No More Sex until…

No More Sex until…

The kids go off to college.

Parents don’t like to have sex in front of their children. I take that as a given. Maybe it was different in prehistoric times. Maybe back then when a committed couple (I assume there was no marriage ceremony in those days) wanted to have sex, they may have gone about it out in the open in front of everybody instead of way back in a dark corner of the cave; but I don’t believe it. Not if their kids were hanging around. No matter how kinky sex may have been back in those gay, uninhibited times before organized religion grew up to stop that sort of thing, sex in front of the children was still considered outré and reprehensible. I am sure of it. Freud explained why; and his thoughts are too familiar to repeat here. Suffice it to say, if a child accidentally comes upon his parents having sex in the bedroom, or elsewhere, everyone squirms around and shudders. It is the natural way of things. At least in suburbia.

Sometimes delicacy in these matters can go too far. Consider Sonia and Ethan (not their real names.)

Sonia and Ethan married in their early twenties and engaged in a healthy sexual relationship—not too much or too little—just right. They both enjoyed sex. They may not have engaged in all the sexual positions recommended in the Kamasutra, but only because they never heard of the Kamasutra. They were open-minded and did things that might have taken aback their parents—who, as it happened, were innocent in such matters. Of course, there were times when either Sonia or Ethan demurred because of headaches or being exhausted from too many push-ups; but for the most part they congratulated themselves on having a healthy sexual relationship; and had their friends known more about it, they would have thought so too.

In due time, their children, Charlie and Charlene, were born. They were given names with the same initials in order that their luggage and other possessions could someday be used by each of them, saving money. That is simply one example of how Sonia and Ethan were always concerned about their children’s welfare. And in particular with their mental health, which they thought depended in large part on having healthy attitudes towards sex. They remembered the advice about sex their parents had given them throughout their growing up. It summed to “don’t.” Don’t talk about sex, don’t look at dirty pictures, and don’t play with yourself. This is all good advice, they thought. Children should not be subjected prematurely to sexual thoughts or situations. When they, themselves, were growing up, they were never allowed to watch M.T.V.

Consequently, when Charlie and Charlene were wee children still sleeping in their cribs, their parents put a screen around the crib whenever they had sexual relations. And they tried not to make too much noise. These precautions became unnecessary when they were able to afford to move into their own house, and the children had their own rooms. The next few years might be considered their golden years as far as sex went.

There were certain limits to sexual spontaneity. No more having sex on the kitchen table where they might be discovered by the children returning prematurely from school. (See the discussion above.)

Certain intimate articles were kept out of sight–children being the inquisitive creatures they are. But beyond these simple safeguards sex was uncomplicated and satisfying.

When the children were aged seven and eight, Sonia and Ethan had sexual relations anywhere between two and three times a week. Regularly. BUT ONLY AFTER THE CHILDREN HAD GONE TO SLEEP. This rarely represented a problem, except that Charlene in particular suffered from bad dreams and occasionally came into their bedroom unexpectedly, luckily too unsophisticated to wonder why Daddy was lying on top of Mommy. Of course, at those times sex stopped immediately, to be resumed hesitantly if at all later on in the night.

Then a difficulty which should have been anticipated, but which was not, arose. THE CHILDREN BEGAN TO STAY UP LATER THAN THEIR PARENTS! Sex now became a hurried and, as far as possible, a silent affair. And more infrequent, limited mostly to those times when the children were away on sleep-over dates. As the children grew older still, sex between their parents became a rare event, awkward and unsatisfactory. Ethan developed a problem now called E.D. but which was known in those days as impotence. Sonia claimed she “forgot how to do it.” I will leave to the reader’s imagination a description of the effect of this sad state of affairs on Sonia’s and Ethan’s marriage.

Although they loved their children, Sonia and Ethan looked forward to their going off to college, so that they could resume their sexual life, however enfeebled it might be by that time.

Very many young, and not so young, couples find themselves in this gloomy situation. Although I have made up the names Sonia and Ethan, there are so many such couples, I would not be surprised if right now there really was a couple somewhere named Sonia and Ethan who think I am talking about them.

A solution

First let me say, it is very difficult for anyone to change his or her behavior. When two people are asked to change at the same time, it is doubly hard. When that behavior has gone on for a considerable period of time, change is still harder. Couples grow accustomed to living their lives in their own way, and any change seems uncomfortable and stilted. In particular, parents decide how scrupulously the family should follow certain rules of modesty in their home, and these rules become inflexible. In some families, nakedness seems natural and in others unseemly. Some families are relaxed about walking in on each other while they are dressing; others are not. And so on. And each set of parents thinks they have it right. I would like to argue for a particular custom. The right to privacy must become a family value.

By the time the children are seven or eight, the family should have emphasized privacy as being part of the mutual respect everyone in the family has for each other. Bedroom doors should be closed when someone is sleeping or getting dressed or undressed. Naturally, that behavior does not need to be invariable so that its importance becomes exaggerated. Rather, this rule should grow up naturally, simply by observing the practice.

When the children are adolescent, it is proper that they be allowed to lock their doors when they do not want to be disturbed. Naturally, there should be some way of opening the lock from the outside in the event of an emergency, or what a parent deems to be an emergency. PARENTS SHOULD FOLLOW THE RULE OF KNOCKING ON DOORS WHEN THEY ARE CLOSED. And they should knock again before coming through the door. At the same time the parents’ door should have a lock put on it, if it does not already have one. AND THE DOOR SHOULD BE KEPT LOCKED WHEN EITHER PARENT IS GETTING DRESSED OR UNDRESSED. Children should learn always to knock on their parents’ closed door.

Of course, the parents’ door should also be locked when they are having sex. Since the door is commonly locked at other times also, they are not advertising just what they are doing. It is never too late to start locking doors. If children enquire about the reason, they can be told that they are old enough for others to respect their privacy. And for them to respect the privacy of everyone else.

The goal of all this is to guarantee that the parents can have sex comfortably when their children are still awake. There are some couples that are in the habit of making so much noise during sex that everyone in the house will be forced to pay attention, but the sort of couples I am describing in this blog post are not among them. (c) Fredric Neuman M.D.