Married Sex

“Oh, my God! You’re actually getting married in a few hours! I mean, everything’s gonna be all different. Carla, you never have to have sex again except for when you actually want to.”  Elliot from Scrubs.

Husbands often complain about too little sex:

One in five couples, he says, have a sexless marriage (having sex 10 or fewer times per year) and that if they want to get out of this painful rut, they’ll have to work together. … “The man says ‘Why don’t we have more sex?’ And the woman says ‘Why don’t we have more intimacy?’ ” he explains. … Most often, he says, the problem is much more mundane: “The sexual charge no longer is there.”

Well the charge must be there for him, or he wouldn’t ask.  So the charge isn’t there for her; what does she want?   The authors of Why Women Have Sex:

Women’s sexual attraction tends to be far more nuanced. It’s affected by … how a man smells … sense of humor and confidence, social status … other women’s judgments of how attractive he is … in addition to the visual cues. … Some women reported having sex to give someone else an S.T.D. or to extract revenge on someone who had wronged them. … Young women today … had sex just for the pleasure of it, … they wanted to be sexually experienced and add “another notch on their belt”; they had sex because they were competitive with other women—they wanted to win; and they were curious—they had sex just to see what it was like with men of different ages, ethnicities, careers, and penis sizes. …

I’m personally betting on the “Mr. Right Hypothesis,” which suggests that women use sexual orgasm, in part, as a mate selection device. Men who are attentive to the woman, sexually unselfish, take the time to learn what turns her on, etc., tend to make good partners and possibly good dads. … Some women came to the conclusion, after being with one partner for several years, that they were just not very sexual creatures. Then when they switched to a different partner, all of a sudden they started to blossom sexually. … Women are all different in their sexual needs. Don’t assume that what worked in the last relationship will be as effective in the next.

This complexity allows women to be honestly confused about what they want, but it can also hide motivated differences between what women say or think they want, and what really drives their choices.  For example, reduced sex might come from wives respecting husbands less than before, from seeing overly willing wives as lower in status, or from withholding sex to gain bargaining power on other issues.

The most emailed NYT article today is Elizabeth Weil’s account of trying to improve her marriage:

Early in our marriage, when nearly everything was still up for grabs: Where would we live? How much money was enough? What algorithm would determine who would watch the baby and who would go to the gym?  Recently those questions had settled, and our marriage felt better for it. … The competitive mind-set came roaring back, as I reasoned, unconsciously anyway, that any changes we made would either be toward Dan’s vision of marriage and away from mine or the other way around. Admitting too much satisfaction seemed tantamount to ceding the upper hand. … A friend had recently told me that he thought I was the boss in my marriage. Did I really want to negotiate my marriage anew and risk losing that power? …

I thought I had avoided becoming one of those mothers who transferred all of her romantic energy from her husband to her children. Apparently I failed. But Dan, in my view … at times he ignored the kids. … Among our most longstanding fights was how much energy and money should go into Dan’s cooking. … I garnered no sympathy from our friends. Still, Dan’s cooking and the chaos it created drove me mad. …

I let Dan pick the first exercise, … “reromanticizing.” … Step 1: Complete this sentence in as many ways as possible: “I feel loved and cared about when you ___.”  Dan quickly jotted down “submit to kissing, clean the kitchen, tell me I look studly.” …  For the next few weeks, even our sex was more intimate, more open and trusting. Then I found myself recoiling. … following intimate nights, I’d walk up to our kitchen from our bedroom below and want to pretend it didn’t happen. Dan would caress the small of my back. I’d squirm away. … I did start watching my reactions when Dan told me that I looked beautiful. Did he mean it? What did he want from me? …

Since the beginning of this project, Dan had been waiting for one thing: sex therapy. … I [tried] … to think, while we were making love, that Dan was not predictable … by telling myself I did not know what to expect, I wanted to move toward him, to uncover the mystery. … Now I was having the same sweaty feelings I had in my 20s, when I would let my psyche ooze into that of a new lover at the start of an affair. … But by now I noticed a pattern: improving my marriage in one area often caused problems in another. … I spent a lot of time feeling bad about this, particularly the fact that better sex made me retreat.  [HT to Tyler.]

