• "Do you believe you should have sex with your husband just because they want to?"

    Question:

    Do you believe you should have sex with your husband just because they want to? I’m going through a period where I’ve just gone off sex.

    It’s only been six months and I’m sure I’ll come out of it soon but I resent my husband hassling me. I don’t think it’s right to have sex unless I really feel like it.


    Answer:

    I totally disagree with you - and so do a fair majority of reputable sex therapists. Two people will never have the same desire or timing, even if their sex drives are reasonably matched. But when you said ‘I do’ you said ‘I do’ to sex as well. Sex is part of the bargain if you expect your partner to remain married to you and faithful to you.

    Six months is a long time without sex without a good reason not to do it. Your husband has a right to expect regular sex and ‘duty shags’, I’m afraid, are all part of the ‘working at the relationship’ that experts rattle on about. Another good reason to just do it: the less sex you have the less sex you want.

    Do it and you might just remind yourself of what you’re missing.

    Heat up your sex life

    Comments (22)

    • ss: October 23, 2009 09:26
      hey, isn't nonconsensual sex called by another name? it's all very well her husband expecting sex but maybe there are other underlying issues here. maybe he is not performing in other areas (housework, kids) and they should be confronting those before worrying about what is going on in the bedroom?

      i personally think there are deeper issues to be addressed here and that the original poster would benefit from a short course of couples counselling to resolve them.

    • Rebecca: October 23, 2009 11:33
      WTF Tracey ??

      Husbands should expect duty shags ?? what kinds of shallow advice are you giving here ?

      That has to be the worst advice I have EVER read on here.

    • Steve: October 23, 2009 11:42
      What !? Tracey's response to that question is - in my opinion- absolutly rediculous!
      Why should the woman feel she HAS to perform for her husband ? Surely if she isn't in the mood for sex and reading that she infact has to be performing for him is more likely to put her off than turn her on.

      Surely advisng the couple to sit down and talk about how each of them is feeling and try to work out what is putting her off would have been better than saying her feelings, her wants are infact irrelavant and that because she is now married she has to have sex when ever her husband wants it.
      One of the big things in marridge is that you agree to love each other, to understand each other, and to help each other through all of life not just the bits you want.

      My wife and I got married two weeks ago and I certainly wouldn't want her to think that now we are married she has to do things whether she wants to or not.

    • JJ77: October 23, 2009 11:42
      I have been with my husband 14 & half years and yes we do have sex when the other isn't up for it. I am more than happy to give hubby sex if i am going through an off period. At those times we tend to do different sex, we do things he enjoys and i don't get turn on by. I think your husband shouldn't hassle you but think if it like this, all those times you drag him clothes shopping or ask him to pick you up after a girls night out. or do other things for you that aren't always sex things. You do things for each other that you don;t want to do. I am not saying you should have a type of sex that you don't want to do, for example if you don't enjoy anal sex he shouldn't expect you to do that. But there needs to be give and take in all relationships over everything.
    • WandA: October 23, 2009 19:52
      As people have mentioned you don't make people do things they do not want to do, hence by denying sex this women is stopping her husband and herself from what should be a mutually pleasurable sexual experience.

      I think the issue is at what point does it become unreasonable. 6 months is quite a long time and in my opinion it is selfish to ignore your partner's needs for so long, IF their frequency has drastically changed, many people become lazy and slip in to patterns... regardless he still has needs, just as she has some needs he may be expected to preform (it need not be sexual). If I decided not to 'cuddle' my girlfriend for 4 weeks simply because I didn't like it would you brand it unreasonable? It is a give and take. If you are in a relationship you want to make that person happy, sometimes it might be at your own expense apart from the lovely fuzzy feeling you get from helping/pleasing someone!

      I think Tracy is making the point that 'effort' should be put into the relationship, 'duty shag' is a rather bad way of phrasing it but it is about effort. If he is doing it right is he really asking for much? A mutually pleasurable experience after 6 months, if you ask me its the best type of favour! I think sometimes people forget just how good (and bad) some things are, I agree with Tracy's advice that she should make an effort and will probably enjoy it once she does.

