Quick Hit: Different desires

Matty Silver has written a column for the SMH on how to deal with a difference in libido levels for couples who have been together for a while and for whom the bit where you want to jump each other quite often has passed (if indeed it occured at all for you).

So most of the column was a rehash of an earlier piece last year and some comments from readers of that earlier writing and it was all okay until Betina Ardnt was mentioned. Then the assumptions being made about relationships were made clear. Firstly, that really we are talking about a male/female couple and one where the female is the one resisting the sexual advances. That they want to have a family and are able to, that they will have a house etc.

However, when a couple decides to marry or commit to a life together, there is a general understanding that they will work, entertain, cook, clean the house, look after the kids and have sex. All these activities need planning and take time. Maybe it is time to change our thinking about what is more important, as sex often seems to be last of the priorities.

You won’t leave your partner without food or stop cleaning the house, why is it so difficult to schedule in some time for sex?

My partner is quite capable of taking himself off to the supermarket, able to work a credit card or pay with cash, cook for himself and the kids and clean up his own mess. Not necessarily to my preferred standard but certainly enough to keep everyone looking clean and hygenic. However, for various reasons he doesn’t always do these things which can leave me feeling tired, put upon and resentful and definitely not sexy.

Which brings me to a larger question: why are women still expected to cook, clean and provide sexual services as if there are no pressures on them to do anything else. As if illness, disability, stress, tiredness, childrearing etc etc have no effect and if we don’t we are somehow betraying this sacred contract? Why is it still the role of women to turn the other cheek and ‘just do it’ despite the fact that he’s hogging the remote, the washing up he’s been going to do for two days isn’t done, his dirty socks still litter the floor, you just tripped over his shoes and threw half his wardrobe off your side of the bed?* Where is the mutual responsibility in making each other happy?

*or whatever it is that your partner does that irritates the crap out of you and makes you feel unlike sexy times.

Categories: gender & feminism, Life, parenting, relationships

Tags: ,

10 replies

  1. Let’s dooo the tiiime waarp agaiiiiiin!

  2. Which ties in interestingly with this article
    Most Women Would Rather Divorce Than Be a Housewife.

  3. Because you will die without food and get sick in a dirty house, but no sex will just make you a bit tetchy?

  4. there is a general understanding that they will work, entertain, cook, clean the house, look after the kids and have sex.
    Well maybe people should recognise and actually talk to each other about these assumptions rather than assume everyone has the same expectations that they do. A “general understanding” is going to be different for everyone.

  5. Ooh, this absolutely boils my blood. It’s so terrible, and so telling about our culture’s godawful attitudes, in so many ways. Thanks for this insightful post!
    I almost admire the brutal honesty in how sex is explicitly listed as a chore. You’re not meant to enjoy chores, you just have to do them. I also don’t see mowing the lawn or taking the rubbish out or even earning a wage packet on that list – no, this is a list of women’s chores. Which they are supposed to do for men, not for fun.
    But more alarmingly, not doing the washing causes a problem for everyone who lives in the house. If one partner wants more sex than the other, there is a problem whether they have sex or not: either someone is frustrated, which is upsetting, or someone is being coerced into sex they don’t want and the other partner doesn’t even care – which unless you are a terrible person is very obviously far, far worse.
    Thirdly, you know who often does simply refuse to clean the house or do childcare? Men.
    And lastly – this constant focus on the poor men and their nasty withholding wives is so, so poisonous and upsetting if you have the higher libido and you are a woman (a situation I’ve been in more than once). If you’re a man whose wife stops desiring you, I’m sure it hurts a lot, but at least your perspective gets aired frequently and sympathetically, and you have a century’s worth of shitty jokes and stereotypes to back you up about how ladies are all frigid really and once they’ve snared you they’d rather do the ironing. Frustrated wife, though? Tough shit, and you really must be yeti-ugly.

  6. I wonder if in these heterosexual partnerships, if the male partner was really sharing the house and caring work, if the partners’ levels of sexual desire would start be more similar?

  7. I have seen a statistic (once again one of those things I have squirreled away in my brain and completely failed to note any source), which goes something like men will orgasm in 97% of sexual encounters and women in 50%. I often wonder if this is another contributor to this ‘women won’t do sex’ idea. I mean, if you’re tired and there’s not much chance that you’ll come then why bother? On the other hand, if you are more or less guaranteed of a stress-busting, mind-blowing good time then that’s a bit more incentive.

  8. Angharad: I wonder if you’re onto something there. It occurs to me that my interest in sex correlates somewhat with how regularly and easily I’ve managed to orgasm the most recent times I’ve had sex.
    [Continuing the heteronormative one man – one women relationship pattern I am personally most familiar with.]
    Unfortunately, this then ties into cultural myths about how men are supposed to be “good lovers” who give their partners orgasms, when whether or not you have one can depend on a lot of stuff like physical health, stress levels, medication, etc. So it can be hard to talk about not wanting sex because you’re not having orgasms without it being taken as a criticism of your partner.

  9. Aqua – absolutely. And I’d suggest that pressure probably comes back a bit on the woman too (eg ‘if I don’t seem to be having a good time, he will feel bad’). I think it’s a slightly less damaging stereotype than the old ‘lie back and think of England’ women just aren’t interested one, and probably one more easily fixed by communication.
    And just to clarify, I certainly also think the whole housework thing has a part to play too. Who wants to sleep with someone who sees you more as their mother than their partner?

  10. I didn’t feel like he saw me as his mother, but it certainly felt like I had an extra kid to look after. Once I managed to articulate that things changed pretty quickly. Still not perfect but much better.

%d bloggers like this: