All I was hoping to accomplish was having a wife who wanted me
June 11, 2004 8:45 AM   Subscribe

The Emotional Costs of Fidelity
I recently came across Suburban Sex Blog, the blog of a 30-something, married with children, sexually deprived male suburban dweller who posts about the frustrations of having a wife who just doesn't want sex. After reading this entry where his wife tells him to just "get over it" after he confronts her about the complete lack of sexual contact between the two of them for months, I knew I'd found a blog that I'd be checking in on frequently. Guys blogging about their sex lives is nothing new you might think, but instead of filling their blogs with macho bragging about their conquests, there's a growing number of good blogs where married guys are opening their hearts about the insecurities, depressions and fear that goes with trying hard to make a marriage work instead of giving into the temptation of cheating.

After going through some of these issues myself while my wife was going through a period of depression I know first hand how an emotionally distant wife can wreak havoc with everything from one's self-esteem, concentration and general mental well being. These blogs put things into a perspective that many men refuse to share, and many women never even suspect.
posted by DragonBoy (133 comments total)


 
No one wants to fuck someone forever, but planned suburban sex is not natural, it is another mechanism in the bleak machinery of a commoditized life.
But also, just thinking someone will want to suck you off because you are married seems insincere. Maybe this hard up webblogger can get off the computer and go to the gym a few days a week, maybe take his wife to Europe or to Napa for the weekend.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:08 AM on June 11, 2004


Great theme-post, DragonBoy.

- Well, just hurry up and come because I want to go shopping before we eat.
- Doesn't it feel good?
- Yes, but I want some new jeans for Friday.
- Don't you want to come too?
- No, just finish up so we can go.

posted by trharlan at 9:08 AM on June 11, 2004


comment #1:Maybe this hard up webblogger can get off the computer and go to the gym a few days a week, maybe take his wife to Europe or to Napa for the weekend.


These blogs put things into a perspective that many men refuse to share,

Not hard to figure out why, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:12 AM on June 11, 2004


He doesn't write that well - but his honesty is compelling and the result is gut-wrenching. I was not able to read very much of it.
posted by orange swan at 9:16 AM on June 11, 2004


These blogs put things into a perspective that many men refuse to share, and many women never even suspect.

Maybe the use of the blog medium is new, but jokes about never having sex after you get married are an age-old classic. It's also pretty much common knowledge that men like to have sex more than women generally, and that often presents a problem in a relationship. Maybe guys don't discuss it one-on-one all that often, but I've heard bits and pieces of the kind of stories in these blogs all my life from other men.

What's up with the viagra ads on the side of that suburban sex blog? Makes me think perhaps these are all fake spammer blogs built to gain traffic for some shady mail order pills.
posted by mathowie at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2004


I've been looking for a resource like this for a long time. I'm the kind of lady who watches the Man Show and hopes that it will give me some hidden insight into what men really want and need (it doesn't). This is the kind of brutally honest information that will never come out of a Cosmo column like "What men really want in bed." Thanks.
posted by Alison at 9:23 AM on June 11, 2004


Isn't this the flip side of those married-women authored blog-meme of last year? [I have neither the links or specifics, just a kernel of memory - I think one was about infidelity???]

I think there is something to be said about the fact that this is, apparently, the only way these men can communicate their emotions. [on preview mathowie hits it] The fact that men want sex more than women, and have been trying [for ages] to figure out ways to woo her into bed is not new. At least they aren't hitting them over the head with a thick branch.
posted by plemeljr at 9:27 AM on June 11, 2004


Damn, is it still 1955? I have difficulty believing that this problem is as gender-specific as perhaps it once was.

For example, my last serious relationship failed primarily because I (male) neglected my partner (female) sexually. Being in a long-term, exclusive relationship and not being satisfied sexually is certainly not a problem only for men. That slant to this post offends me and reeks of the misnomer "men's rights".

And I strongly disagree with the idea that there is or should be no obligation for sex in a committed relationship (or, at least, one that isn't explicitly defined to not be sexual). One has a responsibility to be sexually active with one's partner in exactly the same sense that one has a responsibility to be intimate and involved in other ways. It's fundamental to the relationship and the committment.

Disparities in desired levels of sexual activity (and type) are a very common problem in long-term relationships and it's likely that this compatibility should be given more consideration than it typically is when deciding upon a mate.

Finally, although this wasn't the particular situation in my recent case, it's not uncommon for these roles to be reversed for mid-thirties and above couples. A woman's sex drive begins to peak near thirty, while a man's starts to wane; and a great number of late thirties, early forties women find themselves with partners that are less interested in sex than they are. So, again, this isn't a gender-specific problem in the sense that this post assumes.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:30 AM on June 11, 2004


Alison. I think you'll find that all (most) men really want in bed is a mutually satisfying experience with some variation in the actual act and when/where it occurs but not much variation in the frequency. At least 3 times a week, preferably several times in one day on one of those days. Romance is good, but a good fuck that pleases all those involved is also good. Most of all, men want to be reassured that they are still attractive and have still "got it". If a man loves you it isn't enough for you to let him fuck you, he wants to please you and be pleased by you.
These are all generalizations, but I don't know anyone who would disagree with them. (this being metafilter, I'm sure someone will soon).
posted by Grod at 9:31 AM on June 11, 2004


To quote Chris Rock: "You're either married and bored or single and lonely..."
posted by herc at 9:31 AM on June 11, 2004


From Caitlin Flanagan's article in the January 2003 Atlantic Monthly:
Pity the poor married man hoping to get a bit of comfort from the wife at day's end. He must somehow seduce a woman who is economically independent of him, bone tired, philosophically disinclined to have sex unless she is jolly well in the mood, numbingly familiar with his every sexual maneuver, and still doing a slow burn over his failure to wipe down the countertops and fold the dish towel after cooking the kids' dinner. He can hardly be blamed for opting instead to check his e-mail, catch a few minutes of SportsCenter, and call it a night.
(The quote I selected addresses the male aspect of the issue, but the article deals with both genders.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:39 AM on June 11, 2004 [1 favorite]


We hardly spoke all weekend. She still seems pissed off that I brought this up.

Well... that's sortof a sign that mismatched desires for sex are not the only weak point in the relationship. Which I'm sure everyone here pretty much already knew.

What's up with the viagra ads on the side of that suburban sex blog? Makes me think perhaps these are all fake spammer blogs built to gain traffic for some shady mail order pills.

Yeah. This is weird, weird. When the ads on a page begin to resemble a combination of the spam in my inbox and those fake search engines, the "brutally honest" factor goes down the tubes. Emotional spectacle draws insecure readers who buy pills?
posted by namespan at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2004


To quote Socrates: "“It doesn’t matter whether you decide to marry or stay single; either way you’ll be sorry.”
posted by Faze at 9:42 AM on June 11, 2004


You know what? Instead of understanding and accepting that I wanted to improve our lives, Nicki decided to get angry that I was indirectly saying that she was a failure. She got mad at me for making her feel that way, and I should just get over it. And maybe I should go and get a girlfriend because if you want me to act like a whore to make you feel better then it's not going to happen because that's just the way it is.

Wow. Sometimes I think the divorce rate in this country is not high enough. This isn't about wanting different things from their sex life together; this represents a complete failure to communicate. Not good.
posted by psmealey at 9:45 AM on June 11, 2004


I'm the kind of lady who watches the Man Show and hopes that it will give me some hidden insight into what men really want and need (it doesn't).

Please don't take the Man Show too seriously, Alison. It tends to make us all look bad ;-) It's bad enough Cosmo has been selling women "what men want" all these years.

It seems like this guy is selling women info as much as commiserating with sex-starved men, too (in between fantasizing about Angelina Jolie and the girl at the local record store.)

*sigh* When I was a kid, I imagined it was so easy: two people like each other and are attracted to each other, they fall in love, the rest is easy...
posted by Shane at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2004


The topic may not be new, but I think there's a refreshing honesty to it.

It's not "my wife won't have sex with me, she must be a frigid bitch," it's more "my wife won't have sex with me and that makes me feel worthless, ugly and pathetic," which is a somewhat brave thing for a male to say.

That and cheating isn't just about voracious sexual desire, it's about the need to feel desired and worthy of attention. Not that it excuses it, but I imagine that's a big part of the motivation for both genders.
posted by jonmc at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2004


Sometimes women have low sex drive because of an unnatural lack of testosterone, and testosterone supplements can help them regain it. So it's not necessarily personal, it can be merely a chemical issue.
posted by beth at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2004


Being in a long-term, exclusive relationship and not being satisfied sexually is certainly not a problem only for men. That slant to this post offends me and reeks of the misnomer "men's rights".

There is no such slant to this post. It simply chooses to focus on one aspect of the problem. Funny how you take such an opposite reading of it than you did the FGM post, which, if I am not mistaken, you insisted should remain pure to its subject and undiluted by related instances.

And I strongly disagree with the idea that there is or should be no obligation for sex in a committed relationship (or, at least, one that isn't explicitly defined to not be sexual). One has a responsibility to be sexually active with one's partner in exactly the same sense that one has a responsibility to be intimate and involved in other ways. It's fundamental to the relationship and the committment.

While I would agree with you that I would require such a commitment in any relationship in which I were going to participate, I think it is extremely presumptuous to make such a blanket statement insisting how all relationships must be defined. I'm sure there are many successful relationships which incorporate sex quite differently, or not at all, and it is surely not up to us to judge them.

He must somehow seduce a woman who is economically independent of him...

Now there's a thought that is the product of an appalling thought-process....
posted by rushmc at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2004


It's also pretty much common knowledge that men like to have sex more than women generally, and that often presents a problem in a relationship.

Actually, in the 16th century most sex jokes had to do with men not being able to keep up with their wives desires. I can't find the link to the article I read the other month, but it had a number of references to things being opposite to the assumptions we make today.
posted by DragonBoy at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2004


Being in a long-term, exclusive relationship and not being satisfied sexually is certainly not a problem only for men. That slant to this post offends me and reeks of the misnomer "men's rights".

Though I agree, EB, that this isn't a problem for men only, I don't find it useful to get offended by the post or even try to claim the poster or the men blogging are doing anything under the guise of "men's rights". Perhaps you could share with us some blogs of women in the same position. They do exist, they shouldn't be terribly hard to find.

And I strongly disagree with the idea that there is or should be no obligation for sex in a committed relationship

I think you'll find the law varies on this one and is generally in favor there not being an obligation. I don't have a lot of experience with divorce law, but if children are involved and you wish to have a divorce because you're not getting any, all else being equal, you can kiss custody good bye.

On the other hand, I don't feel that there is an obligation for sex specifically, but an obligation for communication and compromise. There are, in fact, many people who exist mostly asexually and are perfectly happy with that. However, relationships change mid stride. It's hard to make a rule that defines ones obligations that applies to everyone. Sex is important to some, but many find it difficult to say it's more important than their children or their mortgage, as boring as that may seem.

Disparities in desired levels of sexual activity (and type) are a very common problem in long-term relationships and it's likely that this compatibility should be given more consideration than it typically is when deciding upon a mate.

Amen. Yet, it's hard to judge the disparity given that the beginning of many relationships is a fuck-a-thon. Sexual desire changes over long and short periods of time in unpredictable ways.

So, again, this isn't a gender-specific problem in the sense that this post assumes.

I didn't take away from the post that it was a man's problem. My personal experience tells me it's a problem of long term relationships. I enjoyed the post, but agree entirely that the problem is not gender specific.

Loving and living with someone, raising children and pursuing your dreams are, in fact, difficult.
posted by sequential at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2004


perhaps these are all fake spammer blogs built to gain traffic for some shady mail order pills.

I'm inclined to agree. And reading a few of the very, very explicit details on some of those sites is just disgusting, frankly. I don't think that these "bloggers" (if they are) are merely opining about the lack of physical intimacy -- I have serious doubts about someone who is willing to post such explicit details of their sex life.

