Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex?


At some point over the past few years since becoming a mom, I became a subscriber to the popular Mommy blog Scary Mommy. By subscriber I mean I’m on their email list- I’m certainly not paying them. Anyway, here lately I’ve noticed a preponderance of posts about how women do not owe their husbands sex. Now this is a very complicated issue that has been weighing heavily on my mind lately, probably largely because most of the posts I’ve seen on this matter strike me as particularly one-sided. In other words, they all seem to come from angry, bitter women who are over-worked, over-stressed, & appear to have a bit of a chip on their shoulders. But even that is too simple of a summarization of such a complex topic. So I thought I’d create a space where we can have a frank discussion about something that really is incredibly important both to individuals as well as to society as a whole.

Before I go any further, I recommend reading these articles so you will better understand the context for why I’m writing this. As you will discover, I am much more inclined to agree with the Huff Post article.

Stop Making Married Women Feel Bad About Not Having Sex (scarymommy.com)

Married Women Don’t Owe Sex To Their Spouse (scarymommy.com)

Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex? | HuffPost Life

Sex in America is a strange beast. One the one hand, sex is everywhere. “Sex sells,” as the old saying goes- & it’s true. Sex is either implicitly or explicitly involved in so many aspects of our culture- everything from movies to music to advertisements to video games. It’s everywhere- & yet it’s not. Because when it comes to actually TALKING about sex we are curiously silent. As parents we are so afraid of awkward discussions that we often let our kids learn about sex from everyone & everything but us- a recipe for disaster if you ask me. Our society frequently depicts sex as both wonderful & horrible all at the same time, so is it any wonder teenagers are rushing to do it to figure out what they’re missing? Furthermore, our society often depicts sex as something that magically vanishes once a couple gets married or generally settles down together. I realize that IS the case for some couples & there are very valid & legitimate reasons for this, but at the end of the day we are animals- albeit very different from other species of course. But the fact remains that sex is a biological need. It serves both physiological & psychological purposes for us- both men & women- so to act like it’s healthy or normal for sex to disappear once you’re married (or generally committed to someone long term) is, in my opinion, an extremely unhealthy concept to encourage.

Don’t marry a man like this

Now one thing I do agree with the Scary Mommy articles about is that men absolutely need to step up to help their wives around the house, especially once children come into the picture. I truly believe one reason that my husband & I have maintained such a great sex life is because he consistently does his part around the house- WITHOUT BEING ASKED. Which is exactly how it should be. Sure, once in a while I might ask him to help with something but the vast majority of the time, he just does it. And frankly I doubt I’d have married him if he weren’t like that. I for one did not get married to take care of a man child. No way, no sir, no how. That life is not for me! I married someone who is my life partner, not someone to take care of like a child. That dynamic might work for some people but it would NOT work for me. And I absolutely believe we need to do a better job of raising our boys to know that housework is not just for women. If more men stepped up to help with the laundry, dishes, etc, I can almost guarantee American sex lives would be in a better spot.

Furthermore, I 100% agree that husbands should be invested in their wives’ pleasure. If your man doesn’t care if you’re orgasming or not, you’re with the wrong man. If your husband/partner is only interested in sex for his own pleasure, trust me when I say, he ain’t “the one.” End of story.

But where I disagree with these articles is on the idea that spouses don’t owe each other sex at all. Now I’ll admit I don’t like putting it in those terms but I’m not sure how else to say it. And this whole idea that “when I got married I didn’t sign up to meet his sexual needs” just makes zero sense to me. Um, yes- yes, you did. And he signed up to meet your needs too- both sexually & otherwise! Now by NO MEANS am I saying that women should be sex slaves to their husbands who have to say yes every single time. But when you marry someone, you’re promising to meet their physical & emotional needs, & yes, sex is part of that! We are animals after all! So if you’re going months or even years without sex, something is wrong- very, very wrong (unless of course both of you are truly ok with that- but I have a hard time imagining anyone, male or female, not wanting sex for that long- but maybe that’s just me). Anyway, the point is that while I very much believe that each person owns their own body & should not be FORCED into anything, at the same time, being married DOES mean you’ve promised to meet each other’s needs. This obviously applies to men too. I have read posts & articles with wives complaining that their husbands never want sex anymore & how hurtful that is to them. So for sure this goes BOTH ways.

