Thursday, July 24, 2014

Some Thoughts On Sex And The Bonded Couple

[This article also appears in PJ Media's Lifestyle section. As I've seen nothing else to spur an essay this morning, and I've just discovered the true inner meaning of exhaustion, I've decided to repost it here. -- FWP]

"How times have changed!" rises the cry of every generation. At least, it can seem that way to one unfamiliar with the course of things over time.

I have in mind the recent exchange of thoughts between psychologist Dr. Helen Smith and PJ Media Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle, germinated by the recently publicized case of a man who, feeling that his wife had cut him off sexually, presented her with a spreadsheet detailing their recent encounters. Dr. Helen was sympathetic toward the man: seemed she was confused about his behavior, and said the lack of sex was unusual and that it was because she was just busy with work. From what I remember, she is in her 20s and the couple have been together around five years and married for two and have no kids.

And she seriously wonders why the guy is mad? She has sex three times in seven weeks and he has probably been angry and boiling for some time before that. Why is she posting their problems on Reddit? She mentions his immature behavior; is hers any better? She says he wouldn’t talk to her about the chart etc., so maybe during this quiet time, she should stop and think about her behavior.

But more importantly, the husband should reflect on his marriage and ask himself a few questions. So far, there are no kids. If she lets her job interfere with her sex life, what about the kids? Will he have an eighteen year chart of excuses and pain? If kids are involved and he wants to get out of the marriage then, he is going to have a much harder time. Perhaps he simply needs some quiet time to reflect on what to do, whether this is going to work in the long run and why his wife would turn to strangers on the internet and post his chart on a Reddit site instead of sitting back and giving him some breathing room. This does not reflect well on how things will go for him in the future if they stay married.

...while Dave Swindle was not:

I’m actually going to take the wife’s side in this dispute. I have absolutely ZERO SYMPATHY WHATSOEVER for this loser. Why?

Because it’s not a wife’s responsibility to be her husband’s happy whore, eagerly providing him with his orgasms on demand.

Dissatisfied husbands, want to know the secret to having sex with your wife whenever you want? It is not your wife’s responsibility to be ready to go on command, it’s YOUR responsibility to know your wife so well that you are capable of seducing her anytime. When you want to have sex with her you don’t ask her, you put her in the mood yourself. It’s really that simple: know you wife well enough so you can push the right buttons, say the right things, and create an environment where sex just naturally happens.

Unfortunately, that’s more work than most men are used to for getting orgasms.

The frequency with which the unnamed subjects of the exchange actually "have sex" -- Lord, how I detest that phrase! -- strikes me as irrelevant. He feels she's cut him off; she claims to be too busy and tired. Neither mentions whether the lovemaking they actually manage to do is pleasant or fulfilling, whether physically or emotionally. The conflict doesn't involve sexual satisfaction, but rather sexual receptivity.

The questions that should follow aren't being explicitly addressed.

Dave Swindle's original reply to Dr. Helen emphasized orgasm: "[I]t’s not a wife’s responsibility to be her husband’s happy whore, eagerly providing him with his orgasms on demand." Yet Dr. Helen didn't speak of orgasm, or any of the other physical aspects of the sex act. She concentrates on emotion: "[I]t is a good example of how many women (and men too, given some of the comments) don’t think men have any feelings when it comes to what they need in marriage."

Dr. Helen's perspective is closer to mine. As I wrote in a recent novel:

"I know he still loves me," Marilyn said, "and of course I still love him. It's just that --"

"'Of course'? 'Of course'?" Helen's smile vanished and her face darkened. "You deny him all enjoyment of your body, you make him feel a churl even for thinking about it, you reave him of one of the essential achievements of manhood, but that's all right because you still love him?"

Marilyn gaped. "What achievement do you mean?"

"Do you have any idea," Helen said, "how radically different a man's experience of sex is from a woman's, dear?"


Helen sat back and folded her arms over her breasts. She looked at Marilyn as a teacher might an underachieving pupil, one who had more than adequate ability but refused to apply himself.

