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A man can go from being a lover to being a stranger in three moves flat…but a woman under the guise of friendship will engage in acts of duplicity which come to light very much later.  -  Anita Brookner

“We’re going to have to move soon; I really think Eleanor is beginning to suspect.”

“What makes you think that?” asked Hazel, handing him his drink and then moving behind him to rub his shoulders.

“Nothing I can really explain,” he said, then after a sip: “When you’ve been married to somebody for twenty-seven years, you get to know all her little ways, and you notice when they change.  You were married before, you know what I mean.”

“Yes.  But how do you know she isn’t cheating on you, too?”

Ted laughed.  “You don’t know Eleanor; she’s as cold a fish as there is.  We were both virgins when we got married, and once we were done having kids she just wasn’t interested any more.  I’ve already told you this more than once.”

“There’s no need to get testy,” she said reassuringly.  “I just want you to consider all the possibilities so you don’t start acting nervous and setting off her radar.”

“Like I said, I think I already have.  Oh, I’ve been very careful; before I met you I saw escorts for years, and before that I had cultivated a pattern of not really telling her much about my comings and goings.  And since she leaves the money to me, it’s always been easy to use as much as I want without her being the wiser.  But lately, she’s been requesting a lot more money for all sorts of things, as if she’s trying to probe the state of our finances.”

“Has she been questioning you or anything like that?” 2X

“No, she wouldn’t.  Eleanor is maddeningly indirect; she never makes a statement when an insinuation will do, and whenever she’s angry at me it always takes me days to figure out why.  I’ll never understand why so many women are like that; is it something on the X chromosome?”

“You have an X chromosome as well, Ted.”

“I know, but maybe something on the Y cancels it out.  Maybe real sneakiness requires a double X.”

“Oh, really!  Now you’re just being ridiculous.  I’m relatively straightforward, and you’re extremely sneaky; if quietly converting most of your investments to negotiable form so you can fly off to Tahiti with your mistress doesn’t qualify, I can’t imagine what would.”

Ted looked as though he had been slapped.  “I’m not leaving her destitute,” he said quietly; “In fact, as per your suggestion I transferred the house and several large investments into her name.  I just want to divide the money fairly rather than leaving it to courts and lawyers who would probably give her everything.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said, hugging him closely.  “I didn’t mean to hurt you.  It’s just that I feel nervous, too, and dumb female stereotypes always get me irritated.  Please forgive me.”

“See, Hazel, this is what I’m talking about.  You know how many women would apologize like you just did?  Practically none.  That’s not a stereotype, it’s just the truth; men usually end up having to apologize no matter who was wrong.  I don’t think you really understand how different you are from most women.  I never believed I would fall in love with anyone ever again, much less want to live my life with her.  But you just make me feel so special, so safe.  I know I can trust you, and that we won’t end up being strangers sleeping in the same bed like Eleanor and me.”

“I promise you that will never happen,” she said through glistening eyes.  And then she kissed him, and for a while there was no more conversation.

****************************************************************

airliner in flightA few days later, though, she brought up the subject again on the airplane.  “I just can’t help but feel guilty about what we did.  I know the two of you really shouldn’t have married in the first place, and that you haven’t had a sex life in over 15 years.  I know the kids are grown up, and we really do love each other, and there really wasn’t a home to break up.  But damn, don’t you feel bad about running off with all the negotiables as well as the stuff he put in your name?”

Eleanor shrugged.  “Not really.  I left documents donating the house back to him, and he’s still under fifty; he has twenty more years to build up again, and with no alimony that’ll be easy with his salary.  He’ll be a lot better off in the long run than I would’ve been had he been the one to run off with you as he thought would happen.”

“I suppose you’re right,” sighed Hazel.  “But I still feel bad about playing him like I did.”

“No worse than he thought he was playing me,” Eleanor huffed.  “He got what he deserved.”

“Maybe,” she replied.  “But I guess he was right about women being the sneakier ones, after all.”

