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Love etc

Not tonight, dear, I’ve gone off you

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The pandemic has had a disastrous effect on female libidos, as women tend to want less sex the more time they spend with their partner, writes Helen Rumbelow in The Times. A poll of 600 young British adults suggests women experienced “significant reductions” in desire during lockdown. Men’s libidos, however, remained resilient – even when they were “able to identify the stains on [their] partner’s fleece by name, birth order and substance”. This adds to mounting evidence that “women crave sexual variety”, while men are content with one long-term partner.

A British study in 2017 found that “women are twice as likely as men to lose desire in long-term relationships”. This weakens the long-held belief that “monogamy is harder for men than for women”. In fact, the opposite may be the case. According to recent evolutionary theory, “early human females, while pair-bonded, were frequently unfaithful in ways that maximised their offspring’s genetic advantage”.

Take a chance on romance novels

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Literary snobs sniff at romance novels, but I’m addicted to them, says Alexis Reliford in Refinery29. They’ve left the “bodice ripper” clichés behind and are about much more than just sex. “There are high-stakes plots, beautiful portrayals of female friendships, and characters taking agency over their own lives, careers and sexuality.” Yes, there’s also sex – “lots of it”. And yes, “some of it involves bodices – but not all of it”.

In fact, romance novels are so good, I might abandon real-life romance altogether, says Reliford. After all, men on paper are better than men in practice. My romantic hero is “always supportive. He’s a good listener. He’s loyal.” Why bother with boyfriends when you can have a “paperback partner”?

Philip Roth’s brief encounters

Playboy Bunny Alice Denham

Philip Roth had “a very highly developed sexual instinct”, says Blake Bailey in his new biography of the writer. Playboy Bunny Alice Denham called him a “sex fiend” in her memoir, Sleeping with Bad Boys. “He moved from tits to – aaah! – so fast I was breathless.”

But not all of Roth’s romantic encounters were so successful. After his first divorce, he went on a date with Jackie Kennedy. “They got along nicely,” says Bailey, “they went back to her apartment, they kissed.” Jackie wanted a second date and gave him her number, but Roth never called. “He was a guy who’d been cleaned out by his first wife. He owned two suits and one pair of black shoes. He had no business being with Jackie Kennedy.”