Columns Nov 4, 2015 at 4:00 am

Sexless Marriages: The Last Word


This was enlightening. Kudos, Dan, for giving a voice to these folks.
[The guy must be gay or asexual, because his wife is beautiful, smart, and great in bed.]

LMB, even though this means agreeing with Fanny Price's indignant response to Edmund's report that Mrs Grant and Miss Crawford were surprised by her refusal of their brother's proposal: "I should have thought... ...that every woman must have felt the possibility of a man's not being approved, not being loved by some one of her sex, at least, let him be ever so generally agreeable. Let him have all the perfections in the world, I think it ought not to be set down as certain that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself."
@2, Vennominion, I'm re-reading Mansfield Park right now! Wimpy Fanny Price is my least favorite Austen character... That aside, since the husband DID marry the wife, she must've been acceptable to him at some point.
Thank you for running these letters. Frankly I wish you would answer some of them because they are so much more nuanced and varied than the letters
On the subject you did choose to answer for so many years. For reasons I don't understand you chose again and again to pick letters that were uncomplicated and one sided - probably so that your standard "go ahead and cheat on this selfish dead fish" would be more palatable. These letters show that aex doesn't die in a vacuum, but in the context of a relationship or a health problem, and that cheating has unintended consequences (like falling in love).
@6: To be fair, sex probably does die in a vacuum. It's too damn hard to have sex in a space suit.
I also found this selection of letters to be balanced and informative.

@7 I just finished reading The Martian for the second time, so yes probably.
@ 5 - You suspect she's lying. I suspect he's an Evangelical Christian. The behavior she described isn't as unusual as you think.
@9 - Or he just wants to get off, and doesn't want to have to work for it. He probably doesn't care what his spouse gets out of it - again, a more common scenario than most would like to admit.
Maybe it should have been:

Sex, like most things, dies in a vacuum.

Vacuum: Not a safe place for much of anything.

Vacuum: Not a recommended location for your sex life. Or your life life.
I wish Dan had a quick summation on what due diligence consists of before he gives his "whatever you need to do to stay married and sane" line, something along the lines of: check with several doctors to make sure there's not an underlying medical issue, check that you're not the source of the problem instead of your partner, check that you're not taking advantage of the 3rd person you're getting involved, etc. I just get the idea that people will take to sex outside the marriage as a first resort when they're dissatisfied instead of a last one. For an exaggeration, she's recovering from childbirth, and he says 'oh well, Dan said I get to have an affair."
JF @5,

It can be hard to ask for what you want if your partner doesn't believe there’s anything to hear. You’re doing your part, being GGG, positive, encouraging, making sure your partner gets what they want, and then you slip in, ‘How about ...’ and your partner replies, ‘No, our sex life is perfect just the way it is.’ What you need to do at that point is to break your partner’s sex life so that they have a reason to listen. But then you've made sex a source of discord and argument, something to fight about.

If your partner has believed ‘our sex life is perfect just the way it is’ for many years, they may be resistant to hearing that it was not and accuse you of lying and making things up.

Some people just aren’t into sex much beyond getting off. They might be generous and even imaginative in the abstract, but when they have an erection and a naked partner all their attention becomes directed to getting off efficiently, now.
@12: The important one is "divorce," too. Ethical cheating is only possible if divorce is legitimately not an option, and that's rare.
I guess I fit somewhere between BDS and GE in this week's Savage Love.
Thank you, Dan, and letter writers for sharing and relating.
This to add: a disturbing number of military doctors are among The. Absolute. Worst. in accurately or compassionately dealing with women's health issues---particularly anything to do with vaginal and uterine problems. Like BDS said, the general attitude is "Get over it, you big baby / It's all in your head".
I'm a female veteran who once served in Machoville, USA. An active sex life for me in the military was a big mistake. Sex was painful, my vaginal tissues (from a pre-existing condition of heavy periods since my adolescence) were tender and bleeding even more so from further PIV-associated aggravation, and a predominantly male medical staff remained unsympathetic.
To Gleeful Escapee, I say Cheers!
Cheers to Bedroom Death Survivor, too.
Moral of my story: to everybody unhappily coupled, PERIOD, sexually active or not: get out while you still can.
Okay--back to Dan's Sexless Marriages: The Last Word and this week's Savage Love.