      I think labelling it as 'non-consensual' completely off the mark and a little bit offensive to victims of such actions. Of course she doesn't have to and at no point would she be 'forced' to carry on, it is part of a wider issue, making your partner happy. I don't WANT to cook some nights but I do, to make my partner happy and I expect 'happinesss' to come my way too... Aren't most people in relationships because it makes them happy and in love? If your partner stopped making you happy what would be the point in a relationship? As Tracy said, you must work at it otherwise it ceases to become a relationship and more a situation of convenience.

    • Becks: October 24, 2009 10:50
      To original question --- (as you didn't mention any medical reasons, ie recent ops, i'm presuming there are none, obviously if there are then factor those into the following advice)

      I would advise BOTH you and your husband to sit down and write CONSTRUCTIVELY how this period has made each of you feel ... then fold them or envelope them individually swap and go and read them in different rooms, giving each other time to maturely absorb the feelings of the other.

      Then when you have both figured out how to walk in the others moccasins, so to speak, sit down together over a cup of tea and explore REASONABLE compromises ---

      some possible suggestions; -

      instead of leaping straight into 'sex' re-connect as an intimate couple without 'sex' necessarily being the end goal .... even something like sharing a newspaper over a cup of tea and chatting together about the articles etc is a lovely gentle way of connecting to each other.

      a) cuddle and watch a film (not necessarily an erotic film)

      b) touch each other, again not necessarily for full 'penetrative sex'

      c) employ a/some sex toys (a good finger vibrator is excellent clitoral stimulation) and re-learn your own sexuality ...

      d) (and most important) make it about BOTH OF YOU as a couple ... it's give and take, i think you must want to come through this period of sexlessness as you wrote for help

      for some people if they are in a relationship going that long without sex with their partner (whom they fancy and usually love) can be nightmarish and lead to depression and self-esteem issues .... 6 months is a long time, especially if there are no medical conditions .... maybe it is time for BOTH OF YOU to come together and find a mutual compromise through this ....

      good luck
      bx

    • Tracey Cox: October 24, 2009 12:55
      Oh dear! I think this has been taken the wrong way. Firstly, as is always the case, the original letter I received was much longer. (If we published all the letters in full, it would take you days to read them!)

      In the original letter, the writer made it clear it wasn't indicative of any deeper issues. When she did have sex, she enjoyed it. It was more a case of her not being bothered to make the effort than it was her saying she didn't enjoy sex when she did have it.

      I am certainly not advocating women having to put out every time their partner demands sex! Of course I'm not saying that. But I am saying it's perfectly reasonable for your partner to expect sex as part of a monogamous, long-term relationship.

      Of course there are times in a relationship when neither of you, or one of you, doesn't feel like sex and it's put on the back burner. The birth of a baby, for instance. Or if one or both of you are under a lot of stress, grieving the death of a parent, going through a rough time emotionally or physically.

      None of this was happening here. It was more a case of "I can't be bothered making the effort so why should I?".

      It's idealistic to expect both of you to always be turned on at the same time. The argument for having sex with your partner, even if you’re not drooling with anticipation, sliding off your seat or frothing at the mouth for it, should simply be that you love them, value the relationship and want to make them happy sexually. And because you know they would do the same thing for you.

      Desire isn’t the only motivation for sex. Love, fairness, generosity and wanting to make your partner happy are damn good motivators as well.

      If your entire sex life consists of duty shags, you’re in trouble. But even couples who rate their sex lives as ‘highly satisfying’ say around 20-25% of their sexual encounters are done to please their partners, rather than themselves.

      I hope this clears up any confusion over what I was saying. And thanks for writing in to tell me it came out differently than I'd intended! It keeps me on my toes - and it's nice to know you're all reading the column!

    • Jennie: October 29, 2009 00:07
      "But when you said ‘I do’ you said ‘I do’ to sex as well. Sex is part of the bargain if you expect your partner to remain married to you and faithful to you.

      Six months is a long time without sex without a good reason not to do it. Your husband has a right to expect regular sex and ‘duty shags’, I’m afraid, are all part of the ‘working at the relationship’ that experts rattle on about."

      I think that this is the bit people are objecting to. This is concentrating everything on the man's "right" to expect a shag and nothing on the woman's right to bodily autonomy, and honestly? It looks like an argument for saying that marital rape can't happen.

