I firmly believe in a person’s right to say no to marital sex.
Oddly, some people really don’t seem to like this idea. In fact, almost every time I suggest that a person has a right to say no to sex, even to their spouse, I get similar responses:
- “Well if a couple NEVER has sex that’s a bad relationship!”
- “People who never have sex with their partners are selfish!”
- “You can’t expect someone who isn’t getting sex not to cheat!”
You get the point.
It’s interesting, and kinda creepy, that these are the responses people jump to immediately when you tell them that people should be allowed to choose whether or not to have sex without facing force or coercion.
First up, what’s with the assumption that if people have the right to say no when they don’t want sex a couple will NEVER have sex?
There are situations where sex might be tough for people. Those suffering from trauma, those recovering from an injury or illness, those whose lives are ridiculously busy and stressful, etc. But these cases are not caused by giving people the right to consent. There are obviously other factors contributing to this lack of sex.
If a relationship is made up of people who are sexual (believe it or not, some people are asexual and are in romantic relationships where they don’t have sex and are okay with that!), telling them “you are allowed say no to sex and have that decision respected!” is probably not going to immediately lead to “Yay, now I never have to have sex again!”
When people jump to the conclusion that me saying “people have the right to consent” is me saying “NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN,” I get a little creeped out and wonder about their view of sex.
It often seems to be based on this assumption that all relationships are made of hetero couples, and that the norm for all women is to not want sex. That women only have sex as a way of selflessly serving their husbands. I talked about this a bit in one of my You Are Not Your Own posts. Purity culture, and sometimes popular culture promotes this stereotype that good girls don’t want sex, therefore making enthusiastic and non-coerced consent a necessity means the end of sex. In this view of sex, non-consensual or coerced “sex” is normalized, and even seen as ideal.
And why do we assume that selfishness is the reason someone in a relationship would not have sex?
Again, there are lots of reasons why a people in a relationship might have a less-than-stellar sex life. Trauma, anxiety, busyness, medication that kills a sex drive, poor communication, non-sex related problems in the relationship, etc. Why do we assign motives like “SELFISH!”?
I’m no marital counselor, so I won’t tell you how to fix all those problems, but I will tell you that the solution is NOT “shame people into having sex even when they don’t want to.”
These are problems that people in a relationship should work out with one another. They can talk about it, get outside help, think of possible solutions together, and if all else fails they can end the relationship. There’s no one right answer since all people and situations are different.
But there’s an answer that is always wrong: coercion and shaming. Telling your partner(s) they are selfish, disobeying God, that you’re going to cheat if they don’t, etc. is wrong and it is abusive.