Sunday, August 07, 2005

What's Normal?

One evening early in our marriage Kathy asked if I would walk the dogs, offering to, well, you know, if I would. I got pretty pissed off -- I said that sex isn't a commodity, a weapon, or a tool. If you'd like to make love, that's great. If you want to ask me to do something, ask. But I didn't like tying the two together. I don't think Kathy had thought about it before, and when I put it that way, she agreed with me. To the best of my knowledge, sex has not been used as anything other than an expression of love (or horniness) between us ever since. I bring this up because recently a friend stated in an e-mail that "the notion that sex shouldn't be used to alter behavior by men or women is a purely romantic notion and not in my view based on any reality we mere human beings are capable of achieving." Am I delusional, is my relationship with Kathy truly unusual, or is my friend too jaded for her own good?


John Hart said...

Certainly you're delusional, Aaron. Did you ever have any doubts? :-)
On this particular topic, however, your friend is dead wrong. Sex most certainly *should*not* be used to alter behavior.
How unusual your relationship is, I couldn't say, but mine have always been similar to yours in that regard.

LoryKC said...

Once again...I can hear the voices in my head SCREAMING "do not comment!" and yet, here I am....
1. In my defense, I've had a few glasses of wine and "the floaties" as I like to call them are REALLY interfering with my typing!
2. Aaron, you are not delusional. I would like to point out the phrase "early in our marriage" that you used, however. Not that I am OLD, delusional or anything else along those lines.....however, after 11.5 years of marriage...I can say there is such a concept as "quid pro quo!"
Too much information?
I see it as a rather useful tool, myself....but I am a twisted, slightly tipsy female!
(I'll re-read, edit and apologize tomorrow!!)
3. Tim has been out-of-town more in the last few weeks than he has been home. I might have a different opinion if Dh were home every night!!!

Anonymous said...

as the jaded friend and one who is used to being verbally bashed i risk little in responding.

1. we should not have these discussions any more then and yes i am jaded but then i don't see manipulation and control where you do. in your example i don't see anything more than a loving wife playfully offering to please her loving husband as a reward for doing something for her nothing more nothing less.

2. i don't see anything sinister or degrading or controlling about her offering to do something she'd just as gladly do for no favor. and to me that is the key to this little drama-how can it be manipulation and control if one would gladly engage in whatever activity if one simply asked for it.

3. if anything i think that at least in this case i am less jaded because i know that you and kathy love each other unconditionally and would never take advantage or use each other in any way so i don't or wouldn't have found anything at all wrong with the offer.

4. i would only see manipulation and control if she was otherwise unwilling to perform that particular act and would only do it in return for something she wanted to do less.

5. i love ya aaron i do but even freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar particularly when you are talking about a couple who truly loves each other as you two do.

6. and while two is not a valid sample and does not indicate a pattern i would point out that two women do not see anything sinister and two men do. not at all surprising really.

6. there comes a point where one can work too hard to avoid inequality,injustice or exploitation and in turn miss out on some of the fun. (particularly within a marriage with a solid foundation)

with that i leave this discussion.

LoryKC said...

OK--as promised--here I am apologizing!
Sorry! Not sure if any of my statements actually made any sense--except the tipsy part--which was obviously true!
Maybe I'm jaded but I see nothing wrong with it.
Besides, if you do a favor for the other, it puts them in a better mood so they are more likely to be "in the mood."
Alternately, if you're fighting, one of you (at least) won't be in the mood. So the absence isn't "witholding" or using it as a weapon--you just don't wanna!

(By the way, favors don't have to be big! You would walk the dogs anyway, right? Doing the dishes is a good way to get lucky too!!)

Mary P. said...

This is my input, based on 13 years in my first marriage, and 9 years in this second one.

On the one hand: yes, if you're feeling good about the relationship, you'll be more interested in sex. If you're feeling neglected, or angry, you won't. So to that extent, sex does affect behaviour. "Gee, when s/he's oppressed by this thing that I do, s/he's not as loving. Guess I'll try to avoid doing that thing." In this example, however, the cause and effect is merely that: it is not deliberate manipulation to achieve a goal.

On the other hand, consciously turning sex into a commodity, where a partner is rewarded or punished by its presence, quality, or absence, is abhorrent. If a couple, no matter how loving they may be initially, use sex in this calculated manner, it won't be long before they are not feeling so loving. Turn sex into a commodity, and it's not an expression of love, is it?

Kathy's suggestion so long ago was playful and innocent, but the principle behind the suggestion is pernicious, and ultimately destructive.

Sex can certainly be used in loving ways - to encourage, or build up an emotionally depleted partner, for example - but it should never be used as a stick, either to beat them, or attached to a carrot.

John Hart said...

Mary said better what I wanted to say: Offering sex for an act isn't the problem, the implied threat that, if you don't do the act, that sex will be withheld is.

aaron said...

Thanks to all for the honest responses. I don't think that there are wrong answers here, just what works for individuals, e.g., Lory, if this is what works for you and Tim, more power to you. I guess that's the point -- that as opposed to the absolutism in the quote, what works for Kathy and me is something that can and does work.

Mary, thanks for eloquently stating my perspective.