Oh, and grod: OK, I'll be the first to disagree.
posted by davidmsc at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2004


So the "Good Husband"'s wife is allowed to get busy with other women, but he isn't? Those folks really need to read The Ethical Slut.
posted by cmonkey at 9:52 AM on June 11, 2004


god damn that's a good post. thanks dragonboy.
posted by lotsofno at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2004


some hidden insight into what men really want and need (it doesn't).

MEN: FOR DUMMIES

BABES. BABES. BOOBIES. NOOKAGE. BABES. BEER, GIANT SCREEN TV, NOOKAGE, BEERB, BRING ME A SAMMICH, BITCH OR I AINT NEVER MOVIN' OUT! 'SIDES, IT'S ALMOST TIME FOR BOBO'S HONKIN'!

of course, post menopause phase is more like:

YOU SAY SOMETHING?

SHUT UP, I'M TRYING TO WATCH THE MACGYVER TAPE.

WELL ITS ALMOST TIME FOR JUDGE JUDY.

GODDAMMIT, I TOLD YOU TO SHUT UP. NOW I HAVE TO
REWIND IT BACK.

WELL, I SHOULD TAPE JUDGE JUDY FOR ME.

YEAH, GO AHEAD, YOU AND WHAT VCR, WOMAN?

OH FUCK THIS, LETS GET THE 9MM. OUT AND PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE.

THATS THE FIRST GOOD IDEA YOU HAD SINCE YOU WERE GONNA DIVORCE ME, BITCH.
posted by quonsar at 9:55 AM on June 11, 2004


This isn't about wanting different things from their sex life together; this represents a complete failure to communicate.

People are allowed to get emotional now and then, especially when they are put in a position that makes them feel attacked. When they do, they are not quite going to be able to have the cold, clinical, psychobabble-driven relationship discussions that "healthy" people are supposed to have.
posted by badstone at 9:58 AM on June 11, 2004


One has a responsibility to be sexually active with one's partner in exactly the same sense that one has a responsibility to be intimate and involved in other ways. It's fundamental to the relationship and the committment.

Well, you can "require" sex on a regular basis (threatening to leave or something if your desires are not met), but how does that make your partner want to have sex with you? Who on earth wants to be emotionally manipulated into sex?

Why is it necessarily the less-sexually-inclined partner's problem for not wanting sex, and not the more-sexually-inclined partner's responsibility to seduce and interest the less-sexually-inclined partner?

It is sometimes the case that once the initial seduction phase of the relationship is over, men don't want to bother with getting their partner in the mood, yet get all put out when the woman isn't all horny and "into it" and reassuring of the man's virility. "Roll over, let's do it" is not enough to inspire a woman into a frenzy of sexual excitement if she isn't already inclined.
posted by beth at 10:00 AM on June 11, 2004


quonsar - you forgot you meds, dude. Either that, or they need to up your dosage.
posted by Irontom at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2004


Actually, in the 16th century most sex jokes had to do with men not being able to keep up with their wives desires. I can't find the link to the article I read the other month, but it had a number of references to things being opposite to the assumptions we make today.

In those days, DragonBoy, it was widely believed that every orgasm a man had shortened his life span by a day. Thus, the many sonnets written by men vowing their willingness to die for love.
posted by orange swan at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2004


they are not quite going to be able to have the cold, clinical, psychobabble-driven relationship discussions that "healthy" people are supposed to have.

Nonsense. That's not what I'm saying at all, badstone. Of course they are allowed to get emotional and defensive (which is more promising than detached and clinical), but if it never gets past that, there's really no reason to stay together.

Every couple has this kind of moment periodically where one or both partners sense that he/she is being attacked in a very vulnerable place and reacts by pulling out the big guns or putting up a wall. Doesn't matter if you yell, scream, use psychobabble or morse code, the only way you get past that moment is communicate through it.
posted by psmealey at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2004


Why is it necessarily the less-sexually-inclined partner's problem for not wanting sex, and not the more-sexually-inclined partner's responsibility to seduce and interest the less-sexually-inclined partner?

So, is there something along the lines of an anti-Viagra that the more-sexually-inclined partner can take to balance things out?
posted by badstone at 10:10 AM on June 11, 2004


People are allowed to get emotional now and then, especially when they are put in a position that makes them feel attacked. When they do, they are not quite going to be able to have the cold, clinical, psychobabble-driven relationship discussions that "healthy" people are supposed to have.

Definitely badstone, but over time, the couple should have time to think about what they want, what they need, what they're willing to give, and come to some sort of resolution. If this is not the case, then letting it drag on is a bad idea.

From the very little one can gather from this blog, the problem with their relationship is not that he's getting enough sex, it's that their level of communication is nowhere near the healthy level a married couple should have. And that type of problem, over time, can cause exactly what he's blogging about it. Hopefully, through writing about it, he will be able to figure out some sort of resolution - either through marriage counselling (possible), "getting over it" (not for another several decades when he needs Viagra), or ultimately, a divorce (very possible).
posted by mojo80 at 10:12 AM on June 11, 2004


...in the 16th century most sex jokes had to do with men not being able to keep up with their wives desires.

Actually those jokes pretty much go back to the beginnings of literature. That being said, it's hard not to think that this might have been due to the general expectation (at least in the upper classes) that the woman was supposed to stay at home pretty much all the time.
posted by clevershark at 10:12 AM on June 11, 2004


I have serious doubts about someone who is willing to post such explicit details of their sex life.

I think that's a little short sighted. Some people have very limited social interaction because of relationship commitments. Between children, family, the significant other, the job, the housework and so on, one could keep busy for years without finding the time to be social. (Not that they should, it's generally not a good thing.) In general, humans don't react well to being socially deprived. It is my observation that in the absence of social contact, the rules of what is appropriate to share changes, as do the things the isolated person wants to share.

Getting feedback on your sex life or the intimate details of your relationship is not an uncommon thing for people to want. However, it is a very taboo subject, at least in America. I can't so much as bring up anything remotely realistic about my significant other to life long friends or family members. They will look me in the face and say, "I'd rather not know." And quite frankly, I don't want to talk about it with someone I don't know well, but I sure as hell could use a sounding board for at least a sanity check.

Blogging is a somewhat anonymous way to get this feedback. I don't see the content or the ads as a critical indicator of the validity of the content, but I admit, I simply don't know.
posted by sequential at 10:16 AM on June 11, 2004


So, is there something along the lines of an anti-Viagra that the more-sexually-inclined partner can take to balance things out?

i always thought that's what good porn was for.
posted by nyoki at 10:17 AM on June 11, 2004


Why is it necessarily the less-sexually-inclined partner's problem for not wanting sex, and not the more-sexually-inclined partner's responsibility to seduce and interest the less-sexually-inclined partner?

Geez.
posted by trharlan at 10:17 AM on June 11, 2004


I was going to be snarky and say that the problem with long-term relationships is that they're long-term relationships. But that really is the problem. We change, both physically and emotionally, throughout our lives. We can either accept these changes or not, it's a decision that we make. But if you choose to reject them, either in yourself or your partner, you run this risk of ending up like the couple in the link. Sounds like their paths diverged a long time ago, I hope they realize it someday but somehow I doubt it.
posted by tommasz at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2004


beth, if you read the "Good Husband" blog, you'll see that he is doing his very best to seduce his wife. Now, this is obviously told from him point of view, but I certainly don't get the impression that he's the kind of man you described.
posted by Irontom at 10:24 AM on June 11, 2004


So, is there something along the lines of an anti-Viagra that the more-sexually-inclined partner can take to balance things out?

Yes, there are a variety of drugs available that have the side-effect of rendering your sexual desire flaccid. Not that I think one should seek these out for a partner, but they do exist. Additionally, I'm not sure you can convince your prescribing doctor to give you a drug for this reason alone. It's possible, but the drugs have primary purposes that may not fit with the side effects.
posted by sequential at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2004


Ten points for making sense, tommasz (except that I bet they DO realize it, and sooner rather than later).
posted by rushmc at 10:29 AM on June 11, 2004


"Why is it necessarily the less-sexually-inclined partner's problem for not wanting sex, and not the more-sexually-inclined partner's responsibility to seduce and interest the less-sexually-inclined partner?"—beth
It's probably both.

Most people consider sex to be a fundamental part of a long-term relationship and thus, unless explicitly understood otherwise, this is normative. If someone complained that their partner wasn't affectionate to them, or wasn't communicative with them, would a reasonable response be "well, the disatisfied person should find a way to make the unaffectionate partner want to be affectionate", or, "the dissatisfied partner should find a way to make the uncommunicative partner be communicative"? Make the gender "male" for the unsatisfied partner in both those examples and see if you aren't inclined to defend the woman. I bet you are.

In my strong opinion, it is naive and immature to expect that in a healthy relationship everything one's partner could reasonably expect from one is something one quite naturally would want to do. "I expect him to help with the chores around the house." "But, I would help her with the chores if I wanted to. I don't want to, and that's probably her fault." Yeah, right.

A healthy relationship requires that each partner be considerate and generous regarding the other's needs and desires, even when they aren't one's own. This means that, at least occasionally, you're going to have sex when you're not particularly in the mood, just like you're going to watch a movie you don't particularly want to watch. This will happen, it's inevitable. What's a problem is when (as often is the case) this generosity tends to go only in one direction. But it's the uneveness that's bad, not the generosity. The generosity is healthy.

I have been on both sides of this fence (regarding sexual satisfaction, especially as it regards frequency). My ex-wife is an incest survivor (she's discussed this very pubicly, and had a policy of being public about it, so I'm not violating a confidence), and she had a great many issues surrounding sex and only in our marriage (with a lot of effort and communication on both our parts) did she even come to enjoy it very much. But her desire, in general, was pretty low. I was constantly unsatisfied and quite often resentful that she wasn't interested in having sex when I was.

Then, in this most recent relationship, the situation was reversed. For reasons that I won't go into, my sexual desire for my partner decreased quite dramatically, although my love for her did not. She became very dissatisfied (and felt unloved, which is common). I very often was put into the position of resentfully having obligation sex when I really didn't want to. I did tend to think that it was her problem.

To some degree it was. But I also had been very unaware of many things and deeply selfish in not realizing that my sexual desire and clock was not determinative of what should be expected in a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is greatly about compromise and generosity.

I would have been happy to continue in that relationship with little sex. Like I said, I still loved her. I often argued that sex shouldn't be what makes or breaks our relationship. And, for me, that's true. But, for her, it was not. And if for her having regular sex (every few days, at least; she would have preferred every day) is absolutely necessary for a satisfying relationship, then it just is. It would have been best had we discovered this before we committed; although, as sequential says, at the beginning you really don't know what to expect from each other and one's self because sexual appetite is exceptional.

Having been on both sides of this issue I find that casting it in terms of the war between men and women is both deeply counter-productive and myopic. What's it really about, as others have said upthread, is communication, compromise, and all the things that are involved in a healthy relationship.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:29 AM on June 11, 2004 [1 favorite]


How easily available is saltpeter, sequential?
posted by rushmc at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2004


That poor bastard. I'd definitely rather stay single. I'm used to being lonely; being with a woman that I love and being rejected like that would kill me. No thanks.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2004


Being in a long-term, exclusive relationship and not being satisfied sexually is certainly not a problem only for men. That slant to this post offends me and reeks of the misnomer "men's rights".

Sheesh. It might not be a problem only for men in general, but it is apparently a problem for this guy in particular. Does everyone have to give equal time to every other related issue, cover all possible variations, validate each viewpoint, etc. etc. etc.? Can't someone just say "this is my experience", and each take from that what we will?

(oh, and from the good husband site, about MeFi: "It's a bit more high-brow than most of the other community blogs and that's a welcome change." Heh. And he calls himself a regular lurker...)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2004


Why his blog roll with so many porn or close to porn sites? Ok, men like that stuiff. But this guy lives in a world of fantasy--tell the Bride to go into therapy with him; get more involved; or he will find sex outside his marriage...all that failing, get a cab and a divorce lawyer...yea, the kids, the kids...they will have a chance to blog and "communicate" their pent-up feelings too.

The blog (for me) alas reads like something out of Cosmo...all the whining and uncertainty...at least it gives material for his blog. As Lenny Bruce remarked: after breaking up and being divorced, he had some of his greatest material for his standup routines.
posted by Postroad at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2004


I find that casting it in terms of the war between men and women is both deeply counter-productive and myopic.

I would certainly agree with that, but aside from a reference or two to the Man Show, I guess I just don't see where anyone has tried to do that here.

zoogleplex: Agreed.
posted by rushmc at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2004


psmealey, mojo80 -
I think we are on the same page. psmealey's post quoted a single emotional outburst and appeared to draw the conclusion that one instance of imperfect communication condemns the relationship. That's simply not the case, but yes, if there is never any productive communication, then of course it's time to just move on.

With respect to this blogger's particular case, they really do seem to be at an impasse, they are both at the mercy of biology. they of course should try all they can, but it may simply be the case that this woman's "window of opportunity" has closed, something that afflicts plenty of people, male or female. If that's the case, there's just not much to talk about. He can either be forever frustrated, and she forver frustrated at his frustration, or they can move on past this relationship. Of course, if they have kids, he's just going to have to deal with frustration for their sake, which if what a lot of married folks have to deal with. That's what you sign up for when you commit to having kids.

beth's conclusion that since he is a man, he must not be trying hard enough, is just ugly. Men are allowed to be emotionally mature about sex, too, despite what years of Oprah and bad comedy have to say about it.
posted by badstone at 10:35 AM on June 11, 2004


Well, you can "require" sex on a regular basis (threatening to leave or something if your desires are not met), but how does that make your partner want to have sex with you? Who on earth wants to be emotionally manipulated into sex?

Beth, there's a responsibility to give, not a right to demand. You're completely right, but no one's advocating manipulation. What should one do if their partner isn't fulfilling the obligation to give? Talk to them about it? Is that maniuplation?

This is a good post and generally a great discussion. Avoiding generalizations about either gender is the key, here.
posted by scarabic at 10:41 AM on June 11, 2004


In those days, DragonBoy, it was widely believed that every orgasm a man had shortened his life span by a day. Thus, the many sonnets written by men vowing their willingness to die for love.

John Donne makes so much more sense after reading that.
posted by jbrjake at 10:45 AM on June 11, 2004


"I would certainly agree with that, but aside from a reference or two to the Man Show, I guess I just don't see where anyone has tried to do that here."—rushmc
It seems to me that DragonBoy's post is very gender-specific and thus there's a clear subtext about "frigid wives".

On preview: I think that, within reason, there is a "right to demand". These days, there is a right to demand that both partners contribute financially. There is a right to demand that both partners contribute with the children and chores. There is a right to demand that both partners be communicative. A long-term relationship, especially a marriage, is a contract, an agreement that each will try to meet the other's reasonable needs, as well as the communal needs. A vital sex life is, for most people, both.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:46 AM on June 11, 2004


Not that I think one should seek these out for a partner, but they do exist.

Definitely wasn't suggesting that, but if you yourself are the more-sexually-inclined one and are in love, it would be nice if anaphrodisiacs (just learned that that is the term after a little Googling) were a safe, easy option. I bet you could cut the divorce rate in half this way.

Ethereal Bligh - get over it. Nothing about the wording of the post suggests your conclusion and you are the only one drawing it.
posted by badstone at 10:50 AM on June 11, 2004


on preview: the post features men's blogs, but there's nothing about the post that limits the phenomenon to men. That all came with the ensuing discussion. There is something interesting to say about the men, in particular, because of the way men communicate, their typical strong/silent/proud role, and the stigma these guys are open for because they're men. Focusing on their stories doesn't in any way detract from the women who suffer this same problem.

Beth, what do you suggest for the more-sexually-inclined partner who spends a year trying anything possible to arouse the interest of the less-sexually-inclined partner?

This situation can and does arise. There are actually men in this world who make an art of foreplay. Some of them are married to women with almost no sex drive.

The case of the "roll over honey" man who does nothing to make himself sexy is a situation we can all agree on without much discussion. But, if you're willing to discuss this with more resolution than blanket generalizations down gender lines, I'd like to hear what you think about the other guys who are actually trying and getting nowhere.
posted by scarabic at 10:52 AM on June 11, 2004


Of course, if they have kids, he's just going to have to deal with frustration for their sake, which if what a lot of married folks have to deal with. That's what you sign up for when you commit to having kids.

That would read a lot better, methinks, if you expressed it as your opinion, which is all that it is, rather than as revealed truth.
posted by rushmc at 10:55 AM on June 11, 2004


It seems to me that DragonBoy's post is very gender-specific and thus there's a clear subtext about "frigid wives".

I will let GhostInTheMachine answer that, since any attempt on my part would merely be repeating him:

Sheesh. It might not be a problem only for men in general, but it is apparently a problem for this guy in particular. Does everyone have to give equal time to every other related issue, cover all possible variations, validate each viewpoint, etc. etc. etc.? Can't someone just say "this is my experience", and each take from that what we will?
posted by rushmc at 10:57 AM on June 11, 2004


Just fuck goats, it's easier. The horns are good to hold on to when it gets really frantic.
posted by bargle at 10:58 AM on June 11, 2004


"I'd like to hear what you think about the other guys who are actually trying and getting nowhere.—scarabic
...and women who are actually trying and getting nowhere.

Why the gender specificity? If people think this is more of a problem with randy men and uninterested wives, why won't they cop to it?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:00 AM on June 11, 2004


I have a feeling this guy would be fantasizing about the office intern whether or not he was getting regular action at home.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:02 AM on June 11, 2004


The person with the lower sex drive has all the power in a relationship. This can be a male or a female since I am quite familiar with both occurring.

The person with the lower sex drive is satisfied, by definition, or else they'd have more. They deny the ability of the other person to have "outside sex" and yet they are content, so they have no reason to seek "outside sex" themselves.

The person with the lower interest level dictates the frequency of sex, and they also harness the ability for the other person to seek out other sexual outlets.

So, the person who has the lower interest level dictates the situation, completely, to the person who has the higher interest level. The lower interest person, in essence, dictates the pleasure and happiness level of the higher interest person.

The person who has the higher interest level cannot seek more sex from the lower interest person, as they are already at capacity. And, the higher interest person is (virtually 100% of the time) prohibited from seeking more sex from outsiders. The higher interest person has no ability to improve their lot in any way, except to forcibly terminate the relationship. Then they are looked upon quite suspiciously by the other person for deciding to end a relationship because of "just sex".

The greater the difference in interest levels, the greater this effect becomes.

If this is not a recipe for disharmony I don't know what is.

And as far as obligation sex goes... please. Who with a healthy outlook on sex, and the proper maturity level, would be at all excited about sex with someone who was merely "accommodating" the other person? That is worse than not having sex at all.

Ethereal: you're missing the boat here friend. You're manufacturing a sentiment that simply isn't there.

Also re: That's what you sign up for when you commit to having kids.

I don't remember that being on any of the forms I filled out at the hospital. Or the wedding.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:05 AM on June 11, 2004


How easily available is saltpeter, sequential?

posted by rushmc at 10:30 AM PST on June 11


From googling to find meaning in your question:
Saltpeter is a natural mineral with many uses in commerce and in magic. It is employed to preserve foods, to make powdered incense burn more evenly, and as an ingredient in Gunpowder (which is Saltpeter, Charcoal, and Sulphur.) It also has a reputation for diminishing the male sex drive when ingested, although this is not backed by scientific evidence. (1)
All I knew of saltpeter before you mentioned it was that in A Tale In The Desert, if you mixed water with dung in a tub for a period of time, you made saltpeter, which was good for fertilizing palm trees, which would eventually produce dates. :-)
posted by sequential at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2004


well put, Ynoxas. Every word of it.
posted by trharlan at 11:13 AM on June 11, 2004


"And as far as obligation sex goes... please. Who with a healthy outlook on sex, and the proper maturity level, would be at all excited about sex with someone who was merely 'accommodating' the other person? That is worse than not having sex at all."—Ynoxas
I disagree. I disagree because I do not think you'd be making the same argument about every other activity that is essential to a long-term relationship. Do you expect and demand that you and your partner only engage in joint activities that both are equally interested in? I submit that in a healthy relationship, there's things that one does only because it's important to the other person.

There is this idea that sex is exceptional in this regard. I can find no rationale, just a naive romanticism, for believing so.

"I would like it if you would occasionally demonstrate your affection to me, just because. Like, buying me flowers for no reason."

"Um, but I do love you and I have no particular need or desire to demonstrate it in that fashion."

"Oh, well, okay then. By all means, act only on your needs and priorities because to do otherwise would be inauthentic. And that's the most important thing."
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:18 AM on June 11, 2004


Jesus. Do you ever shut up?
posted by angry modem at 11:23 AM on June 11, 2004


There is this idea that sex is exceptional in this regard. I can find no rationale, just a naive romanticism, for believing so.

Is wanting mutual, physical, animal desire from one's partner naive romanticism, Bligh?
posted by trharlan at 11:24 AM on June 11, 2004


I think that, within reason, there is a "right to demand".

Jesus Christ.

And may I say that I'm feeling luckier than ever in my marriage. It seems to be the only happy one in America.

On preview: Jesus Christ. EB, I hope if you ever consider getting married you'll show this thread to your intended. Forewarned and all that.
posted by languagehat at 11:24 AM on June 11, 2004


OK, I'll happily get gender-specific. If these blogs were written by women they'd be praised as brave feminist heroes speaking out against emotional neglect. But since it's men, it's "tough shit, loser," and "it's all your own fault."

Predictable, but still disappointing.
posted by jonmc at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2004


Ynoxas, brilliantly put:

"So, the person who has the lower interest level dictates the situation, completely, to the person who has the higher interest level. The lower interest person, in essence, dictates the pleasure and happiness level of the higher interest person."

I think many of us would feel a lot better having circumstances - for instance, a tough dating scene in LA - determining our level of sexual happiness, than handing over control of that happiness to someone else. At least when you're single, you have a chance at it. If you're in a situation as Ynoxas describes, you have virtually none.

Just my opinion...
posted by zoogleplex at 11:31 AM on June 11, 2004


Make the gender "male" for the unsatisfied partner in both those examples and see if you aren't inclined to defend the woman. I bet you are.

You are quite incorrect. I do not understand why you feel the need to characterize me this way.

beth's conclusion that since he is a man, he must not be trying hard enough, is just ugly.

I did not say that, so please don't imply that I did.

I think that if someone isn't getting enough sex in their relationship (apparently I need to spell out very clearly that this means a male or a female), they should at least be willing to meet their partner halfway and try to kindle their sexual desire, rather than just passively sit there and whine that they don't feel wanted.

This doesn't have to be an elaborate romantic weekend or something. Everyone has different triggers for what turns them on - I merely suggest that such a person should at least try to work with their partner's parameters.

I get the sense that people want to blame the less interested partner for not being willing to have sex when they don't feel like it, rather than look at the root cause (lack of sexual desire) and trying to fix it.

In other words, do you want a partner who feels they "ought to" have sex so they grudgingly do it to placate their partner, or do you want a partner who genuinely desires sex with the other person?

Beth, what do you suggest for the more-sexually-inclined partner who spends a year trying anything possible to arouse the interest of the less-sexually-inclined partner?

This situation can and does arise. There are actually men in this world who make an art of foreplay. Some of them are married to women with almost no sex drive.


First, see a doctor and have the woman's testosterone levels checked. There may be something that can be done to help - a testosterone supplement could make a difference, and they might decide it is worth a try.

Otherwise, if the woman is not kindle-able into sexual desire for the man *at all*, I suspect there are other intimacy issues with the relationship and some deeper problems. I would suggest they see a couples therapist of some sort to try to work things out. It could be that the woman really doesn't want to be with the man anymore, on any level, and simply hasn't come to terms with it, admitted it, and decided to get out of the relationship.

