Differing Sex Drives = Domestic Violence (Except That It Doesn’t)

Most idiotic quote of the year goes to Bettina Ardnt, from her piece, “Women need to say yes to sex.” (Emphasis mine):

“For couples to experience regular, pleasurable sex and sustain loving relationships women must get over that ideological roadblock of assumptions about desire and ”just do it”. The result will be both men and women will enjoy more, better sex.

The alternative is the status quo namely that the low-drive partner, usually the woman, controls the couple’s sexual frequency and meters out sexual favours only when it suits her. This leaves the man in the degrading situation of having to beg for sex, keeping her happy in the vague hope of getting some. But is that so different from the much maligned husband who controls the family purse strings, doling out pocket money to the little woman if and when it suits him?

Last year the Victorian Government introduced laws targeting men who commit ”domestic violence” by financially controlling their partners. Surely restricting or cutting off the sex supply in a monogamous marriage is no less abusive. Why don’t we ever talk about the fact that a monogamous relationship must imply mutual commitment to satisfying each other’s sexual needs?”

So, apparently, controlling a person’s finances to the point that they have no resources or ability to exercise their right to leave a relationship is the same thing as not meeting your partner’s sexual needs.

Being in a relationship in which you and your partner have differing desires is now apparently the same thing as domestic violence. Coercing your wife into having sex when she isn’t in the mood isn’t abusive, but denying your husband sex when he *is* in the mood is.


EDIT: Before the conversation goes any further, I’m not saying that differing sex drives isn’t a problem. And that sometimes, you have to have sex when you’re not in the mood when you’re in a long term relationship. I get all that. I’m saying that differing sex drives is NOT the same thing as domestic violence. It’s NOT abusive. It’s sucky and can cause a ton of problems, and can make the partner with the higher drive feel like shit, yes. But it’s not the same thing as removing all your partner’s resources and controlling her to the point that she can’t leave the relationship.
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  1. Welcome to Chicago, Jillinois
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I think there's something to be said about this.

    Of course no one should be forced to have sex. Of course. And communication is key.


    I myself have given this very advice. I was married for a minute, and there were times when I just didn't want to. And these times lasted for weeks and weeks, sometimes. I could tell he was really jonsing for it, and that annoyed me, which made me NOT want to do it even more, and he got whiney, and it was like this bad bad cycle.

    So I'd finally just do it. I didn't want to at first, but once I was, I got into it and enjoyed it. Or even if I didn't get that into it, it wasn't a horrible thing, I didn't feel violated or like my rights were taken away or something. A quick BJ sometimes really does the trick. Like "honey can you massage my shoulders?" He doesn't necessarily want to, but he does because he loves you and wants you to feel good. Is it a "sacrifice?" I guess, but Jesus.

    I guess relationships are about compromise, give and take, sometimes doing things you don't want to. And of course, you don't want to NEVER want sex yourself. That's a problem. But it's easy to say that partners should be equal and always want what they want and blah blah, but life isn't always about hot toys and hotel meet ups in different cities and hot fantasy sex. For most people, it's about doing the dishes and kids and working a lot and wanting to watch American Idol and not being horny all the time for your partner.

    I personally learned that if I sometimes did it, even when I wasn't in the mood, it was really ended up making both of us happier in the end.

    Then I got divorced. But that's a whole other bag of meat.

  2. Advizor
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Wide differences in sex drive within a couple can be a horrible divide to get over. The husband feels abandoned and betrayed. Where in the marriage ceremony did he take a vow of celibacy, just because she has changed her mind about sex? Why is the most intimate act between a couple, now off limits and treated as a chore, a burden, a weapon.

    When a couple marries they make a commitment to put each others' needs before their own and to satisfy those needs within each other the best they can and to do it with love and devotion.

    Most men are not demanding sex every day, complete with trapeze bar and latex clown suits. We are not asking for excessive amounts or to do it in public places, we just want sex. But sex, even for men, as simple-minded as we are, not just about sex.

    Sex for me is about acceptance, intimacy, a desire from my wife to be with me, to be mine, and for me to be hers. Sex is about comfort, closeness, feeling attractive, and being attracted to each other.

    Sex is the emotional food that feeds a couple and keeps a companionship healthy. For a woman to deny her husband that life-sustaining emotional support is as abusive as any other non-violent behavior. It crushes a man who just wants to connect with his wife, it strips him of his confidence, his strength, and his ability to face his daily challenges.

    The constant rejection, the cold shoulder, the snide comments, and disdainful looks from a wife who has cut off her husband is as painful as a slap, and as devastating as a punch.

  3. Brigit
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Heavens. If not providing sex as frequently as the partner with the higher sex drive wants is abuse, then go ahead and lock up poor Mr.Brigit until he finishes grad school.
    Sex drive can vary for a million-and-one reasons, and communication is key in managing the disparities when they arise.
    When I was going through a deep depression I didn't want to do shit. It must have been hard on Mr.B, but he is very understanding and patient, and modified the way he approached me to increase the chances of me being in the mood. Now, we're in the opposite case. My drive is really high and his is in the gutter for academic-related reasons. What can I do? I support him and try to make his life less stressful, I tell him that I find him incredibly sexy, and I get myself off more often. What else is there to do?

