Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Talking about sex (and partners)

Dennis Prager isn't too bright, but sometimes, dimness inspires the shining of a bit of light. So, let's do that.

Recently, Prager decided to talk about how women should "give up the goods" - whoops,I mean, "not deny sex to their husbands" based upon their mood. You know, unless their husbands are real jerks, or if they're suffering badly enough that only a real jerk would try to push sex on them. He even pulls out the whole "what if your husband didn't go to work just because he didn't feel like it?" as if providing sex was the job description of a wife. But "provide sex on demand" is more in line with the job description of "prostitute", which is why, as I said before, Prager isn't too bright.

But that's an idea that comes up a lot. Does a person in a sexual relationship owe their partner sex?

It's a complicated question. On the one hand, if you're in a sexual relationship with someone, and you keep refusing to have sex with them, you're not living up to your side of the bargain. On the other hand, what that means is, they may want to modify, or end, the relationship. So, yes, there's a reasonable expectation, and you could even say a responsibility, to have sex with your partner on a regular basis, insofar as you value that relationship.

But there's a huge difference between trying to keep your partner happy and sexually fulfilled, and having a responsibility to have sex on demand.

The way I think of it is, if there's a problem with one partner requesting sex, and the other making repeated refusals, then it's an issue that must be confronted. It should not be ignored. This is a point that Prager touches on, but misses. He says that if a man meets repeated refusals for sex, he might end up feeling unloved, or even loathing his own sexuality. That's true... but it's not the lack of sex that makes a person feel unloved, or leads them to despise their sexuality. If you can't give your partner sex, you have to find some way to fill the gap, and give them hope that it's a temporary situation, that you're aware of it, and trying to fix it, insofar as you can. You need to express your love, and your regrets at the lack of sex, and find ways to show that you still find them desirable (even if there's no current desire). Because that is what will keep a partner from feeling rejected and awful.

It might not be enough to save a relationship where there's enough imbalance in desire. But it does tend to make for a much more amicable breakup, if and when.

I'll grant that, sometimes, being a good partner or spouse means having sex when you'd really rather not, because you want your partner to feel desired and loved. Relationships take work and sacrifice, and sometimes that means having sex when you'd really rather not. But sex should always be a gift, even if given a bit grudgingly. If it can't be that much, then I tend to think it's better not done at all.

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