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Line in nature is not found;
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced, all rays return;
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.
  -  Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Uriel”

the brideI’ve been giving quite a few interviews lately, and I’ve noticed that one particular question comes up quite often (either on mike or off), especially from female interviewers:  “Would you ever do it again?”  I don’t think most of them intend it as a “gotcha” because I have been very fortunate so far in avoiding interviews with the sort of people who ask such questions (the most popular of which is “Would you want your daughter to do it?”)  Rather, I think it’s symptomatic of the underlying assumption, even among many people who firmly believe in self-ownership and sex worker rights, that there is something intrinsically “wrong” or distasteful about sex work.  I’m not blaming them, mind; that attitude is so deeply and firmly embedded in our culture that it’s a rare person indeed who is completely free of it, and that includes whores.  Most people, including many sex worker allies and staunch advocates, tend to think of retired sex workers as people who have “exited”, or “gotten out”, or even “escaped”, and are therefore understandably curious about someone like me who views our profession as not merely something to be tolerated, but a positive good.

When people ask why I retired, I often reply “Did I?”  As I’ve often stated, I don’t view marriage as all that different from prostitution; the affection my husband and I share does not lessen the economic basis of our formal relationship.  But that’s not really what my questioners mean; what they want to know is, “If you were faced with economic need, would you go back to professional whoring?”  And the answer is, “Of course I would.”  I already came out of retirement once due to a major financial setback, and life is full of such passages; if a similar situation arose, I would do it again.  There’s nothing strange about this; many women drift in and out of sex work at different times in our lives, or change between different types of sex work as conditions change, and I’m no different from anyone else.  Perhaps the question also reflects a kind of intellectual snobbery; maybe there’s an assumption that because I’m now a writer who is noted for her mind and words, that returning to sex work would be a kind of regression or even debasement.  But that’s elitist garbage; unless I suddenly evolve into an incorporeal being who can live on air and sunlight, I will always have physical and economic needs which must be addressed pragmatically.

The fact that this isn’t completely obvious to everyone says a lot about our society’s weird hang-ups.  Nobody would even think of asking a retired nurse, teacher, cook or real-estate agent if she’d go back to it should the need arise; for any profession other than whore, it would be a given.  Only when we reach the point where that query seems just as inane when directed toward a sex worker, will we know that at long last humanity has given up its childish and destructive superstitions about sex.

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Impenetrable in their dissimulation, cruel in their vengeance, tenacious in their purposes, unscrupulous as to their methods, animated by profound and hidden hatred for the tyranny of man…  -  Denis Diderot, “On Women”

As I have written on numerous occasions, the fallacious notion of the prostitute as a specific type of woman, with characteristics that set her apart from all other women, is a relatively recent one.  Prior to the mid-19th century it was widely understood that transactional sex was a normal female behavior, one that any woman might engage in under the proper circumstances.  This is not to say that it was accepted and condoned; far from it.  But nobody imagined that a woman was entirely defined by the act, either, nor embraced the foolish fantasy that only women of a certain background or experience made the choice.  I have also often pointed out that women are far more pragmatic than men like to believe; many if not most of us, even those from relatively sheltered lives, are perfectly capable of trading sex for money or other advantages should the need arise.

Jeanne de ClissonCase in point Jeanne-Louise de Belleville, Dame de Montaigu, born in 1300 to the powerful Breton nobleman Maurice IV of Belleville-Montaigu and his wife Létice de Parthenay.  She was married off at the age of 12 to a 19-year-old nobleman named Geoffrey de Châteaubriant and bore him two children.  Geoffrey died young in 1326, and four years later she married Olivier III de Clisson, bearing him five children.  But while her first marriage seems to have been a typical one, the second one was unusually passionate for a 14th-century noble couple.  The two were extremely close, and Jeanne was very devoted to him…so devoted, in fact, that what would have been the easy and unremarkable life of a wealthy French noblewoman became remarkable indeed after her husband was executed for treason in 1343.

It happened like this:  in the early part of the Hundred Years War, there were two rival claimants for the title of Duke of Brittany; Charles de Blois was favored by the French and John de Montfort by the English.  Olivier was on the French side, but after he lost Vannes to the English in 1342, de Blois complained that Olivier had not fought enthusiastically enough, and accused him of having defected to the English.  Olivier responded, predictably enough, by defecting to the English, but was captured by French forces and beheaded by order of King Philip VI on August 2nd, 1343; in a particularly barbaric touch, his severed head was then displayed on a pole at Nantes.  Jeanne was devastated by his death and furious at the King and de Blois, and swore revenge on both.  But while a lesser woman might’ve been content with cursing them from afar, spreading rumors or bribing someone to poison the royal wine, Jeanne was no ordinary woman.  She promptly sold off all of the Clisson lands the King had not seized, purchased the three best warships she could find, and had them painted black and rigged with sails dyed blood-red.  To raise money for a crew and to win allies from amongst the other Breton noblemen (who were none too fond of the French to start with), she sold her favors to them and charmed them into swearing to support her.  Keep in mind she was 43 years old at the time, had borne seven children and presumably had only been to bed with two men before this; she must have had a powerful charisma.

