Confession: I am in my 40s and I am just figuring out the meaning of good sex. Yes, you heard me. I have two kids, a divorce or two under my belt and I've been doin' it for years. Still, amazing sex was elusive until now.
I'm talking the kind of sex where you forget your vitals. You've had two kids; your diet is leftover frozen chicken nuggets; exercise is mostly screaming, "We're gonna be late for school!" at the kids; and you're naked in the presence of another human being. All these years I thought the blah sex blues was because I just wasn't doing it with the right person. Turns out my partners weren't to blame. The main hottie I needed to fall in love with was me.
I know. You're cringing just thinking that I'm going to go all self-help on your ass. And I will. But I promise to get down and dirty and share some confessional details first. I need to so this will all make sense. The key to great sex has one component: digging yourself. When you dig yourself, you are freed up to dig everything else. Like sex. For me, this is a love affair that is finally peaking.
Here is a rough timeline of my shitty sex life. Fucking during my twenties was hazy and disorienting, like watching a Bergman movie without subtitles. I did it because I was girl becoming a woman, because that is what you do when you're naked with a boy. I did it because I had a vagina, and from what I gathered from co-ed dorm life at Vassar, penises go in them, especially after bong hits and pizza. Intercourse was a course to get through like college freshman Spanish, which I failed.
Sex was a baffling tool to measure my self worth and the perfect gym to exercise my collusion with self-loathing. I had no idea it could be fun or pleasurable.
My connection between sex and physical pleasure was foggy if not intuitive. I was well-versed in orgasms, but I thought those were from a running bathtub faucet while reading your big brother's Playboys. To get through the requisite drunken college sex, I would construct a narrative for sexual encounters. My blueprint was a dim outline garnered from what I learned from '80s movies, full of disembodied ass shaking and squeaks. It was soul-crushing work much like those Chekov scenes in acting class. It was an event to hurdle through for which I was quasi-present, just shy of numb, confounded and willing at the same time. This all just made me hate myself even more than I already did.
This doesn't mean I was not "good at it." Sex was a circus act starring the black magic of Narcissism and the nimble limbs of Self-Awareness. I was pretty good at putting on a show. I could measure my achievement by the look in the eyes of the man looking at me. If I wasn't an educated, upper-middle-class Jewish girl from the Upper West Side (even if I felt like I was masquerading), I would have totally been a stripper. Usually I did pretty good, and that's all it took to mean I wasn't a bad person. Sex was a baffling tool to measure my self worth and the perfect gym to exercise my collusion with self-loathing. I had no idea it could be fun or pleasurable. I would spend my 40s unlearning this bizarre detour to self-love.
"Mountain of Bad Sex" by Emily Wagner
I slogged on, perfecting my tour of performance art for another decade. Throw in some hot make-outs with budding heartthrobs, and it appeared that I had this sex thing down. What I lacked in good looks and thigh-gaps, I made up for with a studied dose of "hot, sexy and fun." I had mastered my sexuality via the male gaze. I was seen and adored, and it was working. Alone with my naked self, however, was a battlefield of insults and drone attacks. Inside my head lived a tortuous bully. She picked me apart until there was nothing left but a hurt little kid, forever shopping in the husky department.
A shift in my approach to sexuality didn't happen until I got married at 43. Perhaps it was the security of "marriage" that inspired a leaning in to authenticity and intimacy. I had already sold the goods, so I could ease up on the theatrics and let primal attraction kick in. I felt free, safe and comfortable.
Even though we were dying as a couple, our sex life held the twinges of electricity that would keep our fading flames alive.
Sex is deep when you're married and raising kids. It's a way to just shut the fuck up for a while. Kissing is a deep conversation without words. Fucking becomes a cleansing ritual from the nightmare of work, schedules, bills, doctors, schools and therapists. It's a reaffirmation of connection. For us, it only got better. Better did not mean "bigger"—just deeper and more intimate.
I finally started to get it. Even though we were dying as a couple, our sex life held the twinges of electricity that would keep our fading flames alive—at least for that much longer until we were on the steady and slow death spiral toward divorce. Getting to divorce was an act of courage, and the strength to get through it made me realize what a warrior I am. Pair that with learning to love sex for myself, and I was on the road to being a single mommy with some solid self-esteem.
Cut to years later, two kids, two baby daddies and here I am in my 40s—single and suddenly naked with new partners. What I thought would be a terrifying time to be having sex is turning out to be the opposite. Sex is liberating and better than ever. Why? I've distilled it down to a shortlist. It's the self-love thing. And I wish I had gotten this list when I was 22.
1. Fuck 'em while you fuck them
Yup, the hell with them. Who cares what they think of your saggy tits and stretch marks? The more you can celebrate your cellulite, the more they will forget it's there. And you just might, too. When it comes to confidence, act "as if" and watch what happens.
2. Let it go!
Chant this hit (to yourself, please) while you're giving a BJ. Relax. No one knows what they're doing. Be intuitive. Fumble if you need to. Innocence is a turn-on. If I can still get lost on what the heck I'm doing, than the lesson is: Embrace your inner Elsa. Let it go and let the Disney magic happen.
3. Men are happy just to have a naked woman in their proximity
If you have tits, ass, a vagina and a mouth, you are more than enough. They are not judging the shape, size and structure of these lady parts. You are. So stop and start enjoying yourself now that you have this knowledge. A world of good sex will open up to you.
4. Set the scene
Stage your lair for optimal comfort and security. Having carried and pushed two humans out of my vagyne, I can attest to the enemies that are nakedness and daylight. Like Garfunkel says, darkness is your friend. Embrace your inner gaffer and light your room like a Bertolucci film.
Block out the rest of the world. Soak up the you-ness of the moment and watch what happens during sex. Hire a sitter to take the kids out, go to a hotel, do what you gotta do to be able to own the time. Turns out it takes a huge stroke of self-love to ask for this. Yes, hiring a sitter so you can fuck is an act of self-love. Do it.