“The intercourse which takes place between husband and wife after marriage
is not by virtue of any special consent on her part
but is mere submission to an obligation imposed on her by law.”
– Justice Henry Hawkins, 1888
There’s no shortage of advice for married or partnered heterosexual women about everything from how to save their relationships to keeping things spicy in the bedroom. For some reason, it’s widely accepted that the success or failure of relationships is based on the woman. One common piece of advice for women when it comes to spicing things up and growing a strong sex life is to have sex even when you don’t feel like it because desire will build along the way. Let’s talk about the problem with this advice.
The reason women are encouraged to start having sex with their partner even when they don’t feel like is not because of considerations about the woman but about the man. Like all other things in a patriarchal society, this advice prioritizes men’s pleasure and centering their needs above all. Heterosexual relationships are set up in such a way that the woman makes the concessions and does most of the labour in the relationship. If the man wants to have sex, you find a way to have sex or risk losing him to somebody who will readily do so with them.
Ignores women’s feelings
This sex advice encourages women to ignore their feelings and needs. All the man wants and needs are all that matters. There’s no effort to interrogate why the woman doesn’t want to, just a focus on what that man wants. The woman is the one who must make the sacrifice, ignore her feelings and give herself. There’s zero expectation that a man would get himself off until such a time as they have dealt with the underlying cause of his partner’s low libido. What men want, men must get and women must find a way of acquiescing regardless of how they feel.
Feeds rape culture
This advice is the perfect breeding ground for marital rape and coercion. Rape culture is in part fueled by men’s entitlement to women and sex from them. This advice creates an environment that normalizes men’s perceived right of access to women’s bodies. The pervasiveness of this advice is coercive in nature with women being pressured by society and their partners to start having sex even when they don’t feel like or want to.
It encourages marital rape which is largely viewed as normal and until recently was not even considered a crime. It was only in 1991 that courts of England and Wales recognized marital rape as a crime. In the US, it was in 1993 that it was made illegal in all states. Under Kenyan Jurisprudence, Marital rape is not recognized by the Penal Code (which is the principal statute for the creation of offences) as a criminal offence because of the presumption that consent to sexual intercourse is given by the act of marriage.
Advising women to have sex with their partners even when they don’t feel like prioritizes men while disregarding women’s feelings. Any partner who really cares about you will seek to get to the bottom of your diminished libido, not have sex with you even when you’re not fully into it. If all someone wants is to enjoy sexual release, they can take care of themselves. All of you are adults. If someone views sex as an act of shared intimacy and mutual affection and desire, they would never be okay with their partner engaging in it because of some societal pressure to do so. That’s coercion. There’s nothing respectful or caring about that.
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