But that charisma, however great, paled beside her hatred.  From 1343-1356 the “Lioness of Brittany” mercilessly hunted and pillaged every French ship she could find, slaughtering the crews except for one or two who would be released on shore to tell the King who it was that had done the deed.  At the Battle of Crécy (1346), she helped to secure an English victory by bringing in supplies on her ships.  And after King Philip died in 1350, Jeanne only got worse; apparently enraged at his having escaped her wrath by fleeing into Hades, she began specifically hunting down ships owned by French nobles, and whenever she caught one she would personally behead him with an axe and have his body thrown into the sea, despite the fact that she could’ve made tremendous profit by ransoming them.  Were this a Hollywood movie, she would have eventually caught up with Charles de Blois and given him his comeuppance, but real life is rarely so neat; de Blois not only outlived the Lioness by five years,Château de Clisson but was also made a saint (though the canonization was annulled by the next pope on request from the English-supported Duke John V of Brittany, whose side had eventually won).  By the time she was 56 Jeanne’s thirst for vengeance was apparently slaked at last; she retired from piracy, married Sir Walter Bentley (who had personally fought de Blois) and settled in Hennebont, France, where she died in 1359.  Her son, Olivier Jr, earned the sobriquet “The Butcher” for his fierceness in war; he obviously inherited that from his mother, whose ghost is supposed to haunt the ruins of the old Château de Clisson (which was destroyed during the French Revolution).

Jeanne de Clisson was neither poor nor disadvantaged; neither sexually abused as a child nor mistreated by a husband; and neither homeless nor addicted to any drug.  Perhaps it could be said that she was emotionally disturbed by the loss of her beloved husband, but if so it was a very lucid kind of madness:  Jeanne knew exactly what she was doing, and chose to sell sex as a means toward that end.  And though most whores have far more mundane goals than the death of a king and the downfall of an entire country, our choices are every bit as pragmatic – and often as temporary – as hers.

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This world of imagination is the world of eternity.  -  William Blake

In a place that is not a place as material beings understand the term, on a plane of existence several levels above our own, three friends came together to share stories of their travels since the last time they had met.  I shall refer to them as Red, Green and Blue, but what they actually call themselves (if indeed they use a concept as crude as “name”) I do not know.  As was their custom they eventually lapsed into a philosophical discussion, debating various ideas in much the same way as sentient beings everywhere in the multiverse do, and one of the topics they touched upon was the ephemeral nature of the societies created by material beings.  Soon the conversation turned to a comparison of these societies, and they began to speculate about which of these had the lowest likelihood of still existing in a recognizable form by the time they got around to visiting it again.

colors“I visited a world whose inhabitants were expending its resources at a shocking rate,” ventured Red.  “They had developed technological means of improving their physical conditions, but made not the slightest effort to calculate the probable supply of the raw materials consumed in the process, nor even the most basic contingency plans for the eventual depletion of those materials.  Though enough of them were skilled in the development and use of technology to maintain and even improve their control over their environment, the majority of the population was fixated on an irrational belief system which pretended that beings from higher planes like ourselves had nothing better to do than to watch over them constantly, protecting them from the consequences of their own foolish actions.  Though they believed such beings could transcend the laws of nature and violate conservation of energy, they simultaneously imagined that the beings were obsessed with the tiniest details of their behavior, and would dole out reward or punishment based upon how closely each individual could adhere to a set of arbitrary, pointless and mutually contradictory rules.  So rather than prepare themselves for the ultimate necessity of modifying their procedures to maintain or improve their current standards of living, they instead devoted tremendous effort to asking nonexistent benefactors to somehow materialize favorable consequences for them, and to spying on each other to ensure nobody was breaking any of the silly rules which they imagined their incorporeal benefactors to care about above all else.

