‘I want to have sex all night long… just not with my husband’
Men want sex with lots of women while women are made for monogamy, right? Wrong, says Wednesday Martin – especially now that it’s easier than ever to cheat
annika is a suburban 30-something mum. She is also a serial cheater. The reason, she explains, is, ‘ You miss that thing where you’re excited. It’s so new, and you can’t eat or sleep, you’re having such an intense time emotionally and sexually with this entirely new person. That’s what I kept going after. I couldn’t say no.’
Annika, who is warm and engaging, with messy blonde hair, met her husband, Dan, when they were students. Even at the start, it was apparent that Dan had a lower libido. ‘I felt like I initiated sex almost all the time, and that made me self-conscious,’ she admits. Yet the time they spent together – cooking, hiking, having deep conversations – seemed to outweigh this.
But several months later, during the summer holidays, when Dan was working
and Annika went travelling, she started sleeping with other men. This continued after they had graduated and moved in together. ‘ We never discussed it but Dan not wanting sex made me feel undesirable. He said it was because he had low testosterone, or because he was tired. So I had sex with men I met through work or at a party. I felt I deserved to have a sex life.’
There were several close calls over the years, once when a man she’d had over to their home left his jacket behind and Dan, suspicious, asked whose it was. Her heart pounding, Annika made an excuse: it belonged to their friend. And yet the risks were worth it; it was exciting to be with other men, and their desire was a kind of salve against Dan’s sexual indifference.
They married, and for a while their sex life improved. But a couple of months in, it hit a familiar low. ‘I remember the phone ringing and knowing it was a guy I was sleeping with, and having to pretend it was someone else because Dan was standing right there.’ Annika only stopped cheating when she became pregnant – she had less time and interest, and felt more committed to making their marriage work. But, she adds, their sex life never improved.
‘I’m really… unusual,’ she told me when we started talking about her infidelity. This is what most of the women I spoke to for my book, Untrue, began by saying. ‘ Why’s that?’ I’d ask. ‘Because I have a really strong sex drive. And I’m not cut out for monogamy.’ During my research, I found that the cheating women I met all thought they were odd. Because for decades, psychologists and scientists have insisted that women are naturally monogamous and less interested in sex.
They argue it’s about biology – we only release one egg a month, we can only produce one child every nine months, so we have to be selective about our sexual partners, settling for one great guy who can protect and provide for us and our offspring.
But women do cheat – up to 50% of us, according to one US study. Typically, the women I spoke to, like those who spoke to sociologist and infidelity expert Dr Alicia Walker, had complicated primary partnerships and wanted to keep their affairs simple and purely sexual.
‘A lack of sex drove me crazy,’ explains Tiffany, 47, on why she started to cheat. ‘I finally decided, after many years of no sex, that I deserved to have my needs met,’ says Georgie, 53. ‘I want the sex but not the complications that go with it,’ 33-yearold Trudy explained. ‘I strongly identify with an approach to sex stripped of sentimentality,’ Priscilla, 37, said.
There’s good reason to believe boredom is a big issue for women. Regular sex with a long-term partner is especially rough on female desire, several sex researchers have found. A 2017 study of more than 11,000 Brits found that women who lived with a partner were twice as likely as cohabiting men to lose interest in sex. As one woman told me, ‘I want to have sex all night long. Just not with my husband!’
And it’s easier than ever to cheat now, as one woman told me. ‘My life changed when I got an iphone. I didn’t have to have a text blazing across my screen. Or a comment on my Facebook that everyone could see. I could use Snapchat, DMS on Instagram to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and to set up hook-ups.’
So, if we are made for multiple partners, why does society keep peddling the idea that women who reject monogamy are abnormal? The #Metoo movement has exposed how far we still have to come in ensuring women have as much sexual agency as men. Its logical horizon must be that we start thinking about femalecentred sex, focusing on women’s desire.
Women who reject monogamy and cheat do so for connection and understanding, as well as sex. Whatever we may think of them, they are brave – and totally normal. ‘ Untrue’ by Wednesday Martin is out now (£14.99, Scribe)
i want the sex, but not the complications that go with it