Let’s review.  Dan wanted more sex, while Elizabeth wanted more money and time from him.  Each time they found a new pattern leading to better sex, she found herself pulling away.  And initially she noted, “Admitting too much satisfaction seemed tantamount to ceding the upper hand.” The obvious interpretation here is that she had been unconsciously withholding sex to gain marriage power; when better sex increased her unconscious fear of losing power, her unconscious pulled her away to regain that power.

Marriage is a deal men enter into part to get sex, but a time-inconsistency problem haunts this deal.  Most parts of the deal, such as who earns and spends how much, who does what chores, where they live, and so on, become entrenched in stable habits, which are hard to change from day to day.  But due to complex female sexuality, the man is supposed to accept the sex part of the deal fluctuating from day to day and year to year for unknown and unexplained reasons.

So the wife is less committed to her sex part of the deal than the husband is to most of his parts.  The wife can implicitly threaten to withhold sex for last minute demands, but even if he meets those demands she may still decline.  And if she is not in the mood there is little he can threaten to withhold at the last minute that is of comparable value.  Without kids he might threaten to leave the marriage, but that is a dangerous game to play.

Presumably overall this problem makes men less, and women more, willing to marry, though it may also make men more eager to marry to signal their confidence that this problem won’t befall them.  I see two general ways to avoid this time-inconsistency problem:

  1. Obligatory Sex – more explicit norms about the frequency and nature of sex, norms wives are expected to meet even when less in the mood.  Perhaps wives would have to do something unpleasant, like exercise lots, when there was no sex.
  2. Nonobligatory Other – remove something wives want lots from the usual set of stable husband contributions, so husbands can threaten to withhold that without being a pariah.  Perhaps the expectation that he sleep at home [added: or maybe a big budget he could spend on extras for him or her]?

Both these approaches have been common in the past.  Either would make women less willing to marry.  Men won’t propose these because that would signal a lack of confidence, but women could propose them to signal they don’t expect a sex problem.  Intuitively this seems unlikely, thought I’m not sure exactly why.

Added 3p: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: people express strikingly little sympathy for sex-starved men.

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  • Eric Johnson

    The answer definitely isn’t telling some pseudo-wise stranger all about your sexuality and then, worse, publishing about it in the New York flipping Times. Thats incredibly beta and incredibly undignified, two predicates that obviously have a whole lot of overlap.

    I also suspect that designing some artificial structure as Robin proposes is somewhat dubious too (though less so). And a little on the dorky side; it takes one to know one.

    This whole thing is the man’s problem, really; he should study female psychology to address the problem. But certainly not study and learn with the woman, co-participating, for heaven’s sake — not even in front of her! Indeed, he should reveal his self-alterations never, or only when it somes up sometime later. If it comes up sooner he must remain opaque for some further months.

    The biggest impingement on the Roissy outlook is the presentation of contrary information by Thursday, saying that the woman’s happiness in marriage correlates with a more feminine psychology in the male, a more caring psychological type. This may well be true. If so, it points up the fact that the Roissy outlook is caricature — intentionally, as a rhetoric that makes it more readable and more convincing, etc, and also unintentionally because Roissy’s impressions are biased by sleeping with some 8 zillion girls who are obviously sluts on average, who on average want more dominance in a male than do other women. Here of course I am not talking about pickup at all, but about lasting relationships.

    The insistence and dominance propounded by Roissy, I think, should not ideally be as relentless or acontextual as he claims. The man has to tell apart unimportant requests from the woman, and even, likely, requests that have no importance at all except as an evolved probe for subordinate tendencies. To these he should be almost outlandishly unresponsive. But running roughshod over requests that are quite important to her (including implicit ones) is boorish and happiness-reducing to her, not attractive. He should, perhaps, receive half these important requests tenderly, and the other half with a more or less ironized reluctance, as appropriate, before appearing to finally give in. Theres no substitute for being able to make this distinction between what matters to the woman a lot and what doesnt. The male needs to read about it and also ponder the particular woman qua individual.

    Such is my moderating corrective to roissyism, the words of the eloquent apostle himself, I do quaver just slightly in daring to correct them. I am going to admit as a caveat that I do not have much field experience in recent years, this based on reading, scientific logic, and what I recall of these things empirically.