@sb53: You're right---I'm still waiting to hear anything back yet from my VA counselor about my filed claim for disability compensation (she seemed sure I could qualify for at least 60%, though). It could be a 12 month wait or longer. I'll see what happens next.
So fucking sick of "sexless" hetero marriages. It's really a "loveless" marriage. Putting a penis into a vagina is not the only way to have sex. If you cant get into P-in-V, OK, but there are other ways to get your partner off. If you cant be bothered to do that to keep them sane, you do not actually love them.
@2 Been meaning to ask for weeks now -- can Venn (or someone else) remind me what LMB means?
I had a friend, who after years of enthusiastic sex and multiple orgasms, suddenly couldn't come anymore. When her regular doctor told her to get used to it, I staged a major intervention. She was so discouraged. But I badgered her relentlessly until she went to Mayo Clinic. Turned out it was a perfectly treatable problem that needed some physical therapy for her pelvic floor muscles. She is back to happy and enthusiastic sex. The medical profession needs a kick on its collective ass for how they treat women, especially older women.
@21 Laissez-moi barf
Eudo - one of the rare times one of your comments has made me laugh out loud. Quite right - please have all sexual activity take place under normal earth atmospheric conditions and gravity.
Great responses. I'm glad Dan outsourced this one.
12, 14-- Eud-- Yes. Divorce. That should be top of the list.
Thing is, I'm wondering how many marriages there are where one partner doesn't want any sex in any form, the other does, and they're otherwise swimmingly happy. I suppose it can happen, but it's hard for me to wrap my head around. It would seem that unhappiness in the sexual arena would lead to unhappiness in all the others.
@14 Agreed. My problem with the 'stay married and stay sane' is that it works like life support for relationships that should really be put out of their misery. I can't help but wonder what happened to the guy in the first letter and if he finally went running for a divorce lawyer when the LW left.

Yes there are times when leaving isn't an option but I don't think it's as common as LW's would believe.

Interesting and well-written letters this week. Life is pretty complicated.
gueralinda @ 6
“you chose again and again to pick letters that were uncomplicated and one sided”
I think these are truly the kind of letters he got at the time, though few of the ideas and situations mentioned have been discussed here by commenters over the years.

gueralinda @24
ohyes, which also means thanks Eudaemonic

Looks like those enlightened letters touched us all in a very positive way.
I like Venn’s @ 2 take on that stupid line, but I admit that I still wonder what Cindy Crawford has to do with all this.
In other news…
Lava is out this week, or at least that’s what she promised me. So from women who write here I get the impression that modern medication still doesn’t have much interest and knowledge in women’s sexuality. Especially those endangered species over the tender age of 42 and a half who just have to “get used to it.”

Looking back it seems like both side of the pills were made mostly for men: She won’t get pregnant and you won’t feel any side effects. Her dryness is not a problem if you can get it up.
These letters and comments make me ponder the connections between desire, arousal, sex, and love.
Thanks, Eudaemonic, for laughs @ #11.

Female sex detail alert for those who might wish to avoid it:

It can be quite discouraging to need lube, courtesy of peri/menopause, when you were naturally well supplied a mere year or two before. When being wet is a sign of arousal, it's easy to feel - and easy for your partner to infer - that you must not yet be adequately aroused when you fail to get wet. This can lead to additional painful friction.

It's tempting have a hissy fit at your body, because its lack of cooperation means you now have to stop what you're doing, and feel around for a bottle that spreads its contents in a thin monofilm over everything in your bedside table drawer. It is also tempting to lube up defensively (or proactively) in advance; but then, as you get into those activities which require lubrication, you discover that you aren't as ready as the amount of moisture suggests. Just "keeping going" doesn't necessarily help you "get there." See additional painful friction, above.

I could go on, but you probably get the idea. Of course, Communication Helps. But sometimes you (or your partner) just wanna plunge right in. Cause that's what passion's about, right? Lucky for me, my partner is always willing to help press the re-set button (or whichever button needs pressing) as needed. But if other people have partners not so willing, I could see how misunderstandings, insecurities and resentment could build up.
@29 CMDwannabe: It is interesting how the U.S. Navy and VA refused to do anything about my long history of severely painful menstrual periods, heavy bleeding (basically, hemorrhaging) and vaginal scarring left uncorrected over a span of 24 years---the first four during active military service; the following two decades and afterward as a veteran---and worsened by rigorous sexual activity, Navy prescribed BCPs that had undesirable side effects; then, much later after my divorce, and while calling the pathetically useless VA after hours nurse call center as one tough, callous old RN, flaunting her religious beliefs put it, the VA "wouldn't authorize" the "stopping of [my] menstrual periods" (I really don't understand what that has to do with her being Catholic). Um......D'UH! Can't anyone just do something to stop the goddam excruciating pain and heavy fucking bleeding already?! It wasn't until a local civilian gynecologist finally gave me a look of deep concern and said, 'You know, I can get you in for a uterine ablation, (a minor procedure that's been around now for the last eleven years) downtown, and we can fix that right up.' Not surprisingly, this short, sweet, less-than-one-hour operation for the just turning 50 year old me was paid out of my own pocket (what my own independent health insurance policy didn't--or wouldn't--cover). The VA balked, still playing their 'WE didn't okay that!' card. Yeah?! We know, already! After 38 years of monthly hell, that's why I finally turned to a civilian doctor for medical assistance and blessed long overdue relief. Imagine my pleasantly surprised amazement at having a normal pelvic exam at my civilian gynecologist's office this year for the very first time in my life----and no pain at all during the examination.
I wish I could say sexual activity for me had been enjoyable, if ever, but I honestly can't and don't miss it at all. I can't imagine having added children into a situation like this when I once had so abusive a boyfriend / spouse.
You're right, seandr---that really was some toxic shit.
@20 aeldergoth: You're half right regarding my one disastrous hetero marriage: We had bad sex, and it was indeed, loveless.
Thank you and bless you, Dan, and everyone, for allowing me to vent once again (CMD, I wasn't blasting you personally--just telling my story as a woman over 42). I'm dealing with it.
@20: Did you not read BDS's "During this time, my husband was supportive. I did my best to make him happy"? Does not sound either loveless or non-PIV-sexless to me.

