By Veronica Wells
A couple of months ago, I was interviewing three women about sex over the age of 50, for my website NoSugarNoCream
. During the conversation, the youngest woman in the group explained that she was so thankful that when she’s not in the mood, her husband doesn’t cop an attitude. She said, “A man can be very mean when he can’t get what he wants.” For some reason, the words and the sentiment behind the words stuck with me. There were nods and grunts of agreement from the other two women, and it made me wonder, was this something other women had experienced as well?
The responses were sparse because it’s a sensitive and intimate topic, women don’t want their man to look bad, they don’t want their sex lives to become a case study. I get it. But there were a brave few who decided to share, anonymously of course.
First, I started with a friend named Yvonne. Yvonne is single at the moment but has been in more than a few non-committed or loosely defined relationships. So I asked her if the men from her past ever copped an attitude when she refused sex.
She said, one man, Peter*, used her unwillingness to have sex as a way to attack her character.
“He said I wasn’t affectionate enough and he resented the fact that I wouldn’t send him pictures of myself. He would use my lack of emotion/not being sexual with him when he demanded as an excuse for him to ignore me. He would say sh*t like ‘he’s a man” and he isn’t going to beg me to be a woman for him because other women would do it at the drop of a dime.”
I should note that while Peter made all types of requests from Yvonne, she couldn’t even get him to return a text message. She concluded that this man viewed her as a toy.
The women of “The Real,” addressed this topic on their show one day and said that the men in their lives had been known to get a little attitude but nothing like what Yvonne described.
I’m not here to play relationship hierarchy. But the women who were in more committed, defined relationships had different experiences. One woman, Shanice, who had been with her man, the father of her children for over ten years, spoke about how her mental state affects her desire for sex for extended periods of time and how her man responds to that.
“I often put off having sex because my moods are so inconsistent. I'm bipolar manic, (and untreated because I refuse to take meds, but that's another story), so it can take the smallest thing to just turn me off and not want to have sex for long periods of time, or it can be opposite and I want it a lot. However, Kareem* has never acted out against it, or done catty things. He has a very mild temper and just goes with the flow. However, when it does begin to bother him that I won't have sex with him he speaks out on it. He just makes comments about how he has needs too. Or he’ll say something like, ‘Who knows when I'll have sex again.’ So I'll feel bad and give up the booty within 48 hours. There are also times where I promise it, and then say, ‘Oh I'm tired. Etc.’ It makes me feel like crap at times, but sometimes I don't care. He just takes his frustrations to sleep. I don't have any experience where he has been cruel, or made threats about getting it elsewhere.”
This state of sleep theme came up more than once in my little focus group. I spoke to a man, about one of his married male friends. I should note that while this man is an excellent father, he’s a serial cheater. He told our mutual friend that when his wife refuses sex, he sleeps peacefully because he knows he has options, options he’ll act on. I don’t issue that as a cautionary tale. I’m willing to bet that even if his wife never rejected him, he would still be out here. It’s just interesting to note that he’s not pressed.
Another married woman, Karen, who’s been with her husband for 13 years said that while her husband never does or says anything cruel to her, she can tell that he gets a little “crunchy.”
“If it's been a while, say like a week or two, he gets irritable. Sex in general, for us, takes off the edge. Without it, we both get crunchy. After we connect, issues seem to calm down. He's never gotten mad though if I say no, and there are definitely times when I'm just not in the mood. If I'm not, sometimes I'll go ahead anyway- because once we get started, I’m good- but I don't always give in.”
Like Shanice, Karen spoke more about the pressure women feel when they’re not in the mood...at all, but also want to satisfy their husbands.
“I have never really felt the need to have sex after having my two babies, but did because I know that he'd been waiting and he was clear about his excitement once the doctor gave us the go ahead. (The recommended time for sex after childbirth is four-six weeks.) I didn't want to make him keep waiting, and I also wondered if I'd ever 'feel' like it after a baby. I didn't want to become one of those women who has the baby and they lose their sex drive altogether. Now did he 'pressure' me? Maybe a little because he wasn't necessarily asking me how I really felt. But never has my husband acted like I have no choice, or treated me mean when I've said no."
Obviously my sample size was particularly small, still the relationships that had weathered some "life," who had experienced the real, messy, practical elements of the real world understood that life can affect their partner's sex drive. And while they weren't always happy about it, their partner's refusal didn't warrant cruelty.
Do you think men in committed relationships have more realistic expectations about how life can influence sexual desire for their partners?