But, if you're willing to discuss this with more resolution than blanket generalizations down gender lines

I did not make a blanket generalization down gender lines. I said "It is sometimes the case that once the initial seduction phase of the relationship is over, men don't want to bother with getting their partner in the mood...". Let me repeat, with emphasis: "It is sometimes the case". I did not say "always", I did not say "men in general" or "all men". Please read carefully what I wrote.
posted by beth at 11:32 AM on June 11, 2004


I didn't mean to make this post specific to either gender. When I came across Suburban Sex Blog I was struck at how I could have written nearly every word of it a couple of years ago. I wish I would have had the courage that the writers of the blogs I linked to had.

Were I a woman I would have linked to just as many blog from women in these situations, but I'm not. I've read blogs from women who wish their spouses wanted more sex and I just think that I wish I was in that situation. This perspective is not one that I wanted to share in a FPP.

One of the common threads that I see in these blogs is the lack of social groupings for the men blogging. It seems that between kids and jobs they don't have a lot of guy friends to talk about these issues. I know that when my wife and I were having these issues I did not feel comfortable talking about my private life with my friends, and those friends that I did were usually telling me that I was lucky to be in love and married so I should STFU. In retrospect, a blog with comments would have probably made 2002 a *far better year* for my marriage.

In any case, communication is core to all of this, as is compromise. The Atlantic Monthly article that Johnny Assay linked to is a great read. I'll share it with my wife, and buy her one or two of the books listed. That'll get me a good pop in the eye.
posted by DragonBoy at 11:34 AM on June 11, 2004


trharlan: thank you

Ethereal: if you believe being "forced" or "coerced" or "obligated" into buying flowers to be the same thing as being "forced" or "coerced" or "obligated" to perform sexual acts, I'm afraid we view the world so differently that there's nothing for us to discuss.

Most people (I would think), again of sufficient sexual maturity, would find the notion of being "accommodated" to be repulsive. Anyone who would be happy copulating with someone who was merely providing their body as a tool for assisted masturbation is just downright revolting to me. Yeah, when I was 17 I was happy with someone who was merely "willing". That's not quite sufficient for me now as a grown man, I require someone who DESIRES me, and is not merely "willing" or "doing their duty".

There may well be a "right to demand" but if there is, it is disgusting and vile and something I will not participate in. I would not want to be forced into having sex with someone if I did not want to, or when I did not want to. I would surely give my partner that same deference.

On preview:
Zoogleplex: thank you. This is something I actually feel quite passionate about, and something I've considered as an area of academic research, coupled with a career change. And based on my conversations with other 30 somethings (both genders), a topic that has not been addressed adequately for this generation.

I think the problem was hinted at above, that the early stages of dating are often wall-to-wall carnal explorations. Throw in several years, "the real world" and some aging, and its not hard to see how it could occur.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:39 AM on June 11, 2004


That's not quite sufficient for me now as a grown man, I require someone who DESIRES me

[fierstein]

I Just wanna be loved, is that so WRONG!!??

[/fierstein]
posted by jonmc at 11:45 AM on June 11, 2004


"Jesus Christ."—languagehat
So, let me get this straight. If you stopped working or providing income, LanguageHat, your wife has no right to demand that you change that? No one has any rights to demand anything in a marriage? Or is it just sex? If so, why?

This is why the divorce rate is so high in the US. People have these unrealistic expectations that there will be no need to compromise on anything because, if it's "meant" to be, then your needs and desires will always be in accordance. To "accomodate" the other person offends our childish American sensibilities about marriage.
"On preview: Jesus Christ. EB, I hope if you ever consider getting married you'll show this thread to your intended. Forewarned and all that."—languagehat
I've been married. And I've been in other long-term relationships. One of the things that I've learned is that the other person's needs and desires are important even if they're not important to me. Yeah, I suspect that potential partner will read this thread and go, "Hmm, EB is arguing that it's important to compromise to satisfy his partner's needs, even when he doesn't really want to". Yep, that'll scare 'em right off, huh?
"You are quite incorrect. I do not understand why you feel the need to characterize me this way."—beth
So, if a woman feels that her husband is uncommunicative and not demonstrative, your response is "it's her responsibility to figure out how to make him want to be communicative and demonstrative"? Well, okay, then. You get points for consistency.

On preview: Ynoxas, please be assured that I find your view as repugnant and hopelessly immature as you find mine.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:47 AM on June 11, 2004


Why the gender specificity?

EB: Specifically, I was asking for Beth's opinion on the men, because she seemed to think that if this happens to them, it's because they don't try hard enough to arouse their wives. The gender specificity began with her comment (it seemed). In other words, and I was trying to open up a conversation with her. Which I think just happened.

So pipe down!

Beth: I think we're getting each other now. I didn't really get the sense that anyone's solution to the problem was to blame the uninterested partner. In appealing to them to try harder, perhaps it's necessary to convince them that they need to try harder. People get defensive about sex, and sometimes when someone asks their partner to do more, try harder, they retaliate with "there's nothing wrong with me." Clearly, no one is going to get anywhere arguing that there is something wrong with their partner.

One point where I'd like to comment further is that in a healthy relationship, both people feel desire of their own accord, and bring that desire to their partner for fulfillment. In my relationship, anyway, we try to make sure that both parties are responsible for initiating sex. I don't think it's true that a healthy sexual partner needs to have their desire "awoken" by a partner who approaches them the right way. If someone's dependent on that, then, IMHO, something is already a little off.
posted by scarabic at 11:51 AM on June 11, 2004


Kidding aside, do you honestly think that most couples are about chimeras like "desire," "fulfillment," and all that shit?

What happens is that, at a certain point people weigh their chances out there in single world against what they're offerred as a sheild against loneliness. The rest is either romance novel bullshit or psychobabble. Hell, my grandfather is fond of telling us all that he married grandma because the family needed farmland.
posted by jonmc at 11:53 AM on June 11, 2004


There's another factor that could come into play that nobody's mentioned specifically, but which is a part of the communication issue.

People are often dishonest with each other - and themselves - about what really turns them on. I know of relationships out there where two people have gotten into a relationship for whatever reason, but have been submerging and denying sexual desires that are incompatible with the relationship, at least as they perceive it. An extreme example would be where a male/female couple is married and has children, but the father is actually a closet gay man, and the wife doesn't know.

More often than that, I would surmise, there are people who get really excited by some sexual practice or fetish, but they're afraid to admit it to their significant other for fear of rejection or whatever -- basically, settling for a sex life that is less than they want, simply to have a sex life/companionship/children-raising partner. Also submerging an important part of their own personality because they see it as "wrong" in the context of their relationship or societal rules or whatever. That sort of self-denial over time, especially if coupled with the kind of control situation that Ynoxas described, would lead to some pretty serious resentment and depression.

Better to just be completely honest with each other. I think we'd all be shocked at how many other people have turn-ons that are supposed to be "wrong" or "deviant."

Could be part of the problem.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:56 AM on June 11, 2004


Hell, my grandfather is fond of telling us all that he married grandma because the family needed farmland.

The must un-romantic comment I ever heard from that generation was a friend's grandfather, on the occasion of his own wife's death:

"She was a good woman. I never heard her pee."

My grandfather, on the other hand, is still in love with his wife 2 years after her death, following 50 years of happy marriage. He still tells stories of her in a very loving way, and the last words he ever said to here were "Goodnight, sweetheart."

I asked him the secret to staying happy with someone for so long. He said:

"Try to be pleasing."
posted by scarabic at 3:34 PM on June 11, 2004 [1 favorite]


I think the quesiton for all these men (and I recognize way too much that hits home for me) is this.

What is it about their wives that they do love, and why? They all say they love their wives, but I think that's too easy a cop out. If you love her and you're not happy, then you're giving up on yourself and your happiness. If you're trying to make her happy, you're screwed (so to speak) and giving up yourself. And if you're not happy, you've got to go where you are happy, even if it means leaving the relationship.
posted by drinkmaildave at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2004


I think a lot of women use as a measure of a man's worth his ability to read her mind and do what she wants without her simply asking. This, of course, ends in disappointment for both.

I don't think the physical act of sex is so much at the root of the problem most people have as is temotional distance.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:46 PM on June 11, 2004


Ethereal Bligh: Most people consider sex to be a fundamental part of a long-term relationship and thus, unless explicitly understood otherwise, this is normative.

I'm wondering though how much of this is due to how much sex is overhyped in our culture? It seems like that in the last 50 years we've changed from a pop psychology that honestly believed that serious physical and mental health issues resulted from over-indulgence, to a situation where one might honestly fear for one's life if one is not having multi-orgasmic sex at least three times a week.

To a large degree, I think that the whole sex-positive movement took a wrong turn somewhere where it replaced the taboo against talking about desire and behavior with taboos against talking about a lack of desire and behavior. The possibility that one might be perfectly happy not bumping uglies has become the new "love that dare not speak its name."

A healthy relationship requires that each partner be considerate and generous regarding the other's needs and desires, even when they aren't one's own. This means that, at least occasionally, you're going to have sex when you're not particularly in the mood, just like you're going to watch a movie you don't particularly want to watch.

This seems to require a pretty narrow definition of sex. With only a trivial imagination, it is quite possible to "make love" in ways that satisfy the emotional needs of both parties, without demanding that one person "put out." For example, cuddling while one partner masturbates his/her self can provide an outlet for the more sexual partner, without threatening the boundaries of the less sexual partner.

What's it really about, as others have said upthread, is communication, compromise, and all the things that are involved in a healthy relationship.

I don't see communication and compromise as compatible with a right to have sex within a relationship. And yes, a part of that involves recognizing that a given compromise might not be good enough for both partners and either partner does have a right to leave. But on the other hand, I don't know many couples who have been together for more than a dozen years that have not had to go for months without, whether due to economics, war, illness or emotional issues.

Ynoxas: The person with the lower sex drive is satisfied, by definition, or else they'd have more.

Not necessarily. Most of the low sex drive people I know are pretty frustrated with their lack of sex drive.

At its base, sex requires nothing more than a good imagination, and a working hand. This notion that the less-interested person has a high degree of control over the orgsamic happiness of his/her partner is basically hogwash.

Etherial Bligh: Do you expect and demand that you and your partner only engage in joint activities that both are equally interested in? I submit that in a healthy relationship, there's things that one does only because it's important to the other person.

There are quite a few activities that I do solo because my partner is uninterested, and gets no joy out of participating in them. Why should sex be different from those activities?


This is why the divorce rate is so high in the US. People have these unrealistic expectations that there will be no need to compromise on anything because, if it's "meant" to be, then your needs and desires will always be in accordance. To "accomodate" the other person offends our childish American sensibilities about marriage.

I guess what I'm seeing here is some contradictions. "Compromise" involves two people finding a solution to make their needs met (although compromise is not the best solution to conflict, the best solution is to cut the Gordian Knot and find a solution where neither party has to give anything up) while "accomodation" suggests the opposite of compromise or "giving in."

In other words, your "compromise" seems not to be much of a compromise at all, but weighted to favor one person. That is, the needs and desires of the person who does not want to engage in sexual activity that is unfulfilling, uncomfortable, and perhaps even mentally and physically harmful is not a part of the equation.

Something that has not yet been mentioned in this discussion is that while the harms of spending an afternoon polishing the rod or buttering the potato are usually minimal, sex for an unaroused partner can range from a simple waste of time to physically difficult to actively painful.

"Compromise" as I hear you discuss it seems to involve going from putting out once a week rather than once a month. It does not involve finding a mutually satisfying solution to the problem. Perhaps the solution is alternative forms of sexuality that meets the more sexual partner's need for release and the less sexual partner's need for intimacy. Perhaps the solution is for the more sexual partner to become self-sufficient in his/her sexuality. Perhaps the solution is medical treatment (like beth said, and I feel she has been unfairly attacked here). Perhaps the solution is to factor out sexuality from intimacy and treat them as two separate problems. Perhaps the solution is learning to deal. Perhaps the solution is divorce.

