How to Have More Good Sex: Reluctant Wives, Willing Minds, and International Cookies of Mystery


How often do you think about sex? How often do you have sex? How about with a partner? Do your answers put you in the “normal” range for your nationality, sex and socio-economic class? Or are you a frigid neurotic, a sex-crazed freak—or perhaps just an erotica writer?

Ever since I started writing erotica and delving deeper into the sexual imagination for both professional and personal enrichment, I’ve been more attuned to the treatment of sexuality in the popular media. It’s a fascinating topic, but after a while, I’ve noticed certain themes pop up over and over. This repetition is instructive in itself. Magazines and blogs are naturally drawn to stories that draw greater readership. And sex supposedly sells. But what kind of sex is selling (besides vampire tales) and what does that say about our culture?

This is by no means a scientific survey, but one “problem” that seems to surface over and over is the disparity in sexual desire between women and men. Inevitably “evidence” is quoted along the lines that men think about sex about every 52 seconds or so and women only several times a day, if that. With advances in neurological research, many writers claim that the brain itself shows males have a greater capacity for processing thoughts about sex while women trump men in processing emotion. Of course, all of this is a fancy way of saying that men want to do it a lot more than women do, and if you’re a horny man and a disinterested woman, you are the norm.

I’ve rarely seen any articles that seriously question these articles of faith. Instead, as strange as it might seem some forty years after the Sexual Revolution, common wisdom still accepts that most women have to be talked into sex and most marriages are sexless. If any woman claims to enjoy sex with her husband, such as Ayelet Waldman in Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, she becomes a figure of notoriety, publicly condemned by women as an unnatural parent for not redirecting her eroticism to babylove and privately approached by men asking her how to make their wives more like her.

I could bombard you with a thousand more examples of the same, but the more I read, the more I begin to wonder—is any of this true? Or does the myth that women don’t even think about sex and marriage condemns men to celibacy serve some other unacknowledged cultural agenda?

One of the main reasons for my doubt is that I’m not a man, much less a young man, and I think about sex all the time. Admittedly, eroticism is my profession, and bricklayers probably think about bricks more than other people do. But how exactly are these scientific surveys of thought conducted? Does it only count if you specifically think about boning the attractive person sitting next to you on the bus? Or might something broader—a sensual appreciation of your arugula salad, a slightly anxious worry about why the guy across the aisle on the bus keeps staring—count as thinking about sex? Could it be that the areas of the brain that process emotion also process an emotionally-flavored approach to sex? Or maybe my friends and I, some erotica writers, some not, are just bizarre freaks?

The sexless marriage “epidemic” also begs for closer scrutiny. As a married parent myself, I am aware of the logistical challenges children bring to one’s sex life, but obstacles are known to increase desire as well. I’m not saying that parents of newborns don’t have less sex than honeymooners, but why indeed are these reports just accepted and seen as the way it has to be for natural reasons? Might it let philandering husbands off the hook for meeting their needs elsewhere? Or is the media doing double duty—arousing us with sexual fantasy in every ad, but soothing us with the reassurance that no one else is having much real sex either? Why do we both condemn and secretly envy any woman who speaks out about enjoying sex, even a married woman who lusts after her husband?

I don’t really have answers to these questions yet, but I do have an answer to the one question the media loves best of all: How can we all have more good sex?

Let’s return to those studies that measure how often men and women think about sex. While I’ve yet to be convinced their methodology yields meaningful results, I do have abundant anecdotal evidence that thinking about sex in a way that puts you in touch with your desires—rather than say worrying that your selfish husband is going to force himself on you again tonight—makes you feel more sexual and interested in erotic activities. Why even in Em & Lo’s New York magazine article about mothers who love Twilight, a West Village mom claimed that she had more sex with her husband when she was reading the book than in the entire few months before. (My husband dared me to mention Twilight in my column, so pay up, buddy—with sex—okay?) I myself would pick up an erotica anthology, but a cookbook or collection of sensual photographs might work as well for some. Even simply paying attention to your senses, communing with the universe, will greatly increase your sensitivity to all of life’s pleasures.

