Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Last Psychiatrist: The Sex-Starved Wife

On the one hand, you have articles in th Economist saying people are spending less time at work and more at home, on the other hand Time writes about the sex-starved wife. If they're both home more and at work less, why aren't they naked?

The answer isn't porn.

Sex is a good proxy for a lot of things. The Time article offers a number of explanations for why a man might have a lower libido than his wife, but not the correct one: narcissism. In women, narcissism manifests itself as a greater libido, and in men, a lesser one.

You might think this is backwards, but it isn't. The wife is more involved with every part of the relationship-- the money, the jobs-- his and hers-- the troubles, everything-- that the man has no way to construct an artificial identity she'd believe. He can't pretend he's anything-- suave, a major force at work, a successful investor, whatever-- because she knows his reality in text message speed. She talks to her husband not once, but four or five times a day. What's he going to say she doesn't already know? Even legitimate successes are subdued because they are not at all surprises.

Here's the mistake: women say, "but I get turned on by him anyway, he doesn't have to impress me, he has me." And my unscientific poll of... some... women suggests they are more sexually open and experimental than ever. So what's wrong? And so maybe the wife thinks she's not hot enough? And catchers his glances at the waitress, the porn on the computer.

Well, the problem with his libido isn't how hot she is. He's a narcissist: the problem is his libido is that it depends on how hot he is.

It's what women used to go through. He looks in the mirror, sees a gut-- he doesn't feel sexy, he can't imagine she would find him sexy, so the libido falls. In the past he could at least draw confidence from the fact that he has a good job; but now he doesn't have a "good " job, it's an okay job, one that pays the bills, but not something that you can build an identity with. And anyway she has one just as good. What's his appeal?

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