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The seven-year yawn

What's a young married gal—bored with vanilla sex and into BDSM—to do?

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Q: I'm a woman who married young (21), and I've been with my husband for seven years. Within the last year, I've realized that my falling libido probably comes from the fact that I am not turned on by our boring vanilla sex routine. I had some great casual sex before we met, but it turns out I'm into BDSM, which I found out when I recently had a short affair. I've kept the secret and guilt to myself, but I have told my husband I'm into BDSM. He wants to make me happy, but I can tell he isn't turned on doing these things. I've tried to ask him if we can open up our relationship so that I can live out my fantasies. I would like to go to a BDSM club, and he isn't interested at all. He was very upset and said he's afraid of losing me if we go. He also felt like I was giving him an ultimatum. But I told him he was allowed to say no, and that I wouldn't leave if he did.

When I was younger I thought there was something wrong with me because everyone else wanted monogamy but it never seemed important to me. I'm not a jealous person, and I wouldn't mind if he had sex with other people. In fact, the thought of it turns me on, but he says he isn't interested. My only solution has been to suppress this urge to have BDSM sex. What should I do? We have a three-year-old daughter, so I have to make our relationship work. —Want the Hard Truth

A: Two quick points before I bring out the big guns.

First, marrying young is a bad idea. The younger two people are when they marry, according to a veritable mountain of research, the likelier they are to divorce. It makes intuitive sense: the rational part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex—isn't fully formed until age 25. We shouldn't be picking out wallpaper in our early 20s, WTHT, much less life partners.

Second, basic sexual compatibility (BSC) is crucial to the success of sexually exclusive relationships, and it's a bad idea to scramble your DNA together with someone else's before BSC has been established.

"WTHT might be surprised to hear she is just a normal woman being a normal woman," said Wednesday Martin, New York Times best-selling author, cultural critic, and researcher. "Like a normal human woman, she is bored after seven years of monogamous sex that isn't even her kind of sex."

You mentioned that you used to feel like there was something wrong with you, WTHT, but just in case you have any lingering "what's wrong with me!" feelings, you're gonna want to read Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, Martin's most recent book.

"We know from recent longitudinal studies from Germany, Finland, the U.S., the UK, and Canada that among women only, relationship duration and living together predict lower desire/boredom," said Martin. "In fact, the Finnish study found that even when they had more/better orgasms, women in monogamous relationships of several years' duration reported low desire." A straight man's desire for his long-term, live-in female partner also decreases over time, but nowhere near as drastically as a woman's does.

Most advice professionals in the sex-advice-industrial complex have chosen to ignore the research. They continue to tell unhappily sexless couples that they're either doing something wrong or that they're broken. Not only isn't this advice helpful, it's harmful. In reality, nothing's wrong. It's not about a more equitable division of housework (always good!) or drinking more wine (also but not always good!), it's about the desire for novelty, variety, and adventure.

The big issue here is that you got bored. Even if you were 100 percent vanilla, that shit would get tedious after a few years. Or minutes. After risking your marriage to treat your boredom (the affair), you asked your husband to shake things up by incorporating BDSM into your sex life, by going to BDSM clubs, and by at least considering the possibility of opening up your marriage. (Ethically this time.) And while he's made a small effort where BDSM is concerned, your husband ruled out BDSM clubs and openness. But since he's only going through the BDSM motions, what he is doing isn't working for you. And it's probably not working for him.

"She once put her marriage at risk to get BDSM," said Martin. "WTHT's husband doesn't need to know about the affair, in my view, and he doesn't need to become the world's best Dom. But he owes her acknowledgment that her desires matter."

There are lots of legitimate reasons why two people might prefer to be or remain monogamous. But two people who commit to being sexually exclusive for the rest of their lives and at the same time wanna maintain a satisfying sex life need to recognize that boredom is their mortal enemy. And while the decision should be mutual, and while ultimatum is a scary word, in some instances, bringing in reinforcements isn't just the best way to fight boredom, it's the only way to save the relationship.

Now, a couple of weeks back, I told a frustrated husband that his cuckolding kink may have to be put on the back burner while his children are young. The same goes for you, WTHT. But at the very least your husband has to recognize the validity of your desires and put more effort into pleasing you.

"In straight culture, people tend to define sex as intercourse, because intercourse is what gets men off, and we still privilege male pleasure," said Martin.

"But seen through a lens of parity, what WTHT wants is not 'foreplay' or 'complicated stuff,'" said Martin. "It's sex, and the sooner her husband lets go of this intercourse = sex fetish of his, and acknowledges that her pleasure matters as much as his does, the sooner he'll be a real partner to his wife."  v

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