Pony Responds ~ Paying your wife for sex

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.

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About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

12 thoughts on “Pony Responds ~ Paying your wife for sex

  1. I’m amused that you think polyamory magically solves mismatched sex drives, even on average within a relationship. I think a simple counter-example is someone who has no social energy, or no time, for new relationships but wants more sex in the relationships that they have the capacity to maintain. I’ve seen enough comments about it in poly forums to think it’s not an aberration. Also, you skip over the idea that a woman might provide poor sexual performance or be inattentive to her partner’s desires. The latter I am waaay to familiar with to believe it’s uncommon (at least once you step out of the straitjacket of “all men want…” and allow men to be individuals)

    FWIW, I hear masturbating works well for many people. So does building up a tolerance for casual sex or prostitution. Or just going without, the way other people live with partners who are messy, or poor, or disabled. The trick is, as suggested, to stop it becoming a focus of resentment.

    I can’t imagine being in a sexless relationship, it would break too many of the things I do. I’ve struggled enough with partners who didn’t orgasm (but still enjoyed sex), but that at least left open the full range of physical intimacy.

    I also struggle with the idea that these things should be discussed “without coercion”. To me, consequences and coercion are intertwined and if you want to split them it has to be definitional, rather than behavioral, which just leads to word games. Better, IMO, to just establish mutually agreed boundaries and not get hung up on whether explaining consequences is different to making threats, and if so how. But these things are often glossed over by feminists and women who often use a different definitional trick to escape them, the “women cannot be coercive” one, or even “I, myself, am never coercive”. Perhaps substitute racist for coercive if you struggle with how that could possibly be wrong.

    • I think you’ve taken my very basic response and made far too many assumptions about what I believe. I never even mentioned polyamory, just because I don’t necessarily believe in monogamy does not automatically mean I think polyamory is the answer. The article is about wives being paid for sex so while I touch on the potential that it would happen the other way it wouldn’t be a response if I broadened the scope of the argument too far in any direction.

      I would never suggest that women are incapable of coercion however my point was that a sexual/financial transaction between a married couple should be based on conversation and collaboration, not force. Neither do I suggest that all women are naturally better at pleasing men than the other way around. What I do say is that female sexual pleasure is a relatively new concept and that a common reason for low libido or interest in sex among women is lack of sexual pleasure.

      I wrote this article in response to the disgust of a friend that such situations exist and that it must be a sign of poor female sexual power and/or pleasure. My hypothesis is simply that under certain circumstances I think such an arrangement could be beneficial to both parties and that the automatic reaction shouldn’t be “the woman is being exploited”.

      I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the matter, but I’d rather they were constructive or responsive rather than argumentative or adversarial in nature. Feel free to consider me a definitional feminist trickster if you don’t like my language, but it’s not my intention.

  2. Where this might fall down is that for many women, a low libido is symptomatic of dissatisfaction with the relationship. Many women tend to squash their feelings down, and it only comes out in not wanting to be intimate with the person they feel let down by. Often, we aren’t even emotionally aware enough to realise that this is the case, and blame ourselves for our low libido. So in a similar situation, where a women was paid to do something she felt a bit repugnant, this would only do further damage to the relationship and her self-esteem. That is of course assuming it is the woman being paid. No-one talks about low libido in men; we are tricked into thinking they are up for it all the time, but my friends and I have come across the problem time and time again. And because men are supposed to be rearing to go constantly, the fact that they have low libido with YOU again is a terrible blow to self-esteem and can turn into a vicious circle of neither partner feeling sexually attractive. Payment again is probably not going to help this, the issues are much deeper.

    • I certainly agree on that. This would only work if it really was a case of true collaboration and communication and not of any of the myriad of potential power imbalances that exist within relationships.

  3. Sorry, I was just responding to a couple of things that leaped out at me as bizarre. If you put “non-monogamy” in where I said polyamory I think the sentence reads just fine as a direct response to what you wrote.

    I suspect my reading of the article was more “blah blah blah possibly interesting technique to change the way someone might see sex blah blah blah”, because I tend to skim over the stuff you’re calling out as problematic. I am glad people do call out the awful, I’m just not wild about paying attention to it. You do it so I don’t have to 🙂

    The coercion question is, to me anyway, a lot more complex than just “don’t do it”. It’s relatively straightforward to establish what consent means for most adults in an intimate relationship, but coercion is harder. I’m used to communist/anarchist arguments that use of money implies a coercive framework, as well as the Dworkin-McKinnon style assumption that men asking women is inherently coercive. But less academically, any negotiation in a relationship is fraught with power imbalances and it’s very easy to feel pressured or coerced regardless of whether your partner intends that (even against the intention). Is “I don’t think I could stay in a relationship without sex” a threat to leave if your partner doesn’t provide sex? What are the consequences of a refusal? Do the two(ish) people involved have the same view of the consequences and their effects? I’ve spent too much time running round in circles over that sort of question in a very direct “you asked me to do X in a way that I’m not happy about” way. All the usual meeting pathologies apply too – especially agreement by exhaustion and side issues IME.

