• Leesa Freeman
  • Tackling Sexual Norms (My Sociology Professor Would Be So Proud)
Tackling Sexual Norms (My Sociology Professor Would Be So Proud)
Written by
Leesa Freeman
April 2014
Written by
Leesa Freeman
April 2014

My ideas for a story usually start with a What If...? From there, the rabbit hole I end up taking can lead me to places and ideas I never thought I'd have. It's a strange experience, to say the least sometimes, but one that I truly enjoy.

The story I'm working on now is no exception. Years ago (I think 4 or 5, but that may not be right) I was walking home with my daughter from school, and someone up the hill had a sign in the front yard that said, "Congratulations, Gage! Class of..." I don't know the kid, never met him. But I had walked past this house a dozen times and heard him and his friends playing in the backyard. Swimming in their pool. Tossing a ball around. And it got me to thinking... 

Out of that, came this story about a woman who is in a perfectly acceptable marriage. Husband who loves her, nice house, grown kids... the whole nine, right? And she is just marking the days. Her life is perfectly satisfactory, and boring. But what bothers her the most is that her husband doesn't touch her any more. It's been years since they've had a good sex life, much less a great one, and somewhere along the line she learned to accept it - if not like it - bought some toys, and told herself there were worse things than being married to a man that didn't want to have sex with his wife.

Until her son's best friend comes back into town.

The last time she saw him he was 16, scrawny, and crying at her kitchen table to let him move in so he wouldn't have to live with his father a thousand miles away. Now, ten years later, he has grown into a man that she can't seem to stay away from.

Of course they have an affair, of course it gets messy and intense, and of course I am beating my head against the wall trying to write this thing - it has been 4 or 5 years of struggling with this thing.

I love the idea of it. I love the characters. But affairs are taboo in our society. They are secret, dirty, shameful things, and even in the abstract I am having the hardest time making it "okay" in my mind for these completely fictional characters to fall into bed together.

It occurs to me that in our society, it is perfectly acceptable to have tennis buddies, golf buddies, poker buddies, book club friends... no one expects us to fulfill all our social interests with our significant others. Lord knows if my husband expected me to go with him every time he wanted to hit a bucket of balls or brew a batch of beer, it'd never happen. I have no interest in those things, just like he has no interest in joining a choir or a book club. And that's fine. We are separate people with separate interests and separate hobbies.

Sex is maybe the only thing where that isn't true. Once you're married, if you want to get it on, you do so with the person you married. (Unless the two of you come up with other arrangements, and if so, keep it to yourself; society doesn't want to know.) We expect all our sexual needs to be filled by the person we said "I do" to, and if they can't (or won't) fill those needs, then what?

It's difficult to find statistics on how many men and women are in sexless marriages - most don't want to cop to it because they feel it is shameful and embarrassing - but my guess is it's a lot more prevalent than we think it is. Just look at the Ashley Madison website. Dedicated to hook up married people who want to have an affair but don't want to leave their marriage, their tagline is "Life is Short. Have an Affair." They aren't suggesting you leave your spouse, they aren't suggesting you fix it, they are suggesting a different type of "poker buddy."

I've also seen a couple articles on the web about sexless marriages written by women, usually using a pseudonym, talking about how embarrassed they are that their husbands don't want to touch them anymore. More often than not the comments are full of men saying that can't believe such a thing would be true. And that's the other side of this coin: in our society men want it all the time, and women never do.

I call bullshit on that.

Maybe it makes us feel better to think our little girls aren't sexual beings. Maybe it makes us feel better to blame the chick when she turns a dude down - the phrase frigid bitch comes to mind. Maybe writers think sitcoms are funnier to feature a horny husband and an uninterested wife, but I got news for you: a lot of women love sex! A lot of women get horny, crave amazing orgasms, and want to walk around deliciously sore and with a secret smile on her face.

It's a secret we don't want to talk about, just as we don't want to talk about the fact that there are a lot of men who aren't interested in sex. Or are, but are so stressed out from work and life and all the things they do every day that the last thing they want to do at the end of the day is get it up and get it on. If women can feel that way, why can't men?

I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't struggling to write this book. Mainly because as much as I believe it will be good (if it ever gets done,) I also worry about how it would be perceived. I wonder if our society can handle a book about a woman who has an affair with a man young enough to be her son. I wonder what exactly I am tackling here.

I don't know how it's going to end yet, and I don't know what kind of reception a book like this might have, but I keep working on it. Ever so slowly. Because I do feel like a lot of women will relate to it, even if most won't admit just how much.

Let's be friends

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