“Surely, such a misguided sense of priorities must eventually result in catastrophe; if they fail to think ahead they must eventually reach a point where their resources run out, and when that happens their society must either collapse or decline into barbarism.”

“That is indeed a sorry situation,” replied Green, “but I think we must all agree that whatever the chances of such a civilization’s survival, they would be lower still if those hapless creatures were burdened with even more deficiencies.  I visited a world very like the one you just described, but in addition to the resource depletion, irrational belief system and refusal to face reality, they were also incredibly violent.  A large fraction of their already-limited means was expended in the infliction of harm upon one another, and when they could find no sensible reason to do so they invented ridiculous ones.  Like the beings you visited, they were obsessed with monitoring each others’ mindless obedience to foolish regulations, but they further believed that they had the right to inflict violence upon each other for even the smallest and most inconsequential violations of those regulations.  They even selected from among their number a designated group whose entire purpose was to go about not only looking for rule-breaking, but to actually deceive their fellows into breaking rules so as to provide an excuse for the infliction of violence.  Nor was this violence limited by some principle of proportionality; these special agents were allowed to inflict grievous, even fatal harm upon their victims for even the tiniest transgression of the most obscure rule.  And when they could not discover a large enough number of rule-breakers to satisfy their assigned quotas, they would simply pick victims at random, falsely accuse them and inflict harm just as though they had actually done whatever it was they were accused of.”

“Incredible!” rejoined Red.

“There’s more.  Though there were already so many rules it was totally impossible for any of them to ever learn them all, they designated another group whose entire function was to invent even more of them, and to ensure they were too complicated for the ordinary individual to understand; they were written in a form of code so that none without special training could even hope to comprehend them.  And if these rule-makers failed to make enough new rules to satisfy certain other individuals, they were criticized for inefficiency.

“It seems inconceivable that such a civilization could even last long enough to run out of resources; surely they must destroy themselves well before that point.”

sperm & egg microphotographBut then it was Blue’s turn.  “I fear that the world I visited must come to a bad end even more quickly still, for its inhabitants were afflicted by all of the behavioral flaws the two of you have described, and another which I consider still worse.  Like many material life-forms, they reproduced sexually and the biological drive to mate was a strong one.  But though the act of reproductive union was so pleasant to them that they would use every opportunity to engage in it, even when biological conditions did not allow impregnation, they simultaneously believed that the act rendered them ritually impure.  A very large fraction of their arbitrary rules were dedicated to restricting the act of mating, and infractions of these rules were held to be among the most serious of all, and subject to some of the harshest penalties in the society.  Furthermore, mated pairs were supposed to be exclusive despite the fact that one of the biological sexes tended to have a much stronger and less selective drive than the other, and though transgressions against that exclusivity were extremely common they all pretended that their own mates would never behave so.  An entire profession was dedicated to allowing the expenditure of such urges in a controlled fashion so as to reduce the potential harm resulting from transgressive mating; without this profession the long-term pair-bonding upon which their entire social structure was built would undoubtedly fail far more often than it did.  Yet those who practiced it were vilified and stigmatized by most of their societies, even by those who used their services, and the dedicated rule-enforcers spent wildly disproportionate amounts of time and effort in their persecution.  Furthermore, they seemed to labor under the delusion that if they could only cage everyone they discovered in this transaction, the biological basis for it would vanish without affecting their rate of population replacement.

“Given that such a large fraction of their racial energies was expended upon a wholly futile task which, if they could somehow succeed at it, would totally destroy the foundations of their society, I cannot believe that this culture still exists in the form I perceived it.  Such mass derangement must surely prove disastrous within a relatively small number of generations.”

The friends agreed that the world Blue had visited must indeed have fallen into chaos by now, and was therefore the worst of all those they had seen.  Perhaps they were wrong; it may be that as astral entities they had an imperfect understanding of the tenacity and adaptability of material life.  Or perhaps the time-scale on which they functioned was so protracted that nearly any society of material beings would perish quickly by their standards; it may be that “soon” to them would be twice ten thousand years by the way we measure time.  Conversely, it may be that my poor, ephemeral brain of matter was unable to grasp the true nature of their conversation, and that upon awakening from this vision I filled in the gaps with my own mortal preoccupations.  And really, in all likelihood, Red, Green and Blue exist only in my imagination (and now in yours), and this entire tale is but the idle fancy of a tired and cynical mind.

