Did anyone see the recent episode of the TV series, Girls? It was an original. Hannah's main squeeze, Adam, is now all caught up in his new job and not paying her much attention. So Hannah, worried about her relationship, decides that the way to reconnect is to spice up their sex life with the kinds of techniques now advocated by everyone from writers at Cosmopolitan to authors lecturing women on the need for the Fabricated Thrill to keep the spark of love alive.
Hannah, all dressed up in a blonde wig, plays at being someone else. She acts out her version of the role of the femme fatale. She also goes to the trouble of dressing up in leather straps and posing provocatively while coming on to him. He obligingly opens his fly and matter-of-factually mates with her. The whole encounter is over in about one minute flat. She, understandably, expresses disappointment! He comments, as he leaves, that the whole scenario was silly and contrived. It was "not spontaneous," like their sex was earlier in their relationship. He then goes off to his friend's so he can sleep and be better at his job the next day.
As a couple therapist, researcher and trainer, the down-to-earth realism of this episode really grabbed me. At last, someone is exploding the massive cliché that you have to dress up sex with toys, new roles and wild kinds of novelty to get the spark back in your relationship. At the heart of this cliché is the idea that passion has a "best before date" and theatrical, emotionless sex will reignite it. Of course there is still a problem in that if you pull off playing Marilyn Monroe on Tuesday, it will be stale by Friday, so this strategy involves a constant hunt for new thrill oriented moves - and a whole pile of outfits and wigs!
I would like to suggest to Hannah that emotionless sex won't get her the reassurance and reconnection she is looking for. That sex without emotion is like a dance without music. All the raunchy moves and costumes won't make up for the silence.
I would tell Hannah that she would have had more of a chance at getting her emotional AND sexual needs met if she had taken a risk and reached for Adam using messages that pull partners closer and shape moments of bonding. She could have told him, "I feel so sidelined with your new job. I am getting kind of scared here. I just need to know that I matter to you. I need you to come close and be with me." My guess is that this message would have had more of an impact on Adam than her leather outfit. They would have had passionate sex; just the intensity of the contact would have been thrilling!
The best definition of passion I have ever found is that it is the longing for emotional connection plus openness to spontaneous erotic play. You don't find this in theatrics. In the end, you are just a spectator, going through the motions.The fabricated thrill can't keep love alive -- and it doesn't even lead to good sex.