  4. Realiti
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    When I have sex with someone I want it to be good…lol. Not just for me, but for them too. If I'm in the mood (which is often…lol) I'm up for pretty much anything and my goal is to please and be pleased. The sex is just so much better that way! Now, what does it say for me or a man's ego if I'm not really in the mood and he gets "half ass" sex (no pun intended) and I'm not into it…..does he question that he's done something wrong or if he sucks in bed? Probably! Does he think I suck in bed? Probably!
    I'm usually in the mood but there are times when I'm just not up to it….I get tired, stressed, and depressed just like anyone else does….
    So to me, it seems that just saying yes can turn out to be more mentally abusive than saying lets just wait until I can give you 100%!


  5. Ms. Inconspicuous
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    *Not* having sex is not violent, to be sure, but it can extract quite the mental toll. I agree that it shouldn't be likened to domestic *violence* or paired on the opposite side of the rape coin, but it can be a form of abusive behavior.

    Now hear me out. I'm thinking of a real-life example of a (in this case woman, though it could be either partner) spouse who did not have any sex drive, thought sex was unappealing, and therefore not only "withheld" (I quote because I hate the implication that sex is "deserved") sex, but also banned her partner from masturbating. She caught him exercising self-gratification, and fights ensued. He was a disgusting creature–a slave to his base urges. What he was doing was wrong and not allowed, and since he was capable of higher thought than an animal, he should be able to go without that. In any form.

    There were no alternative outlets–because the partner did not want sex, his was involuntarily chaste. Her sexuality was imposed upon him. As much as any non-action can be imposed on someone. (A partner doesn't like to go out? Well, that means their partner has to stay home with them. Period. End of story. Wouldn't that make one feel a little trapped?)

    So I ask you, is it right to deny someone's healthy sexuality totally and completely? Isn't that an abusive behavior just as *demanding* sex is an abusive behavior? Or withholding money? Or food? Or social activities?

    I mean, sex isn't necessary to *live*, that's true, but it does have very strong biological ties. And enforcing a "gatekeeping" mentality on sex for men or women can lead to incredible strain; depression, anxiety. It's amazing what our partners doing something as simple as not having sex with us can do to a person's mental state.

    [That being said, as well, men can be "gatekeepers" too. But men are "supposed" to have the higher sex drive, so no one talks about that.]

  6. sarahbear
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink


    While I do believe that compromise is key in any relationship, and that includes where sex is concerned, I really don't like the wording this woman used. It's so similar to what women have been told for -years-. My mother-in-law told me stories about how her mother would tell her that she should 'do her duty', meaning having sex with her husband, even if it brought her no pleasure.

    I just hate the idea that the woman's pleasure gets completely disregarded so often. We're suppose to be willing to 'just do it', but they never suggest things a man could be doing to help his woman get in the mood for sex. This could be a number of things that include helping around the house so she's not so exhausted by bed time, more foreplay or romance.

    All this sexist shit is irritating this week.

  7. Advizor
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    A lot of attention has rightfully been paid to non-violent abuse in relationships, and financial control is one are that deserves attention.

    However, I have to disagree with Britni's addendum where she says, "I'm saying that differing sex drives is NOT the same thing as domestic violence. It's NOT abusive."

    Intentional withholding of emotional support, love, affection and yes, SEX, is a form of non-violent abuse. If a parent neglected a child's emotional needs, giving them only food and water but never a hug, a cuddle, or a kind word, we would be horrified, but if a wife does the same thing to her husband, we laugh it off and blame the man for being "sex-crazed."

    Withholding affection within a marriage is an insidious form of abuse that has can only be solved if we agree that it is a problem, and that both partners have a role in the solution.

  8. Britni TheVadgeWig
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Advizor: If it's being withheld as a form of control, purposely, or if a woman is forcing her views of sexuality on you (i.e. you can't masturbate, like Ms. I said), then yes, it's abusive. Differing sex drives in general? ARE NOT.

    As a reader of your blog and knowing your situation, the way that your wife withholds sex and masturbation and sexuality in general stifles you as a person. Your situation is different than just two people with differing sex drives. Your situation is extreme, and you are deprived of things that are essential to who you are.

    A woman not wanting to have sex as often as her man is not abusive. A woman withholding sex as a form of power and control over her man? Or trying to control him with sex/control his sexuality? THAT is abusive.

  9. Advizor
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    I will agree that naturally occurring differences in sex drive is not abusive, but it can be very hard on a marriage anyway.

    When a woman uses her low sex drive as an excuse to control her spouse, then, as you say, it crosses the line in to abuse.

    And, as a side note, like most forms of abuse, very few men have a healthy outlet to discuss the issues. Other men will ridicule them, other women become potential affairs, marriage counselors tend to side with the women, and so men are left to deal with this on their own.

    I will note, based on my reading of other bloggers, that this is certainly a two-way street. Many women in our community are married to men who deprive them of sexual expression as a way to "stay in control."

    Thanks for a very thought provoking post.

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