The other day a buddy of mine was making love to his new girlfriend when her iPhone beeped with an incoming text message. Like any guy, he hoped she would ignore the alert - or even fail to notice it altogether.
The opposite happened. The woman opened her eyes, grabbed the phone from the bedside table and read the message. She then typed out a short reply.
"To be fair, she apologized and suggested we go back to the sex," says my crestfallen friend. "But it was kind of a mood-killer."
Two conclusions can be drawn from an anecdote like this. The first is that my friend maybe needs to brush up on his sexual technique. The second is that his girlfriend's behavior reveals something alarming about the way we live nowadays.
In this media-drenched, multitasking, always-on age, many of us have forgotten how to unplug and immerse ourselves completely in the moment. We have forgotten how to slow down.
Not surprisingly, this fast-forward culture is taking a toll on everything from our diet and health to our work and the environment. It's ruining our sex lives, too.
There is certainly a lot of fast sex around these days. Just look at the tsunami of pornography washing over the Internet.
Even when we stop watching and start doing, we struggle to give sex our full attention. Surveys suggest that a fifth of us now interrupt lovemaking to read an email, take a call or fire off a tweet. Even Paris Hilton, that great cultural icon du jour, reached for the cell in her notorious sex video.
Like everything else, sex has become a commodity, something to be consumed and made more efficient. Lifestyle magazines are stuffed with advice on how to reach orgasm more quickly, more often. Busy couples sit down with their planners to schedule nooky as they might a meeting with a financial advisor or a visit to the dentist.
The result is a grim paradox: at a time when our culture is marinated in sexual messages, many of us are having less sex. Millions of people - mainly men, but women, too - now choose fast and easy porn over the real thing.
And when we do have sex, it's often not very satisfying. Just ask the millions of women now being diagnosed with low libido. True to the quick-fix culture, the pharmaceutical industry insists that a Viagra-style pill is the best cure for this affliction. But speeding up genital blood flow is a red herring. The real problem is not that women are ill or flawed. It is that living in fast-forward is a recipe for bad sex.
Don't get me wrong. Speed and sex can be happy bedfellows. Sometimes a swift roll in the hay is just the ticket. Trust me, I like a quickie as much as the next person.
But if sex is always fast, then we do miss out. Slowing down between the sheets can deepen the emotional, psychological, even spiritual power of sex. It also gives the body - especially the female body - the time it needs to warm up.
Slow Sex is not rocket science - anyone can do it. Start by slowing down outside the bedroom. Trim your schedule so you have the time and energy for those little exchanges that stoke desire throughout the day - flirting, touching, stolen glances, conversation and whispered fantasies, small favors and gifts. After that kind of foreplay, even a quickie will deliver more bang for your buck.
Make the bedroom a Slow haven: no phones, no orgasm quotas, no deadlines; just two people in the moment together, going with the flow. Slip into a relaxed, sensual rhythm with massage, stroking, eye contact, breathing in unison, maybe even blindfolds. That may sound a bit cheesy, but, as the Pointer Sisters observed, it's the lover with a slow hand who makes the earth move.
Slow Sex is catching on. A few years ago, we all sniggered when the pop star Sting talked of romping Tantric-style for hours on end, but now couples all over the world are flocking to workshops to learn the lost art of unhurried lovemaking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that recession-hit lovers, no longer able to afford so many nights on the town, are staying home and making more time for intimacy. Slow Sex coaches are springing up and Italy even has an official Slow Sex movement.
All of this is part of a broader Slow revolution. Everywhere, people are discovering that doing things more slowly often means doing them better and enjoying them more. It means living life instead of rushing through it.
You can apply this to everything from food to parenting to work. But sex is a nice place to start.
As Mae West famously quipped: "Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly."
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