Betty Herbert and her husband realised their sex life needed a boost, so they vowed to seduce each other every week for a year.”Last year, after ten years of marriage and at the grand old age of 32, I realised that my sex life had become so bad that it needed something resembling CPR. After an enthusiastic start, our lovemaking had sickened and dwindled to the point where I honestly thought it was over for good.
How could this happen to me? I was still deeply in love with my husband, Herbert (yes, it’s his surname but also my pet name for him). We were happy, close and secure, with no children to rattle the bedroom door while we were trying to concentrate. Neither of us suffered from hang-ups or inhibitions — at least, so we thought. We were a team, in all areas of life except the bedroom.
Perhaps because of this general contentedness, the lack of sex in our lives began to feel like an open wound. We occasionally tried to have sex but it was half-hearted, routine, more than a little awkward, and would sometimes end in a row.
The problem was this: our relationship was so wonderfully equal and fraternal — the contemporary ideal — that sex felt just a little bit weird. After all those years together, I was embarrassed to be sexy in front of Herbert. It just seemed like too much of a switch, too contrived and artificial.
Meanwhile, I had lost sight of all my erotic tastes and desires. Sex was like a secret that I was keeping from myself. I no longer saw myself as a lustful being — instead I was Herbert’s stable, sensible partner. I didn’t want to be defined by my sexuality, so I ignored it. And after a while, it just disappeared from view.
Maybe it’s not so ironic that our libidos fail in the face of all this uninhibited information about sex. We may talk about it a great deal, but too often the discourse lacks any wisdom. We could easily be fooled into thinking that sex occurs only between young, firm, healthy bodies; that it requires immaculate underwear and acres of fake tan; that we ought to possess a voracious appetite for experimenting with a range of roles and kinks.
Quite honestly, I was intimidated. I was a know-nothing know-it-all. I could talk comfortably about any aspect of sex, but when it came to actually doing it I faltered. I felt deeply, shamefully inadequate, as though the rest of the world was getting jiggy in a range of astonishing positions and I was left standing on the sidelines with nothing to offer but my ageing M&S bra and knickers.”