"We hold the veto power. We compel them to woo us, seduce us, cater to us. When we oh-so-generously let them near, they do almost all of the work, yet their orgasms involve only a tiny portion of their bodies and last a mere second or two. Ours are incomparably fuller and longer -- and at so much smaller a cost that it doesn't bear comparison." She shook her head. "We get so much more out of it than they do, it's a wonder they bother with us at all. So why do they bother with us, Marilyn?"

Helen's silent glare accused her of having missed something critical, something she ought to have known without needing to be told.

"I don't know. I...never thought about it."

The reproof in Helen's eyes remained strong, but something else entered to temper it, something wryly amused.

"You ought to have thought about it. But you're not the only one. Harridans all across this land have been telling women like you that you're owed, that men's desire for you is barely a hair's breadth from chattel slavery, that 'a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.' And you're too afraid to contradict them, or too proud to ask your mothers whether it might just possibly be some other way. So they go on to catechize the men, telling them what oppressors they are, and how awful the burdens of womanhood are, and how unfair it is that they should get to exhaust their bodies and erode their spirits with wage labor while women sit in the safety and comfort of their homes, being most oppressively provided for." Helen shook her head. "If a hundredth of that were true, the race would have died out thousands of years ago. It's we who owe them, Marilyn. Without them, we would still be cowering in caves. They have made us a world where we can be whatever we please."

My character Helen poses the essential question -- " So why do they bother with us, Marilyn?" -- though she never answers it explicitly. Male orgasm -- his spasmodic release of tension and seminal fluid -- is not the reason a decent man cherishes his lover's body and access to it. That there are a fair number of "indecent" men roaming about need not cloud the central issue.

Her sexual receptivity is his prize for being the man she loves. It tells him two things of inestimable value:

  1. That she has deemed him worthy above any of her other suitors;
  2. That he can make the effort, complications, and potential consequences of sex worth her while.

This aspect of sexual congress is so frequently dismissed that it approaches a kind of censorship. There are reasons for that, of course: the gender-war feminist movement treats men as "the enemy," to whom nothing should be granted except on terms profitable to her, while the "Game" movement among men resentful of feminism's representations and determined to assert sexual dominance are inclined to view contemporary women's exploitative attitude toward men as a license to think and behave in a complementary fashion. In effect, each views the other as a means to an end, which demeans and shortchanges both.

I've said it before: The fulfillments of sexual intercourse don't end with physical pleasure. They don't begin there, either. Though the language seems brusque, even a bit savage, the principal fulfillment to the man is that of victory: winning access to the body of his beloved. The principal fulfillment to the woman is that of agreeable surrender: the cession of her body to his, not merely for immediate pleasure but also in hope of a union that eclipses the physical connection. These satisfactions greatly overshadow the pleasures of the body, as does their continuation over time.

Indeed, a mature, self-assured man, properly reared and past the urgings of adolescence, is less concerned with his own physical pleasure than with bringing pleasure to her. Her desire for his desire, with all that follows from that, gives him what he most wants: the opportunity to bring her pleasure, even if he gets little or none for himself. This has often been dismissed as merely a form of politeness, but in fact it's the source of his greatest sexual fulfillment and, apart from progeny, his principal reason for wanting her to want him.

The comprehension of this point is so vital to the long-term maintenance of a successful marriage that no heap of adjectives could do it justice. Yet from the evidence we may conclude that millions of couples fail to grasp it at all, and suffer terribly thereby.

Yes, there are men so self-absorbed that a woman's sexual desire is merely an opening through which to seek their own fulfillment, including the evanescent and essentially trivial pleasure of orgasm. Yes, there are men who never bother to learn "what she likes." But in any decent society these will be a minority. The great danger to marital relations arises from the accelerating tendency among women to view sex as an imposition, a venue for negotiation, even an unpleasant duty to be minimized. It's not avoiding "being too tired" from one's daily labors that's central, but attaining and maintaining the variety of love that sees the couple as a transcendent entity, greater than the sum of its parts, that deserves every available opportunity to be more than two individuals obsessed with their own prerogatives.

