Monday, April 18, 2011

Who Killed Sex?

Was it a Eureka moment , or wasn’t it?

Meg Wolitzer regales us with the story of a woman at a New York gathering who blurted out one evening: “I would pay someone to have sex with my husband.” Link here.

Wolitzer adds that the remark provoked “snorts and yips of laughter.”

And yet, whatever did the woman mean? Has she given voice to a real trend or is she simply one woman speaking from her own experience? Is this yet another manufactured trend, concocted to sell newspapers?

To her great credit Wolitzer asks the right questions. She does not presume to have identified a trend, and does not even presume to know the experience that lay behind the outburst.

She does find it intriguing that in our post-Freudian age, some, if not many women are finding sex to a burden that they would just as soon live without.

Not only that, but these women, who are post-thirtysomethings, seem to feel that they are not allowed to turn down their husband’s entreaties.

Somewhere along the line, Wolitzer suggests, women have lost the right to say No to sex.

Naturally, biology must enter the mix. The women who heard echoes of their thoughts in the outburst had already had their children and were not interested in having more.

Could it be that female sexual desire is inextricably linked to procreative possibility? Perhaps it has something to do with “the change.” About that Wolitzer has nothing to say.

How should we interpret the remark? Wolitzer astutely offers a number of different interpretations.

Lacking a more extensive interview, we do not know what the woman is fed up with her husband or turned off by sex altogether. Could it be that she has had it with her inattentive husband but would happily give herself to her trainer or the cute young man at the coffee shop?

We only know that she has lost interest in her husband and has been going through the motions, building up resentment and anger.

How does a couple arrive at such an impasse? Let us count the ways. Some men want what they want when they want it, have no real interest in whether their wives want it, and feel that they have a divine right to it. If she is not an active participant in the experience, after a while she might well imagine that, from her husband’s perspective, any female will do.

There are other possibilities. Wolitzer analyzes them well: “I have no idea of what goes on inside the marriage of the woman who made the crack about her husband. All relationships are mysteries. When no one else is there to watch, a couple might put on wigs and prance around, or engage in Santeria rituals. The woman’s husband might have been a lout. She might have been one, too. Perhaps they had never been well matched. Or maybe it was the fatigue of familiarity, and she was simply bored. Regardless, it seems to me that the woman who made the comment about her husband was most likely taking a defeatist position that degrades both of them.”

Without knowing which of these possibilities, is closest to the truth, we do not know whether she is being defeatist or not. And we do not know whether she would be happy with some sex, but not as much as he insists on.

But, why does she do something that she clearly does not want to do? Given that this comment occurred in a Manhattan salon, we can exclude the possibility that these women have been acting out of conjugal duty.

Women who were brought up on feminism strongly reject the idea of doing anything out of conjugal duty. The very concept is abhorrent to their liberated sensibilities.

I do not, however, agree when Wolitzer claims that the remark degrades both the woman and her husband.

In her own way, the woman is taking a step toward saying No. Since Wolitzer is going to use half of her column to explain that it can be a good thing to say No to sex,  why not consider that the woman wishes to farm out her husband’s lust in order to take possession of her own.

As Wolitzer points out we are all fascinated by this turning away from sex. Having suffered the influence of Freud and having lived through the sexual revolution, we have all learned that sex is an unalloyed good.

In her words: “But because we’re all post-Freudians, it’s as if we still believe sex equals strength, health and life; and therefore, not-sex equals weakness, illness and death.”

It also happens that those who wanted to cure civilization of its discontents by promoting more and better sex have encouraged more free and open conversation about sex. They have made it the key to lifting societal repression.

It is, truth be told, a rather dumb idea. Sexual desire does not thrive in the light of day; it needs darkness, it needs to be somewhat and suggestively covered up, it needs to be veiled by euphemisms. The last thing sex needs is to be called by its name.

Examine this sentence by Wolitzer: “Even if these women weren’t planning to fob their own husbands off on helpful neighbors or prostitutes, they were in agreement that at a certain point in a long relationship, a woman might very well just want less of ‘that part‘ of her life (’that part‘ being the linguistic first cousin to ‘down there‘).”

Adult women using euphemisms, doesn’t this suggest that in order for women to regain possession of their sexuality they need to stop talking about it in grossly explicit terms.

I would note, with Wolitzer, that wanting less is not the same as wanting none at all.

Wolitzer explains the value of saying No to sex? But she does not use the word abstinence. There is a veritable industry, especially in the public school system, indoctrinating children with the idea that abstinence is bad, or, if not bad, futile.

If we are wondering where women learned that they did not have the right to say No, perhaps they learned it in sex education classes.

How many women are fed up with sex because they feel that they have to say Yes, even when they want to say No.

Even though educated New York women are often impervious to the opinions of men, they are not impervious to the siren song of feminism.

And, let us recall that feminists have been promoting the dogmatic belief that women want it just as much as men, that men and women are sexually equal.

Some feminists even believed that women were more sexual than men. They argued that civilization was not built on the repression of libido, as Freud argued, but on the repression of the female orgasm.

Nowadays sex positive feminists are out promoting hookups as the road to sexual liberation.

Where does that put women who would rather say No. They are in an ideological bind. They have been inculcated with a system of beliefs that makes them feel obligated to try to match their husbands’ sexual desire, to sacrifice themselves for the cause, whether they like it or not.

Who killed sex?

There isn’t just one killer. Those who have tried to impose their ideology on sexual experience, whether through the sexual revolution, through post-Freudian theory, or through feminist efforts to liberate female sexuality, have killed sex.

Their earnest attempts to enhance sexual pleasure, artificially, as a recruiting tool to entice people to join their cause, has finally, for many people, wrung the enjoyment out of sex, and has made it into an unwelcome chore. Especially for women.

