Our love, sex and dating columnist Rosie Green on creating a new sex script.
Do you have a sex script? It turns out that until recently I very much did – I just didn’t know it.
Allow me to elaborate: a sex script, I have learnt on my midlife voyage of self-discovery, describes the progression your sexual interactions usually follow: when and where sex starts, who initiates it, where you kiss, how you kiss, what you touch, how you undress, what you say, what you do, where you end up, how it ends.
Basically, it is the standard protocol for your mating ritual. And if you are in a long-term relationship, as I was for 26 years, it inevitably starts to fall into some kind of routine. Or, to use a less flattering word for it, a rut.
Sure, little details like the location or the initiator may change, but mostly it follows the same pattern. Of course, some couples change it up each time (I’m looking at you, Sting and Trudie). Maybe you are 20 years into a marriage and constantly seeking new erogenous zones and still trying out fresh things. In which case, bravo to you.
But a confession: in my marriage I didn’t veer too far from the usual.
That wasn’t altogether a bad thing because in some ways a sex script is useful. There are no surprises, thus reducing the scope for anxiety or embarrassment. I mean, who isn’t wary of trying something new and their partner raising an eyebrow, stifling a giggle, or looking horrified? Or worse, assuming you are having an affair with someone with more confidence.
Plus, if you stick to a tried and tested formula you can usually ensure all your buttons are pressed, which guarantees, er… results. Over time you suss what works for you physically, what lights you up like the Empire State Building and what just blows your fuses. You develop a sexual shorthand with your partner – no communication needed.
Which is what my buttoned-up married self loved about our script: push here, stroke there and… bingo!
A choreographed dance that ends the same pretty much every time.
The way I saw it was, if I have the same thing from the menu that I had yesterday I know I am going to like it, whereas if I gamble on the dish of the day it could go either way.
This approach worked for me: it was a manual my ex and I co-wrote at the age of 18 and never really updated. For which I entirely take responsibility because, if anything, over the years I closed down rather than opened up, so things stayed the same. Which is bad news for your sexual spark, knowing as I do now that desire thrives on novelty.
In my previous life, were I to have had a performance review, I’m sure it would’ve said: ‘Rosie is fairly conscientious, but wary of change.’
But when I talk to friends, I feel less guilty about my own lack of adventurousness. One told her husband ‘no tongues’ five years into their marriage, another invited (read: tolerated) sex on a Friday night only. She had an actual diary reminder, as though it was a medicine that had to be taken. This is only one step away from having set meals on rotation: Monday = shepherd’s pie with a side order of despair-coated disillusionment.
Then there were the school mums with rules about timings (only at bedtime) or diktats about hygiene (pre-sex shower mandatory).
Much as there are some plus points to having a sexual script, the truth is routine can be stifling. And boring. But how do you rewrite your script without feeling mortified? I know only too well that it’s far easier to have sex than to talk about it. It seems quite perverse, but true, that the longer you’ve been with someone the less able you are to be candid.
A great thing about divorce and meeting a new person is that you are forced out of your comfort zone. Their sex script is entirely new to you. You can’t do the same thing you’ve always done, which is in equal parts liberating and terrifying.
Your new partner doesn’t know your moves, so you can introduce different ones. And they will never know that you are just copying something you saw on Bridgerton.
Sleeping with someone new is pretty scary anyway, so you might as well go all in. And this time around I’m more confident – more open, more comfortable and, dare I say it, more appreciative. Waiter! I’ll have the special…