Have you ever been in a relationship and had sex with your partner when you didn’t want to? I can’t imagine that any woman reading this (or even any woman not reading this) would answer no. For women especially, this is just something that we have been conditioned to do, and I think all of us have experienced at one time or another, having sex with our partner when we weren’t in the mood.
For most of my life, I actually believed I was some kind of flawed and frigid woman who hated sex and was “shut down” or damaged, because for the most part, I was always pretty horrified by the act of having sex. I just never seemed to want to do it, even though I was pretty sexually active by myself and never had any problems with giving myself an orgasm whenever I wanted to. But when it came time to engage in sex with my partner, I felt huge amounts of anxiety and for the most part, tried to dodge the act all together. I know this sounds kind of extreme, and there were certain factors at play in my relationships that contributed to this issue. However, I think this kind of thing—in varying degrees—is more common for women than we would ever admit to our partners, to ourselves, or to each other.
Image obtained here
Historically, I think that women have been made to feel like our role in a relationship is to please and satisfy our partners sexually. Whether we absorbed this from former partners, society, our parents, our siblings and friends, or any other outside influence, it doesn’t really matter, the pressure is real. If we in any way feel that we have failed in this endeavor to please, we tend to view ourselves as (or gosh forbid, are viewed by our partners as) unlovable, undesirable, selfish women who are just asking to be cheated on. Even if our partners don’t come right out and say this to us (if they do, you need to dump them now and find someone better), they might secretly think that, or you might subconsciously, or even consciously, actually believe that. Women even put pressure on each other to behave in certain ways within a relationship. I have been called selfish by girlfriends when I was sharing my standpoint about not doing it when I didn’t want to do it. So many messages in the media and within our culture inject fear into our minds about our sexual role in a relationship, with the most fearsome of all being, “If we go too long without giving him sex, he will wander and cheat on us.” I know a guy who once cheated on his girlfriend because he had gone “SO LONG” without sex. His version of “so long” turned out to be about a month. Okay, he was a pig, and not all guys think like that. But those messages are out there in the world, being absorbed by women and validated by men all of the time.
Step back for a moment and think about how fucked up it is to have a sexual role such as this within a relationship. In a way, it’s almost a form of slavery, and definitely brings up all kinds of power issues within a relationship. Imagine two equal people with equal power in a relationship, and see how that changes. Take it a step further and imagine that in general, it is customary for women to open doors for men. Now bring those perspectives into the bedroom for a moment. Why in the world does it all of a sudden turn into women no longer having a choice when it comes to having sex? Why would a man get to dictate when two people engage in sex if both parties are viewed as equal? There is no reason for it, unless threads of misogyny are contained within a relationship.
As an aside, it doesn’t count if your partner makes you feel guilty or expresses negativity about you not wanting to have sex; that’s still a power trip and a form of abuse. If you don’t feel 100% free to have sex when you want to and not have sex when you don’t want to, then you are not really empowered sexually within your relationship. You may not be performing the act against your will, but if your partner makes you feel like shit about it, or indicates in any way that he is suffering without it, or that you are selfish, he is still controlling you sexually. Also, it is important for you to make sure you are not withholding sex for any other reason than lack of desire in the moment. If he is not meeting your emotional needs, and you are withholding sex as a form of punishment, then both ya’ll need to work some things out within yourselves. Also, if there are times when he doesn’t want to do it, then you need to deal with that, not make him feel guilty, and just go masturbate if it’s bothering you that much. Not wanting to have sex is not personal, it’s basically hormonal (and sometimes just an energy level thing). In general, if you are attracted to your partner and feel desire for your partner, but don’t always want to have sex when he wants to, and you choose to express that to your partner, you are not a selfish woman. You are a goddess who knows who she is, knows what she wants, and knows her worth.
