In Praise of Slouchy Sex

I have mixed feelings about making this post. On the one hand, I think Katie Roiphe’s diss in Slate of bestsellerGo the F*uck To Sleep has gotten more than enough attention already and perhaps the better course would be to ignore her.

But on the other hand, I think someone needs to say something from a sex-positive perspective about her characterization of the book’s fans as sex-starved dads full of repressed anger at their children. Say something, that is, other than, “buh, what?“, which was, to be honest, my first take.

Roiphe’s actual target is a perennial favorite: the “helicopter parent” who hovers too much, sacrifices too much, is over-invested in their child’s life and well-being to the detriment of their own. It’s another excuse to say “you’re trying to be a good parent but really you’re baaaaad.” The only unique spin on this topic is that the parents are bad this time, apparently, for not having enough sex. (Oh, and for liking comfortable clothes and cuddling under “ugly” blankets.)

In other words, parents: you can’t win. Either you’re too self-involved, or too self-sacrificing. You’re leaving your kids with caretakers too often, or not enough. (During the day for work, bad. During the evening for fun, good.) You’re having too much sex, or too little.

Whatever. To quote Jill at Feministe, “sometimes telling a kid to go the fuck to sleep is just telling a kid to go the fuck to sleep. And you probably aren’t even saying it out loud, because I’m pretty sure yuppie parents don’t say ‘fuck’ to their children.”

In fact, I think Roiphe betrays her own class bias when she assumes that, indeed, saying ‘fuck’ to your children is such a major transgression that it can only be a sign of “hot crimson rage” rather than mild (and humorous) annoyance.

I mean, in addition to assuming that we could all just hire a babysitter and have a nice night out on the town if we weren’t so mistakenly self-sacrificing.

But let’s get back to the sex thing, shall we?

If I wished to be as humorlessly overanalytical as Roiphe — and believe me, I have it in me — I would point out things like the lurking spectre of the wife who won’t put out underneath her complaint. “Put on a dress,” she admonishes her sexless parent readers. Well, some of them, anyway, since I doubt she’s addressing many of the fathers. (Fathers in dresses, I apologize…and I want your phone number.) I half-expected an apologia for cheating husbands to follow on the heels of her book critique. Notice that it’s the Dads who are filled with rage, after all. In other words, the Dads are filled with rage, but the solution is for someone to put on a dress. I get the message, yes I do.

I get the message that I’m not supposed to be frustrated at my occasionally thwarted sexual desire, but I’m supposed to perform a role for my sexually thwarted male partner. No “slouchy sex” for us. Who likes that?


It is about a thousand times sexier to me to have a partner who thinks I’m hot in chef’s pants and uncombed hair than it is to have to dress up just to get them to look at me twice.

Who will cuddle with me under that supremely cozy if “ugly” blanket…and then slip a hand down my pants for “just one orgasm. Just give me one.”

Who likes to check to see if I’m still lactating, two years after I stopped breastfeeding, because it turns him on to taste it and it turns me on to have my nipples played with like that.

Who wakes me up at five in the morning for a quickie because the girls are still asleep. On an occasion when I am wearing nothing at all…except a pair of the frumpiest socks I own, because my feet got cold at 3 a.m. after I walked down the hall to soothe my daughter back to sleep after a nightmare.

Because that’s part of the joy of long-term relationships: that relaxed cameraderie can be pretty hot, too. That look across the dining room table that says “I know you. I know all about you. Even if you have toddler-sized handprints made of peanut butter on your shirt, I know what to say to make you take it off. I don’t even have to say it, do I? I just have to lift my eyebrow, lick my lips.”

Excuse me. My daughters have finally gone the fuck to sleep, and I think I might have something else I need to attend to. I’ll be the one wearing slouchy socks — and nothing else.


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