Lava taking the week off, and this week's theme does not lend itself to any sort of Party Line. Unless we write about a woman who has experienced a drop in libido, goes to a doctor, and the doctor does everything they can to help her? From what several people here have said, that would be a fantasy indeed...
@5 (JF): There are a great many hetero men who settle into a certain routine. He's getting off, his girlfriend/ wife is not. She speaks up, he blows it off because there's no problem on HIS end. Selfish lovers who can't be bothered to take their partners' needs into account do exist. Why is that so hard for you to believe?

Imagine the inverse, genders flipped: a wife who lies still on her back like a dead fish, a distant and vacant expression on her face. Husband does not find this particularly sexy, starts losing his erection due to it. He speaks up. Wife doesn't see what the problem is--after all, she's putting out, isn't she?--and remains corpse-like. Does that make more sense from your scope of experience?
I would like to add to what Bed Death Survivor had to say: communication, communication, communication. My wife and I went through a patch of trouble that nearly led to an affair. Had we swallowed our pride and talked about our issues openly and honestly--such as her perimenopause and lessened natural lubrication, which made sex uncomfortable, an issue that many women seem to find too embarrassing to talk about, my interpretation that she wasn't into me anymore, or any other such embarrassing issue--things might never have gone the route they did.
Vacuum: This is not what we meant about lowering the pressure.

Vacuum: In space, no one can hear you moan.
(But privacy isn't everything.)

Vacuum: It Sucks There, So You Shouldn't.
M? Scribe - Maybe the husband was advised to marry by Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Re: Lack of lubrication in menopause.
See: Vagifem or Estrace or Estrodiol cream, topical estrogen inserted directly into the vagina and not absorbed into the blood stream.
@39 Crinoline - If you have personal experience with this, would you be willing to share how it impacts oral sex? I've been considering trying an estrogen supplement and I know the cream is less risky than the pills, but I worry about oral. Is it enough to just not use it on the days when you're sexually active?
@39 Crinoline: Vaginal lubricants can help ease dryness and discomfort, but I'd have to be careful, personally about applying any additional estrogen. I'm currently taking a nightly progesterone supplement to balance my hormones, and also on thyroid medication.
I was unknowingly TME (too much estrogen) for a good number of years, and the unpleasant side effects weren't pretty.
@41 futurecatlady: Using vaginal lubricants during oral sex sounds messy---unless that's what you want.
@5 – my ex only ever did two positions – me on top or basic missionary. We tried him from behind all of once and he couldn’t quite get the hang of it. It was a sexless marriage for many years. I’m amazed how many women I know who are (or were) in sexless marriages because the husband just was not interested. I truly don’t believe the men were having affairs; they just, in their mid-late 30s, lost interest , couldn’t be bothered, etc. (some were once every few months, some were once a year – for me, there were 10 sexless years (16 total - after the first 2, the sex dwindled - years later I can still pretty much enumerate the times we had sex after year 2. I stayed for the kids and never even thought of finding someone else – outside the no-sex, I loved my life, so to me it was a worth-it sacrifice). I do know a few women (late 40s-early 50s) who would be thrilled to never have sex again and have basically told their husbands “once a week on this night and that’s it – take it or leave it” – of course, they take it.
41-Futurecat-- It impacts oral sex not at all. It's a pill or cream taken (inserted) on schedule, a measured dose, 3x/week. The amount used is tiny. The pill is smaller than an aspirin. The cream is a little dot, smaller than a pea. I don't know the chemistry of it, but it disperses in the vagina acting on the vaginal walls to cause natural lubrication, I think. You have sex, oral, PIV, or what have you whenever you want. There's no taste to the medicine because no one is tasting the medicine. They're only tasting natural lubrication. The only slight caveat is that he might want to wear a condom for PIV immediately after the medicine is inserted because you don't want him to absorb the estrogen through his skin.

44- Auntie G-- You have a specific medical history, and I'm no doctor so all I can tell you is to mention Vagifem or Estrace to your gynecologist and see if it's appropriate. It might not be. It's supposed to be safer than oral estrogen because it's not absorbed in the bloodstream, but I know you have a particular problem with estrogen.

There shouldn't be any reason such a small amount of estrogen would affect libido, but I found that when my fear of pain went away, my desire came back in a rush.
I really like the word "assignation". I'm going to start using it whenever I can.
@13, yuuuuup that's a very accurate assessment of what's probably going on.