I know that one could make the argument—whether or not this may or may not be true—that in general, men have a stronger sex drive than women. AND??? That is what masturbation is for. A man having to release his sexual tension through masturbation instead of having sex will not kill a guy, and is certainly not grounds for cheating or even guilt-tripping. Also, if this stereotype is true, let’s look at the other stereotype. In general, women want more emotional affection and connection on a regular and consistent basis, and often struggle to have their men open up to them and share their feelings. So why aren’t more men sacrificing their comfort level to express themselves emotionally to us, even when they are “not in the mood”? It rarely happens, if at all. And it shouldn’t happen, because no one should be pushed into something they are not comfortable with, within the confines of a loving and intimate relationship. Men and women both have needs and both have desires, but a man’s desire in a relationship is no more important than a woman’s. So, let’s just level the playing field, shall we, and see what happens.
I also think many women don’t even realize they are putting the man in charge half the time. I definitely didn’t realize I was doing it. For the most part, I just thought I sucked and felt like such a failure as a woman. I never stopped to think that maybe my partner was actually not meeting many of my emotional needs, and therefore, I never felt turned on or in the mood. I definitely didn’t feel safe or free enough to be intimate and vulnerable with my partner. I had a relationship problem, not a sex problem. But our sex life was the indicator of deeper issues. I think women can also find all kinds of ways to pretzel themselves into a sexual mood, when they really just want to be held, or literally be alone. The thought of expressing our lack of desire for sex in that moment can feel literally terrifying, and we often try to find any way we can to avoid having that conversation, even if that means sacrificing our own bodies and willingly submitting to our partner. Women can endure such discomfort and such pain, I think many of us don’t even realize when we are miserable.
When a woman engages in sex when she is not in the mood, I submit that she experiences a very literal and visceral trauma. There is a vast difference between having sex when you are turned on and in the mood, and when you engage in a sexual act when you aren’t 100% up for it. Women, as a way to cope, often actually escape their bodies during an act of unwanted sex. If you think of other things to distract yourself from being present in your body during the act of sex—even though society jokes about this kind of thing all of the time, and at this point has basically normalized it—you are escaping your body, and this is traumatizing. If the act of being present in your body is so uncomfortable for you, that you feel the need to escape mentally in order to cope, then you are repressing who you are and what you want, and every time you do this, a piece of your goddess suffers. You are exchanging your worth for his, and this kind of damage, performed on a regular basis, or even just a few times, runs very deep. I speak more about this kind of thing in my post about GODDESS DATING GUIDELINES.
Imagine differently, engaging in sex and being fully present for the act every time. It’s a very different experience and is one to build upon for the good of the relationship.
I used to experience so much trauma during sex from engaging in the act when I didn’t want to, that I began to formulate negative feelings about my partner and sex in general. When you engage in sex when you don’t want to, it can literally feel repulsive at times, unless you have mastered the art of escaping your body, which many women have. Soon, my feelings of trauma from the last time we did it, were all I could see or feel or remember, and of course, I would never deliberately sign up to experience those feelings again. So, I just sought ways to avoid ever feeling those feelings, and would experience tremendous amounts of anxiety when sex became a possibility. It sucked.
The Soul Hovering Over The Body, Reluctantly Parting With Life, From The Grave, A Poem By Robert Blair. Luigi Schiavonetti, Italian, March 1, 1813. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
In order to feel consistently positive about sex with your partner, and never, ever dread the act, all you have to do is ONLY EVER HAVE SEX WHEN BOTH OF YOU WANT TO. I know this idea seems both preposterous and obvious, and it is in fact kind of both, but relationships are 50/50 last time I checked, and it literally takes two to tango. In this day and age, with all of the sexism within relationships—yes, that’s a thing—it seems ludicrous to propose that two people only have sex when both people want to, but it really is the only way. Have you ever felt like leaving your partner or cheating on him because you were in the mood for sex and he wasn’t? NO, of course not (I hope). So why not expect the same from him? Why not expect and actually demand his understanding? You offer yours to him all of the time, don’t you?
