Caitlin Flanagan, 2003, The Wifely Duty:

Allison Pearson’s much loved novel about a busy working mother, I Don’t Know How She Does It (which opens with the main character engaged in just such a late-night project), features a woman so tired that she’s frantic to escape sex with her husband, prompting Margaret Carlson, of Time magazine, to observe, “Sleep is the new sex.” It has become impossible not to suspect that a large number of relatively young and otherwise healthy married people are forgoing sex for long periods of time and that many have given it up altogether.

And so we turn our curious attention to the marital therapist Michele Weiner Davis, whose new book, The Sex-Starved Marriage, is so well timed and so aptly titled that it is primed to become a cultural sensation….What’s odd here is not the suggestions themselves — each seems quite sensible, and I myself can vouch for more than one of them — but, rather, the generation that apparently needs them. American adults under the age of fifty tend to know more about sex and its many delightful permutations than did streetwalkers of an earlier century. When Davis describes the process of arousal (“You notice a feeling of fullness in your pelvic area as your genitals become engorged with blood”), you might think she was addressing a seventh-grade health class rather than adults of the post-sexual-revolution era. Yuppies, with that winsome arrogance that is all their own, proudly describe the nature and frequency of their premarital couplings with a specificity matched only by advanced seminars on animal husbandry. The reason abortion rights hold such a sanctified position in American political life is that they are a critical component of the yuppie program for maximum personal sexual pleasure. But let these inebriates of nooky enter marriage, a state in which ongoing sexuality often has as much to do with old-fashioned notions of obligation and commitment as it does with the immediate satisfaction of intense physical desire, and they grow as cool and limp as yesterday’s Cobb salad.

Teacher of life admin and curator of commentary. Occasional writer.

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