Male Sexual Entitlement, Again

Male Sexual Entitlement, Again December 4, 2014

While googling something else, I recently came upon a rather horrifying article titled The Secret to Keeping Him Committed, from a Guy’s Point of View on Simon & Schuster’s Tips on Life and Love. This isn’t a religious website, but it echoes many of the ideas I heard growing up in a conservative evangelical church and community.

On a larger scale, the thing that most faithful men complain about is that they can’t get sex when they want it in a committed relationship. When a man is single or cheating, he can have sex at random or whenever he wants it. But when he’s in a committed relationship, his sexual fulfillment is based 100 percent on the clock of his woman.

Now first of all, a single or cheating man can’t have sex whenever they want it. They still have to find a woman willing to have sex with them. While famous actors or athletes may have women ready and willing to have sex with them at the drop of a hat, most men don’t. Unless he is a rapist, a man’s ability to have sex will always be constrained by women’s willingness to have sex.

As I said earlier what many women may not see is that for a faithful man, being committed to a relationship gives us a sense of entitlement to sex. If we can’t have it at our leisure, we feel rejected and no conqueror thinks he should ever be rejected. If it persists, we won’t cheat, but it can cause us to pull away from the commitment.

Not once in the article does the author suggest that this sense of entitlement is wrong. Not once does he suggest that men whose partners do not give them sex at their leisure are the ones who need to do the rethinking here rather than their partners.

Ladies, I understand that men always want sex and that can be inconvenient for a woman. Some women complain that they love having sex with their man, but they can’t keep up with giving it the way a man needs it—all the time.

What world is this guy living in?! I don’t know any men who want sex “all the time.”

In my own marriage, my husband and I have sex drives that are about equal. There are times when he’s in the mood and I’m not, but there are also times when I’m in the mood and he’s not. For a while this made me feel like something was wrong with my husband—or with me. Why would he turn down sex? It made no sense within these cultural stereotypes. I ultimately realized the problem was with the cultural stereotypes, not with me or my husband.

You know what’s interesting? In medieval Europe, women were believed to be more sexual than men. The idea that women are less sexual than men was created during the Victorian era. Our assumptions about which gender is more sexual are cultural rather than scientific.

These cultural assumptions can cause some pretty serious relationship problems. Several of my friends have confided in me that having higher sex drives than their (male) partners has made them question their sexual attractiveness, and men who are told that they are supposed to want sex constantly may feel inadequate or emasculated when they do not. We need to move away from the assumption that all men want sex all the time and that women as a group are sexually more passive and move toward a more individualistic understanding.

When a woman shows frustration, she can cause a man to feel that he isn’t welcome to have what he believes is his. Because he can’t take the cave man approach and drag her into his cave, he may retreat in frustration. This causes a lot of men to pull away over time and want to get out of the commitment where he is faced with such restriction.

First of all, we don’t actually know that cave men dragged women into caves. This is not how hunter-gatherer societies operate today, so why would we assume it would have been then? But secondly and more importantly, there is nothing in this article to suggest that men’s reaction to not having constant sexual access to their partners is unreasonable. Instead, it is treated as normal and simply the facts of life, ma’am. Sorry, but this authors’ facts of life make men feel like assholes. Is simple communication so hard?

Instead of completely turning him away, another approach is for a woman to negotiate without him knowing. Let him know that if he’s willing to wait until the more convenient time, he can have it the way he likes it. This helps him feel like he can have it if he wants, but that she will fulfill his larger desire if he nurtures her needs as well.

Or . . . they could communicate about it? Relationships are not supposed to be this mysterious thing where each partner works to trick the other into giving them what they want. They’re supposed to be reciprocal and based in communication and compromise.

There’s also way too much generalized armchair psychologizing going on here. I’ve seen this happen in evangelical settings too, as pastors and authors explain what men want and need and how women how they can give them those things. This ignores the fact that men are not all the same, and are often very different from each other. Why not ask your partner what he wants and needs instead of assuming you know because you read something in a book?

I came into marriage with a lot of assumptions about men. Almost every single one of them has proven to be false. I also found that operating on the assumption that I knew what my husband needed or wanted based on both cultural stereotypes and on the way my dad operated generally failed miserably. Our relationship improved dramatically when I stopped assuming and started communicating.

You know what’s interesting? I have found most of the messages I received about gender and relationships during my conservative evangelical upbringing echoed in mainstream culture. This is likely because both evangelicalism and mainstream culture incorporate older patriarchal assumptions. Sometimes, though, it is extremely disheartening. I had thought that I was leaving these ideas behind for good when I left my evangelical upbringing, but I wasn’t. They’re out here in mainstream culture too.

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