Dan Savage (of the Savage Love sex advice column) did this very clever thing recently. He ran a column pretending to agree with the proposition that women across the board simply aren’t as interested in sex as men… and then waited for the letters to pour in, from legions of outraged women with high libidos insisting that they, you know, existed. (I almost wrote him one myself.)
But what struck me about these letters wasn’t so much the raw fact of them. It wasn’t that plenty of women do have high libidos, or that the problem of differing libidos in relationships cuts across gender lines. Like, duh.
What really struck me about these letters was how many of these horny women got insulted and jeered at by their male partners for being horny. Women who love sex, and who’ve had male partners who didn’t want sex as often as they did, wrote to Dan saying they’d been called nympho, whore, a dog in heat.
It’s hard to know what exactly is going on with these guys. Is this some macho thing — the men get freaked out because men are supposed to be the sex-crazed ones who want it all the time, and if your woman wants it more than you do then that somehow makes you less of a man? Is it just a generic “blame your partner for your problems and differences” reaction — you know, the classic “we want different things, I’m perfect, therefore my partner must be fucked-up” logic? Is it something else entirely?
I really don’t know. I’ve never encountered this exact phenomenon. I’ve never had a sex partner of either gender insult me for wanting lots of sex. I’ve never had a sex partner call me a slut or a whore or a nympho or a dog in heat — except in a good way.
But I have encountered something similar. Back when I was (a) screwing around a lot and (b) at least sometimes screwing around with men, I ran into this scene a fair amount: Men who said they wanted casual, no strings-attached sex — but then got totally weird once we’d had it. (“Weird” meaning avoiding eye contact, being distant or jumpy when they’d been friendly and relaxed, doing the approach/ avoidance dance, and just being generally, you know, weird.) This wasn’t true across the board… but it happened often enough for me to go, “Hm.”
I’m not quite sure what that was about. Maybe these men thought they wanted casual sex… but really wanted some sort of love and commitment. Maybe they really did want casual sex, but didn’t want me to want it as much as they did — like the fact that I was so okay with it was a blow to their pride, I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk away from their sweet, sweet loving so easily. Maybe the sex stirred up feelings and emotions for them — not necessarily true love, but some sort of tenderness or vulnerability — and my freewheeling, sang-froid attitude was actually making me an insensitive jerk. (Like I wrote in my 1996 piece Being Single, “There are times when I feel like a caricature of a straight man, and an asshole straight man at that.”)
And maybe any or all of this was true, for any or all of these men — but because men are supposed to be the ones who want casual sex, when it turned out that they didn’t want it as much as they thought they did, it made them feel less manly.
Just like not wanting sex as much as the woman in their life might make some men feel less manly.
But maybe not. Maybe I’m talking out of my ass. Thoughts? Men — have you ever been involved with a woman who wanted sex more than you did, or who wanted sex to be casual when you weren’t sure about that? If so, what was that like? And women — have you ever been with guys who wanted it less than you did, or who didn’t want something casual when you did? And what was that like? And if you’re gay or lesbian, has this ever been an issue — have you had these kinds of differences with partners, and how did they play out? And if you’re bi, how does that play out differently? Nosy minds want to know.