My husband, who is definitely not an Evangelical Christian or prude by any means, will have sex in maaaybe 3 positions, with missionary being absolute #1.
The weird thing is, we got together over a mutual love of S&M and kink in general. It's only been in the last three years that he's gone from regular bondage sessions to wanting the lights off, 10 minutes of foreplay, then missionary until completion.
Tried talking about it, he thinks there's nothing wrong and nothing that needs to change, and I need to get used to it :/
From a women's health professional in regards to lube: I recommend natural oils to my patients, something like coconut oil, sesame oil, or your favorite hippy made oil mix (I get a great one from hippy girls in Idaho). They are really great for the tissue in general and seem to actually work better for friction issues that many water-based lubes. And, as long as you don't mind the taste, they don't interfere with oral sex, either. Three caveats. 1) oil or oil-based lubes can stain your sheets 2) If you are using condoms, don't use oil or oil-based lubes 3) It's not for everybody (what is?) and you might like one oil more than another, so experiment.

Also, yes, everybody here is very correct when they say the medical field has given very little thought to women's health issues, particularly older women's health. So if you suddenly lose desire for sex and your physician pooh-poohs you, GO ELSEWHERE! In the Seattle area, there are some fantastic nurse-midwives, NPs, and gyn specialists who treat women in peri-menopause and they are great resources!
@31, Part II: Now you all know why I'm a little Wile E. Coyote quirky, and why I've lost my taste for roadrunners.

@49 I heart vaginas: Agreed about seeking medical assistance (or, for those who are sexually active, sex if it's unsatisfying) elsewhere. I certainly had to.
Ms Grizelda - I just noticed your reference to being "a woman over 42". Shirley Valentine, or something else?
My marriage isn't sexless, but there's a huge disparity in our sex drives. We have my wife's depression to thank for that, or more specifically her antidepressants.

Many antidepressants take out sex drive as collateral damage. Sex becomes a matter of craving what you don't want. It's like the shittiest Zen Buddhist Koan ever.

Changing antidepressants may help, but finding a balance of medications that actually works can take a lot of time and experimentation. Once success is achieved, depressed people are understandably loathe to mess with it. As important as sex is, it does take a back seat to achieving a bearable reality.

And so I wait. Sooner or later the mood strikes her, usually somewhere between 4-6 weeks. But the intervals are getting longer, which is worrisome.
@CMD: Looking back it seems like both side of the pills were made mostly for men: She won’t get pregnant and you won’t feel any side effects.

The pill was made for the godless liberal sluts of both genders.

Pretty much all the women I fucked in my 20s were on the pill, and I didn't see any sign of low libido. It wasn't until my wife turned 30 that she started experiencing that side effect from the pill. Thankfully, we now have hormonal IUDs.

Other side effects of the pill include mellower periods, reduced acne, and reduced risk for some cancers, all of which (from what I've witnessed) seem to be major selling points to the female teenager starting to think about birth control.
@49: THANK YOU for championing natural oils for lube. I got the riot act a few weeks ago in this space for suggesting coconut oil as a superb lube. I personally have an aversion to any sort of chemical-based products in/on my body. Sex is a feast, so make sure all potential ingestibles are edible!

As for sheet stains, I've had great success laundering in hot water with a couple cups of added white vinegar plus a cup of baking soda. Massage therapists out there, what are your best nontoxic tricks?

For those of you using estrogen creams, please consider using a bioidentical formula rather than a pharmaceutical one, as the latter are unnatural, profit-driven patents which are harmful over the long term. In fact, 'estrogen' (in synthetic forms) is one of the substances proven to cause cancer:…

Be safe out there, y'all.

I still get excited that I actually get to have sex—awesome, giving, experimental, fun sex.

We're all excited for you.
When my kids were toddlers, my libido dropped. Not enough to say no to sex, but enough that I found myself having more maintenance sex than enthusiastic sex. I wasn't happy about that, and so I talked to my husband and he said that he didn't want me to feel pressured and that he didn't want me to see sex as a chore, and that he was willing to have sex only when I was in the mood. We tried that for two months, in which we only had sex about six times. He obviously wasn't happy about that, but neither was I, because though I didn't miss maintenance sex, I did miss feeling close to him. So we talked again and we decided that we'd do something intimate every single day (making out, showering together, giving each other massages, etc.) without the expectation that it'd turn into sex. It worked amazingly for us, because not only did I got my libido back, but we also went back to being husband and wife instead of just mommy and daddy. We never stopped doing it, and so when a couple of years ago it was my husband's libido that dropped for a few months due to stress at work, I never felt neglected or resentful towards him because I still felt loved and close to him.

I have a few friends whose libido has dropped and when I asked them if they were still intimate with their husbands outside of sex, they all said no. So maybe it's worth a try, after having ruled out medical reasons, of course.
Dan's column is about the only safe place to even consider this kind of question. Notice how nasty the columnist and commenters of "Ask Amy" are to a guy who wrote in basically about wanting to ask his wife for an open marriage:…
Party Line

On the other side of the bar sat a small group of women in their 40’s or older. They had a quiet discussion about some medical challenges they are facing and the “get used to it” answer they seem to receive from health care providers.
They decide to start their own research lab in order to help themselves and others. One volunteers her basement as the research facility.
“But we will still need to experiment on real people in order to find out what works best on for both,” she says.
“Well, how about that obnoxious couple on the other side on the room?” suggests the one across the table.
seandr @ 53
The birth control pill has either improved or has some positive side effects that were unknown to me and my partners some 30 years ago, as it wasn't that glamorous back then.
In any case, it's still the woman's responsibility to take it daily.