His "spreadsheet approach" does seem misguided; at any rate, he could have been subtler. But far greater demerit attaches to her demotion of their coupling to a status below that of an after-dinner drink. Where's the love that caused them to become husband and wife? Where did they leave it behind? And why on Earth did they replace it with swivel chairs and a conference room table?


KG said...

Brilliant! And Lord knows, it needed saying.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Thank you, KG. It strikes me as "obvious" stuff, but we all know what that little word means, don't we?

Dystopic said...

Oh this is a tough one, Francis. I agree very strongly with some of your points, but equally disagree with others.

We agree thusly:

Feminism and its obsession with turning women into men, and men into nothing (the bicycle to a woman's fish) is, indeed, one of the greatest troubles of our age. Similarly, your character Helen is reasonable, having a deeper understanding of male-female relations than most women today. Finally, the spreadsheet author was fully in the right to document his complaints and cutoff contact in order to make his wife think about their relationship.

We disagree, however, in the solution and the importance of the physical. Dave Swindle has a good point, although I suspect he is confused as to what "seduction" really means (hint: it isn't being a kiss-ass little servile slave to one's wife).

The fact is, a man must never stop being a man. He must remain strong, attractive, powerful and wise or else he will lose the primal attraction his wife has for him. That primal attraction, once lost, is difficult to regain. When the primal attraction goes, it is only a matter of time before the love and physical desire goes with it. As Vox would say, he must always "game" his wife.

Just as a wife should take care of herself and ensure she remains attractive to her husband so must the man do the same with regards to his dominant nature. This doesn't mean he has to be an asshole or a cruel individual, but it does mean he should avoid being a supplicating pansy. As Dave Swindle said, he must know how to seduce her (but I highly suspect Dave Swindle himself does NOT know how to do this -- something I find very funny).

John Williams said...

I'm guessing his efforts, prior to the spreadsheet, were subtle.

A Reader said...

I don't quite understand the 'Woman, make yourself attractive to your husband' dictum. I'm a romantic at heart, so I tend to think that all women are beautiful from the right angle. There might be exceptions, like Janet Reno or Madeleine Albright, but as a general rule, if a man can't find the beauty in a woman, he's not looking at her from the right point of view. I pity all the Baby Boomers who are getting their faces lifted and tucked at retirement age because they can't understand that beauty has many forms. Why should an middle-aged woman be less beautiful to her husband because they are (horror of horrors!) growing together? Is the husband a hopeless cad with the same standard of beauty he had at eighteen? I don't understand it.

If a husband doesn't have that perspective on his own wife, something is very, very wrong. He is either out of his mind or he is half-way to breaking his vows. Possibly both. It is not wife's my duty to paint herself like Jezebel for my benefit. She doesn't need it anyway. She is beautiful, period. As a husband, it is my privilege to know and love my woman's beauty and my duty to ignore. I should notice a daughter's beauty and praise so she comes out of childhood self-assured of her own beauty instead of comparing herself unfavorably to her peers and whatever she sees on magazine covers at the supermarket.

Cordolf said...

I realize I'm late to the game on this posting, but I just wanted to note that the previous comment's discussion of "beauty" isn't exactly what I think the comment to which he was responding was referring to.

A wife should "ensure she remains attractive to her husband" was the comment, and I think that this goes beyond physical condition (although that is certainly part of it). Behaviors can be attractive or unattractive, even more so than physical beauty - especially on the unattractive side. A physically beautiful specimen who is constantly negative about her life, demeans her husband, or complains that she deserves better is behaving in an unattractive way, regardless of what makeup, fashion, or figure she brings to the table.

Little (but important) things like shying away from his casual touch or refusing to look him in the eye also reduce attractiveness.

So while I certainly agree that it is not a wife's duty to paint herself to achieve some arbitrary standard of beauty to encourage her husband's desire, I think it is also the case that behaving in an explicitly unattractive manner is to be avoided at all costs, because such behavior will overwhelm any aspects of physical beauty over the long term.