The following was syndicated from The Huffington Post as a part of The Daddy Diaries for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
It’s a truism that having a baby isn’t good for one’s sex life, at least in the short term. There are some truths to most stereotypes, but reality is more complicated than this tropes suggests. For example, while many couples do report having less sex the first few months after having a baby, most people assume that’s because they’re too exhausted.
There are many obvious reasons. Maybe the baby’s sleeping in your room, and when you finally have time alone with your beloved, neither of you thinks anything is more exciting than passing out. Simply putting your head on a pillow and shutting your eyes begins to seem like an erotic idea. Just thinking of it makes you smile.
But I’ve begun to wonder if that’s not the real issue. To answer the question of why we may have less sex after a baby arrives, first we have to look at what sex means. Obviously, there are differences between the genders on this issue. For starters, most men are basically savages. If we’re honest about the meaning of sex, for most guys it includes these things:
- Sex feels good. Yes, but that’s perhaps the least important element.
- It allows us to feel like we are emotionally closer to our partner. True, but sex is also a way we get closer to “owning,” “controlling” and “protecting” our female mate from other male competition. (See “men are savages,” above.)
- It also gives us the opportunity to brag to other male friends about our sexual conquests — peacock behavior that indicates we are driven as much by desire for male approval as female adoration; so much so that the latter becomes a means to attaining the former. (See “All men are kinda gay if you think about it.”)
Women reading this are probably thinking: That’s weird. None of that makes any sense. Because what sex means to women is more like this:
- Emotional warmth. More important than the sex itself, I want to be held, cuddled and loved in a way that makes me feel safe, celebrated, understood and adored. Sex makes me feel closer with my man and I give myself to him as a sign of my love and trust in him.
- (Okay, sometimes I also just get horny.)
The point is, each gender has different values they attach to sex. (Obviously this varies among individual men and women and I am wildly generalizing. Also I get most of my facts from comic books and daydreams.)
In any event, when a baby arrives, the newborn provides something special to both parents which, if this were a venn diagram, would overlap with different areas of what each gender tends to get from sex: a sense of boundary-less intimacy.
With a newborn, you spend a lot of time laying in bed, half-asleep cuddling with a tiny angel who smiles and laughs and makes you feel like the world has melted into cotton candy, time has stopped, and someone is playing a sitar in the background.
Various endorphins and a chemical called oxytocin start rushing through your brain. This happens both when you cuddle a baby and when you have sex. So from a neurobiological point of view, some of the dopamine rewards are similar. Basically your little coconut is awash in Cuervo Gold.
The problem with all this sex-less happiness is it turns men into Paul Rudd.
The problem with all this sex-less happiness is it turns men into Paul Rudd. We walk around grinning and wearing an apron. We find ourselves baking banana loaf, watching “Smilla’s Sense of Sorrow,” and knitting. We start listening.
This assumes for the moment you’re not Ben Affleck, and you don’t have a personal assistant who arranges for your wife, Jennifer Garner, to stay home with the kids so you can take the nanny to Vegas for a little cuddling.
And yet, for a brief shining moment, you have achieved happiness.
Happiness is a state in the human brain; everyone wants it but we don’t know how to get it. Even Ben Affleck doesn’t know how to get it. Exhibit A: the fact that he (like many other dads) is still chasing sex when he could be enjoying the same endorphin rush just by spending some quality time with his newborn. That way, the wife’s happy, the baby’s happy, you’re happy and nobody has to go to Vegas.
Fox News, however, is not happy. The call this radical shift of what masculinity means “the “pussification” of America.
I find this odd for 2 reasons: first, using the term “p—y” as a sign of weakness makes no sense.
A vagina is one of the most powerful and resilient things in the world — it can stretch large enough to give birth to a 10 pound baby. Whereas, we commonly use the word “balls” as a sign of strength. Try stretching your balls to 10 times their size and see how that works out.
The real question is: What’s wrong with pussification? If it means replacing confederate flags, guns and the NFL with gender-neutral bathrooms, Hillary Clinton, and facts, I say bring the whiskers. If being the kind of dad who doesn’t want his son to get brain damage playing high school sports is a sign of moral decay, then call me kitty.
We commonly use the word “balls” as a sign of strength. Try stretching your balls to 10 times their size and see how that works out.
Still, I can understand why the old guard is resistant to change. Less obvious is why they’re blaming female genitalia for this bewildering new world.
One of Donald Trump’s supporters recently tweeted, “In an age of pussified political correctness, you have to respect the people who remain unfiltered @realDonaldTrump.”
The tweeter is a young beardo and professional card player named Dan Bilzerian — who accompanied his insight with a photo of himself and Trump in the ultimate ballsy act of enjoying a fruit platter and some bottles of Fiji water.
Let’s set aside the fact that both the candidate and his supporter were born into unimaginable wealth and hate vaginas. Let’s do the manly thing and start pointing fingers.
I say, let he who is without sin cast the first kidney stone. When it comes to America’s slide down the fallopian tubes, the real culprit is babies.
Children are the ultimate gateway drug for pussified behavior. First of all, they make you purr. Second, they have you thinking cleaning out a litter box would be kind of nice. And last, those of us who once were truly manly men are now telling bedtime stories and cooing and cuddling with our babies. We’ve given up chasing tail for chasing rugrats. Instead of changing the oil on a bitchin’ Camaro, we’re changing the diapers and cooking organic farrow.
And the secret is out. We’ve never been happier.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.