By "pills" I also meant the one older men can use to regain or enhance their erection. Looks likes a lot of research and marketing was done targeting this segment of population, yet not so much on the equivalent female age group.

seandr @53,

These days gynecologists are much more in favour of hormonal IUDs even for young teens. The problem with The Pill as birth control is that it only works as long as one takes it, and when one breaks up with one’s boyfriend — as one does fairly regularly in one’s teens — one stops taking it. Then when one gets back together with one’s boyfriend — as one also does fairly regularly in one’s teens — one is unprepared for make-up sex.

Not that this could possibly be relevant in your household...
@23 Thanks. That comment was indeed pretty barf-inducing. Overall, though, I thought this was a good selection of letters that represented a wide range of experiences.

@57 Ugh at her snarky dismissal of even the concept of an open marriage. Just reiterates again how important it is that Dan keeps doing what he does.
@Alison: The problem with The Pill as birth control is that it only works as long as one takes it

Believe me I know.

and when one breaks up with one’s boyfriend

My understanding is that once you go on, you keeping taking it until you don't want to be on it anymore, regardless of whether you're currently getting laid. But even then people (especially young people) do forget. In any case, either the IUD or pill would ease my worries.
I'm still missing something about the idea that no libido equals an active disinterest in sex. That somehow absent an active interest in sex, all sex is squicky. For example:
My illness came on slowly, but the first noticeable symptom was my sex drive vanishing. My lady parts were drier than a desert. No amount of lube helped. Sex hurt, and I didn't want it.

That poses a problem for exactly one kind of sex: PIV intercourse. BDS says that she thinks that giving her husband permission to have sex with others would have broken her heart, but neither point suggests why she wouldn't have been okay with handjobs, blowjobs, anal sex, titty fucking, lubing up her thighs/vulva and having her husband fuck the space between her closed thighs and vulva, etc. Is this all just ignorant straight people not realizing that "sex" covers a lot more ground than PIV?

From HAR's letter:
At a certain point, the idea of having sex with him made me want to beat the living shit out of something. Was I supposed to continue satisfying him when my needs weren't being met?

See, this letter makes perfect sense - it's not low libido, it's a bad relationship with a partner who doesn't actually care about HAS's pleasure. The question then becomes why people are so very insistent on trying to stay in supposed intimate/romantic relationships with people who don't actually care about their needs and pleasure in the context of that relationship.
So many things to comment about!
#41: I began menopause about 5 years ago, and took HRT for about 3.5 years. It takes some time to find the right format (cream, dermal gel, patch, pills, intravaginal ring) but I never regretted it. My mood swings abated (Wellbutrin helped with that, too,) my hot flashes were much improved, and I actually increased the number and quality of my orgasms during that time. I advocate for it if you can since it saved my life, marriage, and job. (Yes, menopause was THAT difficult for me.)
#48 - when my husband began going through health issues, he lost his sense of adventure as well. Perhaps a checkup and honest conversation is due?
#56: good idea, IF he is not averse to being touched. That's another thing that has gone south. I think it's because he is experiencing frequent ED, and touching arouses him, but he can't do anything about it. Any ideas on how to proceed?
Thanks, everyone. I love this community!
These are fantastic letters. Sexual health care for older women is abysmal. Last week I went to the pharmacy to get a new prescription for an estrogen ring to help with dryness and atrophy. The standard procedure for a new medication is for the pharmacist to explain it's use, side effects, etc. Here's what this 50ish male health professional said to me: "So.. ERR...your doctor explained how to use this, right?" I said yes, and then he said, "We'll... um.. good. This should clear up those hot flashes (actually not true) and... err ... umm.. anything else umm related to..mmm THAT." Sadly I did not have time to say, "So if I stick it up my vagina, my inner labia will reappear, right? Then my clitoris won't hurt when I masturbate?"
@51 vennominon: It was meant as a self reference. I'm among women over 42.
@65 Vice President Popcorn Ceiling: You have my deepest heartfelt sympathy.
@53 and @62 seandr: Word up on BCPs----avoid Ortho Novum 777! For me this lead to vaginal scarring, tenderness and bleeding, severe abdominal pain, unwanted water weight gain and my blood pressure went through the roof. Despite all this visible and recorded evidence, pigheaded medical corpsmen remained in total dumbshit denial. My being sexually active while serving in the U.S. military, and while stationed at my particular command was indeed a mistake.
@56 Hockey Mom: It sounds like you're in a wonderful win-win relationship all around--lucky you, your spouse, and your family!
@60 Alison Cummins: In regards to the pill, Ortho Novum 777 is among those to be avoided (see my above comment to seandr). For me, the side effects were clearly not worth the increased blood pressure, sweat, tears, time and trouble. Amen to lubricated, spermicidal condoms instead.
@69 no sympathy needed! the estrogen ring has already undone the atrophy and brought the mojo back. I'm slicker than snot and smell like a teenager too. Reowr.
@70 Vice President Popcorn Ceiling: Oh--I guess I misread your comment @65.
I was sympathizing because I can relate to dealing with clueless doctors / pharmacists misdiagnosing women's healthcare issues (re: your comment: "Sexual healthcare for older women is abysmal.")
Kudos, and reowr! More power to you, girl!
seandr @62,

