By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
Grits4Ever, a forty-something Southern wife and mother whod prefer to go by her anonymous online handle, doesnt have sex with her husband anymore. Instead, he locks himself in another room and looks at pornography online, she says sometimes for 10-to-12 hours a day during a conference call shes requested so that I cant identify her home phone number. Though hes loving and touchy-feely in public, all his affections at home go toward his habit for porn, a word Grits4Ever can barely bring herself to say. I used to feel ashamed, she admits, like I was the only one out there with a problem, like it was my fault. That is, until she found the Experience Project, a web site where thousands of others were also sharing their sexless-marriage stories.
The Experience Project features over 1.7 million testimonials about everything from battling depression to losing weight to loving pomegranatesbut Grits4Ever belongs to one of the sites most popular groups, "I Live in a Sexless Marriage." Woes from the forum's other 3,238 members run the gamutmen whose wives have lost interest after having kids, women who fear their husbands might be gay, men whose wives are marred by childhood trauma. Grits4Evers first post on the subject went up under the headline: Husband Says We Would Have More Sex If I Did it More Like a Whore. To which, other Experience Project users wrote things like, I think he's a selfish bastard, and I am a man trapped in one of these sexless marriages. If my lover wanted to have sex with me a lot, I would do ANYTHING to make her happy and want me more, instead of telling her she's not enough of a whore.
Obviously, the internet offers some big advantages to people looking for an outlet to vent, namely complete anonymity. The Experience Project also gives its users the empathetic ear of the collective. The biggest thing for me is I can get all this junk out of me, because I really didnt have anyone I could sit down and talk to, says Grits4Ever, who claims her last three months on the site have been more useful than years of counseling. I started reading those others stories and I thought, My gosh, it sounds like these people live in my home! And she isnt alonenot in her sexless marriage, anyways. According to a recent Newsweek poll, 15-20% of American couples have sex less than ten times each year. What amazed me was the number of women who had this problem with their husbands, she says. I thought this was something men had to deal with their wives. So many of the people on here, they dont want to end their marriages. They love their spouses. But they dont know how to deal with the issue.
Thats where Armen Berjikly comes in. The founder and CEO of the Experience Project, Berjikly started his site after searching for patient testimonials to help a friend of his diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That taught him the power of sharing stories online, especially those related to health and relationships. Now, the typical Experience Project user is a 28-year-old female with kids who shares twenty-odd tales about gripes and hobbies. With the Sexless Marriage group, I really feel youre hitting upon the strength of the site, explains Berjikly over the phone from his office in downtown San Francisco. If youre in a sexless marriage, youre not going to be posting about it on MySpace and Facebook. These people have been dealing with this for years. They need an opportunity to talk. Berjikly also pushes the gender angle. Someone can come in and get comments from people of the opposite sex without biases like jealousy and gossip that would be built in if you did that in the real world. Unlike the rest of the site, which is dominated by women, I Live in a Sexless Marriage has just as many male as female members.
Though Berjikly emphasizes the progress his users make (Its not just people lamenting Woe is me. Youll see people posting again and again, We did therapy or Ive been more sensitive to what my husbands been saying and now were doing better), he also emphasizes the Experience Project is not a professional advice site. Thats where it differs from confessional competitors like ReallyWorried.com, where fellow internet-goers provide direction for members in tough spots. No one on the site is allowed to say, My psychological training says . . . Berjikly explains. He wants the Experience Project to be a positive place, as in Oprah, not Jerry Springer.
Determined to stick it out, Grits4Ever may not have a perfect marriage anytime soon, she admits, but at least shes found some company in her misery. I think Ive read every self-help book on the market Having an outlet where people dont realize who I am or who my husband is, where I can talk, thats something unique.
Previously in Click Me: "Sarah Palin Erotica."
Click Me runs weekly on villagevoice.com. Got a question about cybersex? Write to your friendly cyberhood sexpert Bonnie Ruberg to ask advice or to share stories about sex and the internet: bonnie [at] heroine-sheik [dot] com.