Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coffee, Tea, or Me?

Ma’ikwe and I unreservedly agree that we have a great sex life. However, when she asked me yesterday if I thought that was one of the main reasons our partnership worked well, we didn’t have the same answer. And that got me thinking…

For me, sex has always been confusing. While I’m generally sure of my footing in most things I undertake (which means I’m either confident in my ability to do a thing well, or confident in my ability to find out how to do a thing well), that’s not the case with sex.

I’m mystified why anyone finds me sexually attractive (though thankful that some do). And while I really enjoy sex (mysterious though it is), I do not have much confidence in the outcome of any particular engagement. On the up side, as I’ve gotten older—I’ve been doing this for more than four decades now—I’ve gotten more sensitive to reading my partner and tuning into what she wants. On the down side (so to speak), my erections have become increasingly erratic and undependable. By unlinking the concept of sexual pleasure from the imperative of male orgasm, Ma’ikwe and I have been able to achieve a highly satisfying sex life.

I give Ma’ikwe a lot of credit here—when it comes to sex she has catholic tastes without Catholic guilt. I’ve had past partners who found my inconsistent erections highly frustrating—even to the point of accusing me of withholding erections (for what reason I cannot fathom).

Not trusting my sexual response or sexual performance, I’ve emphasized connection in other ways: mainly emotional, intellectual, energetic, physical, yet even spiritual and psychic. For me, sex is a private exploration that is an enhancement to an established connection; it is not a lead-up to intimacy, it is a celebration of it. Thus, for me, sex is magical and potent, yet it is also quixotic and non-essential.

This choice has also been reinforced by my emerging role as a public figure in the Communities Movement and as a group process consultant. The Communities Movement and my work as a consultant are both rooted in a commitment to creating cooperative culture. While that culture is certainly not anti-sexual, it is anti-manipulative, and there are far too many stories of men in positions of power or prestige who have parlayed that into sexual advantage. I am determined to not be one the men about whom such stories are told (and not because I didn’t get caught; I want it to be because I never went there).

In contrast, I experience my wife as marvelously sure of herself sexually, and amazingly open (which, no doubt, enhances her sexual attractiveness—I believe that centeredness is more potent than pheromones). I think her sexuality is well integrated into her identity as a vibrant, fully-featured person, and it makes sense to me that for Ma’ikwe sexual connection is more centrally positioned in her personal pantheon of life’s important relational elements.

All of which sets the stage for yesterday’s off-hand query and the surprised look on her face when I reported after a moment’s reflection that I didn’t think that our creative and deeply connecting sex life was central to our marriage. For Ma’ikwe, she can’t imagine being happily married to someone with whom she didn’t connect well with sexually. For me, I would never assess the soundness of a nutritional program by the dessert menu.

Luckily, we both like sex, we especially like it with each other, and the authenticity and power of our sexual connection is independent of whether we label it appetizer, main course, or remedial training. It’s all good.

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