We’d better hope so, anyway.

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I love my wife and we have a great life together, but I resent the hell out of her not being more adventurous in bed.  I have a cuckold fantasy that I would never follow through on because fantasy is often more fun than reality, but I want some occasional dirty talk in bed about other men she was with before we were married or would like to be with now.  She’s too uptight to actually try anything kinky, but I don’t see how talking and fantasizing is an unreasonable expectation. I would do anything for her; I’ve begged her to tell me her fantasy and I will make it happen.  But her response is, “I don’t really have any”.  Who doesn’t have sexual fantasies?  I’ve bitched about it plenty of times to no avail, and I think she would do it if I demanded it, but that would be a hollow victory; that she won’t do this willingly makes me feel unappreciated.  I also don’t want to cheat, so how do I get her to come around?  Or can I?

Freud with cheeseburgerDespite what the anti-sex crowd likes to pretend, sexuality is not a mere “choice”, something dropped on top of a person’s personality at the last minute like pickles on a cheeseburger; it is a deep and intrinsic part of the human psyche, rooted in the hindbrain and woven throughout the psychic fabric.  Though we use the word “libido” colloquially as a synonym for “horniness”, it’s a lot more than that; Freud defined it as “the energy, regarded as a quantitative magnitude…of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word ‘love’.”  He considered it part of the id, the unconscious structure of personality, and therefore no more a matter of choice than anything else springing from that tenebrous region of consciousness.  Now, we’ve learned a great deal since Freud’s day, and most psychologists feel he was wrong about a lot of things.  But this isn’t one of them; if anything, we have reached the collective conclusion that some aspects of a person’s sexuality are so deeply embedded as to constitute major structural elements of that person’s character, because such elements derive from idiosyncrasies of the brain architecture itself.  Homosexuals and bisexuals usually report feeling same-sex attraction from an extremely early age (mine goes back at least to my earliest distinct memories, about the age of four), and other sexual traits (such as my fascination with bondage) can start just as early.  Other aspects are not quite so deep-rooted, but still develop as interwoven components of personality development.  Sexual repression is in this zone; though people are not “born uptight”, the repression develops concurrently with sexual maturation.  The adage tells us, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree”; though it isn’t possible to stop the tree of sexuality from growing, it certainly is possible to bend, warp and stunt its growth.  For example, though it isn’t possible to teach a child not to be gay, it is certainly possible to fill his brain with such fear, shame and self-loathing that he can never have a healthy sexual relationship with anyone, male or female.  Buried sexual feelings don’t die; they just rot in the dark, decaying into something unwholesome or even noxious.

What this all boils down to is that it’s very, very unlikely you will be able to get her to change.  Oh, you might be able to get her to do what you ask, but she won’t like it, and will probably resent it.  Women who can be coaxed into stepping outside of their sexual comfort zones are generally those who were inclined to do so anyway, and merely need help to overcome their reservations or get “permission” to be “bad”.  The latter is one reason so many women enjoy submission or rape fantasies; they allow displacement of responsibility for being sexual.  And though it’s true that some women do indeed become more sexually open-minded and willing to experiment over time even without coaxing, they’re generally ones whose bent is already in that direction; they just need time for growth to catch up with inclination.  If you doubt what I’m saying, let’s try a thought experiment:  imagine it was your wife who was my reader, and she said described the same situation but ended with, “how can I get him to stop feeling this way?”  Just as you can’t help feeling the way you feel, she can’t help the way she feels, and the fact that yours is an urge while hers is an aversion is neither here nor there.  And while I am in no position to figure out why you have the kind of fantasies you have, it doesn’t take a latter-day Freud to guess why they make your wife uncomfortable.warped tree  Furthermore, though you are skeptical that your wife has no sexual fantasies, I can assure you that it is very possible that she has desires which never gel into fully-formed fantasies, or that she actually means A) “I have no fantasies I’m comfortable sharing”; B) “I have no fantasies which you could help me to realize”; or C) “There is no way I would ever want to make my fantasies happen”.  You should certainly understand “C” (the “good fantasy, bad reality” principle) because you yourself feel that way about cuckolding; what you may not grok is that for some people even the fantasy may be uncomfortable, however much it may arouse (I have some like that myself, of which the less said, the better).

