Last week I was alerted to this article about husbands paying their wives for sex and other issues of low libido among women by Settle Petal writer Simone de Beaver. Simone, was horrified at the state of relationships which accepted that exchanging money for sex was appropriate, however I disagree. In my mind, relationships are complex and subtle things and sex and sexuality even more so. So if a couple find themselves in a situation where their libidos and sex drives are completely mismatched what options do they have? Sex outside marriage? Sexual frustration? Fights/Arguments/Unhappiness? None of these sound particularly appealing to me and yet are surely inevitable if one person in a loving, monogamous relationship is left without the sexual pleasure he/she desires.
I guess the main problem I have with the “paying your partner for sex is bad” idea is that I don’t necessarily agree that monogamy is always the answer in the first place and monogamy is the only place where we are going to find this “I have no other choice!” problem. So maybe it’s not that I think you should pay your partner for sex, but that human beings should be better at recognising that sexual interest will naturally shift and change and trying to maintain a fulfulling sex life over a long term relationship is always going to be a massive challenge.
The article itself is not terribly well written. The science is sketchy, the assumption that it’s always the woman whose libido will be lower is stereotypical at best and the evidence of this phenomenon appears to be a couple of anecdotes. However, the conversation is, in my opinion, worth having.
Partners in general and wives most commonly have been getting “paid” for sex in marriage since the institution began. What is the traditional concept of marriage but a sexual contract? The man will provide safety, security and all life’s basic essentials in return for sex and a home. In most places in the world this remains the essential definition of marriage, even if we don’t like to admit it. It’s only in the last few decades that an understanding of female sexuality and female sexual pleasure has become commonplace and accepted, and then only in some parts of the world and even then, only among some individuals. Sex continues to be traded for status, popularity, security and much more besides with very little thought to female sexual gratification. Don’t get me wrong, I think the state of affairs for most young women’s sexual pleasure is pretty appalling but there’s no use pretending that we’re all terribly shocked that it’s happening.
So if a couple who have chosen to be monogamous and are maintaining that fidelity find themselves in a position of unequal sexual drive, what is to be done? Assuming that it is a case of low libido and not a case of poor sexual performance and attention to his partners pleasure on the side of the husband, surely an economical transaction is perfectly legitimate? As couples we do things for each other that we don’t particularly want to all the time. We do the dishes when it isn’t our turn, we look after each other when we’re sick and vomity and generally gross. As long as there is no hint of force or coercion surely sex is another one of those things that we do for each other to maintain the happiness of the relationship? And I stress again the absolute absence of any kind of force either emotional or physical. With a financial arrangement the unwilling partner may find themselves putting in more effort, associating the exercise with positive emotions and timetabling it into their day with more interest. If it’s done in a spirit of positive relationship building, is it really so awful? If the alternative is a frustrated and irritated spouse or broken promises what’s the big problem? As someone who experienced a sexless relationship for over a year I can really sympathise with someone who has to put up with that for years, or even decades.
So in my opinion, if couples are going to enter into a monogamous, life long relationship, there has to be an understanding that, that will mean mismatched sexual appetite in either direction from time to time and every couple has to find their own way of maintaining a positive and mutually fulfilling relationship within those expectations. Money may not be the worst option ever.
Image taken from marsmet462‘s flickr account under creative commons licence.