    • Anon

      This whole thing is the man’s problem, really; he should study female psychology to address the problem.

      Really there is nothing less attractive to women than begging for more sex. Anyone in a sex-deprived marriage just needs to go bang a few other women and you will find your wife MUCH more attracted to you, because the experience will change you in subtle yet profound ways that signal sexual worthiness. Monogamy is vastly overrated, and monogamy in a sex-deprived relationship is extremely damaging over the long term.

      • Eric Johnson

        Your icon mod is really hilarious, you are a wit, but you misinterpreted me. I’m saying you should study female psychology and (I said explicitly) hide this from her so it looks “effortless”. And so it doesnt look like you are grousing about not getting laid and being unattractive to her (which I agree is not attractive). And so it doesnt look like you are a dork who needs to study these things (which you are), because that is also unattractive.

        You are “zen” about this because you think these things cant be done just by explicit effort, you think they will happen automatically if you do something that makes you become, in a totally real and unfeigned way, more cocky. This is surely true to a significant extent. It wouldnt hurt, if this is something you want to risk, to do something that is somewhat dangerous and survive. Obviously, chicks dig motorcycles, which otherwise seem too risky for the benefits, but I might ride one anyway if it seemed shrewd vis a vis women, in my particular situation. There is a lot of truth, actually about a ton, in Hemingway’s “Short and happy life of Francis Macomber.”

        Doing the risky (to your safety) acts of the old-school aristocrat might often be a better than the risks of cheating, depending on the situation, if you feel you cant do without the authentic elements of this, rather than just acting different than you are accustomed to do.

      • Anon

        Very sorry, I was actually replying to that part of your post because I agree with it wholeheartedly. Now I see how confusing that looked in the thread.

        The bulk of my post was actually addressed to Robin.

      • Military Man

        This whole article is just another reason that men should not get married. Women don’t live up to their end of the deal.

        Men shouldn’t marry until divorce laws are changed so they can at least get out of bad relationships. Right now marriage is a form of slavery.

    • http://www.cmp.uea.ac.uk/~jrk Richard Kennaway

      Roissyism? Say rather, Normanism. I refer to John Norman, author of a series of nearly thirty sadomasochistic soft porn novels published from the late 1960s on, noted both for the quality of the writing and the very lengthy disquisitions on the fundamental philosophy of the culture of Gor. That philosophy is that women are natural slaves to be owned and dominated by men, who vie with each other for power, and that to live in any other way is an unnatural perversion of the true natures of both. This is not merely the fictional background to the novels, but quite clearly Norman’s actual views. Latterly he has taken evolutionary psychology on board in support of his philosophy.

      If anyone finds links to material of that nature surprising here, they should note that “Roissy in DC” is a clear reference to another Roissy with similar connections, and that the words of one “Master Dogen” quoted previously by Robin Hanson could have come straight out of Norman’s non-fiction book on sex.

      People should know these things.

  • Mike

    My marriage became much less sexless when my wife found me in a hot tub with another woman. I made no apologies and offered no explanations. The best way for a man to end the sexlessness of his marriage is to cheat. Cheating subconsciously alters a man’s confidence. It’s a reminder of his sexual market value. His wife senses the change.

    Of course, if a man cannot cheat on his wife with a woman at least as good looking as his wife…Who can blame his wife for not desiring sex with him?

    Incidentally, by definition, a man in a sexless marriage cannot cheat. If there is no sex, there is no cheating – since how can you be sexually unfaithful to someone when there is no sex?

    I also flip the script. A woman who is not having sex with a man is as much of a cheater as the man. If the deal of marriage is sexual monogamy, then that presupposes sex. If there is no sex, then the woman has cheated as much as a wandering spouse.

    • Chris

      Great idea Mike, let me just run it by the wife…

    • Anon

      Yes, I discovered exactly the same thing a couple years ago. After 12 years of begging, pleading, asking, bargaining for more sex, I decided to get it elsewhere (with her consent). Once I started sleeping with other women, my wife became much more attracted to me and interested in sex (even though I don’t tell her about it or do it “in her face”).

