Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On "not getting it" or "getting it somewhere else"

There's a discussion at Pandagon about Dagmar Herzog's book Sex in Crisis that's taken some interesting turns, at least one of which I'm probably to blame for.

The one I've been arguing about started with the discussion of the expectation that, because for Christians sex within marriage is the only acceptable form of sex, wives as the gatekeepers of their husbands' sexual morality are required to be "available on demand." (Not much mention is made of the reverse; I'm not sure if this is because men are assumed to be always ready and willing or if women are assumed to not actually have libidos. Probably both.)

From there, "dwhite10701" argued that this was a case of conservative Christians taking a good idea too far, that while saying that a wife should be "a 24/7 tootsie" is incredibly creepy, of course any long-term relationship involves sex you or your partner don't want to have, because "if they don't get it at home they'll get it somewhere else."

And that creeped me the fuck out.

I'm pretty much zero-tolerance these days about cheating - "these days" being ever since actively identifying as poly, so there's probably some convert's zeal going on there. It also stems from having been cheated on. (On the other end of things, I'm not totally innocent, as I regarded a LDR as "open" without making that explicit, and it was mostly dumb luck that she did too.) Using a partner's lack of desire as an excuse to cheat instead of working to remedy the issue or ending the relationship is simply lazy and cowardly.

The discussion managed to move away from cheating and more toward what one should expect in a relationship. A lot of folks took up the position that of course in a committed, long-term relationship there are going to be times when you have sex you don't want to have, but it's okay because there'll also be times when your partner has sex they don't want to have.

And that, too, creeps me the fuck out.

Maybe I'm being naive. I've never been married; I've only had one long-term relationship that involved living together. But the idea that it's better to have bad sex (because let's face it, sex that one of the participants doesn't want to have isn't going to be good) than no sex just doesn't resonate with me. Not only is it going to be immediately suboptimal, but congratulations, you've just opened the door to doubt your partner's desire in all future encounters. That's really worth it? Seriously?

To be clear, what I'm talking about are situations when one person's genuinely not interested. Though I talk about this as a desirous/non-desirous binary, it's more of a continuum where most experience is between those two poles, somewhere in the realm of "I may not be actively desiring sex at the moment, but may be persuadable." Which is a perfectly fine place to be, provided "persuadable" doesn't turn into "are we there yet?"


Renegade Evolution said...

This is really interesting, JPF, and I, too, find the "they'll go elsewhere" argument, as well as the "even if you don't want to" one a bit...odd, off, whatever. But I also think people tend to simplify things. I mean, in many ways, I'm a very odd case. I'm married, been with the same guy for a loooong time, but for obvious reasons, we're not exclusive, but nor are we, as it goes, "poly". The big thing with us is- no lying. So long as both of us are honest about what's going on, it's not ever been a problem...and in a way, I do get the "going elsewhere for what you can't get at home", because we both occasionally do that (I like some things he does not, and vice versa), but there is no dishonesty about it, between us or whomever else we might be involved with. For me, at least, it's never been about "loyalty" or being exclusive, it's about being honest.

And as far as not in the mood goes, as weird as it sounds, I think it's fairly common, for both men and women. I've never had sex when I was in a no way, totally adverse to the idea mood, but I've had it when I'm rather indifferent or ambivilent to the idea...not in the mood, but not totally against it. My partner has too...and that I really don't think that is all so unusual.

Interesting topic for discussion though, for certain.

jfpbookworm said...

One distinction I don't think got made, either over at Pandagon or in my post here, is the difference between "sometimes *I* will decide to have sex when I don't really want to in order to please my partner(s)" and "sometimes *you* should have sex when you don't really want to in order to please your partner(s)." (At some point I should probably make a more general post about the difference between "I should" imperati

It's about respecting autonomy (so, come to think of it, is the "no lying" principle - if I don't give someone all the relevant facts, I'm taking away their right to make informed decisions.)

I think lots of people have made the decision to have sex when they're not totally "in the mood," though I wonder a bit about that - there can be so many pressures influencing that decision, from "I'm supposed to always be sexually available" to "if I don't, they'll think I don't love them" to "maybe they'll do the same for me at some point."

jfpbookworm said...

(At some point I should probably make a more general post about the difference between "I should" imperati

Argh; how'd that get deleted?

...between "I should" imperatives and "you should" imperatives.