Introducing our must-read new sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie).
‘Mystery!’ my friend H would shriek in horror whenever I revealed that I had exposed my moustache bleach-wearing/emergency glasses-sporting/comfy pants-parading self in front of my partner. H’s argument is that such things extinguish desire faster than Katie Price gets through fiancés.
A survey would seem to back her up. It found that men’s third biggest turn-off was Bridget Jones underwear – with more than half of them (52 per cent) saying they had been put off by big knickers or underwear that is old. (Numbers one and two were insisting on having the lights off and being motionless during sex.)
Where do you stand on this? When I was married I was always about openness but I’ve reassessed my position; I have started to see the benefits of keeping some things private. This is my chance to start over and keep standards high: sexy underwear, shaved legs… Bodily functions firmly out of sight (and sound) because there’s nothing sexy about them and in a new relationship you want to present the best version of you.
A previous boyfriend told me he had spent the six months we were seeing each other leaving the room whenever he needed to burp. And, well, I appreciated that.
My friend N says she and her partner are all about Classic FM in the loo. When I asked her to expand she said the radio (positioned in the bathroom for such purposes) is tuned to the aforementioned station to mask any sounds and an air freshener is deployed to destroy any olfactory evidence.
But how far is too far? When does it go from being polite and considerate to presenting a false façade? I mean, sex is messy, funny and unpredictable. Fact. So it seems a bit strange that you might be willing to bare all (literally) in the most intimate of ways, but you don’t want your partner to see your body without a layer of fake tan and a Brazilian wax.
Is it not a trap (for you and them) presenting yourself as hairless, honed, toned perfection? I’ve always admired the chutzpah of a friend who, on her third sleepover with a new boyfriend, pulled on her flannelette PJs, put on her reading glasses and started a boxset on her iPad. ‘This is me,’ she said, ‘so if it’s a problem you better say.’ They’re now very happily married with kids, in case you were wondering. The truth is in a sexual relationship, awkward things will happen. You’ll clunk teeth while kissing. You will have morning breath. You may make, er, some unwanted noises.
Another friend told me she was sleeping, spooning naked with her relatively new boyfriend, when she woke having accidentally broken wind on his leg, the startlingly loud sound reverberating off his thigh. She lay awake monitoring his breathing to see if he had woken. He didn’t change rhythm. She was thankful. A week later he said, ‘You farted on my leg.’
Bodily functions happen to all of us, so isn’t it about shrugging off these moments rather than being mortified by them?
When Emily Nagoski, sexual wellbeing expert and author of Come As You Are, talks about desire in Natasha Lunn’s brilliant book Conversations on Love (to be published in July), she says: ‘The simple way to think about it is that if you are in a sexy state of mind and your partner tickles you, it could feel good and lead to other things. But if that same person tickles you when you are annoyed with them, you might want to punch them in the face. It’s the same sensation with the same partner, but your brain interprets it differently because the context is different.’
Hmm… so if they have just trimmed their toenails and put the clippings in their empty coffee mug* and this disgusts you, then you are less likely to feel sexy? That makes sense.
Psychologist, author and podcaster Fiona Murden agrees that it’s all about context, and says how much mystery you choose to retain and its impact on your and their desire is not black and white. ‘Just as you wouldn’t go to dinner in your tracksuit bottoms, you probably shouldn’t fart in bed if you are wanting to have sex. You are more likely to initiate sex if you’ve done your hair and shaved your legs. And to your partner it shows you care. But, crucially, you don’t want to do anything out of desperation – you’ve got to be comfortable in your own skin.’
Because that is the sexiest thing of all.
*This actually happened