Denying Sex From Your Partner

For some sex is a big deal, for others not so much.  Wherever you fall on the spectrum of when you have to have it, you want to make sure you are inline with your partner.  Sometimes for various reasons a person can want to withhold sex from their partner.  Sometimes its for punishment, other times its because they aren't feeling it.  There may be other underlying issues such as past sexual abuse or depresssion.  So is it ever ok to deny sex to your partner?

Some people believe it’s essential, others not so much. Which raises a few questions: Do you owe your partner sex? If you stop having sex with your partner, are they justified in having an affair? Is the denial of sex just as much as a betrayal as infidelity?

Is denying sex a betrayal?

While there are all sorts of discussions about relationship sex or lack of sex, philosophy professor Mark D. White says, we rarely, if ever, talk about the ethics of a partner refusing to have sex with the other for years. Is denying sex a betrayal?

Because we see sex as something that must be consented to, we are hate saying one person “owes” the other sex, yet I imagine few people don’t want and expect a healthy sex life when they say “I do.” In the work Kevon Marshall did for an upcoming book The Importance of Sex In Gay Relationships, he asked couples to check off all the reasons why the were together. Often they list the same reasons, but one time the guy checked off “to have sex” and his partner did not.

When he read his reasons out loud and “sex” rolled off his lips, the look on his partner's face was priceless.

You are with me just for sex?” he asked, somewhat horrified.

He immediately got sheepish as he defended himself: “Well, they asked us to check off all the reasons, so, um, yeah...”

So, yes, people enter relationshipos with the expectation of sex, but few people talk about how they will handle things if one or the other loses interest in sex especially since that happens more frequently than not.

Does an absence of sex in a relationship justify cheating, White asks. No, he decides:

Whatever insufficient sex means to any particular person—even if that can be considered a betrayal of their partner’s obligation—the fact remains that cheating just makes it worse. (“Two wrongs” and all.) In addition, cheating brings a third person into what is a problem between two, which may only aggravate whatever problem led to the breakdown in sex in the relationship in the first place.

While I wouldn’t promote cheating as a way to deal with sexlessness in a relationship, I acknowledge there are many other ways partners betray each other beyond just cheating or denying the other sex. Partners can treat each other horribly, and yet we only flip out when one or the other cheats. Why is sexual fidelity considered the number one marker of a good relationship?

As Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel tries to explain it:

I have a lot of people who come to my office who think that they are the virtuous people because they haven’t cheated. They have just been neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting, but they haven’t cheated. But betrayal comes in many forms. Betrayal is a breach, the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence. While it is always involved in an affair, in most cases it isn’t the motive of the affair. An affair may be about completely different things but it implies betrayal.

Being “neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting” is not loving behavior and is often as — and sometimes more — damaging as physical abuse (and there are some who argue that infidelity is abuse). And yet, there is no great societal outcry over ending those sorts of behaviors, just societal shaming and blaming of often-long-suffering spouses who cheat — or who make a spreadsheet expressing utter frustration of being continuously rejected.
cheating. What do you think?

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