When you have sex with your partner ONLY when the both of you want to, things really begin to change, and you are on your way to feeling consistently positive about sex with your partner, and never, ever dreading the act. Each time you have sex when the both of you really want to, and when you are both in the mood for it, and when you are both turned on, sex flows and is fully enjoyable, even if the sex isn’t perfect. This fully enjoyable thing starts to build within the relationship and your feelings of desire for your partner, not only remain intact, but begin to grow and expand. Sex stops being some kind of a chore that you feel obligated to perform, and more like something you look forward to and get excited about. Your partner may not be getting as much sex as he would like in terms of quantity, but the quality will always be there, and again, he can always masturbate during the in-between times. No guy wants to have sex with his partner if she’s not into it (if he does, you need to dump him now and find someone better), so this is actually a win-win for everyone.
The biggest issue I still grapple with at times is experiencing residual feelings of guilt when I am not in the mood. It’s still sort of built-in and I still struggle with issues of power and roles, even within my own psyche; which brings to me to another point about communication. I express when I’m in the mood, and I also gently, lovingly, and clearly express when I’m not in the mood, so he’s not left guessing or wondering, and so I don’t feel any unnecessary pressure. Sometimes he’s not in the mood, and I manage just like he does. However, I do still sometimes struggle with feeling NEEDLESS guilt when I am not in the mood.
A conversation among partners about not wanting to do it should go something like this:
Partner 1: “I’m in the mood for some Hubba Hubba, Yum Yum, etc.”
Partner 2: “Oh sorry, I’m not really in the mood right now, Sweetie-Kins.”
Partner 1: “Okay.” (shrug)
Lilith, 1887, by John Collier (English, 1850-1934), oil on canvas. “The story of Lilith is a fascinating one. As Bridgeman’s cataloguing entry for this piece will tell you, Lilith is a ‘character in Jewish mythology; first wife of Adam, created from the same clay, who refused to accept that she was not equal to him.’ She appears in a number of other traditions as a cursed woman or a she-devil: lustful, unclean, often part animal. She is, arguably, the manifestation of every misogynistic historical stereotype for the evils of womankind—a wicked temptress luring men to their doom.” Information obtained here.
Even though the specific character of Lilith is from one individual culture, I could probably find a similar character with a similar back story from every ancient culture, and in no way mean to single out or demonize this particular group. This reference is mostly to illustrate how, for centuries, women have been conditioned to feel and believe certain aspects about themselves and their own power, in relationship to men; and it takes an incredibly strong and brave female, with an astonishingly loving support system, to combat these long-held beliefs about female sexual power. It’s difficult and scary, but worth the effort and the mustering of courage to make changes within our relationships, within our men, within our fellow females, and within ourselves.
The story of Lilith and the way she was portrayed throughout history, is just a story, and was meant to teach women how to behave. It also gave men permission to believe they have certain entitlements and to behave in inappropriately powerful ways. However, this is not the truth and it’s not healthy or loving. It’s pretty sick and pretty gross. Like Lilith, I would rather be alone, flying high in the sky with the birds, than be trapped under slave-like constraints within my relationship. This is an unacceptable way of living and loving, and is a complete misrepresentation of our worth.
Remember (or discover for the first time) what you’re worth and do what you want with your body. It is sacred and precious and should never have to experience an unwanted or harsh touch. Your body is yours and doesn’t belong to anyone else, but it’s up to you to make this known to your partner in a loving but firm way. If someone doesn’t like what you do or don’t do with your body, doesn’t take no for an answer, doesn’t respect your boundaries, your needs, or your desires, then they do not deserve the pleasure of being in the presence of your fabulous body. You deserve, at the very least, to feel consistently positive about sex with your partner, and never, ever dread the act. ♥♥♥
Lady Lilith (detail), 1868 by Dante C.G. Rossetti (1828-82), Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE, Samuel & Mary R. Bancroft Memorial