The problem with "frigid" wives
10 October 2014, 12:10
Nairobi - The idea that sex is something women give to men, and commitment is something men give to women, is the root of so many problems.
A story has been doing the rounds recently about a man sending his wife a spreadsheet of all the times she’s said “no” to sex.
The thing about this story is it’s the wife’s side that we’re hearing.
Assuming the wife is being honest, this is what we know:
1) The husband does not appear to have brought up the subject that he’s feeling unsatisfied on any serious level before sending this spreadsheet.
2) The husband emailed the spreadsheet to his wife when she left for a 10 day business trip. In the email he explained that he wouldn’t miss her, and this is why.
3) The wife tried to contact her husband after receiving the spreadsheet, to find he had “cut contact” with her. Because of this, she published it online.
If this information is correct, it tells us the following:
1) The husband believes his wife is “withholding” sex with him, sex he is deserved and owed, and that it is because she is selfishly not considering his needs.
2) The husband chose not to open the topic and talk to his wife about it. He also didn’t consider the possibility that there’s a legitimate reason behind his wife’s reluctance to have sex with him.
3) The husband has no qualms letting his wife know that he only values her for the amount of sex she can provide him. He will not miss her when she is gone, because they will not be having sex. There is no other reason to miss her.
All of this paints a pretty nasty picture of the husband, no matter how much sympathy you can muster for him. While rejection can be hurtful and frustrating, his attitude towards his wife reeks of entitlement and selfishness.
The main issue is the fact that the husband, at no point, asks his wife why she really doesn’t want to have sex with him. I can think of several reasons almost instantly.
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Maybe sex with him is unrewarding. Maybe he is as entitled and selfish in bed as he appears out of it. Maybe he’s mean, and he makes her feel like sex is something she owes him. Maybe she just finds it hard to muster up physical affection for the sort of person who only values the sex she gives him. “I won’t miss you”.
A closer examination of the spreadsheet suggests an even more troubling problem. The “excuses” the wife gives after the three days that she says ‘yes’:
1) “I’m still a bit tender from yesterday.”
2) “You’re too drunk.”
3) “No.” (This is the only time we see a flat-out “no” in the whole spreadsheet.)
These could be coincidental and random. A lot of people experience tenderness after sex, even the next day.
Or they could speak about sex that’s so unpleasant for the wife:
1) She’s still hurting the next day.
2) She feels she can’t trust her husband enough to have sex with him when he’s drunk.
3) Unlike on most days where she tries to find an excuse, on a day after sex she’s prepared to give a straight “no”, one that doesn’t appear accompanied by an explanation or reason.
But that’s just speculation. There’s also the chance that the wife plain and simple has a low libido, or that the “excuses” she gave happened to be really legitimate, or that there's more to this story than we currently know.
I want to talk about a stereotype that this story has brought up yet again,
The frigid wife "denying" her husband sex:
We all recognize it, and there are so many problems with it.
Think of the classic tongue-in-cheek graffiti often read on a wedding car: “She’s got hers, now he’ll get his”.
It’s “funny”, because women want commitment, and men want sex.
Marriage is seen as an exchange of these. Women are told all we want from men is marriage, and in exchange for that marriage, we’ll give them all they want from us: sex.
Of course, once a woman has “trapped” a man into marriage, she no longer has to fulfil her end of the bargain and provide him with sex.
Leaving the poor men unfulfilled and hard done by, as they haven’t been given what’s owed to them.
I suggest a different outlook:
Let’s assume women and men are both capable of desiring sex and commitment equally, but that they have been raised in a society that constantly insists women want commitment (and if they don’t, there’s something wrong with them) and men want sex (and if they don’t, there’s something wrong with them).
Let’s assume adult humans make a commitment to each other because they want that commitment, not because they’re “buying the cow” due to a desire for “milk”.
Let’s assume adult humans should have sex, not because they’re exchanging it for commitment or a sense of security, but because they want and enjoy that sex.
Now, let’s take a look at a relationship where the woman seems less and less interested in sex:
How has the husband been treating his wife recently? Does he enjoy referring to her as his “ball and chain”? Does he ignore what she has to say or show disdain for her interests?
Does he complain about how “frigid” she is as if it’s her duty to provide him with sex whether she feels like it or not, while he doesn’t consider it his responsibility to help her actually feel like having sex?
Is he telling her that he doesn’t care about her, all he wants from her is sex?
Let’s assume he’s the nicest, best husband in the world. Has he asked her why she doesn’t want to have sex with him anymore? And insisted on an honest answer?
Or is he, (and the rest of us,) just slipping into the lazy belief that sex is an unpleasant but necessary marital duty that a wife owes to her husband?
As for the wife, if you’re really not enjoying sex, you should say something, as Dorothy Black points out. But that can be hard when your sexual satisfaction is constantly treated as less important or even unimportant in comparison to your husband’s.
That’s the thing. Only male satisfaction is being treated as important:
There’s been a lot of talk about how, within a marriage, caring for each other also means caring about each other’s sexual needs and treating them as important, and this is true. A lack of sex is not grounds for trying to force or coerce an unwilling party into having sex, (marital rape is still rape) but it is grounds for divorce.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line this is translated into “they’re not having a lot of sex? She should put out more, or leave him”, and this is a problem.
Satisfaction doesn’t rest in how much sex you get alone. It also rests in how much you enjoy the sex – how rewarding that sex is for you. Perhaps the wife should have replied with a spreadsheet of how many times they’ve had sex and how many times she’s enjoyed the sex?
Instead of just spotting a “frigid wife” and nodding and saying “yep, that’s a frigid wife all right, her poor husband”, we need to be asking why she’s “frigid”.
A husband might be upset that a wife is not satisfying his needs, but is he satisfying her needs? Is he even concerned with her needs at all?
At the end of the day, a marriage should be sexually fulfilling for both parties, but that’s probably not going to happen unless both parties are committed to finding solutions and working through problems rather than blaming each other for them.
Above all, unsatisfied husbands should consider the reasons behind frigidity, and unsatisfied wives should not be afraid to demand pleasure in sex too.