Marriage comes with its privileges and its obligations. A man’s privilege is the opportunity for regular sex without having to invest in persuading a woman to have intercourse with him each time (as a single man must). A woman’s privilege is to have children and be able to devote her life to raising them with a man’s financial support. Her obligation is the need to provide her husband with a regular sexual outlet. There are two key issues in this implicit agreement. What constitutes ‘regular’ sex? And what does a man expect from a woman (over and above intercourse)?
Marriage vows imply that marriage exists to allow a man and women to raise children together. But men want sex much more frequently than is required for reproduction. This fact is never acknowledged. Some men want intercourse every day or multiple times a day for years. Other men want foreplay such as oral sex or activities such as anal sex. Different women are dealing with very different levels of commitment to support a man in his ambitions for his sex life. The fact is also never acknowledged.
We are not talking about absolutes. There’s not one experience that is essential to everyone. We are talking about what different people find emotional rewarding. This is especially important between the sexes. Men are typically gratified by activity that involves genital stimulation ideally with an appreciative lover. Women’s behaviours with a lover are not based on their responsiveness. Women are unresponsive with a lover so they have to make conscious effort to ‘respond’ by simulating arousal.
Women are gratified by non-sexual or platonic relationships that involve long-term commitment and caring about someone. The two approaches can complement each other and yet at times seem quite opposed to each other. This depends on the emotional connection between two people who appreciate and value these different approaches. Some women have sex for money or for ego. They many enjoy their power to arouse men but they are just as disgusted by men’s sexual urges as other women.
A woman has emotional needs just as a man does. But these emotional needs are not met through orgasm. Women do not need to experience arousal and orgasm in order to feel an emotional connection with a lover. Women may define their emotional needs in terms of arousal and orgasm because this is how men relate to the concept of emotional connection.
If a man has to choose between a new lover and his children, generally he will choose the new lover. If a woman has to make the same choice, generally she will choose to stay with her children. The emotional bonds are clear. A man bonds with a woman but a woman bonds with her children. Sex makes an adult relationship much more vital to a man.
Women’s emotional needs are met by a man’s sex drive making a woman feel needed. A man needs to make a woman feel attractive and that her attractiveness causes him to want her sexually. These are the sexual needs a woman has to complement a man’s. They don’t involve orgasm but they are just as important to a woman feeling emotionally connected and feeling loved as a man’s emotional needs are to him (that do include his orgasm).
Women tend to be more sensitive than men are in social situations. If a man says something offensive a woman will often fall silent. Women notice such things. But men don’t interpret silence negatively. They assume someone will assert their opinion if they disagree. Even strong and assertive women will not generally volunteer for open conflict. A woman questions why she should need to. She assumes that a man should respect common courtesies and decent behaviour. So women most typically shy away from dealing with the situation. They simply decide not to continue a relationship with a man who is consistently insensitive or disrespectful.
Women can witness the attractive force that draws a man to a woman but they can’t truly understand it because women don’t experience sex drive as men do. A woman sees a man foremost as a person and not someone who arouses her sexually. There is no connection between loving a man and a woman achieving her own orgasm. Women are not aroused by a lover’s body naked or otherwise. So they don’t understand how men can be aroused by a random passing woman. It seems so impersonal. Women typically need to know a person to develop the intimacy that causes them to be amenable to sex. Men need sex to feel intimacy but women can feel an emotional connection without having sex.
Women love men because they are capable, dependable and assertive. A woman admires a man’s greater physical and emotional resilience, his capability and his physical strength. When women depend on a man’s willingness to fight or to earn it is difficult for them to complain when men want some glory in return. A man gives through his role as protector (where a man devotes his time to supporting the family) and defender (where a man risks his life).
“He’s just using me for sex,” we whine self-righteously. And what are we using him for? A wedding ring? His sperm? (Valerie Harris 2012)