If you don’t think of yourself as a sexually active person who could spontaneously break out in PiV at any moment, or if you don’t love the Pill for its own sake, you go off it when you break up with your boyfriend. Many teenaged girls think of themselves as sexually inactive by default, the sexually active bit being an exception related to being in love with a particular boy.

A friend of mine’s daughters were put on the Pill as soon as they started menstruating. Their mother taught them to take it every night when they were brushing their teeth. That way they didn’t associate it with a particular relationship and would continue taking it regardless of relationship status.

Most parents don’t do that.
@JoanneQ: I can imagine he must feel really frustrated and so he doesn't want to start something that he's not sure he can finish. The most important aspect of what we did was that the intimacy didn't come with the expectation of sex. It was a way for us to feel close to each other even if we were not having sex. So maybe you can tell him that you miss that closeness, not necessarily the sex. I don't know if this could work for you because lack of libido isn't the issue here. Is there a medical reason why he can't take ED medication?
Sean @62: "My understanding is that once you go on, you keeping taking it until you don't want to be on it anymore, regardless of whether you're currently getting laid." It depends on which "you." Some "yous" do -- generally, the "yous" who've seen positive side effects from the pill such as larger breasts and briefer, more predictable periods. But the "yous" who see negative side effects such as weight gain and acne are much more likely to say "Well I don't need to be on this for now." Women get the message that it's not healthy to stay on the pill for extended periods of time, and those women who are conscientious enough to use condoms for casual sex may conclude that the pill is superfluous.
John @63: Straight people do know about these things. It's just that most straight people -- particularly straight men -- think of these things as "foreplay," to be followed by PIV. Many straight women find anal sex painful and many straight men do not orgasm from oral sex. A straight guy could get a blowjob every other night and still pine for the unique closeness of being inside his partner, face to face.
Such a tough subject. I'm glad to just read of others' situations. I can't voice mine.
@BiDanFan, @Allison: Interesting. Back in the day it seemed like all the ladies I knew were taking the pill as a matter of course - girlfriends, friends, sister, etc. It was just what one did, with the only exception being a girlfriend who was raised Catholic (won't do that again).

Anyway, I'm currently enjoying the benefits of a hormonal IUD, so I'm a fan. For years, that possibility had been dismissed because they were "hormonal" without knowing that it's mostly just the uterus that is exposed. We're both pretty med savvy, so we felt kind of dumb for not appreciating this distinction earlier.
"" I was bored and asked for some variety, and he refused to do it." I'm calling BS. I will not believe some dude just announced "Nope! 3 Positions only!""

It doesn't go exactly like that, but I broke up with a guy after this exact same conversation. He said "OK" but then it was just same old same old. He said he "wasn't comfortable" trying anything else and by "anything else" i'm not talking fisting or scat, but something other than me behind him every single time and him resisting when trying to move him to another position.
seandr @78,

How old were they? 13? 15? 17? 21?
Why zero mentions of nonmonogamy or polyamory? (I know Dan has championed the idea of "monogamish" before.) It's not like love or marriage automatically guarantee sexual compatibility (both in terms of sex acts and tab-A-slot-B fit). Why are affairs (either hidden or don't-ask-don't-tell) the go-to solution? I'm a sexless boyfriend and his wife don't have sex (but they value being married to each other), he and I have sex, she and her boyfriend have sex. Oh and we all happily live in the same house.
I've been on OrthoNovum 777 for 25 years, except when having & nursing babies. Works for me. (Oddly, the generic version was totally different and unbearable.)
@56 That sounds like great advice. My husband and I have a new baby - between the exhaustion for both of us, my libido taking a dive during pregnancy, and my ladyparts still feeling weird post delivery, we haven't been really making time for sex. I do miss the intimacy.