Now, to paraphrase the poet, sex is dying, “not with a bang, but a whimper.”


Anonymous said...

Feminism has demeaned sex in the eyes of men. I rarely initiate sex because he's always hounding me about it. When I do, he's critical anyway. He thinks marriage entitles him to sex whenever he feels like it. He feels his vasectomy entitles him to sex whenever he feels like it. He feels I should understand that sex helps him release stress - so romantic. Feminism and birth control and sterilization have so convoluted the sex act that it's become sport rather than a gift. I was hoping his ED would finally get things into balance, but now he wants to watch me use marital aids. Add easily available porn to the list. Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

A lot of men don't have a clue about how their behavior looks and feels to women. They have used this notion that women like it as much as men to pressure women into doing things that they do not want to do.

Hopefully, some men will read you comment and gain a level of awareness about how they look to their wives, and perhaps, if their wives are not enthusiastic lovers, they might start out by reconsidering their approach.

For the guys out there, do understand that the graphic, explicit approach to sex is really not very woman-friendly. And that a woman's sexual experience is really quite different from a man's.

If you learn how to accommodate and respect a person whose experience is genuinely different from yours, you will improve your sex life.

Anonymous said...

I have sex with my wife once a quarter or less. I am quite sure that every attempt I make to try and seduce or engage her sexually is seen by her as a nuisance or pestering of some kind since she is generally uninterested in me sexually at all these days. I have, in essence been placed in the "lets just be friends" category, where I have to provide her with the emotional intimacy she needs through conversation and the sharing of our childrens lives, but she wont reciprocate with the physical intimacy I need to remain close to her. I may be her best friend and confidant, but sex is just out of the question as far as she's concerned.

If this woman who wants to outsource her husbands needs is in a similar situation, withholding sex because shes simply not interested in her husband, then I am sure his every overture towards her is seen as an intrusion. But is he still providing for her emotional needs? It would seem shes getting everything SHE wants out of the relationship if her solution is to simpy sideline his sexual needs, but not actually divorce him outright. But how fair is that to him? Sex builds and maintains an emotional connection for a man, that just doesnt come from chatting and gossiping with His wife. Her needs are being met and his are being sidelined or ignored? In all likelyhood the only stability in that relationship comes from the overwhelming penalties that a man pays for walking away from a wife, and not any sense of love or respect for her on his part.

I know thats the case for my own relationship.

Phocion said...

This is only a problem because feminists and "Do-gooders" have tried to make the cures we have had in the past unavailable. This is nothing new if one pays any attention to history.
There is not a culture that I know of that did not have readily available mistresses, prostitutes and "girl friends" to easy this problem for those women who have reach this stage of life. There was a time when fair minded women expected and accepted these thing if they loved their husbands. They lost nothing.
Prostitution should be legal and regulated. Mistresses should be acceptable and be considered part of the family. Why should girl friends not be part of the equation for a woman who no longer believes in love and honor thy husband?
If women really cared about the health and welfare of their husbands they would not be trying to punish their husbands in this way by denying something that is good for their health and actually good for women.
I suspect that behind this whine is a desire to strike back at males and they would fight against all the available solutions to their supposed problems.
I also wonder than even in more educated and enlightened men there is this desire to blame everything on men as if women bear no responsibility. Sex is imagination and most women control their own enjoyment if they desire to do the things to make it so. If women wants something then they have to be as big a part of the solution. Men as NOT mind readers and we get so many varied clues that what thinking human being knows what they women want. After years of existent I have come to the conclusion that women DO NOT know what they want.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't ever an unwelcome chore. As anonymous number 1 says, feminism demeaned sex in the male view; my husband hated the idea of a female taking an equally participant role in the marriage relationship. He had it fixed in his mind that, as the male, it was up to him to dictate the level, frequency and interaction of our sex life.

Anonymous number 2: for me, our sex life was about renewing our emotional connection. Whatever other problems we had, they could often be addressed after having connected physically.

I don't know whether women denied sex in a relationship are more or less healthy that the opposite scenario.

All I know is that using sex as a power ploy makes the rejected partner feel incredibly low, which is the refuser's intention.

Phocion said...

What bothers me here is that we accept that a married woman should have the right to control her body and there should be no recriminations, but then we say on the other hand it is okay for a woman to control a man's body to the point of celibacy and if he strays he will be punished by the state. Who in their right mind would accept a contract arrangement like this?
Just as it is a terrible thing to waste a mind it is also a terrible thing to waste a good man who could be adding to some other woman's life.
The amount of selfishness shown should be indicative of the type of woman no man should be associated.
I know very few men who would not do almost anything to satisfy their wives, but one cannot satisfy someone who does not want to be satisfied or know how to be satisfied.

Cassandra said...

There is not a culture that I know of that did not have readily available mistresses, prostitutes and "girl friends" to ease this problem for those women who have reach this stage of life.

Holy guacamole! Do you mean to tell me that men cheat on their wives out of consideration for the flagging libido of the fairer sex?

Such selfless sacrifice boggles the mind :p

I don't spend a lot (OK, I don't spend any) time worrying about whether I like sex more than my spouse does. If you want a happy husband, you try to keep a smile on his face. And if he wants a happy wife, he reciprocates.

When we first married, I found myself wishing that my husband would talk to me more often. After some reflection, I figured that if I made talking pleasant and interesting for him then he would willingly ... umm ... converse with me.

There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.

But if he didn't enjoy "talking" with me, I don't think I would be within my rights to become emotionally intimate with another man regardless of whether I felt "fulfilled" in that regard or not.

Surely, America's failure to provide acceptable conversational surrogates to "ease" the plight of beleaguered husbands who dread marital conversation is just one more sign of the pervasive cultural misandry gripping this great nation?

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