September 5th, 2022
Wondering if you should have sex with your spouse — even if you don’t want to?
I’m gonna give it to you straight…
NOPE. NEVER. NOT A CHANCE.
There’s no gray area here. No one — I repeat — NO ONE is entitled to your body. At any time.
Or for any fucking reason. Period.
Not even your husband.
So with that in mind, let’s get to the bottom of your question, “Why am I avoiding intimacy with my husband?”
It all comes down to emotional safety. If you don’t feel safe in your relationship, there’s absolutely no chance you’ll feel safe sexually.
In general, men don’t seem to understand this. For them, entitlement is the norm in our culture. As women, we play into this cultural dynamic by having sex just because we feel obligated to.
But let’s take it one step further… many times, it’s not just cultural obligation at play. There’s a deep-rooted, often even unconscious, patriarchal belief amongst men that women belong to them and that our bodies are here for their taking. And that leads to rampant sexual abuse — like coercion and rape.
Sexual violence against women is everywhere.
But when it happens in our marriages, we tend to overlook it. We’ve been conditioned to let it slide. We’ve been subconsciously buying into the belief that we somehow owe it to our husbands. That it’s our “duty.”
We’re so quick to gloss over the fact that the men we should be able to trust the most are capable of betraying our trust and disrespecting our bodies. It doesn’t matter if we don’t want it — we’re expected to hand it over time after time.
Consent is ESSENTIAL for emotional safety in your relationship.
But sadly, even in 2022, many women still experience nonconsensual sex at the hands of their husbands.
Marital rape is a REAL THING.
And it happens all the time. According to the National Resource Center of Domestic Violence, “Approximately 10-14% of married women are raped by their husbands in the United States.” And the findings go even further to state, “Approximately one-third of women report having ‘unwanted sex’ with their partner.”
And that doesn’t account for sexual coercion, which is also a form of rape.
As a collective, women have been forced to downplay the seriousness of marital rape. But the effects are just as severe as those of other forms of sexual violence.
Some of the physical and emotional consequences of marital rape include:
- Physical injuries to our bodies
- Unwanted pregnancies and STDs
- Short-term psychological effects, like PTSD, anxiety, shock, fear, and depression
- And long-term psychological effects, such as sleep and eating disorders, intimacy problems, negative self-worth, and sexual dysfunction
If you’re experiencing sexual violence in your marriage, please get help now. You don’t deserve this treatment, love.
Why am I living with a sexless marriage?
Even if marital rape isn’t a part of your picture — I want you to dig deeper and find the root of why you feel unsafe having sex with your husband.
Is there emotional manipulation or coercion going on? This could look like, “If you don’t have sex with me, I may be tempted to find it from someone else.”
How can we feel safe when our spouse is dangling abandonment and betrayal over our heads? When we’re made to feel like WE’RE the problem, we feel guilted and forced into satisfying our husbands.
It doesn’t matter how often you’re having sex… comments like this will make you believe that you’re just not ever going to be enough.
The pressure can become crippling.
If your husband has been manipulating and emotionally abusing you, you’re simply not going to feel safe having sex with him. End of story. You will NOT feel safe inviting him into your body.
And — generally speaking — men are bigger than us. They’re stronger than us. During sex, they’re often dominating us in some way. It can feel terrifying. For us to put ourselves in such a physically vulnerable position with a man, we have GOT to feel safe emotionally.
What happens to our bodies when we have sex we don’t want to be having?
The more we do it, the more we’re consistently denying our bodies. What happens is we disengage or we disconnect. We can dissociate. The more we dissociate during sex and from our own bodies, the more psychological damage is done.
One study found that dissociation can manifest in the form of derealization, automatized actions, withdrawal, avoidance, psychological numbing, amnesia, and depersonalization. The study states:
“These problems can cause individuals to misinterpret situations and act inappropriately or aggressively, and greatly impact interpersonal functioning and increase relationship difficulties and intimacy disturbances.”
All of it comes from us having sex we don’t feel safe having.
Sex problems in marriage are only a symptom of a deeper issue.
When there’s a relationship breakdown, we can feel unsafe having sex with our partners. And — in cis-hetero relationships — our male partners will typically insist that in order to fix the relationship, the two of you need to have more sex.
For men, sex equals intimacy. But women are on the opposite end of the spectrum. For us, we often need emotional intimacy and safety to feel comfortable having sex.
It can’t go the other way. Intimacy must come before sex.
If you’re not having sex in you’re relationship, there’s likely something else going on. It could be as simple as excessive stress, boredom, or conflict. Maybe you’re not sexually attracted to your spouse. Maybe you have different libidos — and in that case, a sex therapist may prescribe having sex on a schedule, which is a different story from what I’m talking about here.
Either way, a sexless marriage is a clue to dig deeper. And ask questions. Address what’s really going on.
But the most important thing I can stress to you is this:
Please don’t ever have sex just because you’re told you have to.
It is not your fucking job to sexually satisfy a partner who is not emotionally satisfying you.
And, as a wife, it’s not your fucking job — or your “duty” — to sexually please your husband.
Fuck that patriarchal bullshit noise. Loud and hard.
You deserve better, my love.
Clearly, I have very strong feelings about women standing in their power. If you could use some support as you navigate your marriage issues, I’ve got you covered.
You’ll find more fiery encouragement on my New York Times recommended podcast, The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast.
And even if you’re not sure divorce is right for you right now, I have tons of wisdom for you, too.