The day last week that I read that most married Americans are having less sex than ever was the same day that I rode a bus to Hartford to protest the proposed state budget that attempted to cut municipal aid to New Haven by about $2 million. At first I thought this was just one of those weird coincidences that is bound to occur if you read multiple publications in a given day. But after a few hours at the Capitol, I realized that far from being a coincidence, the sexless marriage phenomenon is in fact probably a direct product of the failure of the American left.
The past five years have witnessed a literary flowering around the marital sex drought. First, there was Judith Reichman’s “I’m Not in the Mood” in 1998. Next came Cristina Ferrare’s “Okay, So I Don’t Have a Headache” in 2000, followed by a rapid explosion of scholarship exploring sexless matrimony in just the past six months — David Schnarch’s “Resurrecting Sex” in August, Cathi Hanauer’s “The Bitch is in the House” in September, Michele Weiner Davis’s “The Sex-Starved Marriage: A Couple’s Guide to Boosting their Marriage Libido” in December, and Barry and Emily McCarthy’s “Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Guide Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages,” released just one month ago. This was Barry and Emily’s seventh joint book on the sexless marriage.
You know what most of these books say? That Americans are tired — too tired, in fact, to do anything fun, including have sex. A comprehensive study by the National Sleep Foundation titled “Less Fun, Less Sleep, More Work: An American Portrait,” confirms this, revealing that 63 percent of American adults are sleep-deprived. One-third of American adults were sleeping less than they were five years ago and over half were having significantly less sex then they were five years ago. The study also found that over one-third of adults surveyed were working over 50 hours a week and that sleep and sex deprivation correlated closely to hours worked.
Here in Connecticut, middle- and working-class Americans are working more, getting paid less, and struggling to pay for child care, health care and higher education. During the 1990s, the real income gain for middle income Connecticut families was one-fifth the national average ($1,019 in Connecticut, compared to $4,935 nationally). Families in this middle income group fared worse in Connecticut than in 44 other states.
Half of all bankruptcies in the state are caused by medical bills that families cannot pay and health care costs are expected to rise another 12 percent this year. A family of four in the state earning the state’s median income pays about 25 to 30 percent of its income in child care since mediocre quality care for preschoolers averages about $10,000 a child. College tuition costs have skyrocketed over the past ten years as well, rising 40 percent nationwide and 7.7 percent in 2001 alone, making it harder for even two-income families to afford to finance their children’s public higher education.
These are issues that middle and working class Connecticut residents have confronted for the past decade without the Republicans, Democrats or Greens effectively addressing them. In Connecticut, people have gotten more tired and more stressed for basic economic reasons that have been left unresolved. Is it any wonder they are having less sex?
The proposed budget we rode to Hartford to protest didn’t really address most of these problems except to make some of them worse. The budget proposed by the Republican governor and the sellout Democratic leadership cut higher education funding to families already struggling to pay for college. The proposed budget also slashed aid to cities and towns by almost $40 million, creating a huge tax burden that would inevitably fall on middle-income homeowners living in cash-strapped cities and large towns. Small, rich towns like Greenwich were scheduled to receive up to $11 million in increased aid. The proposed budget imposed 6 percent sales taxes on newspapers and magazines, in addition to increasing taxes on people earning as little as $53,125 when the median income is $75,505. The state’s wealthy corporations — whose tax breaks over the past seven years have resulted in a $2 billion dollar revenue loss — remained untouched.
But we didn’t protest any of these things. The Democrat and Green Party activists outside protested potential cuts to state welfare programs and LEAP, a nationally acclaimed statewide after-school program for low-income youth that was de-funded by over $1 million. The Republicans were inside pimping for wealthy corporations and millionaires. And the Greens and Democrats outside protesting cuts affecting the most marginalized people. But who was pimping for the tired, sexless middle and working class?
Some of the Democrats inside were sellouts. But fortunately, a coalition of progressive Democrats held strong and stopped the passage of that budget last week and are currently working toward a more pro-people, pro-community budget. I bet it will still neglect many of the issues that most affect most Connecticut families because much work remains to be done before middle and working class Americans have a political party that actually represents their interests.
But today, we should join these good Democrats and help push along their progressive agenda. As we are seduced or prepare to be seduced or fantasize about seduction this Valentine’s Day, we should contemplate how we can improve the sex-lives of millions of Americans — by helping build a radical Democratic Party that embraces the needs of middle and working class Americans leaving them less tired, more joyful and able to have sex.
Shonu Gandhi is a senior in Saybrook College.