In general: To me there seems to be something deeply problematic about airing one's dirty laundry on a weblog. I've learned the hard way that the question is not if they will find out, but WHEN, and venting in public might be a serious breach of trust.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:47 PM on June 11, 2004


it's sad that people don't figure out their compatibilities more thoroughly before getting married. People should really know what they're getting into before the vows are taken - you may have to compromise certain things, since no one (probably) is going to match your dream mate, but you should go in knowing that. Maybe you have mismatching sex drives, but at least you're in the same neighborhood... or if not, but you really feel you'd make ideal life-mates, and would be happy to raise kids together or whatever, then maybe you consider having an open relationship? I don't understand why more people aren't open to this option if there really are so many sexless marriages. I mean, if you consider sex central to marriage, you should be having it; if sex is not central to marriage, then why does it matter if your spouse does it with other people, so long as the extramarital sex is done with protection and everyone involved knows the scoop? I guess one pretty serious complication would be accidental pregnancy, so might need a ban on intercourse or a vasectomy ...

It's true people change, of course, and perhaps by the time the initial fire dies down, you already feel too emotionally connected to just move on. On preview, Ynoxas' comment is well said -

That said, it seemed to me that there were two different orders of complaint here. The first blog was talking about not having sex for weeks or months in a row, and quoted that letter from salon from someone with the same problem. Some of the other blogs were about guys "only" getting action on weekends, or once a week or so (a frequency the first guy explicitly said would be bliss). The first case is a serious and depressing situation; the second I can hardly drum up much pity for (being single...). I mean, yeah, it'd be nice if there was more romance and excitement, but if all else is good, it just doesn't seem that tragic to me. I know it's all degrees, and perhaps it's not fair to say that once a week is acceptable but once every three weeks is not, but I guess it just seems worth noting that these just don't strike me as the same problem.
posted by mdn at 3:51 PM on June 11, 2004


Part of the problem is that many of us women don't know that to a man sex IS intimacy-and that in that context it isn't JUST a physical need. And what a man might not understand is that sometimes a woman can feel pressured even when he is honestly trying as hard as he can to please, and to meet her needs physically.


They need marriage counseling and they need to talk about everything in their lives EXCEPT sex for the first group of sessions.

Because of my periodic depressions there have been times when I was less than interested in my husband that way. But my husband and I TALKED. He was honest about what he needed, he was honest about the fact that the world is filled with temptations (he is the most moral and faithful person I have ever met, by the way) and he was also incredibly understanding about what I needed emotionally and otherwise. But the truth is that I needed to be willing to meet him halfway. This man needs to find out what it is that his wife is angry with him about because I guarantee there is a problem OUTside the bedroom, and I can almost guarantee he is clueless about it, even if he is trying hard not to be.
posted by konolia at 3:55 PM on June 11, 2004


I like scarabic's grandfather story very much, and I totally endorse the punch line.

EB: To quote Ynoxas, I'm afraid we view the world so differently that there's nothing for us to discuss.
posted by languagehat at 4:00 PM on June 11, 2004


My wife has had one ovary removed and two operations for ovarian cysts. I love her very much, we have a great life together, share a lot of interests, and we're still very affectionate, but she'd be the first to admit that her medical problems have considerably reduced her libido...

Which, incidentally, is one of the reasons I am polyamorous. But only *one* of the reasons, and arguably not the most important reason.

Ironically, part of why my girlfriend and I do so well is because I provide her a lot of cuddling and affection that she doesn't get in her other relationship. Some would view the whole of this as negative somehow, but I view it as the best of both worlds. I don't think it's entirely realistic to find someone who is everything you would like them to be, or to expect that they will always remain everything you want in life.

In other words, if you want something in your relationship that you're not getting, then consider the possibility of openly, honestly asking your partner for it... and, if necessary or practicable, getting it somewhere else.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:06 PM on June 11, 2004


konalia: Part of the problem is that many of us women don't know that to a man sex IS intimacy-and that in that context it isn't JUST a physical need.

Which is, to be blunt, a self-serving line, and a self-fulfilling prophesy that is an insult to the fine quality of manure that is at least used to grow something productive.

Sex is sex, intimacy is intimacy. Men are quite able to develop intimacy in the absence of sex.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:20 PM on June 11, 2004


Heh, and another useful though experiment for couples ask youself:

If there was some horrible medical accident that meant I would never have sex with this person again, would I still want to build a life with them?

Seriously, I think that we place much too high of a cultural expectation for long-term frequent sexual activity as the basis for a relationship. Shit happens, kids happen, hormone changes happpen, illnesses happen, surgery happens, wars happen, economic changes happen, relocation happens. I wonder how many of the 50+ year relationships that are in my family history would be considered pathologically flawed on the basis of sexual activity alone.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2004


KirkJobSluder, maybe I just phrased it wrong. But I have been happily married for almost 21 years and I know how sex is tied up in the equation of making my husband feel LOVED. Not just dehornified. In fact, so much of it doesn't have anything to do with being horny or not. I am talking in the context of a longstanding committed relationship, not a one-night-stand.
posted by konolia at 4:51 PM on June 11, 2004


Most women need a good ass fucking on a regular basis. Just keep to keep them in line. Ask my wife, she'll agree. :)
posted by WLW at 4:54 PM on June 11, 2004


So, if a woman feels that her husband is uncommunicative and not demonstrative, your response is "it's her responsibility to figure out how to make him want to be communicative and demonstrative"? Well, okay, then. You get points for consistency.

I said that a person wanting more sex should at least try to kindle sexual desire in their partner. You know, meet them halfway instead of just expect to be catered to sexually by someone who's not interested.

I don't know where you got what you wrote above, but it's not something I subscribe to. It's pretty cheesy for you to ask a ridiculous question, then assume I say "yes" to it.
posted by beth at 4:59 PM on June 11, 2004


Sex isn't that important to me, and so I agree with KirkJobSluder. But it is very important to other people.

Perhaps y'all missed the part where I said that my last serious relationship ended because I was not having sex often enough with my partner. A big part of it at the time was that I felt that it was her responsibility to be attractive to me. And, also, that there was something icky about me having sex when I really wasn't interested.

I was wrong.

You guys are responding to my point as if I were exclusively talking about an unwilling wife having sex with me. Huh. Interesting, isn't it? Project much?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:59 PM on June 11, 2004


I'm sorry, Beth, I'm confused. Have you said whether the communicative/demonstrative situation is different, or the same, as the sex situation in your book? And whether your response would be the same or different? I got in trouble for assuming it wasn't; then, when, corrected, assuming it was. Are you just avoiding my point?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:04 PM on June 11, 2004


When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed:
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love, loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

    —Shakespeare
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:05 PM on June 11, 2004


Most women need a good ass fucking on a regular basis. Just keep to keep them in line. Ask my wife, she'll agree. :)

Excuse me, but I think you must be lost. Fark is that way.
posted by beth at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2004


Sex is sex, intimacy is intimacy.
Sorry bub, but THIS is the real pile of manure. Just because it's true for you doesn't mean it's true for most men out there. The same thing goes for your assumption that masturbation is just as fulfilling as sex. That's far from the case for most men, we aren't all the appearent monks you are.

konolia and Ynoxas have it exactly right for the majority of men out there.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:19 PM on June 11, 2004


What I've learned, going from one relationship where I played one role, to another where I played a very different role, is that generalizations about male and female sex drives and related is not a good idea. People vary, greatly. This subject is not just about disatisfied men and unwilling wives. It's about disatisfied partners and unwilling partners. And even in the best relationship with the greatest compatibility, sex drives will wax and wane and external factors may place one partner's needs at odds with the other. The ultimate solution, of course, is communication and trying to find a way to sync the two needs. But, in the short term, in general in relationships and also with regard to sex, a little generosity and unselfishness goes a long way.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:26 PM on June 11, 2004


konolia: KirkJobSluder, maybe I just phrased it wrong. But I have been happily married for almost 21 years and I know how sex is tied up in the equation of making my husband feel LOVED. Not just dehornified. In fact, so much of it doesn't have anything to do with being horny or not. I am talking in the context of a longstanding committed relationship, not a one-night-stand.

I'm also talking about in the context of a longstanding commitment. The whole generalization that men only or primarily experience intimacy through sex is little more than a bit of hateful, spiteful, propaganda to justify reducing adult men to a mewling, squaling, infantile state in which all problems are solved by simply "giving them the tit." Of course as far as nasty, spiteful little bits of propaganda goes, it becomes remarkably successful with men going to great lengths to justify their own self-created emotional addiction to sex, quite possibly because viewing themselves as emotional dimwits only able to open up or feel loved in the brief moments between foreplay and afterglow gives them open license to treat women as their emotional nursemaids.

And on the other side, I've had female lovers who turned out to be threatened and in the end, a bit irritated when I've expressed emotional needs that didn't include their planned 4-hour lovemaking session. Women who were shocked and suprised that I might want to drink coffee and hold hands for an afternoon rather than tumbling into bed. As much as the talk about men's lack of emotional intimacy seems to be a popular legend, there are a fair number of women who flip out when their partners have an emotional life beyond eating, farting and screwing. Women who are baffled when men are not in the mood or are not happy with the relationship in spite of great sex.

It is interesting. When a woman does not want to have sex, it is normal and probably temporary. When a man does not want to have sex:
1: He is having an affair.
2: He is sick.
3: He is having an affair.
4: He is gay.
5: he is gay and having an affair.
6: he is about to have an affair.
7: he is depressed, and about to have an affair.
8: he is unhappy with the relationship, and probably about to have an affair.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:29 PM on June 11, 2004


Have you said whether the communicative/demonstrative situation is different, or the same, as the sex situation in your book?

They are different issues. Sex, to be enjoyable, requires some measure of arousal and desire by both parties. It is reasonable (in my book) to say that the partner wanting more sex should at least attempt to arouse and kindle sexual desire in their partner. It is unreasonable (in my book) to demand sexual satisfaction from a sexually uninterested and unaroused partner.

Communication can and should happen regardless of the emotional or arousal states of both parties. It is reasonable (in my book) to expect both partners to make a sincere effort at communicating well with the other partner (being respectful, honest, etc). If someone has serious issues with being able to communicate, perhaps they would benefit from counseling or something.

Demonstrativeness depends - is the party who wants more asking for something that really bothers the other partner? Something out of the ordinary? Some demonstrations of affection are rather reasonable, some overwhelming (as when the party wanting more is emotionally unstable and extremely needy).

In all of these cases, ideally there should be a level of respect between the partners, and a sense that it is unreasonable to ask one party to go completely against their nature to meet the needs of the other. Ideally they should meet each other halfway, in some sort of compromise. The onus is not completely on one or the other.
posted by beth at 5:35 PM on June 11, 2004


mathowie:

> jokes about never having sex after you get married are an age-old classic.

From at least the 1920s:

married guy A: Hey, getting any on the side?
married guy B: I haven't gotten any in so long I didn't know they'd moved it.

I promise you, when a woman to whom you have devoted seventeen years of fidelity loses interest in sex (and, soon enough, in the entire marriage, the kids be damned) it makes you feel pretty worthless. I do certainly expect to marry again but I won't waste half a second considering an American woman.
posted by jfuller at 5:48 PM on June 11, 2004


Anyone notice the prevalance of Married M4M chat rooms in this context? Or the whole "down low" phenomenon?

Some of my more, erm, active queer friends often have assignations (made all the easier since the advent of the 'net as a tool to hook up) with married men (and men in long-term unmarried relationships) who turn to sex with other men specifically because of the inequality of their needs/wants in the bedroom.

I'd find this extremely healthy if the male in question discussed this with and had the approval of the female partner in question, but this almost never happens. Instead, it seems to be a way for many men to practice infidelity ... while somehow justifying it in their minds as not cheating at all, since it's with a man, not a woman, and there's only sexual pleasure involved, not romantic pleasure. It also seems many of these men have given in to how easy it is to get sex this way, rather than having to work at a relationship with any kind of level of commitment, emotional or other.

