After more than a decade together, my hubby and I settled in to a consistent, almost rote intimacy routine: once or twice weekly sex beginning missionary style, passing through a seated position and climaxing with me on top – me first, then him.
It’s good, sometimes great, but it’s also inside the box. So, when an invitation to take a sex survey hit my inbox, I thought, why not? Before long I was reading about sex, bondage, nipple rings and golden showers, and wondering how this email made it past my spam filter.
With stats like, “Nearly 81 percent of women said they wanted their partner to talk dirty more often during sex,” and “Americans want more anal sex,” the company called Simpatic not only surveys the sexual landscape in the United States, it also offers couples an opportunity for greater intimacy.
The basic gist: Each person in the couple ponders nearly 1,000 bedroom activities from role play and vibrators to foot fetishes and feathers and checks off the items that appeal. Within 48 hours you each get a report highlighting only the activities you’d both enjoy. So, essentially, you and your partner get to ensure you’re on the same page sexually without actually talking.
I found the concept of lighting up our lovemaking in this way appealing, and he certainly wasn’t objecting. I propositioned him first over email:
“I need to talk to you about a work thing,” I typed. “Another essay about us …”
While I recognize that communication is key in a marriage, there’s something to be said (or rather, unsaid) about your partner being able to read your mind – at least when the lights are out.
“Rather than risk damaging the relationship, people often say nothing about their sexual desires and remain unfulfilled – feelings that can lead to instability, infidelity and resentment,” says SimpaticUS Founder Derek Newton. “The survey obliterates the fear of judgment since only the couples’ shared desires show up on the report.”
Could this compatibility questionnaire catapult our sex life to the next level, or (gasp) tear us apart? After all, sex, money and kids are the top fraught topics for couples.
Intrigued, I spoke with professional sexologist Justin Garcia, M.S., Ph.D., Ruth Halls Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Research Director of The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University about the survey. “It’s a clever idea,” he said, “especially if couples are open to exploring new activities based on the results, and the individuals within the couple don’t feel threatened.”
So, Ben and I jumped on board. I headed to my office alone, a glass of wine in hand. Then I fired up my laptop to consider activities ranging from threesomes, armpit play and porn to the use of unassuming props, such as the boots, stockings and turtlenecks already in my closet. Of course, there were also activities that made my skin crawl – abduction role play, hairpulling and something called asphyxia philia where you try to strangle each other, you know, just for kicks.
I wondered and worried. Does he want to explore bondage? Listen to me bark like a dog? Wear a gag during sex? It typically takes Ben a few weeks to complete a given “honey-do” task, but he knocked out this request within 24 hours.
“What did you think?” I asked him when he finished the survey.
“People are into some kinky stuff,” he responded. “I love you, but I’m not sure I want to lick your armpits.”
When the report came back a few days later, the results weren’t terribly shocking. The irony: It did get us talking. It never occurred to me that wearing eyeglasses, or seeing Ben wear them, turns me on. But I checked the box.
Big breasts were on his list; mine, too (having them, not playing with them). But since I’m 44 and sporting the budding breasts of a 12-year-old, it wasn’t a huge win. Plus, there was also a small breasts box. Neither of us checked it.
“That could be devastating for some couples,” Garcia said. “Some women may feel that if their partner checks off big breasts, and they’re an A cup, it means they’re not enough, or they need to get breast augmentation to make their significant other happy.”
Me? I decided to stuff my bra with a sock, just to see what it’s like to have a rockin’ rack. It was novel, sure, but once I stripped down to my birthday suit, well, the experience fell flat.
There were other things on our shared list of desires though that sparked some interest for both of us – things we hadn’t yet tried. Maybe we were embarrassed or unsure? Or maybe, between stressful jobs, keeping the kitchen stocked, and you know, meeting the demands of three pint-sized humans, we didn’t have the energy to get creative sexually.
The survey coaxed us to push the envelope. Ben wanted me to dress in sexy lingerie, strip and dance erotically. The idea of getting naked on a sort of personal stage excited me, too. I also wanted to have sex in low-lighting, preferably candle light, against a backdrop of mirrors.
We rounded those three fantasies the same night. After putting the kids to bed, I came into our bedroom and found Ben reading a book in bed wearing a crew neck sweater and eyeglasses. Ben doesn’t read, unless it’s required for work or comes in the form of a comic.
So, I responded in kind by hitting the closet and digging out the only lingerie I had, a forest green getup with lace that has been collecting dust for more than a decade. When he started the music, our game was on.
It was embarrassing, nerve-wracking even, but fun and playful, too. And the sex topped our pre-kid romps. Even with that amazing night of passion, we still slip back into our predictable routine. Me in my signature sweats with my laptop, him with a beer watching “The Walking Dead.” But now we share what’s going through our heads uncensored, and we know that when we want to take things to the next level, well, we just have to break out the mirrors.