    • Becky: October 30, 2009 15:28
      Wow. This is awful. If she doesn't want to have sex with her husband then she doesn't have to and don't tell her to. "Duty shags" because someone is hassling you equate to coerced sex - rape. I think submitting to sex she doesn't want is going to be much more harmful to her marriage than taking a break from it. I agree with Jennie.
    • MaryAndStuart: November 01, 2009 10:24
      I think there is a serious problem with this relationship - not because of the fact that the wife has lost interest in sex but her attitude and the response of both parties. When she writes she is not asking if there may be a medical problem underlying her loss of libido or how she might help her husband understand it and live through it - no, she writes hoping Tracy is going to back her up in her belief that he shouldn't hassle her about it. Not only does she want him to suffer this for however long she chooses - she is happy for him to suffer it with no explanation - but above all she wants him to suffer it in silence! Does the term egocentric have any resonance for this woman?

      He unfortunately is hassling for the wrong thing. He should be hassling for answers - like what does her GP think - has she perhaps got diabetes? In a good relationship he would be more worried about her health than his next shag. But perhaps he is a bit selfish too.

      On the face of it there seems a severe shortage of love, compassion and understanding on both sides in this relationship. Visits to the GP and marriage guidance are in order I think.

    • Beau Belle: November 01, 2009 10:48
      Surely sex is a voluntary activity..? Nobody should do anything they are not comfortable doing... However, a non-heated chat about the reasons behind the lack of interest and regular cuddles will take this couple in the right direction.
    • becks: November 01, 2009 11:10
      I don't know that we DO know the husband is only hassling for sex ... we only have the wifes words for his reaction ... it might be she interprets any attempts by him to converse on the topic as "hassling" ... calling him selfish might be premature.

    • MaryAndStuart: November 01, 2009 11:34
      Becks - I agree. When I wrote 'perhaps' and 'on the face of it' I had that in the back of my mind but it didn't come across.

      I just feel that in a good marriage each is so much more concerned for the well-being of the other that the problem should never reach the stage where one feels the other is hassling.

    • becks: November 01, 2009 11:38
      MaryAndStuart -- I agree ... when both partners are well 'partners' then 'hassling' in this context doesn't or shouldn't come into it. :)
    • UKGeeza: November 01, 2009 15:13
      And here I was thinking that sex therapists were a bunch of perverts hell bent on emphasising ever more kinky sex as a cure-all for all sexual ills.

      Tracey, you've hit an age-old marital problem on the head.

      If your partner expects something of you that is 'reasonable', is within your capability to give, does not cause you pain or suffering, and helps to keep your emotional bond in tact and you refuse to comply because you do not 'feel' like it, then you are one being selfish, not your partner. Why should the expectation of sex be different from any other expectation in a relationship?

      If my wife expects me to sleep with her, is this expectation reasonable or would I appear more reasonable preferring to stay in a hotel room because I 'feel' like staying in a hotel room because my wife is harassing me to sleep with her.

      The 'rape' argument is a complete cop-out. What the hell is wrong with your partner, be that male or female, expecting a shag anyway?

    • Dr Lisa Turner aka The O Coach: November 01, 2009 19:17
      Here are some thoughts on this from the perspective of sexual energy and tantra.

      Sex is the glue that binds a couple together and the barometer of how well the relationship is doing.

      It’s also the barometer of the levels of sexual energy within an individual. That she doesn’t want to have sex may not be due to a problem in the relationship, it may be because she has a problem with her own sexual energy. It could be “stuck” or very depleted.

      We also know that men and women approach sex from VERY different perspectives. Tantra and an understanding of sexual energy offer an explanation as to why this is.

      It is based on how men and women “penetrate” the world. Look at the way men and women physically penetrate the world, imagine silhouettes of a man’s and woman’s body in profile.

      Notice that that part of a man’s anatomy that bulges out is his genitals, showing that he penetrates the world FIRST with his sexuality. His sexuality is then the gateway to his heart, love and emotions.

      Now look at the woman and you’ll notice that it is her breasts that stick out first. She penetrates the world with her heart and for her to access her sexuality she needs hear heart to be activated.

      So what does this mean in practical terms?

      Basically – men need sex, before they can feel and give love, and women need to feel and give love before they can feel sexual. Women will feel “hassled for sex” whereas if a man is deprived of sex can feel unloved. Many women will know that chatty, open relaxed way your man is with you following sex. This is his heart opening to you as a result of you opening your sexuality to him.

      This inherent imbalance might sound like a disaster for relationships but there are plenty of ways round it.

