Sex is not something that is “owed” to you, or anyone for that matter. Sex should be enthusiastically offered and exchanged in a mutually consenting manner; if people are reluctant or unwilling, that should be the end of it, at least at that point in time. Unfortunately, the idea that some people may owe other people sex—or any kind of attention—is pervasive and rather dangerous.
When it comes to strangers and first-time interactions, some people believe they are entitled to your time and interaction. Again … NO! I’m not sure how we came to be such an entitled society, but people really need to understand that people you don’t know and have never seen before 30 seconds ago do not owe you ANYTHING, not even a “Hello.” Most people will respond to polite greetings in kind, and I rarely see people go out of their way to be overtly rude to people are simply being nice.
I do often see discussions on social media about whether or not women have to respond to men who approach them with inquiries expressing interest. Most of the men say yes, women should at least have the courtesy of politely declining a man’s advances and at least acknowledging his effort. Honestly, I don’t think one has to respond; a lack of response is a decline. If a person has had bad experiences and feels generally uncomfortable, he or she is well within rights to avoid interaction and keep it moving. You win some, you lose some and life will certainly go on. és>
Even if a person responds, though, it can get ugly. I recently read an exchange during which a man complimented a woman who then responded “Thx," which we know is short-hand for “Thanks.” He responds calling her ugly names and asserting that he should never have said anything at all, that she was ungrateful. Ummm, didn’t she express gratitude? I guess it was insufficient for him, and since many of us have had the experience of being harassed when we decline advances, some of us just opt to not even bother responding. Yet, there are people who vehemently assert that we must respond, because the guy is “owed” at least a response or some interaction. Where is the free will and enthusiasm in that?
"I Don't Owe You Sex" by Feminista Jones
I believe in giving enthusiastic consent and that means going into situations involving any type of shared intimacy with gusto. We each have the right to choose whether or not to even engage at all. When you’re entering into a flirtationship, a friends-with-benefits situationship, a long-term, committed relationship, or a legally binding marriage, you should do so of your own free will, without coercion or reluctance. You should know, without a doubt, that whatever the nature of your involvement with someone, it is something you each chose and agreed upon, without hesitation or reserve. You’ll feel so much more confident about yourself and the sense of agency you have within the connection that you’ll probably enjoy yourself a whole lot more than if you felt like you were settling and just accepting the first thing to come your way.
If you’re each enthusiastic and happily engaged in this connection, you’ll probably have a ton of “ups” (times when you can’t keep your hands off of each other) and there will certainly be some “downs” (times when you just don’t feel like having sex). That’s perfectly normal and if you respect yourself and your partner, you will understand that as part of a healthy connection.
Problems arise when one person begins to feel that sex and attention are things that are “owed” for whatever reason. I hear this sentiment echoed from people who believe that spouses owe each other sex and I vehemently disagree! Believing that spouses owe each other sex can lead to instances of marital rape (when a spouse forces another to have sex against his/her will) and for the past 21 years, marital rape has been against the law in all 50 states (With a few caveats).
When couples begin to have physical intimacy issues, they almost always stem from some other problem. Physical health, mental health, sexual health, and emotional health are all things that, if not at their peak, can have an impact on a person’s desire to engage in sexual activity. If your partner is drawing away from you, sexually, you might want to talk with him/her about these areas and ask some questions that might get to the heart of the matter:
- How have you been feeling lately?
- How have you been managing the stress at work?
- When was the last time you went to the doctor for a physical?
- I know the kids have been really trying your patience lately. How have you been coping with that?
- How do you feel about our relationship? What things are going well and what things aren’t going so well?
- Is there anything you need from me to help improve your current state?
- Are we “OK”?
Just asking questions shows your partner that you’re not being selfish about the lack of sex, but that you’re interested in knowing what else might be going on, that you’re empathetic, and that you’re committed to working with your partner to improve things. This type of communication is an essential part of a healthy relationship. Keeping track of so-called “excuses” your partner gives for not having sex? That’s unhealthy, passive aggressive, immature, and borderline abusive.
Image: Daniel Oines via Flickr
I’ll be the first to assert that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship between people who are sexually attracted to each other and have, at least at some point, engaged in spirited sexual activity. I think that when the sex begins to fall off, it at least warrants a discussion about what may be going on and it could very well be resolved with a quick 5-minute chat that ends in, “Shit, we’re both too busy.” However, believing that you’re entitled to sex or access to another person’s body for your own personal use despite his/her reluctance and outright refusal, well … the problem is yours. You may want it, crave it even. Hell, you may even feel like if you don’t get some ass soon, you’re going to die. If your partner is not enthusiastic about engaging with you, the last thing you need to do is make your partner feel like crap for not giving you what you feel you are “owed.”
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