My advice to you is not dissimilar to that I offered the reader in “Late Bloomer”:  while it’s possible therapy might help her to get over her hang-ups, I’m not really sanguine about that because the right therapeutic alchemy is difficult enough to achieve with two people, let alone three.  Keep gently trying to get her to open up, but don’t badger her and for Aphrodite’s sake please don’t utter anything that sounds remotely like a threat, because that will only poison the good parts of your relationship.  If your need to explore your fantasy is so strong that porn won’t fulfill it, that’s what whores are for; just be sure you pick a good, dependable one, be discreet, and visit her only as often as you need to scratch that special itch.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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What would be the ideal mate for a sex worker be like? I would think honesty and trust would be a big deal, but what else? 

Venus and Adonis by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (after 1800)I don’t believe in “ideals”; every person is different, and needs different things in a mate.  That having been said, there are some qualities which tend to be necessary in every relationship: you mention honesty and trust, and those are certainly important…but isn’t that true of every relationship rather than just those involving sex workers?  The same could be said of qualities like understanding, patience, loyalty, fairness, etc.  If there is one quality that the partner of a sex worker needs which isn’t necessarily indispensible in other relationships, I would have to say it’s the recognition that sex is neither special nor magical.  While the myth that sex equals love  and/or vice versa is a destructive factor in most normal relationships, it is highly destructive in those involving sex workers for reasons which require no explanation.  When both partners believe in the myth and continue to provide sex to their spouses, or the extracurricular activity of a partner who doesn’t believe the myth is never discovered, the negative effects alone are probably insufficient to doom the relationship (“if you love me you’ll take constant no for an answer and never look for sex anywhere else” is a related but slightly different and more complex issue).  But in a sex worker’s relationship, it is a ticking bomb waiting to go off at some unpredictable time.  The person who loves a sex worker cannot ever afford to allow himself to see current professional activities as “cheating”, or past professional activities as some sort of ritual pollution or moral failure, because such feelings will inevitably rise to the surface during arguments (and we all have them) with catastrophic effect.

There are a couple of other columns you may wish to read for on this subject: in “May Q & A” I answered a reader who was curious about how sex workers could still be interested in partner sex after a day at work, and just a little over a month later I published a two-part interview with my husband which used questions supplied by readers; the latter will allow you to get some feedback straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine!  –  Thomas Hood

Prayer to Saint ValentineRegular readers know that I’m fond of holidays; I believe that rituals are important, and holidays help to give the year structure (especially in these modern times when so many are isolated from the natural ebb and flow of the seasons).  But as careful readers may have already surmised, I do not really care for Valentine’s Day.  Even as a child, it struck me as a rather odd kind of celebration; even the symbolism associated with it always seemed weird to me, and that’s no less true now than it was then.  Though I do like getting cards expressing sincere affection, the sort of sentiment touted by valentines is the polar opposite of sincerity.  And while I appreciate good puns, those which infest Valentines are never good.  And then there are the presents; it seems to me that most people believe the first rule of Valentine gift-giving is to get the recipient something she would never buy for herself, and the more expensive the better.  Chocolates are not figure-friendly, and if a man got me roses at the dramatically-inflated price florists demand for this one day when he wasn’t in the habit of getting them for me at times when they were priced more reasonably, I always felt as though he was doing it not because he wanted to, but because he thought he had to.  As I wrote last year,

An obligatory “gift” of a certain expected value which must be presented at a certain time in order to retain a woman’s sexual favors is not a love offering, but rather a whore’s fee.  And while I obviously have absolutely nothing against that, I prefer for it to be an honest and consensual arrangement mutually agreed upon by two adults, rather than a coercive charade designed to mask the transactional nature of a sexual relationship.

Some of you may name me a cynic, and you would be correct.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was harlotry which so made me; I was already thinking about this in high school.  I have nothing against sincere romantic expression, but surely (as today’s epigram implies) that isn’t something limited to a specific day.

