Sex: Need, or Want?Posted: April 21, 2014
It is embarrassing to admit, but at almost 30, I am still sorting out my beliefs about sexuality. I was raised believing that sex is exclusively for marriage, and that anyone who does it outside of those guidelines is a) weak, b) immoral and/or c) damaged and desperate for love.
I was taught that having sex with someone you are not married to is giving yourself away, and that you will never be able to get those parts back. Further, that upon marriage, you would experience marital dysfunction because you didn’t “save yourself”. I was also taught that men were different from women–that men need sex within a marriage in order to feel loved. So basically, while outside of marriage, sex is considered base and people who do it are just acting like animals, within a marriage sex is necessary for men to feel loved. I guess this is their way of telling women that once married they need to be prepared to give it up, regardless of whether they feel like it or not (since women are presumed to be the ones who are only having sex because their partner wants them to.)
Fast-forward to now. I believe that we are just very complex animals. Moral codes were invented to stop humanity from devolving into chaos, so unless someone is hurting or taking advantage of someone else, there are no morals. There is no code. Believing that, I believe that sex is something that we are built to enjoy–which is why it feels so damn good, and why we dissolve into euphoria when we are having it. There is no limit on the number of people we go to bed with, no right or wrong to who or how we fuck. The only reason we should place parameters around our sexuality is if we personally require these guidelines in order to be safe and happy. If we feel better only having sex with a carefully chosen partner who we love, then that is what we should do. If we want to avoid getting or spreading disease, we should use contraception. If sex is taking over our lives or ruining our relationships, then we need to get control of that impulse in order to reduce our suffering and the suffering of those close to us.
So as far as morality and sexuality go, I have figured out my personal ethic and that works for me.
The problem comes when thinking about the nature of, and value placed on sex. Of course this is something personal that we each need to decide for ourselves, but I have seen so many couples (including my husband and I) destroyed or seriously struggling because of a lack of agreement on this issue.
It seems clear to me that sex–like everything else–has no value besides that which we as people place on it. For me, it is extremely important and a necessary part of a vibrant and full life. For others, it is just a fun recreational activity, or something they don’t care to do at all. Obviously, making a commitment to spend your life with someone who places different value on sex than you do is going to be a problem.
I guess my confusion comes from being on a different side of this issue from so many of the other mothers I know. Many will talk about how they haven’t had sex with their husbands in months, or they only have sex a handful of times a year. When their husbands complain about the lack of sex, they get angry and defensive, saying that sex isn’t important. It doesn’t matter enough to make or break a relationship, it is a “want” and not a need, and that their husbands should be able to take care of themselves in this area if they need to get off. They completely misunderstand their spouse–that he does not just need an orgasm, he needs to be able to express his sexuality with another person. Sex is not just about relieving the discomfort of being horny, and masturbation is a totally different experience from having sex.
The attitude of these women is, that sex is “base”. That is is not a higher order need. That family, companionship and whatever else their husbands have in their lives should be enough to keep them satisfied. Like I said before, sex is not a need for everyone, but for some people it absolutely is. Should their husbands continue to suffer in silence, not having their needs met? Should they do so with a smile, and not even complain? It seems like deprivation of pleasure–and that which makes us human– is cruel and unusual. But is the wife cruel and unusual? This is where I get twisted up in my thinking.
No one should have to have sex when they don’t want to, so my friends are right. Their husbands should not pressure them. No one should have to live without their basic sexual needs being met, so their husbands are right–they deserve to be able to be as sexual as they want to be. Yet these couples have committed to each other, built lives together, and love each other. Families should not be torn apart because two people have different ideas of what an adult relationship is and what it should look like. Where does that leave us–all of us who are mismatched in our relationships?
It leaves us in a place where we know, once and for all, that sex should NOT be abstained from until marriage. It leaves us knowing that we should experiment and experience our sexuality fully, and what it means, and communicate that honestly to our partners before making a commitment, so that we do not end up in this situation in the first place. But for those of us for whom this ship has sailed, I’m not sure there’s an answer. Especially if those in the couples believe whole-heartedly that monogamy is something that they want.
In discussing this with my husband, he has stated that he has not been having more sex with me just to make me happy, or out of obligation. He is doing it because he wants a healthy sex life. Even if he does not always feel like it, he always enjoys it, and he knows that a major part of increasing your sex drive is to have more sex! I am thankful that we are in this place, but worried for my friends, their marriages, and the marriages of all the other couples out there who are on opposite sides of sexual appetite scale (and of course, things between my husband and I could become sexually stagnant again–we are not out of the woods yet).
It seems like, no matter what, there is no way for everyone to be happy. I’m beginning to wonder if this is just the nature of life.