      BTW there is nothing less attractive to women than complaining about not getting enough sex. . .

      Also, I would suggest that sleeping with a few 20-something year olds (versus a middle aged spouse) is well worth trying out a few times. . .

      • another anon

        > Also, I would suggest that sleeping with a few 20-something year olds (versus a middle aged spouse) is well worth trying out a few times. . .

        Easier said than done.

  • Eric Johnson

    You are over-interpreting your own experience if you think there arent many marriages which would be broken by (discovered) cheating. Its kind of hard to tell which are which, and with a move like that you are really going all-in.

    Flirting with some other women, if you can resist the temptation, might not be a bad move. As well as flirting with them much more subtly and less definitely, in front of her. Sleeping at some male friend’s house “accidentally” might be a good idea. But you shouldnt actually state that you did it strategically, instead you should be prepared to deny it without cracking in the least, and prepare to change the subject dismissively and dominatingly if the inquisition continues.

    I thought Robin was saying you should actually say that you will be sleeping away sometimes until she agrees to have sex more, which is definitely a bad idea. But now I am not sure thats what he meant.

  • anon

    But due to complex female sexuality, the man is supposed to accept the sex part of the deal fluctuating from day to day and year to year for unknown and unexplained reasons.

    The obvious solution is to avoid treating sex as a bargaining chip. If the marriage becoms sexless, just wait for better times and/or work on your sexual attractiveness as Eric and Mike suggest; do not negotiate or make concessions. This would stop the perceptual feedback loop which is currently training Elizabeth’s unconscious to pull away from sex.

    If Elzabeth wants a bargaining chip, let her find something simpler, more reliable and less entagled with unconscious mechanisms.

  • EdM

    Jeepers! 10 pages of why a particular marriage sucks? I couldn’t get past the first paragraph…

    Most men today are pretty lame and un-attractive to women. I know I used to be a lame-married-beta-chump…

    The ugly truth is that our relationships cannot be any better than we are as individuals. And let’s face it most people suck.

    There isn’t a big societal problem to fix here… We, each of us, as individuals needs to self-reflect and correct the lame shit… Or accept our self-determined-fate.

    –Ed

    P.S. The wife dumped my sorry ass and that was the wake up call I needed…

  • http://FeministX.blogspot.com FeministX.blogspot.com

    If a wife won’t sleep with her husband, my assumption is that he doesn’t do it for her. Maybe he became less attractive over the years. Maybe other major disagreements are ruining his abiliity to attract her. Maybe he isn’t any good in bed and she’s tired of it.

    What percentage of people cheat? I’ve heard more than 50% and as low as 15%. In any case, I can’t even pretend I care about fidelidy in a male partner. Have fun, man. Why not?

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Well of course if we all only expect short term relations and don’t make long term deals we need worry less about how to keep people to their deals.

      • http://FeministX.blogspot.com FeministX.blogspot.com

        I would like a long term partner. I would prefer a husband for life who would be a father to my children. But I just care that he contributes to the mortgage and pays attention to the kids. I want to have good cameraderie and all, but what does fidelity have to do with any of this? If a guy I’m with wants to get in a hot tub with some random girl he meets, what’s it to me? Now that we have condoms, bitrh control, paternity tests and vasdectomies, why do we need fidelity any longer?

      • Grant

        If your husband sleeps with other women, he may very well start to prefer them to you and leave you. Or he may devote more of his time, energy and money towards them. Men do love women they are sleeping with more than those they are not.

      • Anon

        There are plenty of people who have been married a long time who are not monogamous. They just don’t advertise the fact.

        The fact that a man isn’t getting laid is his problem, not his wife’s. If she isn’t willing he needs to find someone else who is (which can be taken care of with a C note if other pathways are blocked). A man who is completely dependent on “charity sex” from his wife becomes ever more unappealing to her and to other women. . .

  • q

    what is the marital equivalent of a fixed versus floating interest rate swap?

  • cresur

    > This whole thing is the man’s problem, really

    > If a wife won’t sleep with her husband, my assumption is that he doesn’t do it for her.

