thus arise the horns of a dilemma. So to speak.

The major distraction factor in sexual sounds for many women is the idea that other people in the household or building can hear them (children, inlaws, people in neighboring apartments). This is one of the reasons why many women are more enthusiastic in hotel rooms, where anyone who might hear them is a stranger, so they feel free to make all the noise they want (and this particular freedom can really loosen up some women).

But since most of us can’t hop off to the Holiday Inn three times a week, you might try to disguise the noise somewhat with music or, better, a white noise generator. White noise is ideal because it doesn’t carry connotative elements like lyrics or emotional associations. While music can be a significant enhancement to your experience, it can also initiate thoughts and feelings that will interfere with your wife’s ability to stay with you erotically. And white noise can help you both sleep better, too.

The sound of air being expelled from the vagina is an amusing but mood-destroying noise, but there are ways to minimize these poofy explosions. The first I’ve already discussed: lubrication. A smooth sliding seal between the penis and the vagina will help to prevent air moving in or out. Don’t repeatedly draw all the way out (or even out to the vaginal vestibule) and then thrust in, as that will drive in air in with every stroke. Sometimes, however, the accumulation of air in the vagina during intercourse is inevitable, especially when the internal architecture has been altered or loosened by childbirth or aging. In those cases, the tooting can only be disguised by ambient noise or music.

Other sex noises can be minimized by attention to the physical environment in which you have sex. If the bed squeaks, oil or tighten the bolts that attach the headboard or legs. And if the springs of your coil mattress are protesting, isn’t it time to get a new mattress?

You might be thinking: Picky, picky, picky. All these silly details. Why does sex have to be such a Production? Can’t we just do it and have fun? Well, sure, and most sexually happy couples do, most of the time. But if sex is now something of a battleground between you, wishing that a miraculous sex fairy would zap your wife with a magic wand and turn her into a happy-go-lucky sex maniac is not a realistic approach to your problem.

The fun can come back — it came back for me — but a lot of changes and lousy thinking and, yes, picky little DETAILS had to be addressed before I got there. And to be frank, my husband’s willingness to address those petty details, to actively try to please and soothe me when we had sex (and at other times), went a long way toward reviving my erotic interest.

“Worms, Roxanne!”

One of the delights of Cyrano de Bergerac, so charmingly updated in the movie Roxanne (1987), is that the hero wins his lady fair (albeit by proxy at first) with the power of words. In the movie, handsome chucklehead Chris is so verbally bereft that when our hero C.D. tries to get him to tell Roxanne that he is shy and “afraid of words,” Chris can’t even grasp what he’s saying, and shouts instead that he is afraid of “Worms, Roxanne! I’m afraid of worms!”

A lot of men aren’t afraid of words, exactly, but they do have problems knowing when and where to use them, and which ones to deploy in their own interests. The things you say (or don’t say) in bed (and elsewhere) can have a bigger impact on your sex life than you ever imagined. It is, alas, tragically easy to turn a woman’s mind away from sexual warmth to cold irritation with the wrong words.

Many women like to be whispered to or murmured at when they’re in bed. Heroes of romance novels are always demonstrating their preternatural suavity by saying Just The Right Thing at Just the Right Time in the sack. On the other hand, there are many women who find anything overtly verbal a distraction from their physical sensations, because they have to process the input through their language centers.

So maybe you should either back off on certain verbal habits or experiment a little. Pay attention to her reaction, or even ask her — NOT when you are actually in bed, please — whether she likes the talk you talk.

In general, even women who enjoy very rough talk when they’re deep in the throes of passion (and many don’t. At All. Ever.) still prefer sweeter, softer words when they’re getting warmed up. If you start right in on the “fucks” and other down-there raunch before she has a chance to really get into the swing of things, you are likely to turn her off.

Stick with romantic nothings at first: praise for her beauty, exclamations over her wonderful nature, and declarations of undying affection. Keep it simple and believable, though. “Your breasts are so beautiful.” “You really turn me on.” And, of course, the basic “I love you so much” is almost always a winner.

But — this is critical — you do have to mean whatever you say. Women are usually very sensitive to expressive nuance. If you’re just plotting strategy and rotely mouthing recommended phrases (like Chris the Clueless), I can almost guarantee they will fail. Or even backfire. She’ll know.

So, in the end, if it is just totally against your basic nature to talk when you’re hot to trot, maybe you shouldn’t try it.

Environmental Distractions

Like much else that I’ve talked about since the beginning, the minor bedroom distractions I’m going to outline today will probably be considered ridiculous or irrelevant by many a red-blooded and lusty man who couldn’t be distracted from his need for sex by the Last Trump, but you should still give them some thought.

In the next chapter we’re going to start down a steeper road, looking at some more complex and challenging reasons for women’s reluctance to have sex with their husbands. There’s no sense in making the journey ahead even more difficult by leaving the easy things unfixed. We need to pump up the tires, check the oil, and make sure the brakes work before we put the car in gear. So, on to the bedroom.

Dark or light?
Although you probably don’t care for complete darkness, because it deprives you of visual pleasures, your wife is not likely to enjoy having sex under stark bright light, especially not a bare overhead lightbulb or — heaven forfend — a flourescent tube. The harsh dark shadows created by downward light make you both look older (and meaner) than you really are, and the way it picks out all the details of skin and hair texture might give even the most attractive woman the feeling that she is participating in a porn film.

The best bedroom lighting is very low (to induce attractive dilated pupils and make the room seem more private) and, ideally, PINK. Pink or coral light imparts a rosy glow to you both which tends to disguise your imperfections and encourage sensual thoughts. You can get pink lightbulbs or cover your lampshades with red or pink cloths. Try it! (Some people like red or dark rose walls in the bedroom to obtain some of the same “rose-colored glasses” effect.)

Complete darkness can also be a thrill of its own, especially for her, because women’s libidos are not as visually oriented as men’s, and a completely dark room allows the greatest latitude for her mind to imaginatively enhance the experience. But I’m not sure I would recommend it as a steady diet, since it can have a “distancing” effect for some couples, and over time she could become so habituated to it that it might make her too self-conscious to have sex in lighted situtations.

Bower of love or garbage heap?
Many women can be significantly distracted by a cluttered or dirty bedroom, either because they feel guilty for not cleaning it up, or because it rebukes their ideal of a romantic ambiance. If she’s thinking about how she should have changed the sheets or if she’s depressed by the dirty glasses and used tissues next to the bed, she might not be able to relax enough to enjoy sex.

This is yet another reason many women feel sexier in hotel rooms — they not only carry an inherently more erotic or romantic connotation than the boring old home bedroom, but they are usually very clean and reasonably attractive. Perhaps most important of all, a woman feels no responsibility for its decoration or maintenance, so they’re less likely to be distracted by thoughts of household chores that have been left undone.

Freeze or burn?
The bedroom should also be a reasonable temperature. It’s common for couples to disagree about how warm the bedroom should be, but you might think more seriously about compromise. If there is only one room in the house that can be air-conditioned, it should be the bedroom. Few women enjoy the prospect of being covered with a hot body when they’re already feeling stifled and sticky. On the other hand, a woman who is chilled, or whose partner is trying to touch her with freezing hands, will generally take longer to respond.

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