In Sex/Life showing on Netflix, Billie was obsessed with her ex-boyfriend.
She had a great family, a husband who loved her to bits, two beautiful children, a home a lot of people could only wish for – everything a married woman can ever want. But there was something wrong: her mind was fixated on memories of her previous life, and she was haunted by flashes of the kind of life she once had. She couldn’t stop thinking about Brad; he crept into her every thought and stuck to her mind like a blood-sucking pest. These memories also began to intercept with her present life and affect her relationship with her husband.
What could be so wrong? Sex.
Sex was the 15% that did not make her marriage 100%. But it was a serpentine and persistent 15%. It grabbed her heart at every turn. It made her husband’s touch cringe-worthy. It made her mind fuzzy and her eyes teary. It made her question every decision she ever made. It took ownership of her thoughts and ‘forced’ her fingers to write.
When Cooper read her journal, he changed. I watched Cooper try to follow Brad’s playbook and transition into who he wasn’t. First, he bought Billie a hot dinner dress, then had sex with her in a pool, then he tried to do the Coital Alignment Technique Billie had written about in her journal. After a while, he gave up and accepted that maybe, just maybe, Brad was better, sexually.
Cooper moved from the man who had a perfect family – just as he planned – to someone who became unsure, extremely insecure and miserable. It seemed there was nothing he could do to make her sexually satisfied; she has tasted a ‘better’ dick, she has had all those wild adventures with Brad that he couldn’t give her. He was suddenly inadequate. Beyond that, it was glaring that there was a special bond between Brad and Billie – like they were made for each other, like they were soulmates and he was the one who stood in their way. He was almost a stranger in this love triangle.
Cooper deserved better and I pitied him. But what do you do when your partner isn’t just enough, sexually? Do you pretend all is well and go about your daily duties? Do you hold on to all the good aspects of your partner and tell yourself that it makes up for wherever he/she is lacking? Do you suffer in silence, and for how long? Or do you snap out of your fantasies of how things should be rather than how they are presently?
As Billie fantasised about being with Brad, feeling his tongue between her thighs and getting wet on thoughts, I screamed multiple times, “snap out of it!” But how? The rush, the thrill, the feeling of being desired, and the sexual freedom was something Cooper couldn’t give her, yet it was what made her Billie – it was what made her whole. Like that tiny bit of a puzzle.
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In marriages, sex is perhaps the biggest factor that bonds couples emotionally, and even physically. Still, in this part of the world, sexual dissatisfaction, as a married woman, is something you do not talk about so brazenly. How do you say your husband can ‘do’ but your ass is never satiated without sounding like a whore? How do you say you have a happy home and family, but your ex is still occupying your thoughts?
Still, if we cannot have honest conversation about sex, how do we find the solution to this problem that so plagues many women? In this part of the world, the answer is simple: as a woman, keep your sexual displeasure to yourself. If Billie’s shrink were a Nigerian, he’d have probably told her to “control her urges,” face her husband, and not mess up her happy home. But telling her to control her urges isn’t practical advice, because being in that “happy home,” for her, was bondage; her husband’s every touch was a constant reminder of what she once had, what she could have – if she wanted to, and what was missing in her marriage.
In What’s the Big Deal About Flicking the Bean?, sexually dissatisfied women found a way around it. They masturbated. Tade had come to accept that she will never get sexual pleasures from her husband, so she trained her fingers to do the job. Azanat does not get sexual pleasures from her husband and she cannot masturbate because of her religious beliefs, she has come to terms with the fact that she will never be sexually satisfied, and she lives with that. Billie could not, so she did what she thought was best: she went back to Brad to get the mind-blowing sex she’d been fantasising and writing about, while telling him she had no intention of leaving her husband.
Sex is important. And every human should experience sexual satisfaction. Still, Billie owed it to her husband to figure out her sexual identity, and make up her mind about what/who she wanted. He shouldn’t be dragged into her misery, or have to suffer for her inability to draw the line between her and Brad, and stay happy in a family that gave her (almost) everything.
If the 15% was giving her sleepless nights and she couldn’t live without it, then she should leave the 85% and go for it. But to hold on to her husband and then want Brad to f**k her? Nah, that’s selfish. Cooper deserved better.
In this world we live in, you cannot have it all at the same time. Billie may soon learn that.