This article is the first in a series from the blog of Women Speak For Themselves about why women of all ages and stages in life need to talk about sex, and why it should be connected to marriage and kids. In our distorted sexual culture, it often feels easier to bow out of these discussions, even with people we hold dear. We can assume that they’ve heard our perspective before. But an “it doesn’t matter” attitude, or an exaggerated modesty, can prevent many women in need from hearing the truth about sex from someone they respect. Here’s a first piece from WSFT founder, Helen Alvare.
Maybe you thought you had “aged out” of talking to other people about sex, now that you’re married and in your 40s or 50s or older. Sorry, but you’re wrong. Every survey says you have the happiest sex lives in America, and your country needs you! By which I mean that women between their teens and their 30s need you.
They’re pretty much hearing about sex all the time. But they’re hearing about it from (fill in your favourite mind-numbing celebrity or women’s magazine here). Consequently, they’re not hearing much sense.
In particular, in the United States, the loudest voices on sex regularly abstract—and chemically separate—sex from the rest of life. They separate it from children and from marriage too, and turn it into….what? Erotic performance? Attraction or pleasure? The spark that might start a “relationship”? Compensation for an otherwise dull existence? Romantic completion? A glimpse of pure freedom? STOP!
Sex simply cannot bear all this weight. It was never meant to be every rose in the bouquet of happiness, or all the excitement in life or an out-of-body experience. It was never meant to be “other worldly” or in service of purely emotional or mental happiness. For goodness sakes, it is a physical act and the place where babies are made, and kin networks are shaped. Sex by its very nature has its feet firmly on the ground, even as it also has its head in the clouds.
Denying this twofold nature of sex weakens relationships; it doesn’t strengthen them. This is the insight missing entirely from the whole Planned Parenthood world view. When Margaret Sanger was getting her start, in fact, a witty and wise social commentator named Walter Lippmann observed that, if we separate spouses’ sexual love from their vocation as parents and the “hard realities of living,” we have “made love spontaneous and empty, and … have made home-building and parenthood efficient, responsible, and dull.” I couldn’t agree more.
Married sex supports the time couples spend together in the kitchen cleaning up after a birthday party. It celebrates a quiet weekend that is not wall-to-wall soccer games. It says, “I’ve been unreasonable, but I’m ready to be nice now.” It communicates a “thank you for being funny for 20 straight years,” or “for seeing my mother through my father’s funeral.”
It doesn’t require a lot of money or fancy clothes or a “destination” setting. It is the joy of having chosen each other and—20 or 30 years later—having weathered life together.
One of the most romantic moments I can remember involved my husband and I climbing into a van at 3 a.m. to make the 12-hour drive to our oldest child’s college graduation. We looked at each other across the front seat. Our more than 25 years together flashed before both of our eyes. Here we were, older versions of those know-it-all kids, who started dating the day I graduated college. We had ridden some pretty crazy waves together, and we had occasionally fought like we meant it!
We own an attic full of our punk, disco, Brooks Brothers and who-knows-what-else clothing. I know how he revered his Donna Summer poster and he knows where I’ve stashed my John Denver scrapbook. We thought of all we had done and made—beginning with our children. We cried with happiness.
The younger, unmarried women in your life need to hear these stories. They need to learn about the nature and purpose of sex and romance, and why it is found most genuinely in a marriage relationship. Most of all, they need to hear hope.
Married love and married sex is not built to be Hollywood-perfect, or 50-Shades choreographed. It’s way, way richer than that. Even at 3 a.m. in the morning.
 Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals, 306-307 (1929).
Helen M. Alvare is a Professor of Law at George Mason University where she teaches and writes in the areas of family law, and law and religion. Republished with permission from Women Speak For Themselves.