    People (feminists specially) always complain that if a man sleeps with a lot of women, he’s called a stud and that’s a good thing, but if a woman sleeps with a lot of men she’s a slut and that’s a bad thing. Then in the next breath they thoughtlessly dump all the sexual responsibility of a relationship onto the shoulders of men. Oh, the huge manatee.

    • Girl

      I think the idea is that your responsibility for something varies with how much you request or desire it. For most heterosexual sex, the man and woman both want it and agree to it, so they are both responsible. In contrast, the man is usually the one making the request in sexless marriages, so he is responsible for making it attractive enough to his partner for her to agree to it.

      • Whateva

        Are you crazy or what? If a wife enters into a marraige with great drive, and then as soon as vows are said drops it down to less than 1 a month, then IT IS HER PROBLEM TOO. If she wants to remain married the woman needs to figure her shit out and start working on it. This whole ideat hat men need to make themselves attractive enough to their wives hinges on a very broken idea that it is the wife who should controll the bedroom. I am not saying forcefully take it by any means, but a wife that drops off on her commitment to her husband (entering into a manogomous relationship is a commitment, and a promise for lack of a better term that you will not force this person to do without that which you are now requiring them to only get from you). Bottom line, my wife thinks things are great right now, they aren’t and I am in the process of just leaving emotionally before I take off all together. Let’s put it this way, sex is NEVER a bargaining chip, and is SHOULD NEVER be transactional between mutually respectful partners. Unless your end goal is ending the relationship.

        You can go right back to where you came from with your hoop jumping b.s., attitudes like yours are the problem in the first place. If she respected him at all, or took the 2 seconds to look inside herself that most woman explicitly expect from their men, then maybe she would see what B.S. that is. If your not attracted say it, don’t just hold out and wonder why your husband is a pissy bastard.

        *steps down from soap box*

  • Tom

    If a man is stupid enough to get married, then he deserves to spend eternity in a sexless prison.

    Seriously! The law gives women complete control of the husband – which might as well be renamed “slave”, these days. What kind of idiot would put himself in a position where his wife can “dismiss” him at any instant, but keep the house, the kids, the savings, and most of his future income; and then proceed to beg for sex? Could he be more pathetic, and how would his wife be attracted to him? There is nothing less attractive to a woman than a powerless slave begging for sex!

    Men, do yourself a favor: STAY SINGLE!!

  • anonymous

    In the case of the sexless marriage, I generally agree with those saying the man should look elsewhere if his needs are not getting met. But I think how this gets negotiated in the intermediate cases is more interesting. It isn’t obvious to me that resorting to the nuclear option is the right answer if the husband only wants slightly more sex and is in other respects generally satisfied with the marriage.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    There’s an interesting tension in this blog between better models for reality and male identity, empowerment, mythology, etc.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    20 comments and no one yet is interested in encouraging sex-filled monogamous marriage?

    • Girlie

      When I was with my ex-husband I used to initiate sex a ton. I am one of those rare women who has always liked sex for my own pleasure and it is a drive of mine. Anyway he very often rejected me in those situations and I suspect it is because he wasn’t being the aggressor and felt bad about himself. I have since wised up and now act cutesy and give certain looks when I am in a relationship with a man to signal him that I am horny so he can be the aggressor. It seems that men like the conquest and to be the hunter in reality. So women really need to wait to be hunted and then oblige for the happiest of situations. I won’t win any feminist awards for stating that. I don’t know. I am hoping for a sex-filled monogamous relationship one day. We’ll see if it ever happens.

    • Violet

      Maybe because coerced sex done out of obligation is not very good?

      • wedrifid

        You mean sex coerced in ways that we are not adapted to in this environment.

        The coercions “Have sex with me or I’ll seek other women, abandon you and you and your child will starve” and “Sleep with me. I have enough power to get away with raping you anyway and if you defy me you will lose social alliances.” are built in to be plenty of fun.

        Robin’s quest would then to be to find a way to mould relationships such that they fit with the realities of power in our present time and also with our existing instincts.

    • anon

      Unfortunately, it’s not clear that your approach would result in good, sex-filled marriages. In this respect, I agree with both Eric (above) and Violet.