I've never heard of or observed this phenomenon going the other way, where a female seeks out another female because of similar problems with her male partner, though I've heard tons of incidents with females hooking up with other males. That certainly doesn't mean that type of infidelity doesn't exist, but it often gives me pause for a lot of thought.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:49 PM on June 11, 2004


Can we please stop with the "shut up, EB" comments? It IS possible to disagree with someone about something, and even to discuss it with them, without trying to censor them.

I get the sense that people want to blame the less interested partner for not being willing to have sex when they don't feel like it, rather than look at the root cause (lack of sexual desire) and trying to fix it.

It seems to me that you are overlooking the fact that at least half the responsibility for such an investigation lies with the person experiencing the difficulty.

it's sad that people don't figure out their compatibilities more thoroughly before getting married. People should really know what they're getting into before the vows are taken - you may have to compromise certain things, since no one (probably) is going to match your dream mate, but you should go in knowing that.

Truer words were never spoken/typed.
posted by rushmc at 5:51 PM on June 11, 2004


KirkJobSluder - Ok, we get it. You're an oppressed minority, now stop beating us over the head about it. You need to recognize that most men aren't like you, and that we can't just get over it as you seem to want us to. Why is it so wrong to enjoy sex a great deal and to include it as a part of intimacy?
posted by TungstenChef at 5:55 PM on June 11, 2004


TungstenChief: Sorry bub, but THIS is the real pile of manure. Just because it's true for you doesn't mean it's true for most men out there. The same thing goes for your assumption that masturbation is just as fulfilling as sex. That's far from the case for most men, we aren't all the appearent monks you are.

Heh, how interesting that you can't respond without making a rather nasty, unwarranted, and untrue statement about my sex life.

Perhaps this is true that most men are mewling emotional babies who just want to be "given the tit" now and then. I don't think so. I've seen brothers cry over a shared childhood experience. I've had long conversations with friends that included every detail of our lives over six months (and most people can relate the same experience.) I keep hearing stories from men who are getting lots of sex from a relationship, but don't feel that relationship is particularly intimate or emotionally satisfying. Heck, I'm looking at a paper that reports that most adolescent males have at least one same-sex intimate friendship that frequently involves higher levels of emotional affect than their opposite sex dating relationships.

In fact, it is quite likely that this whole idea of your spouse being your primary source (and only) source for emotional intimacy is a bit recent. You lived with and (frequently) tolerated your spouse, you emotionally connected with your same-sex friends.

Do a lot of men experience intimacy during sex? Of course! (How is this different from what we've said all along about the emotional sensibilities of women?) What I disagree with is the notion that sex is the only way to express intimacy. Even the Mars/Venus folks agree that men share intimacy in other ways. Although there the primary division is that men bond by doing things, women bond by verbal emotional disclosure.

On preview:
Ok, we get it. You're an oppressed minority, now stop beating us over the head about it. You need to recognize that most men aren't like you, and that we can't just get over it as you seem to want us to. Why is it so wrong to enjoy sex a great deal and to include it as a part of intimacy?"

I didn't say anthing about "oppressed minority." What I am saying is that men are setting themselves up for getting their heart stomped on and kicked repeatedly if they tie up all their emotional self-worth into being "given the tit" on a regular basis. I think there was an earlier thread in which someone was commenting on feeling worthless because one was not in an LTR. This has a feedback effect because to a reasonably mature people, this is like garlic to vampires. The people who are not scared off by the "I'm worthless without a girlfriend" pity party are the "I'm worthless without a boyfriend" group, and putting the two together is a recipie for a world of mutually destructive hell. At the extreme end, these are the people who respond to the breakup by shooting their spouses, their kids and themselves. Furtunately, most of them just cry in their beers about what pathetic loosers they are since the breakup, eventually hooking up with other pathetic loosers and repeating the cycle all over again.

Nothing's wrong with enjoying sex a lot. I enjoy it as much and as often as I can. But here is the deal:

1: You don't need sex to be a happy and fulfilled person.
2: Sex is a heck of a lot more fun when you do it because you like it, rather than doing it because you need it, doing it because you think your partner expects it, or doing it because that is the only way you can feel intimate with someone.

Having sex because you "need" it is like eating nothing but instant oatmeal for a week. Bland, and not very satisfying.

Havings sex because you WANT to, with another person who WANTS to have sex with you. In a relationship where you can share megavolts of intimacy with just by smiling and touching fingers, THAT is amazing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:17 PM on June 11, 2004


Ah, you crazy idealist, you!
posted by rushmc at 6:25 PM on June 11, 2004


EB: Perhaps y'all missed the part where I said that my last serious relationship ended because I was not having sex often enough with my partner. A big part of it at the time was that I felt that it was her responsibility to be attractive to me. And, also, that there was something icky about me having sex when I really wasn't interested.

I was wrong.


I caught it, been there, I still disagree though. "Sympathy sex" (a polite term) is worse than not getting any at all. The end result I've found is that the giver feels like a prostitute, and the recipient feels their ego even more diminished than before.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:32 PM on June 11, 2004


"No one wants to fuck someone forever"

Not true. I'd quite happily fuck my wife forever.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2004


Just one small comment after reading this thread... I am so tired of men assuming it is different for women.
posted by vers at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2004



konolia and Ynoxas have it exactly right for the majority of men out there.


Well, not me, if you're referring to the whole "sex *is* intimacy for men" comment.

For me, intimacy is honesty, open, unabshed honesty. Intimacy is doing dishes together in silence, sharing the everyday toils of being human. Intimacy is communicating without speaking, thinking as one, and finishing each other's sentences. Intimacy is someone who's heard all your stories, and can even fill in the bits you've forgotten for you. Intimacy is holding a conversation while one of you pees and the other brushes their teeth. Intimacy is someone seeing you at your best, your worst, and everything in between, and still saying "I want that."

Sex and intimacy are certainly connected. Sex is greatly heightened by intimacy, and growing intimate with someone automatically brings on sexual tension. This might sound dumb, but for me, there is no greater turn on that talking softly for hours, sharing the things we keep hidden from the rest of the world all the time. The quality of sex is directly proportional to the degree of emotional closeness. My one-night stands have been interesting, but entirely one-dimensional.

Anyone who thinks a lapdance or a bought fuck can bring them intimacy has sorely underestimated men.
posted by scarabic at 7:13 PM on June 11, 2004


> People should really know what they're getting into before the vows are taken

Absolutely. And folks really should have a crystal ball that tells them what they're going to feel like in 20 years. Also, pigs really should fly. But we are, um, encouraged to get on with normal life, which includes marriage though it does not include crystal balls or aerial pigs.

In our culture you are offered the opportunity to give to your beloved/intended the strongest word you are capable of giving, that you will, y'know, love-honor-cherish for-as-long-as-you-both-shall-live. Someone who gives that word is stating that he or she will stick to it, no matter what changes occur. Those who give this word and then don't keep it? "Vaporware" is too substantive for them. There's no person there to keep the word.
posted by jfuller at 7:49 PM on June 11, 2004


I never said that it should be unilateral. And I did say that the ultimate solution to an ongoing, long-term conflict of this nature is to find a way to synchronize the sexual needs, to decide to agree to disagree, to make some other arrangement, or to end the relationship.

What I do know is that sex is not exceptional in regards to fundamental relationship issues and compromise, generosity, and give-and-take. Given how widely people's sexual appetites can vary, I'd say it's as likely as not that an otherwise happy couple will have a conflict of this nature. And, as I said, even when the appetites are approximately equal, the timing may not necessarily be.

I should be more forgiving of the viewpoint against which I am arguing. After all, I both once held that viewpoint and acted upon it. Even when I reached a place where I intellectually acknowledged that my partner had a right to a sexual relationship with me, and that it wasn't her (sole, at least) responsibility to arouse my libido, I still balked at any sexual overtures unless I myself was "in the mood". Because, of course, it just seemed wrong to have sex with someone when one doesn't want to.

And I now think that is profoundly selfish. In a relationship, there are a great number of things that, either generally or at a specific moment, are very important to one's partner and either not important or undesirable to one's self. Of course I'm not advocating that one or even both partners always do whatever the other one wants regardless of how one feels about it; but I am saying that in many things in a relationship there will be times when it is the healthy, loving, generous, and unselfish thing to do to say, "Okay, sure, I'd like to [have sex] [see a movie] [talk about our relationship] [cuddle] [give you a massage] [be nice to your mother]". That's what a relationship is. Being accomodating sexually is no different than being accomadating in other ways.

I am well aware of the sexist, cultural context that has traditionally disregarded women's sexual desires and expected women to "lie there and think of England". I quite understand that in that context, there is a reasonable backlash against "doing one's duty" as it pertains to sexuality.

But you'll notice that my personal experience (the most recent one) turns that calculus on its head; and was a situation where the woman was deeply disatisfied and the man felt pressured (often) into having sex he didn't want to have. I am not saying that the proper response would have been for me to regularly engage in obligatory sex. That's not a solution (unless we both had decided it was and were okay with that). But the truth is that I barely gave an inch. I shared the above sentiment that unless I wanted to, it wasn't gonna happen. Ever. And that was selfish and unrealistic.

I see this issue as part-and-parcel of the larger issue of compromise and working around disagreements that is necessary in a successful relationship. There is, I think, a destructive relationship ethos in our culture that demands that if a relationship "is meant to be", the couple will almost always be in accordance with each other's needs. Neither partner "should" ever have to do anything they don't want to do that the other partner wants to do, because, in a "good" relationship, both people always want and need the same things. I think that's terribly false and sets up very unrealistic expectations.

I recognize that there is a great deal of heated sexual politics and sexual warfare implicit in any discussion of this issue and I supose I should have been both more sensitive to that and realistic about its inevitability.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:38 PM on June 11, 2004


Absolutely. And folks really should have a crystal ball that tells them what they're going to feel like in 20 years. Also, pigs really should fly. But we are, um, encouraged to get on with normal life, which includes marriage though it does not include crystal balls or aerial pigs.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to honestly assess what you want and expect from a relationship, and to find out what your partner wants and expects. What it takes is time, a realistic attitude, and a willingness to address "the facts of the matter" and not get lost in mutual daydreams about one another. People get engaged after dating for less than a year! That's nuts, in my book.

Marriage is the culmination of a romantic affair, but it is also a practical partnership. To ignore or downplay the issues of compatibility by focusing on the flowers, serenades, rings, cheekbones and pecs, or whatever other exciting and tremendous moments or attributes define the one you love, is a big mistake, and one a lot of couples seem to make.

Some compatibility things are public and do break up relationships - what religion to raise the kids, urban v. rural, etc. Others are more private but just as important. What role sex plays in the relationship is the kind of thing you have got to know about your partner before signing on. Sure, there will be unexpected periods where things change, but if expectations were clear and mutual in the beginning, then there's no wall of tension about whether the problem exists. There's open acknowledgement that one of them is going through something, and they can both work on coming up with solutions. Among the solutions - likely partial/temporary solutions - could be that the disadvantaged partner be allowed/encouraged to enjoy porn / fantasy / secondary sex partners (which was decidedly not the case on those blogs, where the men were scared the wife would find out he was downloading porn, etc). But if the wife doesn't think more than once a week is reasonable, and doesn't like the husband jerking off on his own, then you've got problems.
posted by mdn at 9:00 PM on June 11, 2004


Well said mdn. So much wonderful food for thought in this thread, I think. And I see an uncommon amount of mind- and heart-stretching in this thread from everyone. Very difficult subject, but I just cherish the feeling that everyone who is reading and/or participating in this discussion is digging down deep inside themselves and hopefully learning something. Thanks everyone... I personally appreciate it very much, having wrestled all my adult life with relationship difficulties.