And for those who might counter that only actual intercourse counts as sex, doesn’t the scientific evidence itself acknowledge the importance of the imagination in our sex lives? If thinking about sex makes men more sexual, then thinking counts for everyone. Indeed, over the course of your lifetime, how much time have you spent thinking about sex versus actually bumping bodies with a flesh and blood lover? I say let’s promote sexual fantasy to the category of sex that matters rather than marginalizing it as a poor cousin. The same goes with masturbation—”sex with the one you love,” as Woody Allen aptly calls it. Add that to the mix and we’ve all had a lot more good sex than we realized. Aren’t you more satisfied already?

As a reward for any sex-deprived husbands who’ve indulged me by reading this far, I actually have a helpful tip for getting your wife to be more like Ayelet Waldman. First I have to mention her prescription—help out more around the house. I will admit that the sight of my husband washing the dishes or even drying the dishes while I wash, brings a glow to my loins. But that alone would not be enough to get me interested. I’ve had the usual female challenges in my sexual history, material for other columns for sure, but I rarely say no to sex with my husband (unless I’m coming down with the flu) and even initiate it now and then. Why? Because I’d be a fool to say no to an experience where my pleasure is so obviously and totally his pleasure. In other words, I know I’m going to have a hell of a great time. What’s not to love?

I’ve also had enough experience with partners who aren’t so interested in what’s going on with me to empathize with women who use the kids or some other excuse to avoid the act. So, here I go with some more questions that will hopefully get us closer to some answers. What if the problem was no longer the frigid wife but the hackneyed myths of what American marriages must be so we can redirect our lust to shopping? What if the sex-starved husband decided to change the rules of engagement and approached his partner with a new purpose of indulging her, cherishing her, getting back in touch with what lit her fire in the beginning and learning something new about what turns her on now? What if he asked her, over a glass of wine, what he does that she likes best and what she’d like him to do? What if he offered her one hour of devotion to her pleasure alone, if he’d be allowed to stick it in afterwards? What if he acted like sex with her matters rather than being a way to release tension after a hard day at work? Of course, doing the dishes first is guaranteed to make it all work better, but I’d bet if more disgruntled husbands did their best to make sex more like a spa treatment than a chore for their partners, the popular media might start writing stories about the great American renaissance in sexual pleasure.

I see the winter light is fading, so I’ll jump off of my sexual soap box now and head into the kitchen to share my own take on a classic solstice cookie that is almost as ubiquitous as sex itself. This confectioners’ sugar-coated, nut-studded butter cookie goes by many names: Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Snowdrops and Pecan Butter Balls, among others. My mother went with the Russian version, in spite of the Cold War, and these meltingly delicate confections always graced her Christmas cookie tray. I always found the name—actually all its aliases—wonderfully romantic and evocative of world travel, another example of how the imagination can enhance any sensual experience. A few years ago, I came across a recipe that used pistachios and dried cherries instead of pecans, but I happened to have a whole case of delicious dried cranberries on hand, so I replaced one red berry with another with an especially festive result. My family is usually too busy eating these cookies to call them by any name, but for this column, I coined a catchy new title to capture the spirit of this international cookie of mystery in all its guises. You can call them NCPACHISCB’s for short. And believe me, they taste especially good after you’ve had great sex with your spouse….

May 2010 bring lots of delicious sex, well-crafted food, and mind-blowing writing to you all!

New Classic Pistachio and Cranberry Holiday International Snow Cake Butterballs

(Makes 80 cookies)

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar plus more for coating
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract (Mexican preferred)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shelled, unsalted natural pistachios (about 4 ounces), chopped coarsely
1 cup dried cranberries, each chopped into 3-4 pieces
3 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat 2 cups butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt, then pistachios and cherries. Using a spatula, stir in all the flour (do not overmix the dough because it toughens the cookies and you want them tender).

Measure dough by 1 flat Tablespoon each and form into football-shaped ovals. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, until bottoms just begin to color, about 12-13 minutes (bake one test cookie and check for level of bottom-browning because, spanking stories aside, burning bottoms are no fun). Cool cookies 10 minutes on sheet before coating.

Pour a generous amount of powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Working with 5 or 6 warm cookies at a time, add cookies to bowl of sugar. Gently turn to coat thickly. Transfer cookies to a sheet of waxed paper. Repeat to coat cookies with sugar again. Cool completely. Store airtight at room temperature. The rich, buttery flavor starts to fade after four days—if they last that long!

Donna George Storey
December ’09 – January ’10

“Cooking up a Storey” © 2009 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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