Q. My husband is an affectionate man but only interested in sex if I dress up in lingerie and heels. I was a confident woman, but this is taking a toll on my self-esteem. He says he can't help it—he's visually stimulated. Any advice? —Joy in Utah
A. Better you in the lingerie and heels than him, right? I'm kidding...sort of. There are many things a man who is "visually stimulated" could request, and lingerie and heels might be the least offensive. He's not asking you to put on a wig and answer to "Bunny." He doesn't need you to dress like a dominatrix and say he's been naughty. A brief glance at Wikipedia's "list of paraphilias" (which includes, among other disturbing notions, being sexually aroused by insects crawling on parts of the body, or by the idea of crying or making someone cry) will have you thrilled that your husband's big sexual secret is Victoria's Secret.
In fact, there's almost no need for advice columns with that list around. Every woman should simply print it and refer to it after a bad date, a fight with a boyfriend, any seemingly insurmountable problem—as a reminder that at least she's not saddled with a somnophile (someone who can only enjoy sex when his/her partner is unconscious or asleep—which sounds to me like necrophilia for beginners).
And then we have Joy's husband. The man wants his sexy wife in some sexy clothes. Is that too much to ask?
I've slept on both sides of this bed. I'm working at home these days, and unlike Carrie Bradshaw, who wrote her column in the most gorgeous outfits on earth, I write this column mainly in sweats or pajamas. When my husband comes home from his job (one that requires him to wear a suit and leave the house), I'm amazed and flattered that he finds me attractive as is, but if we're going to mess around, I'm the one who would like to slip into something less comfortable.
I spend all day looking like crap. I want our time in the bedroom to be a little sexier. Therefore, it's I who might light a candle, put on music, and slip into lingerie, but as I'm doing it, I'm thinking, "I don't want to be someone who has to light a candle, put on music, and slip into lingerie! Where's the spontaneity in that?!"
So I could argue this either way. I could say that beautiful lingerie and heels not only make you look hot, they make you feel hot. But I could also posit that it's nice to feel you don't have to suit up for sex, especially since doing so limits when and where you can partake.
"It can be limiting, but it has positive potential, too," says Rachel Venning, co-founder of the female-friendly sex shop Babeland. "Married couples who are freighted with domestic concerns from dishes to daycare need not just time but the psychic space for sex." By dressing up in lingerie, Joy is able to mark the space, which might be what her husband needs. So instead of feeling less confident because he doesn't desire her in sweats (hopefully he still makes her feel loved in sweats, which is more important), Rachel advises Joy to work with his limitations and celebrate her power to turn him on.
Maybe separating your daily life from your sex life is not such a bad thing. It's certainly not as bad as dating a plushophile—a person who is sexually attracted to stuffed animals or people dressed in animal costumes.
Cindy Chupack is the author of The Between Boyfriends Book (St. Martin's Griffin).