Um, I guess that's all I want to say... but I really do mean it.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:20 PM on June 11, 2004


Ethereal Bligh, I think the reason people are reacting to your statements is that, for most of us, a large part (perhaps a majority) of the pleasure to be gotten from sex comes from the act of giving one's partner pleasure. I can't see that sleeping with someone who didn't really want to be sleeping with me would be any more fun than masturbation. And this isn't because I'm a giving sort of person — in fact I'm a selfish asshole whose distrust of relationships borders on misogyny. Nonetheless, I don't enjoy sex if the other person isn't enjoying it, and I don't think I'm atypical. It's got nothing to do with idealistic notions of romance — it's got to do with what's enjoyable for me, which doesn't include sex with reluctant partners.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:41 PM on June 11, 2004


I think you're making the distinction artificially cut-and-dried. For a lot of people "not being in the mood" is functionally equivalent to "not wanting to have sex". But I think there's a real distinction between the two. If we were talking about going out to dinner, and my partner really wanted to go out to dinner, there's a difference between "I really am not in the mood to go out to dinner" and "I really would DISLIKE going out to dinner". In the latter case, it's obvious that going out to dinner would likely be an unpleasant experience for both. But in the former case, not necessarily. In fact, oftentimes people are surprised. And, again, I'm assuming that it's particularly important to the other partner that they go out to dinner. Say, it's an anniversary. Or just that they haven't done so in a long time. Or she/he has had a long, difficult day and wants a break. Whatever. The point is that the two people may not be on exactly the same page. But a successful relationship requires that people accomodate each other's needs, even when they diverge from one's own.

I want to repeat that I think an issue here is that, with regards to sex, many people are quite disinclined to have sex unless they are relatively, um, horny. No horniness equals no sex. I know in my case in that failed relationship, in the abstract I was aware that A) I wasn't in the least repusled by my partner or anything and that I wouldn't be if we had sex; B) she was very horny and needing attention and that it would be an act of love on my part to do so (and I did love her); and C) I'd probably more often than not get into it once we started. But, no, if I wasn't feeling horny when she propositioned me, then I was extremely reluctant to have sex and resented being pressured to do so.1

Take another loaded example. This is a big issue with me because although I'm pretty unselfish in many ways, I have a certain blind spot in this regard. I'm mullishly stubborn against doing something just because someone else wants me to. I don't give massages because massaging someone bores me to death. In the abstract, I recognize that it gives the other person pleasure, and I try to convince myself that I should do it, and be bored, because it gives the other person pleasure. But I still pretty much won't. And, frankly, that's selfish of me. Sometimes, just because it's important to the other person is a good enough reason to do something. Building your life and distorting your personality around accomodating someone else's alien needs and wants? No, of course not. But doing things, at least now and then and moreso in proportion to their importance, that are all about the other person is probably the very essence of what it means to love someone.

The two levels of what I feel I should have done diferently in the relationship I've mentioned is this. The first is to recognize that my indifference to having sex is not the same as an aversion to having sex, especially in the context of a partner for whom having sex was very important. I should have tried saying "yes" a lot more often than I did, and see what happened. I didn't.

Second, essential to truly loving someone is learning to do something for your partner, that is important to them, that has little or no importance to you, because it's important to them and to subsequently take simple pleasure in having the opportunity to show them love in that manner. Until one gets beyond the whole "She/he shouldn't even be asking or expecting me to do something I'm not interested in doing" thing, one will never grow enough to learn to selflessly love in this fashion. This is a hard lesson to learn, especially in our culture which is very self-oriented. But it's hugely important.

1 It's also worth mentioning that I probably had some baggage associated with my marriage where the situation had been reversed and I was the disatisfied partner. Come to this relationship, where the shoe was on the other foot, I thought, "Hey, it was a cardinal sin to, in any way, pressure my ex to have sex so why in the hell should I tolerate it when my current partner does it to me? She should just tough it out, like I had to." I didn't think that often, or probably very consciously, but the sentiment was almost certainly there.

I'll also mention that another awareness-raising thing that came out of this, and the prior relationship which also was with an unusually highly sexed woman (both would probably be happy with sex multiple times a day—the teenage boy's dream, problematic in reality...for me, anyway), was that I felt sexually used. I started to feel, um, loved only because of my ability to produce orgasms in my partners. I felt used. I swear, this is true. It was very odd, but I learned a lot from it.

posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:19 AM on June 12, 2004


Why doesn't he just get some on the side?
If lack of sex is making you unhappy, get some more sex. If you can't get it from your wife, get it somewhere else - you have no moral obligation to someone who's making you unhappy or letting you suffer.

In my modest experience I also seem to detect the pattern that women desire virile men - maybe if he got some on the side his wife would me more turned on by him.
posted by spazzm at 2:56 AM on June 12, 2004


EB, I understand more where you're coming from now, but I still find it odd that you're using your own experience (which you surely must realize is far from universal) as a touchstone for all mankind. And I find it even odder that on the circumcision issue you take exactly the opposite tack: in your own life you've had no problem with it, but for various intellectual reasons you've decided it's evil. But that's inconsistent humanity for you! Anyway, thanks for the explanation.

Can we please stop with the "shut up, EB" comments?

Who was telling him to shut up? Ynoxas and I said "there's nothing for us to discuss," which is not even remotely the same thing.
posted by languagehat at 6:52 AM on June 12, 2004


EB: Good insight there in that there is a difference between indifference and aversion, which might be a big reason why we are talking past each other on some levels. I see a big difference between, "I don't feel like initiating, but I'll probably have some fun if things get started" and "my lack of arousal means that sex is going to be awkward at best and physically and emotionally painful at worst." In the former case, I can agree with doing it for the other person. In the latter case, I think that "putting out" is just going to build long-term resentment.

And something that I brought up before that has not been incorporated in this discussion is that a lack of physical arousal makes some sexual acts awkward or actively painful. Note that physical arousal is not necessarily the same thing as desire, and I think that to some degree this thread relies on equating the two.

Again, I'm wondering what exactly is meant by "sex" in this context? I get the feeling that most people here are thinking sex=intercourse which is the only standard by which I'm thinking that this whole binary division of the topic into sex/not-sex makes sense.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:32 AM on June 12, 2004


If you can't get it from your wife, get it somewhere else - you have no moral obligation to someone who's making you unhappy or letting you suffer.

Er, well, except for that whole vow thing.
posted by kindall at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2004


I don't think my experience is universal, and I'm not generalizing based solely on my own experience. I know independently that at certain points in a marriage the woman's sex drive often greatly exceeds the man's. I received email from a lurker because of this thread who had the same experience I've had, for example. Throughout this thread have been at least token acknowledgments that it isn't always a disatisfied man and an unwilling woman.

Furthermore, the underlying issue about generosity and selflessness in a relationship is, I think universal.

I make a lot of effort to avoid forming opinions and beliefs based solely on my own experience. However, you will find me here and elsewhere relating my personal experiences in the context of discussing these opinions and beliefs because I believe that it's vitally important to anchor these abstracted conversations in personal reality, where it matters. It's also an important rhetorical technique for me in that I am most interested in going beyond the mere denotation of my words and intend to, shall we say, infect someone with a perspective. Not because I want to force them to agree with it, but because actually seeing something at a gut level from another perspective is a very powerful and useful tool for critical evaluation of an idea.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:12 PM on June 12, 2004


It's also pretty much common knowledge that men like to have sex more than women generally, and that often presents a problem in a relationship. Maybe guys don't discuss it one-on-one all that often, but I've heard bits and pieces of the kind of stories in these blogs all my life from other men.

I've found this thread as a whole so depressing that I wasn't going to venture in here again, but I did want to respond to Matt's comment because nobody else has brought this up (as far as I've seen): the perception that women aren't in general as interested in sex as men is in my experience utterly untrue. The fact is that sex has historically, and still does have today, different consequences for women than for men, and it's only been, what, less than thirty years since reliable and accessible contraception has been available to women, and then only in the industrialized world. Add in the various taboos around sexual behaviour (that whole 'whore/slut' thing, not to mention the current standards of beauty and desirability which are so corrosive) and you've got a potent and complicated pyschological mix. That old reductive model of the eager male and the witholding female still seems to be what some people are working from here, but it's both a misunderstanding of a complicated situation and a way to shift responsibility onto women as the gatekeepers of sex, so to speak.

I can't really see sex in a relationship as separate from the rest of the dynamics within a couple: if you're angry at your partner to the point where you withold from them physically, then you have a lot of talking to do, and you won't solve the problem by engaging in that grim dutiful marital sex that satisfies no one. I know whereof I speak. In my case it was a matter of the looming and daily more obvious fact that my ex-husband and I needed to get a divorce, and all the reluctant sex in the world wasn't going to change that.

A bad marriage is a peculiar kind of hell which I have no desire to revisit. I dreamt about this thread last night.... As I grow older marriage becomes more and more mysterious to me: what makes a happy one, what makes a sucessful one. Length certainly can't be the criteria of such success; I actually consider my marriage to have been succesful because we both realized that we were better friends and coparents that a couple, and we have been on far, far better terms since we split up 10 years ago than we were when we were living together. His new partner makes him very happy.

I do have a friend who says that her marriage was saved because she finally, after years of trying to reconcile herself to her husband's far lower sex drive, took a lover. Every situation is that of individuals. And now I've said my bit, I'm seriously thinking of getting a dog.

Okay, not really.
posted by jokeefe at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2004


So I go and read the link to SuburbanSexBlog.

I've advocated that all a woman needs to do is give her man a little wild, "whore-type", unplanned sex every once in a while. That pretty much fills our void and calms us down. But, as we're finding out, there's way much more involved in this crazy thing called sex and marriage. There's power struggles, and bad communication, etc... So much stuff to be messed up about.

Uh...... I'm not even sure where to start. (This stuff is news to him? Good Lord.) So just a couple of things:

This guy is so self absorbed that I found it hard to believe the FPP's characterization of him as someone who is working hard on his marriage and trying to stay faithful;

He seems to think that his fantasy life, and that his lusting over Angelina Jolie and the intern at his office, are his little secrets. Trust me, his wife senses it, and probably feels judged as a consequence. Our blogger here seems to be unable to comprehend the possibility of his wife's own dissatisfaction;

They. Have. Kids. I know of nothing more stressful or more exhausting than trying to negotiate the machinery of working and childrearing and being a couple all at once. If his wife is anything like many, many, many women I have known, she's feeling overworked and underappreciated, overwhelmed by demands, and provided with little adult support.

Instead of complaining, he might find that equalizing the balance of labour in this home is far more productive in terms of cultivating good will and intimacy. Just a thought.
posted by jokeefe at 2:11 PM on June 12, 2004


FUCK YOU ALL SIMULTANEOUSLY.
posted by quonsar at 4:41 PM on June 12, 2004


I once thought that there couldn't be a more pompous, intolerable bore than y2karl.

But, EternalBlight, you are proving to me wrong on that.
posted by Seth at 5:11 PM on June 12, 2004


FUCK YOU ALL SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Hey q, how you doing? Cheers!
posted by jokeefe at 5:57 PM on June 12, 2004


All of Eternal's posts thus far have been pretty on-the-mark, intuitive and not at all pretentious. What is it about people who speak in a factual and logical manner that gets on the nerves of others? I mean, is it that you wish you could be so coherent?

I've never seen such good defenses of what love should involve; that being, the willingness to do for others that which you may not enjoy doing, solely for their sake.

And for those who argue that, I believe the thought behind the act is that if love's motivating it, there won't any begrudging, "Oh FINE, let's just get it done already," whether it's sex, or going to see a movie that the other really wants to see. There is some sacrificing of the ego involved, which kinda stings, but learning to get over it, that's a part of love too.

Do none of you people read Scott Peck? Sheesh.
posted by precocious at 6:10 PM on June 12, 2004


I honestly don't understand the anger some are showing at EB's posts. I find that he is making a ton of sense.

And for those who argue that, I believe the thought behind the act is that if love's motivating it, there won't any begrudging, "Oh FINE, let's just get it done already," whether it's sex, or going to see a movie that the other really wants to see.

And there wouldn't be any overbearing "We're going to do this whether you like it or not," either. See, there is compromise in a good relationship, but it comes from both sides. This is an ideal, of course. It's hard to live up to it sometimes. But it is what love is about... considering the other person's feelings.