    I can imagine payment working, but I don’t know how comfortable I’d be doing it myself (on either side). I do tend to fall back on the question of whether I’m just a better wanker than average, or maybe a worse sexual performer, but I usually find that I’d rather masturbate than have sex with someone who isn’t keen. But that’s biased towards my current situation where I have a partner with a higher sex drive than mine, so I can almost always find someone keen. They masturbate too, when they feel so inclined.

    • Well, I certainly agree on many of those points. Particularly that of coercion. Relationships are always more complex than we’d like to think and my final point is really that if this is a way that a couple can successfully deal with this issue, we shouldn’t necessarily condemn it.
      Thanks for the challenge, I’m just writing a simple article to trigger debate which seems to have been successful!
      Cheers.

  4. Pingback: On the (Rest of the) Net. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  5. So..lets say that paying for sex with a spouse/partner is an option. What are the retail prices? Spousal discount off escort service pricing? Blowjob $50? Discount if dinner is included? Partner has mutual orgasm,deduct 20%? Intercourse in favorite position $100? Add on $25 if partner dresses seductively? Foreplay a la carte $50 per 10 minute addition? . The possibilities are both playful and realistic. The “menu” please and what hours is the establishment serving?

  6. I pay my DW a “Tribute” of $50 to have basic intercourse with her. She is the one who first half-jokingly suggested it and after giving it some serious consideration the idea took on traction with both of us. We have disparate libidos and I usually want intercourse with a bit greater frequency than she does. Moreover, timing is often the bone of contention as I am a night person and my favourite time for sex is either past midnight or early morning. She likes her beauty sleep and neither wee-hour boinking nor sex before having her coffee ritual after arising mid-morning is her idea of erotic bliss. So, outside languid weekend days spent in bed, the rest of the week we are far out of sync. I do not believe in a “Mercy Fkuc” nor do I believe in a woman giving it up out of a sense of duty. We both think the idea of husbands paying their wife for sex at times she might otherwise be resentful of his demands is the next best idea since rubber tires. All I can say is that it works for us. 

    I keep envelopes with fifties in them in my nightstand. That way I won’t be of of luck if I forget to get cash from the bank. Payment is required in advance. Fifty is the Tribute for straight sex, 30 minutes penetration time, foreplay is not timed. Any kink is extra and the Tribute is negotiable. The Tribute can be up to $150 if I want her to add some troilism to the menu and I want to have an active part in the mix.

    Out relationship sails into territory that is far from the cozy shores of marriages based on conventional sexual paradigms. For us breaking convention is part of our beings. So our “arrangement” is not so far out there for us.  

    I can say without question that paying my wife for sex works quite well for us. It makes me put my money where my mouth is – often quite literally that – and it gives my wife some mad money to spend however she wishes in exchange for something most wives give away for free and whine about if they are not “in the mood”. It may not work for everybody and that’s cool. If you are inclined to pass judgement or less than constructive criticism, please bear in mind that you do not possess even the most superficial insight into the workings of our marriage. Judging us by your personal metric is not valid. If your opinion is that it is not for you, we can respect that – although we would encourage you to try it for a while. The metric that is most valid for us is that my wife is happy and I am happy and that is all that matters. 

    (Now please pardon us while my DW makes me $50 poorer.)

  7. I have been married for 15 years. I am a shift worker and its very hard to find a set pattern like most people. My wife sleeps in her own room as well as I used to do night shift. I pay my wife for sex and even get a receipt. It works great for us and we still have a good marriage. My wife has little interest in sex normally. If I want something extra I pay extra money it’s simple and easy

  8. Am not married, but when I do get married I expect to have unlimited access to my husband’s financial resources therefore such a trade would not work for me? I find it sort of strange that this even happens, because I somewhat expect women to have access to their husband’s money.

    • It would be nice if all marriages and de facto relationships were like that but in reality this is often not the case. Financial violence is one of the most common forms of family violence and includes restricting and controlling access to money and other resources. Additionally, many relationships choose (with no violence or coercion) to keep many finances separate for a variety of reasons personal to them.

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