Anyone who has analyzed divorce data even a tiny bit knows that a lack of sex is almost always involved. Have you ever wondered why that is? I suspect it’s because a lack of sex is usually symptomatic of a greater problem in a marriage. If you aren’t having sex, I have to wonder if you’re really emotionally close to one another. Now obviously there are exceptions here- people undergoing chemotherapy, women who’ve endured very traumatic childbirth, etc. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. My husband & I have always said that one reason we prioritize sex is because we can never be but so mad at each other if we’re having sex regularly. I know we are very different than a lot of people but I suspect that is true for most folks. Sex is an emotional experience for everyone, not just women, so it’s hard to do it regularly with someone & not have a good emotional connection with that person.

Lastly, when I read these Scary Mommy articles & ones like it, I can’t help but feel that these women are saying “men are so selfish & only care about themselves & their desires.” (Now I’m sure that’s true for some men- don’t marry that type!) BUT it also feels to me like these authors are also being quite selfish & saying they only care about their own needs & desires. Maybe I’m old school but two wrongs don’t make a right. As far as I’m concerned it is not healthy for anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to consistently deny their partner sex for ages on end (exceptional circumstances notwithstanding of course). That’s just setting your relationship up to fail, if you ask me. It’s setting both of you up to be miserable, to communicate poorly, & to resent each other.

Now I’m no expert, no sex therapist or guru or what have you. I’m just a normal 30-something wife & mom who enjoys dissecting difficult topics & discussing things most people would rather sweep under the rug. I in no way think that I’m a perfect wife, that my husband is perfect, that our relationship is perfect, or that I/we have all the answers. But I am saddened to see that the narrative on this subject seems to be mostly dominated by women who seem to have such a negative view of sex. I have to wonder if they just haven’t had good sex… Was that a sexist statement? Hmmm… Now I’m not saying there haven’t been times in my life, mostly in the first year or so of our daughter’s life when I was breastfeeding, that I didn’t feel particularly in the mood. Certainly there have been. But you know what? We found ways to make it work. I value my own sexuality, I value my husband & our relationship, & like anything else in life worth having, our sex life was/is worth fighting for.

The purpose of this post is not to make anyone feel guilty. And the purpose is certainly not to brag about my own sex life. But I think this is a very important subject that usually either isn’t addressed or is only addressed very one-sidedly. Of course the women writing those Scary Mommy articles probably argue that this subject used to only be addressed with men’s needs/desires in mind. And that is probably true. But again, two wrongs don’t make a right. We aren’t going to better our society by treating men like trash. That just isn’t the path to progress. We need to have an open dialogue about touchy subjects like this (pun very much intended). We need to communicate clearly with our spouses about everything, including of course sex. And that kind of open dialogue needs to happen long before someone becomes your spouse! I personally think sex before marriage is quite necessary to ensure that people are compatible. I know that goes against everything I was taught growing up, but nonetheless I truly believe it. Now I also believe that if people have a strong emotional connection the chances are very good that they will have a strong physical connection too. But sex is way too important to leave to chance, if you ask me.

I’m sure there’s an angry feminist somewhere reading this & screaming that I’m condoning marital rape. Let me assure you that I am not. But I also think we need to be honest with ourselves & admit that denying a partner sex consistently is not healthy. When it comes down to it, you’re denying YOURSELF pleasure too. Ask any sex “expert” & they’ll tell you that “sex begets sex.” There are times when it may not be perfect or the most romantic experience of your life, but if you stay off the horse forever you’ll never get back to the great rides you remember from the past (pun intended once again).

So, did I answer the question in the title of this post? I’m not sure. Even if I did, I suspect the answer will be different for everyone- & that’s fine. But it’s something you better be sure to communicate clearly with your own partner.

I’d love to hear others’ opinions on this matter. It’s always possible I’m just crazy. But I truly believe this is an important discussion that needs to be addressed from all angles- which in my experience is not being done.

Disclosure: if you’ve experienced rape or sexual assault, I realize your experiences may be vastly different, & this post may not be very relevant for you. I can only speak to my own experiences. If this article feels tone deaf, I apologize.

P.S. Feel free to private message me your thoughts if you aren’t comfortable discussing this in a public forum. I totally understand that.

P.P.S. I just looked at my phone & I had a notification from YouTube that one of my favorite country singers (Gary Allan) just posted a song called Sex. And yes, it is about sex. It even addresses the fact that our society is obsessed with sex & yet we don’t like to talk about it. Talk about timing….

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