There’s one other thing which makes Valentine’s Day different from all other holidays in my mind:  while all the others are inclusive, this one is exclusive.  Holidays are times for friends, families and others to gather and celebrate together, but Valentine’s Day festivities (except, perhaps, for polyamorists) are exactly the opposite.  Lovers tend to seek every available excuse to be alone together anyway; it hardly seems necessary to set aside a special day for that, especially one on which the show is celebrated above the substance.

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Mother and Child by Pablo Picasso (1921)I’ve been married for ten years, but have felt disconnected from my wife for about the last 8 of them.  When we were dating she seemed to share my interests and to be sexually open-minded, but now I realize that she was just playing the devoted girlfriend, a role she has since exchanged for “Mommy”.  Though we both wanted kids (we have two), we had originally planned to enjoy time as a couple for a while before starting a family; instead she started to pressure me after a year of marriage, and we argued about it every month until she got pregnant.  After the second child, she grew even more distant and I went into a deepfather fragment depression and started therapy. Since then, I enjoy what you might call “family life”, but not my private life; my wife wants me to be happy, but with her way of things, not by actually trying to make me happy.  We only have sex when and how she wants it, which is seldom and perfunctory.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t want to lose my family because I do treasure it, but I feel (and my therapist agrees) that I can’t live like a monk the rest of my life and still be happy.  I’m reluctant to try a professional because my employer has a “zero tolerance policy for human trafficking”; if caught I’d be fired on the spot.  And as you’ve said many times, amateurs can’t be trusted not to destroy the family life that I do love.  I do love my wife, and do not want to leave her or my family.  Your thoughts and advice on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

My cousin Jeff used to say that the tragedy of relationships is that women want men to change, and they don’t, while men don’t want women to change, and they do.  The truth, as much as nobody wants to hear it, is that Western people have been sold a lie.  Marriage was designed in ancient times not for companionship, but for social, economic and political expediency; it would still work just fine if we remembered that.  But somewhere along the line people started wanting to pretend that the hormonal rush we experience from being strongly drawn to someone is the same thing as love, which it isn’t; we even started calling it “falling in love” (which, again, it isn’t).  As if that weren’t bad enough, some two centuries ago we decided for some absurd reason that this temporary neurochemical derangement was in and of itself reason enough to make a lifelong commitment to someone, without any concern for economics or personal compatibility.  In fact, within the past century we completely departed from rationality by deciding that this quasi-inebriated condition was the only valid reason for marriage or (some believe) even having sex, and went so far as to create social institutions (such as anti-prostitution laws) to enshrine the fallacy as Divine Truth.

trilobite fossilBut that feeling of romantic love, though very powerful and as real as any feeling, is by its very nature ephemeral; it usually lasts no longer than two years, and almost never longer than seven.  Even couples who swear that they’re still “in love” after 20 years or whatever aren’t being entirely honest; what happens in the best, healthiest modern relationships is that the feeling of romantic love is gradually replaced by the stronger, sturdier type of affection we feel for our friends and children, just as the tissues of a fossil are slowly replaced by minerals.  The original shape is thus maintained, often perfectly, but the fossil is not the same as the organism it replaced, and never can be.  Sometimes the copy is as good as or even better than the original, but at other times the resemblance is superficial at best.  And if one of the couple just adores the fossil while the other feels it stinks, we arrive at a situation like yours:  your wife thinks it’s just wonderful that what was once living flesh has turned to stone, while you grieve for the living thing you lost; worse still, she can’t comprehend why you don’t prefer the nice, clean fossil which doesn’t crawl around or eat or get sick or anything messy like that.

I’ve written four times before about situations not dissimilar to yours, in “There Ain’t No Bad Guys“, “Late Bloomer“, “On a Mountaintop” and “Familiarity Does Its Thing“; you may wish to take a look at those, because elements of each might prove helpful.  The good news is, you don’t need to choose between a fulfilling sex life and a rewarding family life; the bad news is, you do need to choose between getting what you need and obeying the perverse and arbitrary dictates of your busybody employer about what you can do with your own life and money when you aren’t on the clock.  You wouldn’t obey a boss who told you that being a vegan or a teetotaler was a condition of employment, would you?  No, you’d talk the talk when necessary so as not to lose your job, then do what you wanted when you were off the clock because it isn’t any of their damned business.  Obviously, you need to be careful; in my examples it wouldn’t do for you to be caught in a bar or a steakhouse, so massage parlors or street girls are an absolute no-no for you.  Do your research, find a mature and established escort with a reputation for discretion, pay her what she asks and maybe a little more, and then as long as you’re careful you can have the advantage of a mistress without the emotional attachment and resultant risk of exposure.  You will get what you need, your wife will assume you’ve adjusted (as long as you keep trying her defenses regularly without actually harassing her), and both your family and your sanity will survive intact.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Heavens to Murgatroyd, the sounds, like trumpets calling the demons back to Hell…the stench, like 1000 rotten corpses vomited.  -  C. Torok

