My mission in picking up Babeland’s “vibe panty” (a pair of black satin underwear with a remote-controlled vibrator sewn into the crotch) is simple: at a little past the two-year dating mark, I want to tackle the threat of sexual staleness, proactively.
It’s no secret that we’re programmed to crave sexual newness – in fact, it stimulates our brains in much the same way narcotics do, by triggering the release of dopamine. Unfortunately, novelty, by definition, cannot last—especially when it comes to building a long-term monogamous relationship.Evolutionary biologists have established that at some point, nearly all couples transition from “passionate love” to the more mundane phase of “companionate love.” In other words: we lose interest.
Hence the endless lists of ways couples can spice things up in the bedroom, not to mention an army of people eager to participate in studies aimed at finding the antidote to waning lust.
Still, the question remains: now that we’re more enlightened about sex and intimacy, shouldn’t we be fighting sexual apathy before it starts? We go to the doctor and the dentist for regular checkups and we apply skin cream to ward off wrinkles, so why not treat our libidos the same way?
With this goal in mind, I took to the most logical place to learn about how to proactively manage your lust-levels: the Internet. Danielle Tate, Founder of MissNowMrs.com, suggests that every couple can benefit from “a little boost in the bedroom.” Addressing her recently married readership, Tate advises mimicking a favorite steamy movie scene, surprising one’s partner at the office in nothing but a raincoat, or wearing a wig to “feel like a totally different woman.”
This take-charge attitude is echoed in the Sex & Romance forum of The Nest, another website geared toward newlyweds. About the prospect of passion fading, user Apollo11235 says, “I think sex/excitement is easier to keep up with than it is to fix once it’s broken.” Creativity is key, according to TarponMonoxide, who believes there are “tons of things” to do and recommends discussing the topic with your partner.
I figured there was only upside to introducing a sex toy at a time when we were still hot for each other. Sure enough, playing with the vibe panty during a romantic dinner led to great sex infused with new vigor.
Granted, by morning, I worried that we’d just wasted a new trick we might actually need one day.
Which brings up the question: by attacking the issue before it shows up organically, do we risk exhausting the remedies?
Part of me now wishes I’d had the foresight of Jared Kuhn, a 35-year-old in construction management, who encouraged his girlfriend to shelve the “blow job-enhancing pussy pocket” she came home with one year into marriage “until it could really serve its purpose.”
“Why fight a war that hasn’t started?” asks Marcy Walker, a 27-year-old grad student who believes the power of suggestion might trigger diminishing desire in advance of its due date.
Sex Educator Cory Silverberg doesn’t think so, since “we all have depths of eroticism we haven’t even begun to explore.” Instead, he argues that the pressure pop culture places on us “to have mind-blowing sex all the time”—a marketable notion from which the magazine, sex toy, and porn industries all profit handsomely—is the problem.
Francesca Thurman, a 29-year-old barista/struggling artist, learned this the hard way. Intimidated by a “How good is your sex life?” survey she read in a magazine, Thurman convinced her fiancé to engage in an elaborate role-playing game. The role-play they chose was based on a graphic novel they both love, so they were hyper-accurate in costuming, props and “necessary” decor accents (think Comicon level commitment).
“We exhausted ourselves and our bank account setting up this ridiculous scenario,” said Thurman, who has since banned lady mag questionnaires and “premature effort” in the bedroom.
Silverberg warns that those baited into “trying to maintain a particular level of sexual interest” can harm their relationship, since “having amazing sex” can start to feel like a job. Indeed, it seems counterproductive to fret over sex, which is an activity that’s always better when we’re relaxed.
While it may be frustrating that the very things we do to prolong passion could lead to its demise, the idea does make sense in the context of what it means to be in love.
According to Psychologist Esther Perel, “the very ingredients that nurture love are the things that stifle desire,” and we yearn for both. The “crisis of desire” so many couples experience—and the onset of which so many fear, whether advertisers are to blame or not—is rooted in our ongoing attempt to reconcile competing needs: for security and predictability, and for surprise and adventure. To counteract this inherent conflict, according to Perel, we must cultivate our erotic intelligence by tapping into the imagination.
Just don’t exert too much effort, because when it comes to your sex life, the hardest working might not be the most successful.
This post originally appeared on HowAboutWe.