“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
No, not casual sex.
So firstly, this article isn’t in support of more sex in general. I’m not going to tell you to have more ‘empowering’ casual sex. I’m not going to suggest that you should “throw a pack of condoms in your bag and keep taking your birth control” to try and overcome the feelings of guilt and health concerns that many women report after engaging in casual encounters (For more on this I recommend my article: “Frigid” – The Societal Pressure to Become Sexually Active). This article also isn’t in support of sexual activity that is painful or forced by your partner. This article is only in support of more sex in a loving, supportive, committed relationship.
The idea for this particular blogpost sprouted after I watched the eye-opening lecture by the Australian sex therapist Bettina Arndt, titled ‘Why Women Go Off Sex’. Bettina discusses the common issue of the reduction in many women’s sexual desire after marriage, and exactly how this affects men.
Bettina discusses how women perceive men’s sexual advances to be purely about fulfilling an urge. Women often and easily fall into the trap of viewing male sexuality as an annoyance that’s pushed upon them – a selfish ask, another chore to begrudgingly complete, or a disregard of their desire for a more platonic display of affection. But it’s helpful to remind women that despite the current leftist gender-neutral agenda, men and women are different– we are different emotionally, hormonally, and physically. Sex cannot simply be reduced to ‘scratching an itch’ for men, just as wanting your man to bring home a bouquet of flowers is not simply a materialistic waste of money for women.
For men, sex with a woman they love is about connection and feeling desired.
A quote that really stood out to me from Bettina’s work comes from one of the men who she had asked to detail why he still caressed his wife, even if he knew his actions would be met with contempt and bitterness in return.“I know she doesn’t like it, but it’s me saying: Hello, here I am, I still love you, I still want you. Where has she gone, the lover I married?”.
Similar stories can be found on the r/DeadBedrooms subreddit, ‘a support group for Redditors who are coping with a relationship that is seriously lacking in sexual intimacy.’ The subreddit consists largely of men, whose accounts of their sexless relationships are riddled with intense disappointment, rejection, loneliness and low self-esteem. Some of these men resort to affairs with other women to fill the emotional void, entangled in their complicated marriages and reluctant to divorce their wife and break up the family. It’s very apparent that the partners of these individuals either completely misunderstand the importance of physical intimacy, or simply don’t care.
Psychotherapist Esther Perel explains the importance of male desire and sexual fulfilment in her blogpost titled ‘Men, Women, and Sexuality: More Similar Than Different’.
“Male desire needs to be looked at through a lens that incorporates relational and emotional factors. Sex is the language through which men have license to ask for love, tenderness, surrender, sensuality, affection and more. Often sex is the only keyhole he has to fulfil these emotional needs.”
“Fear of rejection, performance anxiety, guilt, shame, insecurity, and depression — all these are internal states that greatly influence a man’s feeling about himself and his self-esteem. They seep directly into his sexual self, his desires, and fantasies. And they determine his sense of entitlement and deprivation. This makes male sexuality very emotional.”
Perel describes sex as “highly relational” for men. It’s perhaps worth asking what the general consensus is about men denying women stereotypically “highly relational” things. Examples that spring to mind for women might be their man allowing and encouraging them to vent about their day, treating them to a romantic gesture, being chivalrous, or small acts of physical affection. In the current cultural climate women are encouraged to be entitled and find a man who values them however they present themselves. If he doesn’t live up to their expectations in the relationship, he isn’t worth it. This sentiment can be found in popular quotes like “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. Female entitlement and third-wave feminism have made it socially acceptable to be disdainful towards men who fail to meet a woman’s exhaustive and unrealistic demands for a relationship. However, a man’s desire for physical intimacy is often seen as irritating and insignificant – something to roll your eyes over with your girlfriends at brunch. We need to fight to change this norm – if we want men to take our relational needs seriously, we must also compassionately tend to theirs.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Pablo Picasso
Women generally aren’t happy in a sexless partnership, either. They know it affects their relationship, and they want their desire to come back. But much like an artist wasting valuable time waiting for inspiration to strike before painting, women waste time ‘waiting for the right moment’ to bond with their partner. Bettina suggests not just waiting for the perfect moment to strike, but to simply try, even if you’re not feeling it.
Laura Doyle touches on this idea in her book ‘The Surrendered Wife’. She writes that a physical bond is important because it’s the “one thing that separates your relationship from every other relationship in the world”. Doyle notes that whilst rekindling a sexual relationship starts out as a discipline, with regular commitment a woman strengthens the bond between herself and her husband and remembers how “good it felt to love”. Lastly, Doyle presents the truth that “you’ll never feel more feminine, or him more masculine, than when you’re enjoying the zenith of physical intimacy with the love of your life”.
Perel also reveals a silent truth about female sexuality – “The unspoken truth about women’s sexuality is how narcissistic it can be — in the best of ways. The female’s ability to focus on herself is the pathway to erotic pleasure.” Perhaps better self-care is an antidote for women – when you focus on yourself and meeting your needs, desire and passion have space to flourish. If you’d like to try and introduce self-care into your life or improve on your existing self-care regimen (and who wouldn’t?!) I recommend my article ‘The Science of Relaxation in a Busy Modern World’.
In summary – understanding the differences between the genders is an important part of experiencing functioning, fulfilling and meaningful romantic relationships. With discipline, self-care and an open-mind, physical passion will likely follow.
Until next time,