Forget kinky sex, “vanilla” is a perfectly fine way to…
As far as I can tell, the term “vanilla sex” was coined to denote sex that does not involve toys, props, costumes, third parties, bondage, domination or other forms of role-playing, and that takes place in bed rather than, say, a dungeon. And the phrase is not intended as favourable. Just two naked people having sex in bed? Yawn! Boring! Vanilla! But I would like to co-opt and reclaim vanilla sex, turn it around and make it positive, not pejorative.
Who’s to blame for the vanilla sex shame?
I blame Sting, for one. He helped popularize the notion that length of time matters, and more is better. He became famous for his tantric sex practices after a journalist claimed to have overheard him boasting to friend Bob Geldof that sex sessions with his wife, Trudie Styler, lasted six hours. I also blame Madonna for bringing BDSM (bondage, dominance and sado-masochism) chic into the mainstream with her 1992 book, Sex, which featured the singer in various naughty role-playing poses, and sold like hotcakes.
And I blame Hollywood movies like The Notebook for promulgating the notion that sex is sexier if: It’s outdoors, especially if it’s raining; you don’t know the other person very well; someone is either laughing or screaming or someone rubs an ice cube all over you. (Are you wondering if your sex life is normal?)
What exactly is vanilla sex?
I’ve been happily married for 12 years—sex gets better the more you know someone, because you can relax and be yourself. It takes place in a bed, where you are both warm and dry and can pull the covers over you or toss them off as circumstances require. It does not involve any items from the refrigerator or, even worse, the freezer.
Why vanilla sex may be your best sex
A recent survey of Canadian and American sex therapists, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, concluded that an “adequate” to “desirable” amount of time for sex, not including foreplay, is between three and 13 minutes. Anything over 10 minutes starts to get too long, they said. I don’t want to give away too much about my own circumstances, but I was interested to note that the therapists said three minutes is perfectly satisfactory for both parties. Long live the quickie! (This is exactly how many calories you burn during sex.)
The study didn’t say anything about what type of sex works best in this three – to 13-minute window, but several experts I spoke with have found that for many couples, vanilla is the longest-lasting variety. “There’s a big difference between vanilla sex and mediocre sex,” says Ottawa sex therapist Sue McGarvie, who believes sex is the glue of marriage. “Vanilla can be spectacular if it’s intimate and emotional.”
David McKenzie, a Vancouver-based clinical sex therapist, agrees that an emotional, mental or spiritual connection is crucial for female sexuality, saying he’s never counselled a woman yet who wants sex when she’s angry with her partner. People laugh when I say that one thing I don’t miss about being a bachelor is the sex. But it’s true. All the histrionics, having to shake the rafters and being disappointed if the earth doesn’t move.
Now that I’m married, sex has assumed its proper place in my life. It generally happens at a preordained time. Sometimes circumstances prevent it; other times there’s a bonus. It’s pretty basic, stripped of all its bells and whistles. Afterwards, one of us might casually say, “That was fun.” Then we roll over and fall into a delicious sleep. Or we might get up and go about the rest of our business, of which—with three boys and two careers — there’s plenty. (If your libido needs a little boost, these foods are your go-to.)
But that doesn’t detract from its sexiness, or its beauty. Rocky Road? Nutty Cheesecake? Tutti Frutti? No thank you! For my money, plain old vanilla is the best flavour of them all.