Recently, I’ve had some interesting conversations, with men and women, about lifetime monogamy and whether or not it’s possible. A majority said that they hoped it was, but also felt that it was not biologically natural for humans. Those I spoke with raised the issue of sexual satisfaction and whether or not it can be maintained in a long term relationship.
A friend of mine said, “with familiarity comes boredom,” and to be honest, I find this terrifying. Obviously, there is a lot more to a relationship than just sex, like emotional connection, companionship, happiness, stability, the list goes on, but sex is important. Personally, I haven’t had many long-term relationships, but the one thing that I constantly hear from my friends who have, is that sexual desire drastically changes after three years in a relationship.
Contrary to popular belief, women, more than men, feel sexually stifled by monogamy. In an article for The Atlantic, “The Bored Sex” contributor Wednesday Martin revealed a surprising truth that “although most people in sexual partnerships end up facing the conundrum biologists call “habituation to a stimulus” over time, a growing body of research suggests that heterosexual women, in the aggregate, are likely to face this problem earlier in the relationship than men. And that disparity tends not to even out over time. In general, men can manage wanting what they already have, while women struggle with it.”
For many women, sexual satisfaction requires trust and connection, and in a lot of cases, monogamy can provide that; but, the “growing body of research” that Martin references is in fact compelling. A 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal Open, surveyed more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74 and found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration.”
A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 found that sexual desire, for women who were in relationships of up to nine years, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.”
And two German studies, published in 2002 and 2006, revealed a dramatic decline in female desire over the course of relationships lasting nine months, whereas men’s desire held steady.
Martin writes, “The psychiatrist and sexual-health practitioner Elisabeth Gordon told me that in her clinical experience, as in the data, women disproportionately present with lower sexual desire than their male partners of a year or more, and in the longer term as well. ‘The complaint has historically been attributed to a lower baseline libido for women, but that explanation conveniently ignores that women regularly start relationships equally as excited for sex.’ Women in long-term, committed heterosexual partnerships might think they’ve “gone off” sex—but it’s more that they’ve gone off the same sex with the same person over and over.”
So what’s the fix? Sexologist, Diana Daffner, suggests tantric sex. Tantric sex, not to be confused with Kama Sutra, is a spiritual tradition found in Hinduism and Buddhism that’s about deep connection.
Contrary to pop culture and Sting’s infamous comment about alleged seven-hour “tantric” sex sessions with his wife (that he later clarified “included movie and dinner”) have led many to believe that tantric sex is merely about wild, marathon sex. But, the practice goes far beyond that and actually has very little to do with bragging about your staying power.
Daffner says, “When I first suggested tantric sex to my husband Richard (for whom our intimate relations were satisfactory enough, at the time), he said, ‘You're probably right that things can be better, but you'll have to take us there.’ In other words, he did not have the same emotional/spiritual yearning as I did, but he was open to the possibility of enhanced lovemaking!”
Daffner describes tantric sex as being probably one of the world’s most ancient teachings of mindfulness. She says, “a couple must first learn to slow down. This allows them to see each other, to feel each other, and to experience the bliss of their love.”
Licensed psychologist, author, and educator, Victor Shamas M.D., says “what makes tantric sex unique is its focus on the energy of desire, pleasure, and delight as a driving force for spiritual transformation. When you practice tantric sex, you develop and refine your awareness of what is happening in your body at every moment: breathing, sensation, physical movement, sleep and dreams, metabolism, visualization, and sexuality. Rather than reject physical experience as a lesser reality to be viewed with guilt and shame, tantric sex makes it the centerpiece of spiritual life.”
In regard to sex, Shamas clarifies: “In the bedroom, tantric sex redefines the notion of great sex, which includes physical gratification and emotional connection but also an element of transcendence. At the height of sexual bliss and ecstasy, we lose ourselves in the moment in a way that allows us to connect to something profoundly exquisite and beautiful within ourselves. This deeper level of existence tends to lie hidden beneath the surface of daily life.
Tantric sex teaches us how to tap into the experience of radiant splendor that is most often associated with sexual arousal and climax. Then, with practice, we stretch out that experience and make it last. This level of existence can be so elusive most people might only catch a rare glimpse of it, if at all. Yet, tantric practitioners have the unique opportunity to live in this wonderful and sacred space on daily basis.”
The benefits of tantric sex go beyond the bedroom, for those seeking an emotional fulfillment, Shamas says: “When two practitioners come together in sexual union under the right conditions, a synergy can happen that is unmistakable in its power to inspire and elevate us. Those conditions include elements of reverence, openness, trust, and honor. When all the right pieces are in place, tantric practice can give us access to what can only be termed the greatest feeling in the world. That is what makes tantric sex so compelling.”
Chances are, for some, tantric sex is being explored because there is a current lack of satisfaction regarding intimacy, which can make this a touchy topic to begin with. So how does one go about suggesting this kind of practice to their partner?
Tantric masseuse, Jazmin Light, says “Tantric sex is a multi faceted practice, ranging in intensity,” and that for partners, “tantric sex can awaken deeper reverence for each other and brings sex to a higher more beautiful level of consciousness.”
The varying levels of tantric sex, according to Light are non-sexual light touch stroking (slowly) to deepen connecting between partners. “Eye gazing,”staring deep into each other’s eyes to connect to the soul. And, lastly, full “Union,” which is intercourse in a very loving spiritual manner.
In applying tantric sex to your relationship, Light says that it all depends on the two people involved. “If both are open to spiritual and conscious ideas, it will be quite easy to approach each other on the subject; but if the people are not (yet) aware of tantric sex, they could try a more light approach such as starting with tantric massage, which is purely physical and in the realm of sensuality. Normally this is done very slowly and can go up to two hours. For beginners, perhaps 30 minutes just to try it out would be a great way to step into tantric sex.”
Yoga instructor Chelsea Fox shared with me that “Tantric sex saved my marriage. It was a beautiful way for my husband and I to reconnect and let go of insecurities that we were holding regarding sex. Additionally, a personal practice of tantric sex without my husband helped me reconnect with my femininity, removing blockages that were stopping me from having Earth shattering orgasms.” If “earth shattering orgasms” doesn’t sell you then I truly don’t know what can.
Obviously, sex can be a difficult topic to discuss with a significant other, but I don’t think it’s any more difficult than enduring an eternity of sexual dissatisfaction that will ultimately lead you or your partner to seek satisfaction elsewhere. From the studies cited earlier, it’s clear that long-term relationships can easily become routine, especially in the bedroom.
While I find it interesting that women are significantly more likely than men to become dissatisfied sooner in monogamous relationships, I can’t say that I am surprised. Everything we are told as women about sex from the day we are old enough to even remotely understand what it is, it’s that “you have too much sex then you’re a slut.” We’re told that our sexual appetite differs from men, that our desire for sex is more emotional than physical, and take it from a woman, that is just not true.If we are told to suppress our desires, how are we supposed to even know what we truly desire?
I believe that this kind of conditioning makes women less likely to be vocal about what they want sexually, out of fear of being seen a certain way, so we resign ourselves to boredom. Perhaps tantric sex isn’t the answer for everyone, but initiating the request to mix things up most certainly is.