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Sex as a bargaining chip in loving relationships

When we are single, we can focus on our own selfish needs. But when we have a relationship with another person, we need to consider their needs as well as our own. Sometimes these two demands conflict. Relationships of any kind are an inevitable compromise. Men obtain their prime emotional reward through penetrative sex. A woman wants an affectionate lover who is interested in knowing her as a person and willing to respect her concerns.

To men, sex is almost always a massively positive experience that they like to promote. For women, sex comes with many issues and problems that they have to reconcile. Women cannot understand men’s crude sexual urges and responses because they never experience anything similar. By remaining silent, women are able to accept male advances without losing face. Women don’t want to discuss their lack of arousal with a lover. It highlights their sexual subjugation and men cannot believe that women are unresponsive.

A man can only engage in intercourse when he has an erection. His sexual opportunities are limited by his own responsiveness. When a man is aroused, he assumes that his partner is also aroused. But even for a male partner, lovers are not always aroused at the same time or at the same rate. Luckily a receiver of intercourse does not need to be aroused. But the pleasures of offering a lover penetration are considerably less than the pleasures the penetrating male enjoys. The receiver of intercourse enjoys only the emotional reward of giving pleasure to a considerate male partner.

Men learn that women are not always amenable to sexual activity. An emotional attachment to a man (and a desire for family) may cause a heterosexual woman to be amenable to intercourse. But no one can orgasm within time limits set by another person’s responsiveness. A woman looks for a man who is socially amenable to compensate her for the intercourse she is expected to offer. She wants a man to invest time in companionship and to support her goals by providing a home and helping her raise a family.

Women’s behaviours of playing along with male fantasies by cooperating with intercourse define women’s sexual role. A woman knows that a man’s love is conditional. Once they are emotionally tied in, many women find it difficult to ignore a man’s obvious sexual need. After having children, the disruption and unpleasantness of divorce often persuade women to put up with the sexual overhead to keep the family together. Other women are happy to do whatever is necessary for them to benefit from a man’s income.

This range of female attitudes is also a reflection of their partner’s sex drive and their partner’s need for erotic feedback. A man who is happy with a low frequency of sexual activity is much less demanding. A man who is done within a couple of minutes is also easy to please. But men who want regular sex (at least weekly) with a woman’s apparent engagement (her appearance of willingness and affection) put a much heavier sexual load on a woman.

A woman offers intercourse on her terms. Intercourse is a privilege that a woman confers on a man as a sign of her approval. Naturally this causes men to feel controlled by women. A man may also come to resent a lover who does not provide the frequency of activity that he would like. A man knows that if a woman fails to offer the intercourse he needs, eventually he would have to find another lover. Nevertheless, he does not consciously equate his willingness to support a woman financially with her willingness to offer sex. Most men willingly subsidize a partner’s lifestyle if they are obtaining the regular sexual outlet they need. Men rarely acknowledge this trade especially if they believe the fantasy that women have the same sexual needs as men.

When a married man uses a prostitute, he can be shamed for cheating on his wife. In this respect women’s view of sex, as a token of commitment and monogamous love, prevails over the male view. This is probably the effect of boys being raised by women, who dominate in the home. Most men grow up accepting that women consider men’s sexual needs to be crude and offensive. The unspoken trade within marriage is that a woman offers regular intercourse in exchange for a man’s sexual loyalty. A man’s marital fidelity reduces the risk that his earnings will be diverted away from the family.

Most women will not offer sex for money. Most women offer sex in exchange for a relationship. But men pay much more through a relationship than they ever would to a prostitute. This financial support provides women with tremendous emotional reassurance. This is not about manipulation or exploitation. Men and women have a symbiotic relationship. A man’s motivation for wanting sex is the erotic pleasure he enjoys. A woman’s motivation for offering sex is the security of knowing she has a man’s protection and possibly support. A woman also has the emotional rewards of raising her children, which is why most women want a stable relationship.

In the early days of a romance, a man may be caring (willing to comply with a woman’s wishes) and companionable (attentive to her concerns). But over time, men come to resent what they call nagging: a seemingly endless list of demands for them to change their behaviour. Men tend to ignore what they see as an attack on their right to behave just as they want to. Relationships involve a compromise between self-interest and pleasing a partner. But a man sees nothing selfish in continuing to expect regular intercourse. A man’s focus on his own needs is so intense that he is immune to the deterioration in his lover’s attitude, from affectionate to mechanical, resentful and angry.

Too many husbands, on the other hand, fail to comprehend that their wives are not aroused as they are in the anticipation of a sexual relationship. (Alfred Kinsey)