From reading this thread it seems to me that the primary problem in most of these relationships isn't sex. It's communication. That's the foundation of the issue, and all the sex in the world isn't going to fix that.
posted by litlnemo at 9:26 PM on June 12, 2004


I've never seen such good defenses of what love should involve; that being, the willingness to do for others that which you may not enjoy doing, solely for their sake.

I think one of the things that is missing though (not from EB but from other people) is the very real tension between being willing to do something for your partner, and letting your partner treat you like a doormat. That is, most of the people proposing an obligation to put out in regards to sex, are ignoring that there is also an obligation to not force your partner into uncomfortable situations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:02 PM on June 12, 2004


Hello this is pretty clearly an adver-blog for the v1gr4 merchant. Clever marketing scheme though...
posted by wehriam at 1:02 AM on June 13, 2004


It is quite clear to me from this thread that there are two very basic beliefs about sex, with of course a myriad of variations within. I guess what surprises me the most is that both camps seem to be so well represented.

One camp sees it as just another shared experience between two people, much like doing the laundry or watching a movie. Sometimes it's a bit of a chore, but in the best interest of everyone to just go along. I'm not really in the mood, but you did fold the clothes, so you deserve something in return.

The other camp sees it as above the mundane, carrying far more "weight" than just another task to be completed and removed off the checklist. The idea of "accommodating" is anathema, and simply not participating is far superior to an insincere effort, on either person's part.

And when a person in camp "a" marries a person in camp "b", that's where the trouble begins. It has absolutely nothing to do with the sexes. It has to do with these competing viewpoints.

This whole dynamic is clearer now than at any point in my lifetime.

Wehriam: I don't see really why it would be an ad for Viagra. The man apparently has no performance problems. This would more likely be an ad for Avlimil, but I don't see a link to that on this page.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:58 AM on June 13, 2004


Sex drive - in both males and females - is linked to overall physical and psychological health but more specifically also to Testosterone. Without a certain trace level of the hormone, female sex drive declines drastically.

Patch 'boosts women's sex drive'
posted by troutfishing at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2004


In our culture you are offered the opportunity to give to your beloved/intended the strongest word you are capable of giving, that you will, y'know, love-honor-cherish for-as-long-as-you-both-shall-live. Someone who gives that word is stating that he or she will stick to it, no matter what changes occur.

And that's preposterous. If my spouse morphed over time into Jeffrey Dahmer in a dress, I certainly wouldn't feel the same about her as I did before, and I sure as hell wouldn't pretend that I did for the sake of "propriety" or other people's cherished illusions about what a relationship should be.
posted by rushmc at 10:25 AM on June 13, 2004


Who was telling him to shut up?

Jesus. Do you ever shut up?
posted by angry modem at 11:23 AM PST on June 11


I've seen variations on this comment several times over multiple threads over the past week. It's uncalled for. Not to mention all the "I once thought that there couldn't be a more pompous, intolerable bore than y2karl. But, EternalBlight, you are proving to me wrong on that." type remarks. There is nothing to be gained by insulting or attacking another poster here. Debate with them or ignore them but get your grudge-kicks elsewhere, please.
posted by rushmc at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2004


Quite true, and I should have looked more carefully for the "shut up" comments.
posted by languagehat at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2004


I've advocated that all a woman needs to do is give her man a little wild, "whore-type", unplanned sex every once in a while. That pretty much fills our void and calms us down.

Gee, when you refer to it as "little wild, 'whore-type' " sex, I'm puzzled as to why wife doesn't want to get it on at the drop of a hat. /sarcasm

Look, I get it - it does hurt when your partner just doesn't seem to want you the way you want them. Believe me, I've almost always had a higher sex drive than most of the men I've dated. I've been there - cried myself to sleep, felt ugly and unwanted because my partner didn't want to have sex more than once a month. I think that EB has hit the nail on the head. Sex in a relationship isn't always about what you want, a lot of the time it's about giving the person you love the pleasure and attention they need. It's about recognizing that there is a difference between not being in the mood at the moment, but capable of getting into it and just not being open to sex at all at that particular moment. In the case of the former, it's not unreasonable that your partner might want the chance to change your mind. Some of the hottest sex I've ever had has occured under those circumstances. In the latter case the partner wanting sex should try to be understanding and back off.

That said, I think men are often the worst offenders in this area. They bitch about their partner not giving it up when often their own attitude is "I'm not going to bother if my penis isn't alread hard". I've always had the policy that even if I'm not in the mood I'll give my partner an opportunity to try to change my mind. However, if the same courtesty is not extended to me, I find myself a lot less open to having sex with a partner in the future. It becomes a vicious cycle until both parties are willing to talk about it and try to make changes

The other problem I've experienced, it that a lot of men don't understand that the overtures that work for them simply don't work for their partner. For example, my idea of waking me to have morning sex involves spooning, kisses on my neck and gentle caresses to my hip bones. Do that for a few minutes and I'm good to go. Unfortunately, many men I've been with seem to think that grabbing a breast with one hand while using their other hand to place my hand on their throbbing penis is going to work. Instead, it just pisses me off. If I were to initiate sex that way, it'd work just great for them, that's how they're wired. But getting many men to understand that that approach simply does not work for me (and most other women) becomes an exercise in frustration. Frustration lead to resentment, resentment leads to pettiness and begrudging of affection, which leads to emotional distance.

Really, it's not that hard to get a woman interested in sex relatively quickly if you simply ask what she likes and pay attention to which of your moves get the most enthusiastic response. We can be up for some serious down and dirty quickie sex if you just learn and remember which buttons to push.
posted by echolalia67 at 2:42 PM on June 13, 2004


Great post, echoloalia67. I'd make a guess, based upon my experience of my own male sexuality and observations of others, that the reason that men are the worse offenders in this regard (not wanting to have sex unless they're already hard, is how you put it) is because we're accustomed to being easily (and often) turned-on. I also wouldn't be surprised if some underlying attitudes about sexuality aren't set during the teenage years, when the male sex drive is all-consuming. The result may be that, for us, it really is like a switch and if the switch is not "on", it doesn't occur to us to have sex. Or something. You know what I'm trying to say. So we're more resistant when we're not turned on.

On the other hand, it's pretty easy to turn us (well, me) on. I dated a woman for awhile, really, we were more friends and occasional fuck-buddies, who'd stop by when she was horny. I generally wasn't that interested. But she'd, um, put her hands down my pants and other aggressive things and, sure enough, I'd become quite enough interested. With that last serious relationship that failed, interestingly my partner was never able/willing to be that aggressive in initiatitng sex with me. I'm not sure why; but probably if she had been, we'd have had sex more often. As opposed to just asking.

And, as you mention, it's true in the other direction. Men shouldn't just ask their partners if they want to have sex, they should attempt to seduce them in the way that the partner likes. But this can be very touchy and difficult because of "nomeansno", of course. I have a great fear of making unwelcome advances to a woman, even my long-term partner, and I'm highly inclined to simply ask rather than seduce.

And, indeed, although what that one friend did worked for getting me interested in sex, I did feel more than a little used and not right about it. I know that the two situations between the two sexes aren't directly comparable, but the essential point is the same. Where is the line between seduction and assault? It's tricky.

Also, Ynoxas, I think you're homing in on the difference of opinion; but I can't help but feel that you're still somewhat caricaturing the point of view you don't hold. You make it sound as if sex, to people like me, is the equivalent of folding the laundry, which is a pretty loaded comparison, don't you think? As it happens, in my opinion sex can be many, many things. It can be a quick and meaningless fuck, it can be a movie-romance epic lovemaking, it can be something fun to do in the afternoon, it can be other things. Many other things. Yes, sex is a very intimate activity and that defines it, qualitatively, in many ways. But it's still an activity that will have only the meaning invested in it that the people participating bring to it. And it won't mean the same thing every time for those two people; nor should it. I don't want to say that I think that sex is over-romanticized in our culture, because I agree with some of the romanticization. What I think is that it's monolithically romanticized, assumed to universally be something it isn't.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:20 PM on June 13, 2004


Also, Ynoxas, I think you're homing in on the difference of opinion; but I can't help but feel that you're still somewhat caricaturing the point of view you don't hold

Something I should have made more clear from the outset is that neither camp is inherently good or bad (I'm going to touch on the "revolting" part in a bit). It is the pairing of people from different camps that causes friction. If two people are both in the same camp, there is truly no problem. And that very well could be where longevity, or at least satisfied longevity, springs from.

As far as the feelings of repulsion, I think that comes from the fact of trying to reconcile people in two different camps. To one person, the idea can be perfectly reasonable, as you have illustrated quite well. To another, such as myself, it borders on the inconceivable. The perception is really what is at work here, not some "truth".

So, to be clear, if I am paired with a person who finds "accommodating" perfectly reasonable, and I find it repulsive, then that will most assuredly be a point of friction. If both of us see it as repulsive, then there will be no issue, as it would never arise.

So, for you EB, if you are paired with someone who believes "accommodating" to be perfectly reasonable, then you have forged a successful sexual relationship. And there is naturally nothing wrong with that.

The "accommodation" (jesus I've got to quit putting quotes around that) repulses *ME*, so all that means is I need to seek out someone of like mind. It doesn't mean that *YOU* are repulsive, EB. Sorry if in my proselytizing I said or implied otherwise. I would only be repulsed if we were sleeping together and you let me know you were just putting out to make me happy, and not because you truly wanted to have sex with me.

The title of this thread is brilliant, because that truly is all there is to it. I want to be wanted, and I want sexual congress to be an expression of joint desire and mutual attraction. I am being quite literal when I say I would rather do without than be simply catered to or accommodated (I knew I could loose the quotes!) or for someone to have sex with me out of some feeling of duty. I find that completely unarousing and unenchanting, and I simply do not wish to participate in that kind of coitus.

And a question I am keenly interested in however is if people can purposefully change camps, for instance to appease their lover. Can someone "change" as to their interest level in sex? Or is someone either high-interest or low-interest in the same way they are blue eyed or brown eyed?

My completely unproven harebrained hypothesis is that people are always high or low-interest, but depending upon who they are paired with, they can perceive themselves as changing. A low-interest paired with an even lower-interest may mistakenly believe themselves to be a high-interest, until they actually meet a high-interest.

Everything boils down to perception really, doesn't it?
posted by Ynoxas at 7:13 PM on June 13, 2004


Well, I always thought of myself as high-interest until I was with someone who was higher-interest. That was illuminating. Actually, for a man, it's sort of unmanly to not, relatively speaking, have a high sex drive. In the context of that relationship, I started wondering if I had an unusually low sex-drive and I never had realized it before. I'm still sort of confused on the issue. I feel like I have a pretty high sex drive. I know I did when I was a teenager—God, I was obsessed with sex 24/7. But, I dunno. I masturbate pretty regularly. More often, I discovered, than a close friend whom I had always thought of as something of a sex maniac.

I do think, though, that I get fairly easily sexually bored in long-term relationships. And I've started to wonder that maybe I've never had a blow-my-socks-off-all-consuming sexual relationship and therefore I don't value sex in a relationship as highly as many other people do. Hell, I dunno. That last relationship really caused me to have many, many questions about my own sexuality and how I think about sex in a relationship. I still haven't sorted it all out, even though it's been a few years. I like sex a lot. But I'm still pretty sure that I value companionship, compatibility, friendship in a relationship...all those things more highly. That last relationship was easily the best in terms of compatibility and enjoying each other's company and stuff that I've ever had. Much better than my marriage or other live-in relationships. But sex got to be a big problem. It really wasn't a huge problem to me. I would have preferred to have been more sexually interested in her; but I was thrilled to have a partner that I wanted to see every day. We never fought (except about sex). We pretty much never annoyed each other. But, for her, without pretty regular sex, and without me wanting regular sex, she didn't feel loved and eventually was deeply unhappy in the relationship.

A general relationship theory I developed from that relationship and others is that the key, very much in the spirit of what you're saying, is not that people don't ever disagree, but that they agree upon what is tolerable to disagree about. That can be very different to different people.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:06 PM on June 13, 2004


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