“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:
…it 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:
- That she has deemed him worthy above any of her other suitors;
- 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 is 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?
See more exchanges between Dr. Helen Smith and Dave Swindle:
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