Saturday, July 12, 2008

Questioning Sacred Cows

On Alternet, in the article "Is Cheating Ever OK", the author addresses the question:

If one partner refuses to have sex, does the other have the right to seek it elsewhere?

My response to this article follows below:

Perhaps the question should be "Should monogamy always be an unquestioned part of every intimate relationship", rather than, "Is 'cheating' ever OK?"

While monogamy isn't natural for human beings in general, some people have an easier time being monogamous than others. The intensity of libido, of sex drive, varies widely among people. Monogamy is, perhaps, easier among those with roughly matching sex drives, and easiest among those with moderate to low libidos, where variety and/or novelty isn't high on their list of sexual needs. With a couple where both partners have relatively low libidos, a sexual dry spell would not necessarily make them want to look elsewhere for sexual gratification. Monogamy tends to work well for such people.

But for those of us with moderately high to very high libidos and/or where variety and novelty is important, monogamy is akin to the restrictor plates that NASCAR uses at superspeedways to limit how fast the cars can go. That is, there's a lot of power (sex drive) being thwarted to keep it within socially accepted limits.

If you've got a couple with mismatched libidos, as described here, you've got a recipe for frustration for the one with the higher libido. Such couples may be well-matched otherwise, but the expectation of strict monogamy in such instances can ruin what was otherwise a good marriage.

Likewise, there are instances where one partner becomes chronically ill or disabled and is no longer able to have sex. Is it fair to expect the healthy partner to satisfied with "just cuddling" for the rest of their lives?

Another related sacred cow is that many people believe that sex and love must always go together; that the only "proper" reason to have sex is as a way to express love for one's partner. But in reality, people have sex for many different reasons in addition to love: to fill a physical need similar to eating, sleeping and so on, a stress reliever, they're horny, etc. I'm of the opinion that as long as sex is between consenting adult partners, there is no one "proper" justification for sex.

In addition to questioning the assumption that all intimate relationships must always be monogamous, no matter what, we need to question the assumption that the only proper reason to have sex is to express love for one's partner. Perhaps then, couples with mismatched libidos or those with a disabled partner who are otherwise happily married, could continue to be happily married without one partner being sexually frustrated.

Your thoughts?


Jay said...

I have a friend in this position. Her husband went off sex quite a few years ago and she is now living in enforced celibacy. It's tough.

Me, I think it's so much a part of a good marriage, that if it can't be resolved and neither partner is happy, then perhaps it's time to leave. But if you have no moral, regious or ethical objections, and if you can both handle the emotional fallout, then maybe a more open relationship might be possible.

Emotional fallout is a real danger though. Often people are unable to completely divorce sex from love, and maybe they'll just end up fallling for the other person and they'll leave anyway.

Dee Jay said...

I think I'm married to jay's friend! (I'm talking about Jay in the comment before mine). Let me just say it is very tough!

To be honest, I am grappling with this whole thing on a personal level and have been for a while now. I have extremely mixed and conflicted views on the whole thing.

I am going to be following this thread to see what other reactions you get from your readers. I find it really intriguing.

Chica said...

"If one partner refuses to have sex, does the other have the right to seek it elsewhere?"

If the person refusing allows it, it wouldn't be cheating.

I'd encourage my husband to get sex elsewhere if my libido ever went mute, which I hardly see happening.

On the flip side, if his went mute, I'm such a sexual person, that it be one of the hardest things to go through. I don't know that only masturbation would be enough for me. I can honestly say though I'd estimate it at about 1 year before I'd really start to lose it.

In that one year though, I'd try having him participate, but not fully have sex as he would wish. I'd try other sensual things to boost his interest. I'd exhaust all methods, and if nothing worked then well nothing works.

Considering how young I am, I'd need to be in a relationship with someone who wants to have sex with me, and all the other things relationships have.

Of course, let me raise this. If everything in your life, and relationship was perfect, but without sex, would you feel inclined to leave for sex alone?

Don't you answer that Will, I already know your answer! LOL