@auntie grizelda - re hormonal birth control, add me to the list of those that suffered ill effects from prolonged exposure. I got off it 5 years ago and I haven't felt inclined to risk it again. Actually, my post labor weirdness bears a striking resemblence to BC weirdness. Although worse in terms of discomfort. But better in terms of low libido means I don't care as much. Or maybe thats actually worse? Babies! Barely coherent! Woo!
hunter- I have a conspiracy theory.
I stayed on the pill when not having sex -- this may sound weird but I liked the idea that a rapist couldn't get me pregnant.
@82 EricaP: I must have been prescribed the generic version of OrthoNovum 777, which oddly enough, I too, started taking 25 years ago. I'm glad it works well for you, though.
@83 Luluisme: Congratulations to you and your husband on the birth of your new baby! I have never had children, but US Navy prescribed (in apparently the generic form) OrthoNovum 777 really had some nasty side effects for me. I'm glad I'm off it. Add wartime stress (in 1991) and an abusive relationship to the equation, and it really was about the biggest nightmare of my life.
@85 EricaP:'ve gotta go with what works. I do like the idea of safeguarding against rape, forced sex, and unwanted pregnancy. If only rapists could be forced to wear chastity belts and branded with a Scarlet "R" on their chests. Abortion clinics could become things of the past.
@87: Correction---make that "...abortions could become things of the past."
I know Planned Parenthood does infinitely more than exclusively perform safe
abortions (i.e.: breast cancer screenings, family planning, free birth control, etc.).
Stay healthy and safe, everyone.
@Alice: This was in my late teens through mid twenties.

@EricaP: Nothing weird about that at all.
I was always delighted to go off the pill as soon as I was single even in my late teens and early twenties, as I never liked the side effects at all. I also found a hormonal IUD (Mirena) destroyed my libido, so that last 15 years have been condoms only and blissfully side-effects free, although they can be a hassle to actually use. Hormonal IUDs are not at all side-effects free.
EricaP @85 the idea that I might be raped has never even occurred to me but that might be due to me dithering my way through life thinking that pretty much nothing bad will happen to me. I've also never had a car alarm or home burglar alarm probably for the same reason.
I don't like the idea of putting my daughter on the pill or any other form of hormonal birth control at all at such a young age, considering how awful it made me feel.
@85 EricaP (re: @89 seandr's comment) : Agreed. I don't think being on the pill even when sexually inactive is weird, either. It really does sound like a wise safeguard. Didn't you also mention having friends whose teenage daughters went on the pill once they reached puberty, or was that Alison? Better safe than sorry.

@90 busy_quilting: It sounds like you and I have similar issues and experiences regarding birth control pills. I think Erica's situation is different--at least other than my own experience-- because OrthoNovum 777 actually works for her, however sexually active / inactive she is. Since I'm not Erica, however, I wouldn't go back to the pill, either.

For a long time and up until the last year and a half, I had too high an estrogen level, and although I can't prove that the form of birth control itself caused this, the weight gain and unpleasant side effects were clearly a deal breaker for me. If I had ever had children--particularly daughters of my own, I would have warned them against the possible side effects of hormonal birth control. But the actual choice to be on the pill would have been theirs.

Okay, folks, here comes another late night Griz docu-novel (feel free to skip down to the next comment in the thread if disinterested): Here's what I think is weird in my OWN life: so many people, (with the exception of my parents, who were already happy with five grandchildren by 1992) throughout my adult years, from my late teens clear into my 40s kept asking me when I'd have kids. Many would pour on the peer pressure, actually bullying me to have kids, already ('What's wrong with you?' /'Everyone ELSE is!'/'We thought you'd have at least three little ones in tow by now'/ 'You know, there are now doctors who can correct that' / 'Don't you feel like you're missing something?', etc., etc., and, among dumbest lines, came my boorish (ex) husband's: 'All my [military] friends have kids!' Yadda, yadda, yadda) as if my enduring at least one full pregnancy term (the very idea still leaves me squeamish as hell) would magically "solve" everything, and the real life Jack Torrance I once had for a spouse and I would supposedly "live happily ever after", as in a Disney fairy tale. Instead, it felt just like a nauseating scene from Rosemary's Baby.
I could never have possibly come close to being the Supermom my own beloved mother was, or have provided a child with what my loving, supportive parents did for my older siblings and myself. I never saw myself as someone who would have made an ideal parent, and haven't regretted remaining childless even after my one divorce. What I think is weird is hearing from so many others--despite my long, sordid history of internal female health problems---that so many believed I'd "be a great parent". I have never felt that. Just as well for me, and any kids I may have otherwise had----they would have been completely miserable, messed up children with my (now ex) as their father, and I doubt that under such circumstances, I alone could have made so toxic a situation any better back then, even if I'm not that same woman now.
@90 busy_quilting: It sounds like you and I have a lot in common regarding hormonal birth control. I think Erica's situation is different (at least, other than my own experience, anyway) because OrthoNovum 777 works for her whether she's sexually active or not. Since I'm not Erica, however, I wouldn't go back on the pill. The unwanted weight gain and side effects were a deal breaker for me. I never had children but if I had---and any daughters, particularly, I would have warned against possible side effects of hormonal birth control. But the choice to go on the pill would have been theirs.
What I DO think is weird---throughout my own adult years--is the insane number of people (with the exception of my parents who were happy to already have 5 grandchildren by 1992) who, along with my (now ex) husband, Jack Torrance, kept trying to force motherhood on me like a scene from Rosemary's Baby, despite my long history of bad menstrual cycles and clear desire to remain childless.
auntie grizelda, some people might have said that you would have made a good parent because they saw, despite some terrible experiences, that you were a (let's say) loving and generally nice person, which you sound like. Of course the better option is for them to shut up about it though!

