Britni de la Cretaz spent years having sex to please everyone but herself. She’d do anything her partners wanted her to do in order to feel beautiful and desired, but all that did was make her feel empty inside.
Thirty-year-old Cretaz is now living in Boston with her husband, and for the first time in her life, she’s refusing to have sex. While Michelle Duggar would definitely disapprove of this decision, Cretaz’s reasoning will ultimately strengthen her marriage. She fully intends to have sex again, but only when she really and truly wants to.
Cretaz put it succinctly in a piece she wrote for Cosmo: “I refuse to spend any more of my life having sex for other people. I’m sick of the messages that tell us we should do it for our husbands, to make them happy. Resigned silence, for me, is not consent. Compromise sex, for me, is not pleasurable.” In light of that, her wonderful husband is standing behind her in complete support. More than anyone, he wants his wife to enjoy and be present during sex with him.
Cretaz is far from the only woman who feels like sex has become more obligation than anything else. Susan Elliott, author of Getting Past your Breakup tells us, “Many women feel as if men have a more active libido than women do, and they personalize their disinterest in sex or don’t feel comfortable saying no. Women, unlike men, tend to take on guilt when they are not interested in sex. They also have difficulties expressing their feelings to their partner even if they have a great relationship.”
Ultimately, they feel like their relationship will suffer and/or their partner will lose interest if they don’t comply. Christine, a writer from New York, says she feels pressure to have sex with her husband when she’s not really into it at least twice a month.
“It’s hard to say no sometimes. Especially if you’re both super busy, and it’s been weeks since you last had sex. I feel like I have no excuse to say no in those precious few free moments we have together.”
Then there are the women who simply ignore their disinterest, because they’ve been programmed to think regular sex equals a happy marriage.
“I’m pretty sure my parents rarely if ever had sex. They were never romantic in front of us, and divorced when I was 12. Now my boyfriend and I have sex four times a week, but I’d say I’d be totally fine if we halved, even quartered that number. But then maybe he’d think there was something wrong with us,” said Dana, a Los Angeles animator.
Elliott says this is a common pattern in which couples tend to fall. It’s an easy issue to ignore for long periods of time. However, then it becomes the uncomfortable elephant in the room. “If a woman is in a good marriage with a supportive partner, they need to discuss this as they do anything else. Too often, there are happy couples who have not really tackled this issue because everything else is so good.”
Then there are the women who suffer from the same thing, but aren’t lucky enough to have a long-term, supportive partner. One of my best friends has spent her entire dating life sleeping with men to feel pretty and wanted. While this is in part due to low self-esteem, it’s also an unfortunate result of how sexually available our society suggests women need to be in order for men to like them. As such, she’s grown to believe sex is one of the only things she has to offer, and that in turn rubs off on her dates.
Getting older and watching friends couple off and get married doesn’t help the situation. Now she thinks there’s something inherently wrong with her that can’t be fixed. Sex makes her feel wanted, if only for a short while, but she doesn’t actually enjoy the act, just the attention. She, like Cretaz and the many other women who can relate to this, would benefit from abstaining from sex for a while if only to better “know her own boundaries and feelings about sex,” as Elliott puts it. Then maybe she’ll start to realize she’s so much more than a one night stand.