HOPE Springs, the new movie about a married couple who have lost that lovin’ feeling, has struck a chord not just with baby boomers and those married a long time, but with people in all sorts of unions — gay, straight, older, younger.
The reason is despite rumours that everyone is bonking like rabbits, the truth of what goes on behind closed doors in relationships is rather sobering.
Although sexuality drives so much of our culture, the Great Australian Sex Survey that News Limited conducted when I was the group’s sex and relationships writer found that couples in long-term relationships were more likely to have sex once a month than twice a day. According to the American Medical Association, 40 million US adults in relationships are not having sex at all, and a third of all women report a lack of interest in sex. Which explains the wide interest in Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones’s portrayal of a sexless marriage.
I also used to have a radio program on Triple M called The Sex Show and heard many stories of ‘‘no sex post babies’’, ‘‘no sex post menopause’’ (or over-50 for men), people bored with their partners’ five standard moves, or just simply too tired in this draining world, where the act of lying down is its own fantasy.
A rather controversial solution has been bandied about recently. The British should learn to be more liberal with their lovers, UK social scientist Catherine Hakim says. Hakim, who works for the think tank
Centre for Policy Studies, was educated in France and promotes French-style erotic freedom. She says that flings should be a staple of British love lives. In her book The New Rules of Marriage she likens fidelity and long- term exclusivity in relationships to traps that turn people into ‘‘caged animals’’. Praising the Japanese geisha tradition, Hakim says successful secret affairs, where partners don’t know and no one is hurt, can renew eroticism in marriage.
I can’t comment on discreet affairs, but my radio interviews have shown that people who prioritise sex, put in real effort to keep it alive, and take risks by trying unconventional things together have the greatest sex lives after 10 years.
Some couples shared sexual fantasies, some did a bit of swinging or played with the notion of threesomes and open relationships, some experimented with kinky things. It all seemed to work. Affairs may amp up the hormones but they are dangerous. I love the recent story of the Adelaide couple in their mid-40s arrested for continuous noisy sex. They admitted engaging in it for four to seven hours most nights. Disgruntled neigh- bours had regularly called the police. But I bet they were thinking: ‘‘I’ll have what they’re having!’’