Constant harassing about not beg a parent or why aren't you a parent or whatever is so dreadful. I have a rule to never ask childless people why they're childless unless they bring it up themselves!
Ms Grizelda - I'd put the push towards children, an indication that the people who have made a conscious decision not to have children would make such good parents, somewhere between atheists being more knowledgeable about religion than believers and those straight people who supported marriage equality because LGs ought to share the misery.

If you really believe that abortion would be nearly eradicated by branding rapists, you'd probably have to have an extremely far-reaching definition of rape.
@93 busy_quilting: I wish I'd known more people like you during the truly dreadful years of my abusive marriage. The irony of all the idiots who kept bugging me into having kids were those who never themselves would have had to a) go through the pregnancy and / or 2) never have had to raise said child or children.
@95 vennominon: I wouldn't use abortion deliberately or repeatedly as a form of birth control, myself, but I do think Erica has a good argument for her continued use of the pill. Rape is ugly, guys. UGLY.
Troll alert on @96!
Ms Grizelda - Nothing against either you or Ms Erica; I'd just want to give the definition of a term that has been stretched a bit of late some time to settle before I started branding people. The specifics of the definition are almost entirely HSE, as they've been entirely heteronormed, to which I shan't waste any capital objecting.
@99: No, Griz -- not a troll. I agree with Hunter. Most abortions are a result of rape? No. Many abortions are a result of *both parties* being in too much of a hurry to use birth control. To imply that the only reason a woman could be accidentally impregnated was because the sex was non-consensual is inaccurate.
Griz @98: That's not to say that I disagree with you about rape being horrible, and rape + unintended pregnancy being an additional layer of horrifying. Just saying that even if the female body DID have ways to "shut that whole things down" (if only!), unintentional pregnancy from consensual sex would still occur in numbers large enough to necessitate the keeping open of clinics.
@101/2: And the general category of "shit going wrong with the pregnancy" as well, in all likelihood--which, in my none-too-humble opinion, basically renders all of the arguments about abortion irrelevant. Sometimes people need it, and there's nothing that can be done at this point that will make it so people don't sometimes need it.
Even if all economic and behavioral issues were somehow magically resolved, the human reproductive system doesn't and won't have a 0% error rate.
I read a nice little monograph by Marilyn Frye in the 80’s called ‘Abortion and the Decision Not to Contracept.’ She interviewed women in abortion clinics about the decision-making process that resulted in unwanted pregnancy. It went something like this:

• Contraception is difficult to obtain and use. Sometimes doctors would actively interfere, such as by advising a woman to go off the pill for a month a year just to be sure everything was working right on its own.

• Sex isn’t always planned. One woman became pregnant when her husband showed up unexpectedly and briefly on leave from the army. She didn’t regret having sex with him even though it resulted in pregnancy.

• While repeated acts of unprotected intercourse over time are very likely to result in pregnancy, any given act is not. Some women had even been warned by their doctors that they might have trouble becoming pregnant. If you take a chance just once, you’ll probably win.

• Pregnancy is not necessarily completely undesired.

• If all else fails, there’s always abortion.

So the logic would go something like this: I want to have sex. But Oh Shit I’m out of spermicide/ I’ve gone off the Pill/ I had to have my IUD taken out/ my partner hates condoms and so do I. But it’ll probably be ok. But even if I get pregnant we’ll probably decide to keep the baby so it’ll be ok anyway. But even if we don’t, I can always have an abortion. So come here and give me some sugar!

So no, Hunter78 @96 was bang-on, not trolling. Even if there were free Planned Parenthoods on every streetcorner, not every woman would have a hormonal IUD and get it replaced on schedule every five years. There will always be women wanting sex enough to take a chance, and losing.
@96 & @105: I unfairly lashed out at you, Hunter, and apologize. The subject of rape upset me.
@100 vennominon: I lashed out unfairly at Hunter--I admit (see above). But rape is still ugly.
@101 & @102 BIDanFan: I jumped the gun emotionally (see my comment to Hunter above). My point was really more relevant to the ugliness of rape in your latter comment (@102).
@104 Alison Cummins: You're right and also make strong points (see my above apology to Hunter). Rape to me will always be ugly and frightening, especially when I think of women and girls, men and boys---ANYONE---presently experiencing so cruel and hateful an act of violence forced upon them.
I am SO fucking glad I never had children with my ex. The nightmare would still be raging on.
Ms Grizelda - No disagreement. It just all seems to be leading in the direction of Gawain and the Green Knight, but we'd need Ms Cute for that expansion.
@Hockey Mom: ED as a result of diabetes. It's all vascular.
We've had this conversation more times than I can say. He can't easily separate intimacy from sexual contact. I've stopped fighting it and we've come to an unofficial agreement for now.
@107 vennominon: O--kay. You lost me at Gawain and the Green Knight. Nocutename, care to elaborate?
@108: Only if you're referring to my abusive ex. I pity his latest wife and any children he's had with #2 and #3.

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