      The simple way to solve this is to do what I sometimes to my couples. Have sex twice. The first time is for him, the second for her. And the second time can be the next night!

      Other ways are for both the man and woman to learn how to open their own heart and sexuality. So the woman learns how to turn on her own sexuality, so that she is sexually open and ready for her partner, and the man learns to open his heart so he can give and receive the love that his partner needs for her to feel aroused.

      Another reason that sex is in important in a relationship not only because it’s a way of giving and receiving love, but it is also an energy exchange. Men actually GIVE a woman life force energy during sex, and for a woman to reject sex, he will feel she is rejecting his gift of life force energy.

      This energy might be just what she needs to release any blocks she has and him “hassling her” could be that unconsciously he knows this and is why he wants to give her this gift.

      So rather than a “duty shag” think of it as a gift of his energy. He is simply trying to love you in the way that HE knows. Of course the ideal would be for them both to learn Tantra so that his heart can open and her sexuality can open when they choose.

      Tantrikas (those who practice tantra) can spend up to 2 days preparing themselves and each other energetically for sex. Sex is so much more than a physical act or the emotions that come into play. The energy exchange is a huge part and this is why people get so excited about sex (excuse the pun).

    • DecentChap: November 15, 2009 16:23
      I agree that the couple do need to talk about this but it seems to me the lady isn't interested in talking about it and just doesn't want to have sex and may never do. It's unreasonable to expect that the gentlemen should just have to wait until some undetermined time for physical affection to come back again.

      As for cuddles etc., sadly speaking from personal experience, one can be in a very tactile yet utterly sexless relationship. If the situation persists it eventually makes the relationship untenable.

      I sincerely hope that this couple can get things right again but I suspect that it's the beginning of the end.

    • becks: November 15, 2009 16:39
      decentchap ... very good points, it is sometimes easy for folks to dismiss sex as a 'selfish' need rather than a physical show of affection and way of growing and being together in a relationship.

      becks

    • Max: April 30, 2010 14:55
      I have been engaged to my partner nearly a year now and i did let him have sex with me even though i didn't want it and to be honest at the time he was too horny to tell. Afterward i felt so dirty and just walked off i couldn't even look at him let alone talk to him. After about an hour i text him while i was in the other room saying that i really didn't want it to happen but i wanted to please him and not make him angry. He came in the next room to talk to me, at this time i was crying and so was he, he felt so bad that he didn't notice as normally neither one of us 'ask' for sex/love-making it just happens. Now we both make sure we tell each other if we don't want it and not leave it till we are about to do it or doing it. And yea last week i wanted it and he didnt i felt a bit disappointed but instead of going in a mood or anything we just lay there and hugged naked in bed watching a film, so we was as close as we could be without any sort of penetration. We both felt better in the morning and neither one of us did something we didn't want to and we did something else that was just as intimate and loving as love-making.

      I'm glad we have sorted it out as i was raped just after my 15th birthday and he is the first guy since then I've been able to feel confident naked in front of. He makes me feel loved and more important he makes me feel like I'm worth his love. Neither one of us ever wants to feel pressured or pressure the other into something.

    • Charlie Tyler: September 13, 2011 15:58
      @Max - it sounds like you have a great relationship and have found an important way of communicating around desire that feels safe for you. Congratulations!

      @Tracey - I realise that you can't publish the whole of letters. The problem is that statements like "Your husband has a right to expect regular sex" and "when you said ‘I do’ you said ‘I do’ to sex as well" really do reinforce the idea that women's sexuality is not their own and that their bodily autonomy and choice should come second to their (male) partners desire. I think that is massively problematic and reinforces a culture where men feel entitled to access to womens bodies.

      I have to say I like most of your writing, it feels sex positive to me, but these statements are really damaging, and I'm disappointed that you made them.

    • Jay: October 12, 2012 23:30
      @Tracey I have to agree with the point made by Charlie Tyler and the other comments which coincide. I think you may not have meant that a woman saying 'I do' gives up her right to bodily autonomy however that is exactly how it came across. Your choice of words were tactless at best and probably not very helpful to the person who wrote to you ASKING for help!!!!!!
    • joe smith: May 20, 2014 23:41
      Tracy, Most people cannot handle the truth. Recent studies have shown that 50% of women and 60% of men have cheated on their spouse. Why do you think that is? Sex is an obligation in a marriage, that is if you truly wish to stay married.