In praise of maintenance sex | Savage Love | Chicago Reader

In praise of maintenance sex 

Dan Savage seconds Amy Poehler on milking the husband. Plus: the ethics of "briefs breathing"

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"Sometimes you go into sex 'not wanting or needing it,' and then you start to enjoy it too. Those are the times when mellow, low-impact, low-stress maintenance sex turns into mind-blowing, toe-curling, sheet-shredding sex."

"Sometimes you go into sex 'not wanting or needing it,' and then you start to enjoy it too. Those are the times when mellow, low-impact, low-stress maintenance sex turns into mind-blowing, toe-curling, sheet-shredding sex."

Courtesy Thinkstock

QWhat is your stance on maintenance sex? I'd never thought about the issue until reading Amy Poehler's new memoir. I didn't find anything she said controversial, and was surprised when this quote blew up in the feminist blogosphere: "You have to have sex with your husband occasionally, even though you're exhausted. Sorry." I'd never realized many people firmly believe one should have sex with one's partner only when in the mood! Some articles even made it sound like maintenance sex is a form of nonconsensual sex. I have sex with my husband pretty often when I'm not in the mood. He would prefer sex every day, and I'm more of an every-other-day or twice-a-week girl.

I'd say about 25 percent of the time we're having sex, I'm doing it for maintenance purposes. I always enjoy it, and I get off the majority of the time, but I don't always go in wanting it or needing it. Is this wrong? Am I not the feminist I thought I was? —Maintenance Sex Supporter

AI'm pro maintenance sex, MSS.

Sometimes I sex my husband when I'm not feeling it; sometimes he sexes me when he's not feeling it. We take care of each other. But maintenance sex isn't the same thing as enthusiastic sex. The person asking for maintenance sex—the horny partner who's being indulged/milked/sexed by the nonhorny partner—shouldn't expect mind-blowing, toe-curling, sheet-shredding sex. Maintenance sex is mellow sex, it's low impact and low stress, it's sex that requires minimal effort, and it's likely to be nonpenetrative sex—and gratitude is the only appropriate response.

Another important note: Being pro maintenance sex doesn't obligate a person to have sex whenever his or her partner wants it. Proponents and practitioners of maintenance sex still get to say no. There's a difference between indulging your partner when you're not feeling it —when you could take it or leave it—and forcing yourself to have sex (or being guilted/pressured/forced) when you're too exhausted, too sick, or too angry for sex.

And as you've discovered, MSS, and I can also attest, sometimes you go into sex "not wanting or needing it," and then you start to enjoy it too. Those are the times when mellow, low-impact, low-stress maintenance sex turns into mind-blowing, toe-curling, sheet-shredding sex. I would hate to think of how much great sex I would've missed if my feminist principles didn't allow for maintenance sex.

QI've recently discovered that I'm a panty sniffer. Though since I'm a gay man, maybe I'm a briefs breather? Whatever. The smell gets me hard and gets me off. I discovered this when a fuck buddy left his shorts behind, and for the next few days I jerked off sniffing his shorts. That brings me to the young millennial techie guys at my work. They are fucking slobs, and they're always leaving their underwear and socks on the floor of the company's gym in our office. The janitor picks them up and puts them in a lost-and-found bin. I started checking the bin, and nothing was being removed. So I started taking a pair every now and then. At home, I fantasize about who they belong to, and when I'm done with them, I just toss them. First question: Am I stealing? I assume the guys aren't missing them, since they've been in the bin for a week or more and I haven't seen notes or anything in the locker room about lost underwear. Second (and more important) question: Have I become one of those perverted panty sniffers from those old Chester the Molester comics? —Singleton Now Inhaling Funky Funk

AFirst answer: technically, yes. But a case could be made that you're reusing and recycling. If there were a green certification program for kinks, SNIFF, yours would qualify.

Second answer: Chester the Molester was a comic strip about a guy, Chester, "who was interested in sexually molesting women and prepubescent girls," says my old friend Wikipedia. This vile comic strip, which ran in Hustler (of course), made child rape look like harmless and hilarious fun. Dwaine Tinsley, the creator of the strip, wound up going to prison for molesting his daughter. I'm guessing she would argue that child rape was neither harmless nor hilarious.

Since you're not interested in prepubescents, SNIFF, I don't think you're a pervert in the Chester the Molester mold. But a case could be made that your actions have a whiff of the nonconsensual about them—your coworkers would most likely object to how you're reusing and recycling their abandoned underpants—and you should probably knock it off. There are plenty of guys selling their used underwear and jocks online, and if you work at a place with a private gym, SNIFF, you can presumably afford to buy a few pairs.

QVanilla straight guy here. As a fellow Washingtonian, I feel proud to live in a state that was among the first to legalize marriage equality by a vote. I avidly follow the NFL and eat fried bologna sandwiches and do lots of other manly things. However, I have always loved musical theater. Whenever I go to New York, I have to see at least two or three big shows. My question: Is it socially acceptable for me to good-naturedly say, "I'm totally gay for musical theater"? Or is it a slur that I shouldn't say, no matter how playful or well intended? —The Cautious Joker

AWhen someone says "That's so gay" but means "That's so stupid," he or she is being homophobic. Obviously. But a straight guy who says he's gay for musicals isn't saying he's stupid for them, TCJ, he's saying, "I love something that many gay men are passionate about—and I'm not talking about cock." Likewise, I've heard gay guys who avidly follow the NFL describe themselves as straight for football. You saying "I'm gay for musical theater," or a gay guy saying "I'm straight for football," amounts to a humorous acknowledgment that most men interested in musicals or football are gay or straight, respectively. In neither case is it an insult or a put-down. But while I think you can continue to say that you're gay for musicals, TCJ, some gay men (or some of our more annoying "allies") may take offense. You don't have to pay attention to those people—they're just gay for taking offense.

QI'm a vegetarian who's married to a meat eater, and I thought the compromise you suggested to a vegetarian wondering how to make it work with a meat eater—"The meat eater agrees to keep a meat-free home; the vegetarian agrees to keep a Morrissey-free home"—wasn't that helpful. But you were probably kidding, right? Here's the correct answer: The meat eater agrees to allow the vegetarian to be vegetarian (no pressure to eat meat, using vegetable stock when cooking at home); the vegetarian agrees to allow the meat eater to eat meat (no bitching about meat in the fridge or on their plate). Thanks for the otherwise great column! —Very Enthusiastically GGG

AThanks for sharing, VEGGG.

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