It might be a terrible term, but Dorothy Black thinks maintenance sex has the power to keep love alive.
It’s one of the lousiest terms ever: maintenance sex.
When I hear it, I picture a woman scrubbing loos, unblocking drains and then shuffling to the bed so that Mr Man can climb on top of her and do his fanjangle while she waits for him to ‘just get it over with’.
Loos? Tick. Drains? Tick. Die a little inside? Tick.
In fact, I’ve heard ‘maintenance sex’ advised to women to keep their men from straying. It was, and still is apparently in some parts of the interwebs, considered ‘duty sex’: ‘Just deal with your hubby’s tiresome demands non-sexual wife’.
The problem with these terribly dull (maintenance) and dangerous (duty) terms, is that they undermine the basic premise of the idea, which is really rather great.
And that is to keep you and your honey physically intimate for as long as you want to be together, especially if that ‘together’ is monogamous.
Practising ‘maintenance sex’ is your commitment to making the effort to keep this physical connection to someone you love strong. It means choosing to get jiggy with each other instead of choosing to watch another episode of Series X.
It means making yourself available to the idea of physical intimacy even if you’re not feeling 100% sex-on-legs. Remember that column about responsive desire?
That doesn’t mean you have to practice penetrative sex every time you connect physically to your partner.
‘Maintenance sex’ isn’t exclusively penetrative sex. At least not in House Black. I think equating maintenance sex – or any physicality with your partner – to penetrative sex is where some resistance to physical intimacy builds up.
Being penetrated is pretty crap if you’re feeling withdrawn, protective or vulnerable. And after a day’s stress those are fairly familiar feelings.
If penetration is then an unspoken expectation of the sex experience, it might feel way more comfortable to simply not engage sexually at all when your man partner tries to initiate sex.
But what if physical intimacy on those days meant a massage and cuddle for you – and a hand job for him if he needed an orgasm release?
If you can both agree to make use of the whole sex-play menu available to you – whether that’s penetration, skin-on-skin cuddles, massage, oral sex, hand jobs, mutual masturbation and so on – your experience of sex with each other over the long term broadens and deepens.
So make that agreement to make an effort regularly in whatever way suits you both.
For me, maintenance sex means cuddles, hand holding, kissing, sex and the occasional kink parties and role playing.
Whatever it means for you, it’s about keeping that initial blaze of sexual attraction on a steady burn so that your sexual energy doesn’t fizzle into a desperate little ember when ‘real life’ starts seeping into the routine of couplehood.
And you’ll notice I said ‘your’ sexual energy.
‘Maintenance sex’ is not just about you as a part of a ‘we’, it’s also about making a commitment to keep your own sexual self nurtured.