Another good week for links, and as all too often happens far too many of them are various excesses of the police state; one wonders how far this will have to go before the jellyfish who make up the majority of Americans and Europeans will wake up and put a halt to it.  Much, much farther, I’d imagine, well into roving death-squad territory.  This week’s top contributor was Radley Balko  (now ensconced at the Washington Post) with everything down to the first video, which was suggested by my cat.  The second video is something quite unusual, an unreleased 1984 movie by Tom Schiller (of Saturday Night Live fame) starring a number of big Hollywood names (including SNL alumni Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd).  It comes to us courtesy of Jesse Walker, who describes it as “a dreamlike tale set in a world where the Port Authority has seized dictatorial powers in Manhattan, a benevolent conspiracy of tramps guides people’s destinies from a hidden base beneath New York, and the U.S. government first went to the moon in 1953…it seems to take place in the entire 20th century at once.”  Jesse also contributed “comics” and “nose”, and the rest of the links were provided by  Kevin Wilson (“bears” and “license”), Mistress Matisse (“proles”), Jack Shafer  (“gothic”), RMV (“castration”), Jason Kuznicki (“NSA” and “hysteria”), Nun Ya  (“jaywalking”), Scott Greenfield (“Amazon”), Cop Block (“cigarette”), Walter Olson (“subscriber”), and Grace (“murders”).

From the Archives

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I am absolutely wild about my husband, but we have a problem:  he likes to do cocaine, and whenever he does he hires escorts.  I want to be all that he needs and wants and desires, just like he is for me, so I recently let him have an escort come over while we did coke together (even though it does nothing for me) because I thought it would allow him to bury these fantasies and eliminate them from his mind.  But it didn’t work out and I asked her to leave, then the rest of the day was ruined because I was hurt.  Should I try again, or leave him, or what?

The Cocaine FiendsMost men are attracted to a lot of different women, and fantasize about many of them even when they’re in committed relationships.  It has nothing to do with you, or love, or any of that; it’s just the way they’re put together.  Some men are good at resisting it, while others just don’t have the will power, but either way the fantasy isn’t going to go away just because he hired an escort a few times (whether in your presence or otherwise).  And cocaine makes it even worse:  it seems to invariably make men think about sex, and inspires wild fantasies (often involving multiple women and such).  Though it removes their ability to perform, they never see it that way; many a man will call for a hooker as soon as he gets high on coke.  You say you want him to “bury his fantasies” and “eliminate them from his mind”, but fantasies simply don’t work like that, and as long as he’s snorting he won’t even try to resist the urge.  You can certainly work to fulfill his fantasies if he’ll share them with you, but you have to understand that he isn’t going to stop wanting other women even if he doesn’t actually act on it.  And he’s already given you ample proof that he cannot be trusted once the white powder goes up his nose.  Only you can decide whether to stay with him, but you need to be realistic about how he’s likely to behave in the future in order to have a sound basis for that decision.

It takes me a long time for me to reach climax, so by the time my husband is done I’m just getting into it.  If we do a lot of foreplay, he gets irritated because it’s taking so long.  Is there something a woman can take to make her climax faster?

There is no drug you can take to climax faster.  If you can’t come from just intercourse (and most women can’t, no matter what the movies tell you), you’re going to have to start before he does.  Ideally, he should be giving you foreplay and not starting intercourse until you’re well-excited; sex is a two-way street, and isn’t supposed to be just for him all the time.  However, if he won’t cooperate and you decide arguing with him isn’t worth the trouble, I suggest you get a vibrator and learn to please yourself with it, either before or after sex with him.  Watching you use it may even turn him on, or knowing you need to use it afterward may shame him into stepping up to the plate and doing his job.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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