I don’t know when I first stumbled across Dr Emily Nagoski’s post on Lemonade Sex. I think I began reading her blog after I read her book. I’ve continued to read and references her work since then.
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Emily, she’s an expert on sex whom I greatly respect. Teaching and speaking about sex are her day job and, I suspect, her passion. Among her work is a relationship guide, and her post on lemonade sex starts with the following sentiment:
I spend a chunk of time talking about coping in my relationship guide because it turns out that effectively coping with stress is quite possibly the most important thing you can do to improve your sex life.
I believe you, doc.
Dr. Nagoski goes on to explain how stress can kill one person’s libido or raise another’s. And it wreaks havoc on your relationships. This is where coping comes into play. Coping is all about taking the hand you’ve been dealt and making the most of it or, you know, making lemonade out of sour lemons.
The good doctor recommends having sex with your partner even when you’re too stressed to really want it. It doesn’t need to be amazing but maybe could be. And you don’t do it because you’re expected or you feel obligated to do it for your partner. Lemonade sex isn’t about how sex is good for you.
Lemonade sex paints having sex like flexing a muscle to keep it strong or maintaining something even though you’re not actively using it. Emily compares it to eating vegetables, something that people rarely like but that they do because it’s good for them — just like lemonade sex.
And the analogy to veggies works for me because eating them isn’t amazing, but the energy is. I’ll periodically ingest something with tomatoes (okay, technically a fruit) or spinach that’s so tasty that I feel legitimately excited over something that’s good for me.
I’ve been there with sex, too. The slumps with my ex-husband were never more than a few weeks and less so related to a lack of desire and more due to a lack of habit. It’s easier to fall out of the habit of something, even sex and even if you’re a pretty sexual person, than we always realize.
So I’d throw my ex a bone, and sometimes he would me. I found that this bone, or lemonade sex, worked in exactly the way that Dr. Emily predicted. Where my body went, my head followed, even though it hadn’t been in the game just a few moments before (she describe this as responsive desire). A similar thing happens when I watch someone I’m in a relationship with masturbate. I think I’m only an audience member but find myself drawn to willing participation in short order.
The concept of lemonade sex is one that’s controversial, and Emily admits this in her blog post. No one is suggesting anything that’s nonconsensual. It’s important that if you have lemonade sex, you do it for you, because it’s beneficial for yourself, and not your partner. I think that’s the emphasis that Emily is trying to make toward the end of her post.
That’s also what’s stuck with me since I originally read this post. The kneejerk reaction might be to view lemonade sex as something that’s negative and potentially blurs the lines of consent, but I certainly think that it’s useful to consider whether throwing someone else a bone is really throwing yourself a bone in the long run.
Check out Dr. Emily’s post about lemonade sex on the Dirty Normal, and stay for her other insights into sex.