Sex as a responsibility?

I was rather shocked recently to hear someone with a high sex drive complain about her partner “shirking his relationship responsibilities” by not keeping her satisfied.

I just don’t see how it’s healthy to consider sex a relationship responsibility, for either party. It seems to me that it places unreasonable demands on the partner with a lower libido, and just… all around encourages negativity. Because then that person is going to feel upset or worthless because he can’t satisfy his lover, or resent that she demands so much from him, while she obviously already resents him for not doing anything about her sexual frustration.

And this is going to be one of those stupid questions only an asexual would ask, but honestly: why can’t she just satisfy herself?

Why is it his problem that she has such a high sex drive? Maybe that sounds a little bit cold, but I think that’s only because it’s normal in this society for people to privilege people with high sex drives. Except in very extreme cases, it’s almost never seen as a problem for someone to have a high drive—instead it’s a problem with the partner not matching that drive.

It’s not even about the mismatch itself, it’s about inadequacy. If they came at it from a point of view of, “okay, we have different sex drives, and that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either one of us, but we’re just a little bit different, so let’s both try to compromise so we can both be reasonably happy,” then fine, that’s one thing. In that case, I suppose it would be okay for them to view sex as a relationship responsibility—but ONLY if the person with a higher sex drive also agrees that she has a responsibility to make sure her requests are reasonable and her partner can fulfill them without undue distress. Otherwise it’s just selfish, although because it’s normalized selfishness it’s often not recognized as such.

But I still think that it shouldn’t really be about responsibility; that sets up a grudging “I have to do this” mentality, when really it should be something you want to do, if not for enjoyment of the act itself then at least as a gift that you want to give to your partner. And the sexual partner should treasure it as such, instead of just always demanding more.

I’m just honestly amazed that this kind of attitude is apparently still so prevalent; I thought it was a historical artifact of a bygone era. I guess I’m just naive.

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6 thoughts on “Sex as a responsibility?

  1. And this is going to be one of those stupid questions only an asexual would ask, but honestly: why can’t she just satisfy herself?

    I wonder the same thing when people bring up these issues that they have with their partners. I don’t think it’s a stupid question at all. I think aces may be able to think more creatively on the topic, because we’re not so emotionally involved with sex. People tell partners with lower sex drives that sex is a responsibility, and that’s supposed to make us jump their bones how? How is “You’re a disappointment– how have passionate, loving sex with me” a turn on? I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get it, either.

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  2. Why is it his problem that she has such a high sex drive? Maybe that sounds a little bit cold, but I think that’s only because it’s normal in this society for people to privilege people with high sex drives. Except in very extreme cases, it’s almost never seen as a problem for someone to have a high drive—instead it’s a problem with the partner not matching that drive.

    Thank you for this whole post, but especially this line. I’m reasonably active at a message board and recently people were treating sex as an obligation (and being pretty down on those who didn’t “live up” to it) and the responsibility and fault of the person who doesn’t want as much. And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this; in my experience, this line of thought seems to be far more common than yours. It really ticks me off, particularly when it comes from people who wouldn’t dare privilege heterosexuality in the same way.

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  3. Pingback: Causality « Shades of Gray

  4. You’re right sex shouldn’t be viewed as a responsibility. When someone views sex with their partner negatively, as a chore they must complete, then both people should consider other partners.

    I think it’s very important that sex drives of people in a relationship match. It makes for an overall happier relationship with less stress. Just as people should have compatible sexual orientations.

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  5. In a marriage there are many many responsibilities. One of them is satisfying your spouse. I ask; If I am expected to spend much time, energy and thought taking care of my spouses many emotional and technical needs then why doesn’t he/she have to consider my sexual needs?

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    • “Married” — You missed the point of my post entirely. I am not saying that the asexual partner should NOT EVER consider their spouse’s sexual “needs” (as you say). In fact, I advocate that they do. HOWEVER, I also think it is very important for the sexual spouse to consider their asexual partner’s sexual needs; it may in fact be extremely painful for their spouse to endure sex. Should they just do it anyway, out of some twisted sense of obligation? My question is, why does it always have to be the person with the higher sex drive who has their way? Society seems to consider them to be always in the right, whereas the partner with the lower sex drive is in fact often pathologized–see the DSM IV’s HypoSexual Desire Disorder.

      My point was, if I haven’t spelled it out clearly enough yet, that in a mismatched situation, it is almost always seen as solely a problem with the partner with the LOWER sex drive. It is not seen as just a mismatch that should be resolved by BOTH partners working on the problem, and trying to come up with a compromise, and that is a very big problem.

      It is very important for BOTH PARTNERS to consider the other’s needs. Sex should not simply be a responsibility. In viewing it as such, it will likely become a heavy burden for the less sexual person trying to pick up the slack, and that will not lead to enjoyable sex (likely for either partner). If both partners’ needs are sympathetically taken into consideration, without any demands (and saying “it’s your responsibility!” is effectively a demand) placed on either partner, then often (but not always) sex can be a generally enjoyable experience for them both. That is the goal to aim for, and if it cannot be achieved together, then perhaps those particular people should consider whether they can better achieve their objectives apart.

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