With a federal judge striking down Oregon’s anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment; another federal judge doing the same in Pennsylvania; and the litigation Wolf v. Walker working its way through Wisconsin’s federal courts, marriage equality is expanding one state, one lawsuit at a time. Against this backdrop, I’ve thought about the question: Does marriage change sex?
My partner and I exchanged wedding bands as gifts before we got married, and one of the first things we did was to put the rings on, take our clothes off and have sex. (Don’t worry this was at home in our bedroom, not at the Macy’s jewelry counter.) The prospect of getting married thrilled us, and we wanted to express this somehow.
Then the night we married, which we did in New York State, after a celebratory dinner with family and friends, we were both lying in bed, giddy from the exhilarating rush of the day and unable to sleep. Even though we had been together for nearly 18 years and are both middle aged men, we suddenly became stereotypical newlyweds on our wedding night: Once again, we had sex.
My husband and I have a satisfying sex life fueled by desire and love. But it has changed over time. The heady early days of our youth have given way to the more restrained sexual rhythms of middle age. I suspect there’s probably not too much difference between LGBT and straight people in this regard.
But getting married changed things for me. It rekindled experimentation and adventurousness. I’ve thought on several occasions: If I’m not willing to express my deepest sexual desires with my husband, then with whom can I express them? And if not now, when?
Did I need a ring, a piece of paper, and a joint tax return to get to this point? Apparently, I did. But my husband did not. What can I say? People are different.
I’m not advocating turning clock back to before the sexual revolution. Sexual experimentation, when done safely, can be a great thing. The men and women with whom I had sex over the years helped me figure out that when my partner, now husband, came along, he was the real thing.
But my experience does make me wonder if, for some people, it’s in the context of marriage that they most come alive sexually.
For me, getting married upped the ante. I’ve long found that an intimate, loving relationship is a living, breathing thing, which can either grow or wither. So in the event that my husband and I are given another 20 years together, and if we’re able to continue to nurture our love, commitment and desire, you’ll have to come ask me again how it went.
But for the moment, increased sexual intimacy has been one of the pleasant and unexpected surprises that I’ve found in our connubial bed.
Scott Bane is a New York City-based freelance writer who’s currently working on a book about the relationship between Harvard scholar F.O. Matthiessen and painter Russell Cheney.