In line at the grocery store I was struck by the cover of the December issue of Cosmo. Eva Longoria was smiling to greet my 13-year-old daughter and I, and her top (Eva’s) was just low enough to accentuate the cleavage. Promised topics in this issue included “Guys’ Sex Drive- The Dirty Little Bedroom Secrets Nobody Wants to Talk About.” And: “Girl On Top- The 9 Pleasure-Maxing Sex Positions Will Send You Both to the Moon.” And: “The Sexiest Things to Do Before Sex- Discover The Real Meaning of Shower Power.” And: “Your Sexual Health- STD News Gynos Don’t Share.” And we are told, Eva’s interview is the “sauciest ever.” It is explicit. The Holiday Issue!

I am not a prude. Sensuality, sexuality and sex are fun. But so is emotional connection. My issue with the issue is the presumption that the standard that Cosmo posits is the one that Soci- ety seems to accept. Sex drives differ. Happy, successful couples have a regular, healthy sex life. But the “regular” part is one they have worked out. Not Cosmo or Madison Avenue. Next time you are in the bookstore wander over to the magazines. Look at the covers found in “Men’s Interest.” Now go over to “Women’s Interest” and compare. Same women, same flat stomachs, same promise of sexuality. When par- ents of adolescent boys come to me with their concerns over their child viewing internet porn it usually takes a few minutes for the parent to sort through their concerns and fears for their child. But one of the resounding themes that emerge is that real life sex is not like that. Non-stop sex at the drop of a hat without intimacy is not healthy. Nor is it realistic. Cosmo disagrees. We are told all about women’s sex drive in their advise to men. “Chances are, your little bed devil is usu- ally up for a hearty roll in the hay. (She’s a Cosmo girl after all).” Look, I understand that Cosmo is about selling magazines, not setting standards, but enough exposure to this message places unrealistic expectations on a sexual rela- tionship and the individuals in the relationship.

Often, if not usually, couples have differ- ences in their sex drive. On a scale of 1-10, Cosmo would have us all at an 8-10. Reality shows that like most things, most of us are at a 4 -6 and there are about the same number of 2’s and 3’s as there are 8’s and 9’s.

I counsel couples to begin discussions on where their relationship needs are in four areas when we look at this topic. (It is useful if you have been married 2 years or 20 years). First, ask and offer what the needs are for you and your partner in the areas of physical intimacy (hand holding, neck rubs, pats on the fanny). Second, consider your needs in the area of emo- tional intimacy. Honestly, this is usually harder for guys than it is for women, but it is worth the effort, if both can be honest with themselves and with each other. Third, what are your sex needs? Are you a Cosmo bed devil that falls on a 9 or a 10? Or are you with the rest of us with needs closer to the middle. Problems arise when a 3 marries an 8 and they cannot resolve it. The anxiety over this will come out sideways in the relationship. Finally, where are you, as a couple with your lovemaking needs? I’ve got to tell you that it took me a long time to understand that this was not the same as sex. Maybe it is a guy thing, but a healthy discussion between partners may free both of you up to move the relationship for- ward in this area. What limits you from enjoying or participat- ing in these areas? Where do your ideas overlap? Where can you work on compromise? Perhaps most importantly, what is “regular” to ya’ll? Your relationship will benefit if you recognize that these areas are best defined by you both, not by Cosmopolitan. A gift to each other.

– Rev. Daniel Gowan