"Darling, will you take a stroll with me to the store?" I ask Rodrigo. It's almost eleven o'clock, not late considering our hours, given we're both self-employed creatives, but certainly late enough that there is a slight chance he will try to dissuade me, somehow managing to convince me to put the column on hold until tomorrow and go to bed instead of sitting on the porch, in my usual ritual to the muse, which involves burning through at least twenty cigarettes with only the briefest pauses between them.
"I'll give you a blowjob," I add, a mischievous smile curling my lips.
Rodrigo immediately turns away from his screen and looks at me. It's not elation on his face, it's a thin veneer of confusion, an attempt to conceal slight offense. Almost immediately, his eyes shift to the article in my lap.
"Did you just read to do that somewhere?"
Yes, I did. Specifically, I read it on GQ's What She Said column. The piece's author, Kelly Oxford, suggests bringing the spark back into marriages and long-term relationships by initiating a game of trade-offs. "You are -- let's face it -- whoring, but with a safe, committed partner," Oxford writes. "In no time, you're trading tricks for trips to the dry cleaner. You're making dinner for the kids, and later that night, you're coming twice."
The truth is that I don't need cigarettes. After sitting with Oxford's piece for two hours and being completely unable to come up with a coherent explanation as to why I disliked it, I decided that test-driving it was giving the premise the fairer shake.
I explain this to Rodrigo, who, in no uncertain terms, states that he finds the suggestion of exchanging my sexuality for errands grossly degrading. It's degrading to him, he posits, as he'd prefer to think that I don't need a reason to go down on him. Further, it's grossly disrespectful to valuate my sexuality in terms of household tasks. In fact, he finds it distasteful to commodify sex in any way.
I depart with him there -- I don’t take issue with sex work. I know that sex work is largely illegal in this country, but I do not think it is inherently morally degrading to a human being to freely consent to exchange goods or services for a sexual act.
There is, however, a clear distinction in my mind between transactions and relationships.
Transactions involve an agreed-upon exchange. Each party works toward negotiating terms that they see as beneficial to them -- the main concern being not so much fairness to all parties as it is gain. Relationships, on the other hand, involve the creation of an organism, wherein the parties involved work toward a common goal. Fairness, in the maintenance of a healthy relationship, is paramount to ensure that all parties do what is needed to move the relationship toward its goals.
It would be irresponsible to deny that my perspective is largely informed by my involvement with the adult industry. I have seen the havoc unleashed on, say, a stripper whose regular suddenly fancies himself exempt from paying twenty dollars for a lap dance because he believes he has a relationship with the dancer. I have seen, too, the way the commodification of sexual acts can confuse an escort's lover. My visceral reaction is to erect a wall between the two. Work is work, and while relationships are "hard work," they're not labor.
But Oxford makes a case for this game of barter as a means to reignite the relationship, which almost brings it into the realm of role-play -- and I'm all about role-playing if that turns people on.
But the lack of clarity with a lover or spouse in regard to the purpose of this new bartering system that is being introduced, the lack of communication, allows my dissatisfaction with the idea to linger. This, I know, is a bias from my involvement in BDSM, where the terms of any fantasy or set-up are clearly described and agreed to before anything takes place.
It's a rigid worldview. One possibly out of keeping with your idea of what a sex columnist should aspire to be. But I am rigid. And I like rigid, clear-cut things. For this reason, I have selected a partner who shares my appreciation for rigidity, and it explains why Rodrigo expressed the opposite of elation when I offered him a blowjob in exchange for a late-night stroll.
It's entirely possible that if I picked up the phone and called a girlfriend, she may tell me that, as usual, I am overanalyzing, and that I should be happy if couples had found a way to not only re-ignite their passion, but do it in a way that enables them to get excited about totally mundane tasks. It’s entirely possible that if she suggested to her lover some form of sex in exchange for having him or her do the laundry that day, that said lover would take on the task excitedly, and lead both of them to feel all the more cherished and satisfied with their relationship.
It works for Kelly Oxford. She knows herself and her partner and she has found a way to make their marriage exciting again. That's no small thing -- it's a wonderful thing. But the key here is not that negotiating sex for chores can lead to a happier relationship. The key is that the business of creating a life together can take over the fun and pleasure of loving -- and that knowing yourself and your partner are critical in finding a way to invite fun and pleasure back into our lives.
For Rodrigo and me, this involves Wii boxing, trolling each other IRL, wrestling, pillow fighting, making infographics to illustrate bizarre theories, and tracking mountain lions in the wilderness.
To each her own. What do you think about Kelly Oxford’s quid pro quo fellatio?
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.
More from love