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New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.


I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.

Couple bridal bed Louvre Myr268

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And by “in bed” I mean “sex” and by “what happens” I am referring to the infamous “orgasm gap”.

You know, that gray area that exists between how often a man thinks his woman cums and often how she actually does.

Yeah, that.

Apparently, because life in the United States isn’t sufficiently bleak and terrifying enough yet, someone had the time and the cash to conduct an extensive survey of the sexual landscape of Americans. What emerged was that the time-worn notion that women fake it more than men realize still holds up quite well since the days of Harry and Sally.

The reason behind this is lack of communication. Couples simply can’t discuss sex as easily as they can engage in it.

Reasons vary, naturally, but one researcher suspects that it starts back in kindergarten when the genders typically segregate themselves during play and this natural preference for same gender friendships is reinforced by formal sexual education that takes place in all girl or all boy settings.

I don’t argue with the first premise. We do clan up as small children. The second theory though doesn’t hold a lot of water for me as a former educator because sex ed was taught through Home Ec or Family Consumer Sciences and classes were co-ed as far back as when I started teaching in 1987. That’s a lot of generations of kids who learned about vaginas, wet dreams, venereal disease and where babies come from in each other’s presence to make me scoff a bit.

However, I won’t dispute at all the idea that couples don’t talk. But I think that most couples don’t talk about anything of importance – sex, money, life’s goals, grievances – so the problem is more than just “he pokes; she fakes”.

I’m a bit perplexed by the faking aspect. I don’t recall it coming up in formal sex discussions in school (though with my teachers being nuns about the only thing that was discussed were “monthlies” and why good girls used pads instead of tampons).  But I can’t remember ever having a girl-fest gab where faking was on the topic agenda either. Though, truthfully, I haven’t had a frank sex discussion among female friends since my college days. We partner up, have babies and somehow fall into euphemisms. The last really in-depth convo was with my BFF as we shared notes on dealing with men of substantial size.

But returning to the art of “faking it”. Okay, Meg Ryan did it, but she’s a real actress and doesn’t just play one between the sheets. Is the average woman capable of such a feat?

Granted, men reach a point of total … um … focus?… at some point and the building could easily collapse about them and they wouldn’t be aware, but even the thickest (skulled that is) fellow has to realize when he’s being given the signal to “hurry up already because I am no longer feeling it”.

I have never faked it. Seriously. Never. If it’s just not going to happen, I say so. There’s no shame or fault. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. For me, it tends to coincide with certain times of the month. Hormone levels rise and fall depending on where women are at in their cycles. Exhaustion. Illness. Stress. All factors. For men too. What’s the big deal with being honest?

My favorite quote from the article on the survey, however, has to be this one:

For example, Reinisch explained, the reasons men might ask for oral sex aren’t just about the physical feeling.

“The penis has incredible meaning, way beyond that it feels good, in terms of the sense of self, goodness, lovability and being loved,” she said. But women can’t be blamed for not fully appreciating this. “If you talk to men as I have in my career, they don’t think about how much it means, they just know they like it a lot and protect it with their lives. But when it is honored by their partner it makes them feel better about their whole selves…It’s quite amazing. I don’t think women understand the power of honoring that little part.”

(Note to women: calling it “little” probably isn’t a good way to honor it.)

I am sure many women will feel differently about oral worship after reading this, don’t you think?

Joking aside though, it makes sense.  Men are very invested in their organs and if a woman’s sense of worth stems from the physical (weight, perceived attractiveness, etc) then wouldn’t men’s? Because it’s not like they worry about weight or perceived attractiveness – unless it has something to do with their hair.

Actually, I think that everything that makes women insecure pales in comparison to the worry and fears men have about their penises.

But everything leads back to the all important “communication”, does it not?

It’s not about sex ed classes being single-sex or co-ed. What we don’t teach our children to do is to speak up, ask questions, listen to answers without hysteria or judgement and participate in real give/take in terms of relationships.

Is it poor modeling? Lack of instruction? Or both.

Instruction on an age appropriate level is the current running theme for us with Dee now that her oldest sister has moved in with her beau.

We visited Edie and Silver recently for a tour of the happy new home. While Silver took Rob on the man’s tour – which means they talk renovation rather than storage, lighting, space and color schemes – Edie, Dee and I eventually found the kitchen and snacks. As we munched and chatted, Dee turned to her sister and asked,

“So where does Silver sleep?”

Blushing, giggling and stammering ensued while I munched raw veggies in interest.

Dee had already sprung this question on Rob and I, and I knew she knew perfectly well where her sister’s beau slept. Rascally thing has been angling for more information regarding the goings on between men and women for a while now and thought she saw an opportunity to pry withheld facts from Edie.

Knowing that Edie didn’t know how to proceed, I reminded Dee that we had already discussed this and that Silver slept with Edie, just like Mommy and Daddy slept together.

Which isn’t at all what she wanted to know but she’s just eight and has only an inkling of what it is she is seeking.

Edie looked grateful and the conversation moved on, but the topic is merely delayed until the whole pg/baby thing pops up. And though Rob prefers not to think about it, that’s not as far away as it used to be.

Cluelessness is learned, a bit, but it’s probably a form of shielding – from embarrassment or shining light on festering issues. It’s a way to control. There’s control in ignorance so long as you aren’t the one without the needed information.

Here’s what’s at issue with “faking it” as far as I am concerned: transparency. Hiding anything in relationships just cannot lead to good things.

That’s my daughter’s favorite phrase. Everything is “awkward” from her nearly eight year old perspective.

We shop at the Safeway and like many chains, they have a discount card that lures people in and promotes loyalty by tossing bones here and there in the form of special member promotions and discounts at the gas bar. Rob gave me Shelley’s card to use after we moved in with the assurance that we’d get it replaced later as it had her name on it.

It was a hectic time. Moving from Iowa to Alberta. Getting married. Unpacking and packing and enrolling Dee in school and applying for residency and now it’s nearly three years later and I am still shopping with Shelley’s card at the Safeway.

And I don’t think about it very often. Oh, sometimes when a clerk makes a scrunchy bunny face at the card and my credit card but thinks better of asking why the names don’t match before handing it back. On those occasions I think “oh yeah, the names don’t match” or “whew, dodge that awkward conversation”. Well, not so much “conversation” as painful monologue because there is no conversation after the words “yeah, that’s my husband’s late wife’s card”. Although there probably is quite the conversation after I’ve left.

Today there a woman was being trained on the register by a clerk I am familiar with who smiled her recognition as she bagged the groceries.

“Are you a new club member?” the trainee asked.

“Excuse me?” I replied. Because I forgot about the name thing.

“Your club card has a different name on it.”

And instead of saying oh … nothing … or agreeing or anything else than what I did, I said,

“Oh, that. It’s my husband’s late wife’s card. We just haven’t gotten around to changing it.”


She hands the card back and looks at the other employee, the one I sorta know but who probably didn’t know this, and she is looking wide-eyed back.


Very, very awkward.