Monica blew Bill. Mark masqueraded to Argentina. Elliott entertained an escort. Tiger transgressed with many, then crashed into a tree.
Most recently, football star Brett Favre got stuck in a scandal of cellphone seduction. There was talk of his retirement last season, but he will never retire from these allegations. And what will he do next? Probably repent and sign up for a sex addiction clinic. It’s a useful excuse to help salvage some of the public stigma. But none of these men suffer from sexual addiction.
They suffer from sexual ignorance.
Like so many of us, they are ill-informed on how to discuss with their partners their desires, needs and wants — even if that means getting these filled elsewhere. Sure, we joke about blowjobs and the latest Lady Gaga outfit, but when did we ever talk about sex in an authentic and healthy way? When learning about pregnancy prevention, did we also learn that our bodies and pleasure are ours to own and explore? When learning about algebra and chemistry, did we also learn that long-term relationships are hard and that we have to work at communicating with our partner should we desire to uphold an exclusive contract?
We often offer our kids silence, because that was what we were offered. As if talking about sex automatically gives permission to be promiscuous, or opens the door to instant STDs and pregnancy. But if we say nothing, then we know nothing, and we eventually take our curiosity elsewhere and learn about sex from MySpace or porn sites. Or late-night comedy shows, where hosts like Letterman are supposed to offer satirical commentary, not sleep with interns then make public apologies.
The downfall of countless leaders demonstrates that society fails to adequately deal with sexuality. It is almost a crime to deny ourselves and our children the information and education that we need to be sexually healthy throughout one’s lifespan. Doing so will only lead to continued consequences — as evidenced by numerous public figures who articulate one set of “family” values yet take action on others.
But our leaders are not the only ones who experience the sexual itch. As sexual beings, we’ve all tasted the monotony of monogamy — especially in relationships stuffed with silence or deficient in sensual and juicy conversations.
I once asked a man how he managed to make his marriage succeed for 51 years. He replied that his love just deepened with the decades. Then he whispered, “And truthfully, all pussies are the same — they are wet and warm. If I need to be with another woman, I’ll just close my eyes and fantasize about her.”
I later asked his wife if she considered her husband faithful. “Of course,” she replied. “I know he sometimes fantasizes about other women when we are having sex. But that’s OK. It has given me permission to fantasize about other men. And you know, this has only made our sex more passionate and frequent!” This couple illustrates how to make marriage work. They discuss how they make love to one another, and periodically have carnal romps with fantasy imagery. They discuss how at first this made them jealous until they talked about love versus the sexual variety. They discuss how they make space for both companionship and seduction. They discuss.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is easier to have sex than talk about it. It’s easier to advertise music and products in a hyper-sexualized fashion than have candid conversations about the intersection of safety, pleasure and intimacy. It’s certainly easier to have a secret affair than discuss this desire with our partner, as exhibited by Bill, Brett, Tiger, Elliott, etc.
Leaders of our modern world, hear me loud and clear: Denial is not just a river in Egypt. We will only keep seeing more scandals if we continue to deny the integral role sexuality has in our lives.
When we start to talk about our desires, fantasies, struggles and sacrifices in a straightforward and sincere manner, we will begin to cultivate a healthier sexuality — as individuals and as a society. So go home and talk about sex!
Jenni Skyler, PhD, is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist. She runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www.theintimacyinstitute.org Respond: firstname.lastname@example.org