Saturday, August 6, 2011

Contractual Obligation

My post “Just Sex” opened a potential can of worms, so I’d like to go a little deeper into the relationship between the sexes, and the role of sexual responsibility in solidifying marriage. Anonymous commented that “I agree that if the relationship is working outside of the bedroom, a truncated period of foreplay shouldn't cause offense. That, however, is a big ‘if’. Unfortunately there aren't many marriages that I have seen where affection outside of the bedroom (or inside for that matter) is a priority for the husband.”

Okay, there are a couple of issues at play here. The first is the issue of male responsibility. Men do have a responsibility to provide their wives with affection both in and outside of the bedroom, and, as John Paul II pointed out to the scandal of the prude brigade, they also have a responsibility for making sure that their wives achieve orgasm. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that the latter responsibility will be fulfilled every single time a couple makes love – there are points in a woman’s hormonal life when bringing her to sexual climax could be numbered with the labours of Hercules – but the woman’s satisfaction should be a priority for the husband.
The irony is, I think it actually is a priority for a lot of men, but they just don’t know how to go about it. Having sex when your partner is disinterested, reluctant, unresponsive and unenthusiastic is humiliating. There’s a reason why all of those spam messages offering men the opportunity to have their woman “moaning for more” actually work to sell erection pills. It’s important to a guy’s self-esteem to feel that he’s actually a good lover – that’s why some women resort to faking orgasm if they’re not able to achieve the real thing. The point is, in those marriages where the woman is totally unsatisfied and feels that it’s the result of her husband’s sexual selfishness, the man is also profoundly frustrated, but he usually keeps quiet about it.
The lack of affection, and sometimes open hostility, outside of the bedroom are a response to this mutually frustrating situation. At this point, the woman will often start making excuses to have sex infrequently (too tired, slight headache, in-laws visiting, kids going to wake up soon, too much work...) which exacerbates the problem. A man who’s been waiting with increasing frustration to be able to make love to his wife is not going to be able to pull off a long, satisfying encounter. When the sex finally happens it ends up being quick and desperate: the wife goes away unsatisfied, and the husband goes away humiliated, and the whole cycle starts up again.
Here we arrive at issue number two, which is women’s tendency to resort to passive-aggressive strategies to get what we want. Let’s be honest here, most of us when faced with sexual frustration don’t sit out husbands down and explain the situation in clear, simple, honest language that a man will be able to understand. We feel like if he really cared about us, he’d know what to do. He’d read the little signs, and he’d take the time to pamper, and caress, and make us feel desirable. So when he doesn’t, we shut him out emotionally. We come to bed the way a martyr goes to the rack, we send out little barbed messages throughout the day, and we make sure that he knows that he’s in the doghouse. Ultimately, we may resort to the Lysistrata stratagem, and go on a sexual strike until we get the affection that we want.

Problem is, you can’t make someone affectionate by twisting his arm. If the husband is thinking, “Fine, I’ll rub her shoulders, and give her kisses, and snuggle up to her on the couch, because otherwise the &*$@! is never going to put out,” any woman with any emotional sensitivity will notice. The affection will feel like a demand for sex, because that’s what it is. It couldn’t possibly be anything else: the decision to withhold sex until hubby is appropriately sensitive situates the entire conflict within the realm of contractual, as opposed to covenential, exchange. If a woman says, either explicitly or implicitly, “You give me affection, and I’ll give you sex,” the affection becomes a form of payment for sex – and any form of payment is always a form of demand for the thing that is being paid for.

All right, this post is becoming book length, so I’ll leave it there for now, with a solid description of the problem, and I’ll take a stab at the solution next time.


  1. Thanks for the article . I think my boyfriend would agree with this because he cares more about pleasing me than any other guy I've known .

  2. Thank you for continuing to address this topic.

    Yes, you have laid out the catch-22 of the problem---woman needs affection to warm up to man, woman asks for affection (perhaps passive- aggressively, but also directly, or in counselling) and affection looses it's authenticity. Sex becomes a bartering tool. But if woman just gives sex indiscriminately, and even passionately, without addressing her needs (man insists that will bring them closer and affection will follow) then eventually she feels "used" and has to go through the motions with man without her heart in it because her heart is broken. Man gets what he wants and the "affection" conversation is put on the shelf until he is dragged into counselling again.

    Apparently affection was a marketing tool used during the courtship phase which the man no longer sees as necessary. This also seems to be a generational problem where little boys grow up without seeing Dads show affection to Mom and learn from tv/movies that affection is only used to "bag the babe". Once you've closed the deal it's not necessary any more and you find yourselves singing the "But Do You Love Me" song from Fiddler on the Roof---I clean your socks etc..if that's not love what is? Rather uninspiring and not what JPII had in mind.

    I can't wait to hear your solution! :D

  3. I found your post from a Bing search on "wife sex reluctant unresponsive". My wife has been turning me down lately, but since she read some of "Sheet Music" she's tried to be more available to me. However, it's still not going great - she'll still say things like "you're not making a move on me, are you?". This morning, after a hostile exchange yesterday, she did not make any response to my advances. I had to ask her if things felt good, and at one point when I said she didn't seem to enjoy something she said "No, I'm still mad at you.". I lost my erection shortly thereafter.

    I'm rather encouraged to see you addressed this head on. It may be tough to show her this article, but it's a point to work from.

  4. In your article you wrote: “You give me affection, and I’ll give you sex,” the affection becomes a form of payment for sex.

    The problem for men is one of simplicity versus complexity. For men, making love is an act of expressing love in itself, with few external or additional factors involved; for men the relationship and long-term love he feels for his wife are the important things. Yet for women, it seems that the circumstances and short-term factors are most important.
    When women hedge around the subject of sex with a host of other factors that have to be right, men start to learn that for his wife, making love is part of a contractual arrangement in which if she feels adequately 'paid' then she will feel adequately 'in the mood'. She has, in effect, turned her love life into a transaction, which in effect makes it into prostitution.
    When a woman over-complicates sex, she makes it more difficult for her husband to 'get it right', increasing his performance anxiety WAY beyond 'how am I doing at giving her pleasure' to 'how am I doing as a man, a husband, a provider, a partner, a friend, and as a member of society'. She makes him feel that unless he gets all these things right, she won't let him show her how much he loves her, finds her attractive and wants to be intimate with her.
    When a woman begins to see sex as an 'obligation', she is making it a transactional thing in her own mind: something she feels she is expected to pay. And because she doesn't feel like paying it, presumably she feels that her husband hasn't done enough to earn it. (And neither partner should ever use such language as 'makes herself available', as this turns it into a 'for him only' pleasure - deeply insulting to a wife).
    If only she would see it as something positive to build up the relationship, the start of good times rather than the result of good times, then perhaps she would believe that instead of sex being 'payment' for the past, it would be 'investment' in the future. Then it wouldn't matter whether everything has been perfect in the past - because for certain it won't have been - but it can be saying "I love you anyway".
    Because when a wife lovingly and willingly and enthusiastically makes love with her man, she is saying: "I love you and I want you to be happy, and I'm feeling loved because I know you find me attractive and joyful to be with".


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