Learning to love a low libido
Offer Joan Sewell sex or a chance to hunker down with a good book, and the book will win.
This is how Sewell, 46, starts her memoir “I’d Rather Eat Chocolate: Learning to Love My Low Libido.” The book, which hit bookstores at the end of January, chronicles Sewell’s sexual journey with her husband Kip. It’s a frank, honest look at sex and the politically incorrect reality that most of the time, sex for her is a chore.And truly, she tried to “up” her sex drive after she learned Kip would have sex five or six times a week, if she was game, compared to her once, maybe twice a month, she said during an interview from her home in Seattle, Washington. She wore sexy things under her clothes so she wouldn’t forget she was a woman, “because obviously I kept forgetting.” She whispered naughty things to her husband, Kip, while at a party her mother-in-law was hosting.”But that didn’t even excite him – really it was kind of awkward.” She lit candles, donned a bustier and fishnets and massaged her husband with scented oils. Nope. Sewell recounts frustration after frustration until she comes to her conclusion – she’s just not that into sex. And moreover, that doesn’t mean she’s dysfunctional. Maybe, she asserts, she’s even – gasp! – more normal than people assume.Normal 2.5 times a weekIs a normal sex life considered once, twice, three times a week? I ask her. Part of the problem, Sewell said, is there isn’t an established number that’s considered normal.The controversial (at the time) Kinsey report published in the ’50s placed normal at 2.5 times a week – but “now they’re stating that was flawed because that segment of volunteers wasn’t representative,” she said.”You can ask people but everybody in this culture is afraid of saying they have sex less than twice a week because it means they are losers. No one wants to admit it’s once or twice a month.
“We need people to be honest, but it’s really hard, even when it’s anonymous, people tend to feel the stigma,” she said.Part of Sewell’s goal for the book she said is to expose the man behind the curtain, she said.”I think it’s the bread and butter of the self help industry to try to get women to have a bigger sex drive in order to get that man and hold on to him,” she said.Carnal, sexually aggressive women who “can’t wait until the elevator doors close” prance around shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex in the City,” but Sewell thinks they’re faking it in order to conform to the picture of a liberated woman. “If you turn the tables, at least in the media, you have a feeling of empowerment. But is it real?”For one 26-year-old interviewed for this story, high libido is very real. The woman, who didn’t want her name used, said she has the opposite problem. “With one (ex) boyfriend, I seemed to be begging for it every night. You hear these stories about men complaining they can never meet women who want sex – well, I’m the one girl that doesn’t complalin about a headache and he’s the one saying ‘I’m too tired’ … I felt like the male in the relationship. That seems to be a trend – I keep meeting guys that don’t have as high of a sex drive as me. To me, it seemed normal to want sex like every night,” she said.Searching for a sexual Holy GrailIn the past few months since the memoir’s release, Sewell said she’s been surprised by how controversial the book has been. Along with a lot of good reviews, the book got a handful of vitriolic ones. A review in Elle magazine accused Sewell of taking women back to a pre-Victorian period, she said.
“Which was funny because I also got complaints my book was to explicit because I talked about masturbating in front of my husband. And that’s about as far away from “Leave it to Beaver” as you can get – no pun intended,” she said.Sewell said she went on a search for the Holy Grail that would increase her sexual drive and save her flailing marriage, but in the end, nothing worked on a consistent basis – “it’s just a drive, a hormonally based drive,” and most men have a higher sex drive than women. So rather than subscribing to the belief that low libido is dysfunction and a problem to be solved, Sewell strives to find a way to make her drive sync with her husbands.The end result – a sexual compromise – is a little calculated, Sewell admits, but it works for her. There’s a menu which includes stripteases, masturbation and on occasion, sex. Kip initiates sex, but Sewell chooses what she’s in the mood for and in the end, both are satisfied. Or at least relieved. Some people tease Sewell, asking if she went so far as to draw up a legal contract.”You can’t do that because the courts would be clogged with couple’s embarrassing details.”And remember, she said, this is a memoir. Sewell reminds that she isn’t an expert and she’s not telling people what to do – exactly.”I do tell them they should be very honest about expectations – you can’t assume what another person wants or be embarrassed. You have to thresh it out – (sex) is a big part of marriage.”Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or email@example.com.