Let’s Talk About Sex

BCN 85 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 85, Spring 2007

Queer Parenting in the Sticks, part three.

According to the Durex survey in 2005, one in five adults have sex three to four times a week. Five percent are actually having sex daily. Unfortunately, I could not find any statistics on how frequently parents of young children have sex in this survey. The babycentre website came to the rescue with a sex predictor and their very own sex survey, which made for more sombre reading. Forty percent of the parents surveyed feel their sex life is fairly non-existent and sleeping in separate beds would even be welcome! About eight out of ten couples felt that having a baby changed their sex life and that their desire is either out of synch or they are just too tired. Sadly, it seems that most women (69.4%) would rather have their pre-pregnancy body back rather than their pre-pregnancy sex life back. On the other hand 70.9% of men wanted their pre-pregnancy sex life back, whilst the rest wanted their partner’s pre-pregnancy body back. Neither the questions nor the answers seemed to defy stereotypes or to allow space for the experiences of queer parents to be expressed.

My own dirty little secret is that I am utterly normal in this regard. Although I am proud to say I defied some statistics by being the one to initiate sex after the birth, despite having had an emergency c-section! Regardless of my courageous act, like in many other aspects of my life, I am utterly normal, at least according to my definition of normal. My sex life has definitely changed and all my relationships were affected by Z’s birth. Much as I loved my body shape during the pregnancy, I had to adjust to (pregnant women avert your eyes now!) copious blood loss (lochia sounds so innocuous in the pregnancy books, they lie!) for weeks on end, having my breasts suckled several times a day (and night) for months and a completely different tummy shape. Oh yes, and the scar from the section, which itched for nearly a year. Don’t get me wrong, I would do it all over again but an aphrodisiac, it was not. I understand both from the aforementioned survey and to talking to other parents that this is not uncommon. In fact, when I tentatively raised the subject of post-baby frequency of sex with my token straight female best friend, mother of two older children, she exclaimed in a rather irritated fashion: “you actually have a sex life at all?!” I have mostly stayed clear of the subject since. Sex and parenting do not mix apparently.

Yet, much as my sex life is quieter, it still exists and, in some ways, parenting has improved it. Being a poly mom, I had the advantage of having some partners who were not too tired after sleepless nights and endless nappy changing, and I even let them take care of me sometimes, something I wasn’t so good at before becoming a parent and that allowed some partnerships to deepen over time. I also started to pay far more attention to the quality of the sex I was having. If I was going to spend some of my limited energies on sex, well, it better be worth it! Of course the worthiness or not of such an endeavour, I soon realised, depended on how willing I was to actually be open and verbal about what I wanted, where and when. This sounds simpler than it was for someone who had been raised Catholic and that, despite the present Paganism, has taken a while to explore desire, let alone utter it to another human being.

Then there was the question of kink. I just simply couldn’t relax if an activity was too noisy, in case it woke my daughter up. Two closed doors just do not seem enough when you are getting spanked! I am still working on that one and none of the parenting books have been helpful on these issues. Answers on a postcard please if you have found a solution, besides soundproofing the bedroom (a project to be undertaken when we move house)! The increased presence of grandparents has also proven somewhat of an obstacle to both kinky sex (the noise issue again) and poly dating, if nothing else because they take up the guest room when they stay so X or I lose our spare bed. Nevertheless, we have soldiered on and held on to some form of sex life through the last three and a half years, both together and independently. Talking about sex, both with X and other partners, has also increased intimacy and understanding, if not increased its frequency and, in my old age, I am very much coming to value those facets of relationships.

Many of these conversations involved considering what I actually wanted to teach my daughter about bodies and sexuality. In theory, we knew we wanted to be sex-positive, in practice, it is a steep learning curve. Amongst other things, I have learnt not to make disparaging comments about my body size, the amount of calories in food and I now know how to explain what genderqueer means to a toddler (they are both a girl and a boy). Z is very happy with her body and can sometimes be found kissing herself in the mirror and saying, “I love you”, to herself. She is also very comfortable around nudity, although some of the adults in her life are rather less so! After much discussion, I have also gone back to coming loudly. So far, she can sleep through anything. In the future, if she ever wakes up and asks me what that noise was the previous night, I will just tell her that when grown ups have ‘special grown-up cuddles’ they can be so happy that they end up shouting from joy. As a mother, much as part of me would like to think that my daughter will never have sex, I also hope that she will not grow up to be ashamed of her body, having sex and finding her very own special happy shout, however and with whomever makes her happy.