“’Happy Holidays’ too often aren’t very happy,” notes Charis Books & More, which hosts the event Thursday night from 7:30 – 9 p.m. “Women who love women often ‘go underground’ during family gatherings, minimizing or denying personal/sexual relationships in order to fit in. This takes a toll on us, and adds our own brand of family dysfunction. Let’s talk about how to do it differently!”
A clinical psychologist in Atlanta, Corwin has spent a decade focusing on sexual intimacy between women. Her message to female couples? The rumored and feared “lesbian bed death” doesn’t have to happen, but it takes work to keep the sexual flames burning.
“Over the years working as a therapist with lesbian clients, I have heard them discuss their fear that there’s no way to keep passion alive in a long-term relationship – that lesbian bed death is inevitable,” Corwin told the Georgia Voice in an interview earlier this year.
So what can lesbians do to keep their relationships sexually satisfying? “The conflict between thinking lesbian bed death is inevitable and then not wanting for that to be the case is what really inspired me to research this and do something about it,” Corwin says.
The result of her research is her new book, “Sexual Intimacy For Women: A Guide for Same-Sex Couples,” recently released by Seal Press.
What was your research process like?
Corwin: I did an online survey of lesbian sexual patterns and had 400 respondents from all over. They answered many different kinds of questions about their own history and their feelings and attitudes about sexual relationships.
What was the most interesting thing that you discovered through your research?
That 90 percent of them said that they thought that regular sexual contact was very important in a relationship. Only 20 percent said that they regularly set aside time for sexual intimacy. Even more interesting, about 20 percent of the women in my study could be called “sexually active” — having sex twice a month or more. That 20 percent that was sexually active was the same 20 percent that regularly set aside time for sexual intimacy.
There’s spontaneity and then there’s intentionality. The key to making it work is something that I call “24-hour foreplay.” We women just need plenty of time to get in the right mood. That involves getting in some type of positive physical state because we’re always judging our bodies. We also need to get in touch with our erotic imagination.
Let’s revisit lesbian bed death. What is the cause and what is the cure?
The myth of spontaneity is the cause of a lot of it. And by that, I mean that we don’t have a realistic understanding of female sexual desire. We tend to think about sexual desire as a physical drive and if that isn’t happening, we think that there’s something wrong with ourselves or with the relationship. Realistically, the research shows that about 50 percent of women who are in relationships don’t feel much spontaneous sexual desire.
The most important concept to understand is the difference between spontaneous desire and responsive desire. … We decide intentionally and ahead of time that we do want to be in a sexually active relationship and will set aside time for it. Then, we start doing and thinking about the things that get us turned on, like how you love your partner or about the last time you had sex together, or whatever kinds of images are erotic for you.
What will readers get from your book?
They will learn ways to enrich their sexual connection. They’ll also have a realistic understanding about female sexual desire and learn some skills to combat the most common obstacles such as initiating sex, which is a huge issue.
We grew up in a heterosexual world where we were trained that men will initiate sex and we have to say no to protect ourselves. We don’t really know that much about how to say yes or how to initiate sex, something that many women have a hard time with.
‘Sexual Intimacy for Women: A Guide for Same-Sex Couples’ By Glenda Corwin, Seal Press, $16.95 www.drglendacorwin.com
Glenda Corwin with “Maintaining Intimacy in Stressful Times” Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. at Charis Books & More 1189 Euclid Ave. , Atlanta GA 30307 www.chariscircle.org