Relationships of any kind are an inevitable compromise. No two individuals, even of the same sex, have exactly the same priorities at exactly the same time. 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.
A key principle of heterosexuality is that 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 woman wants a man to be affectionate, interested in her concerns and willing to respect her wishes (requests she makes about issues that she cares about). Many men reject these requests as unimportant because they seem so trivial to men. Such behaviours reflect men’s attitude towards women.
A man is conscious of the fact that he needs a regular sexual outlet in the form of a lover. He may resent a lover who is not willing to provide the frequency of sexual opportunity that he would ideally like. He knows that if a woman fails to offer the intercourse he needs, then 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.
Men obtain their prime emotional reward through sex with a lover. Whereas women need to feel an emotional attachment to want to give to a man through sex. While men want turn-ons, women hope for affection. The mismatch between men’s sex drive and a woman’s willingness to provide intercourse is one of the top causes for marital disagreements around the world. Men find this difficult to accept given their fantasies.
Men often don’t accept that there is a need for a trade especially if they are sold on the fantasy that women need sex as much as men do. Men’s needs are obvious. Men need sex regardless of any relationship. As long as they have an erection, they think that is all that matters. Women’s emotional needs are much less obvious. A woman sees sex as a demonstration of male admiration. If a man is not devoted to her from day-to-day then it’s not flattering. It’s just a man’s sexual need. The assertion that women are pleasured through sex is men’s way of ignoring women’s emotional needs.
A man looks for a woman who is sexually amenable. A woman looks for a man who is socially amenable. A woman is looking for something in return for offering sex. She expects a man to keep her happy in other ways such as by providing her with a home or by helping her raise a family. A woman wants a man to invest time in affectionate companionship. When women are displeased with a lover, they are inclined to be less sexually willing.
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. When men pay directly for sex, it is for a one-off sexual service. When men pay indirectly for sex, by subsidising a woman’s lifestyle, they pay for regular sex within a loving relationship.
This is not about manipulation or exploitation. Men and women have a symbiotic relationship. Each provides the other with what they need emotionally. Men need regular sex. Women want the support that men offer. Men don’t always make sociable companions so if she is financially independent, it is often not worth a woman’s while to have a relationship.
Men are often very willing to give their earnings in exchange for the regular sex they need. Men support women regardless of whether they have children or not. This financial support provides women with tremendous emotional reassurance. Men’s willingness to subsidise women while they raise children causes the trade in relationships. Initially this trade is implicit but after decades, when times get tough, it becomes more transparent.
Men tend to define their lives in terms of their work, which they do regardless of having dependents. So although men’s contribution is valuable it does not involve them in more exertion than if they were single. Men assume that they have special privileges because they support the family by earning money. But women also support the family, sometimes financially but also by dedicating their lives to the family in practical ways. Women may care for others for no pay but their work should still be valued.
The taboo over sex arises in part because men and women have such different views of sexual activity. Men assume that everyone must have sex because they are aroused by the idea of engaging in sexual activity with their lover. 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. The fact that women are not aroused with a lover is not an issue they want to discuss. It highlights their sexual subjugation and men take offense.
Women leave men, not because they are unhappy with what he can provide, but because they are emotionally unfulfilled. (Allan & Barbara Pease 1999)