      What’s wrong with the approach of not bargaining over sex at all (because it’s too unreliable for that, and attempts at bargaining have adverse consequences on our unconscious control/feedback mechanisms) and giving wives other means to signal/assess their power in the marriage?

  • Slappy

    Marriage is not the problem. Marriage is but a legal contract. The true issue is children. If you want to keep your marriage sexually healthy, do not have children.

    Mothers tend to get their intimacy needs met by their children. There is no man alive who can express the love and devotion that an infant/child can. Only two very well adjusted adults can weather the storn.

    Just about any serious adult relationship that isn’t proceeded by intense therapy is certainly doomed to either breakup or everlasting unhappiness.

    One thing women do not understand as well as they should is that for men, sex = intimacy. Women will not get the intimacy they want without the sex. It takes a man better than I to keep motherhood from interfering with married sex.

    Perhaps I speak the obvious but I believe in most of these cases the obvious is the truth.

    • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com Richard Silliker

      “sex = intimacy.”

      True intimacy arises from the sharing of vulnerabilities. Sex arises out of intimacy.

      • Slappy

        And what makes you more vulnerable than sex?

        For men, sex is intimacy. For women, intimacy is a requirement for sex. These two feelings are incompatible and only exacerbated by having children. Women do not understand this. The irony is that men see sex as being cheap. That men merely want to get their rocks off. They believe this because men are ready for sex at a moments notice. Women require intimacy and a connection to want to have sex and therefore believe that they give sex more weight and respect. But the opposite is true. For men, sex is a requirement and is necessary. Women can sustain themselves on their own particular form of intimacy. One that does not require sex and can often be fulfilled by the love of a child.

        Men will risk everything for sex. Women often underestimate the lengths men will go to for that one brief moment. If women understood this, they would not take their man’s urges so lightly. On the otherhand, men would do better by themselves if they also realized this. But again we return to negotiations. This is why I believe Robin’s twonapproched may at first appear silly and unrealistic are in fact a step toward a serious resolution to a probably insurmountable problem.

      • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com Richard Silliker

        And what makes you more vulnerable than sex?

        Trusting information to another that would enable them to hurt you, if they wished.

        .

    • Stuart Armstrong

      sex = intimacy

      Can’t say I even begin to agree – but then I’m just one data point, and I’m sounding atypical based on the comments on this thread.

      • http://pdf23ds.net pdf23ds

        People would do *much* better in these conversations to keep in mind the full range of human personality types and how they affect sexual desire. There are asexuals, aromantics, people who do/don’t experience limerance. All these distinctions (and probably many more) are very important to this conversation.

  • Eric Johnson

    I think youre exaggerating quite a lot. It would be surprising if that were always true, considering evolution and fitness.

    Also do you have any refs for therapy being helpful or is that just your opinion.

  • Psychohistorian

    I am shocked that an economist wrote about sex getting old without mentioning diminishing marginal returns!

  • http://adequatelyreserved.wordpress.com bcg

    Right now, women have a better way to signal that sex won’t be a problem – during dating, pretend to be horny.

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    You don’t need to actually cheat, but you do need to signal that you could if you wanted to. Innocent flirting with reasonably attractive members of the opposite sex in front of her is a good way to demonstrate this. The thing is that, if you are a decent person, you don’t really want your wife to be constantly worried and anxious that you are going to cheat, so you don’t want to carry things too far. But you do need to keep her on her toes just a bit.

    Agreed that it is very bad to frame things as you providing work, money etc. in exchange for sex. This means, for example, that you must refuse sex if she is using it to make up for something she did wrong. No, she did something wrong and you don’t reward people who do something wrong with sex.

    Finally, you need to do new and fun things with her, the more physical the better. Vacation sex is a real phenomenon, but you don’t need to actually go on vacation to do something fun. Don’t just do the boring once a month dinner date all the time.

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    Mothers tend to get their intimacy needs met by their children.

    Which is why you need to differentiate your product, so to speak. You make sex with you about excitement and fun.

    Fortunately, while women usually need intimacy (comfort in PUA speak) in order to have sex, they don’t have sex primarily to get intimacy. The usual reason they want to have sex is because they want excitement and the guy turns them on. So, find ways to be exciting and turn her on.

  • http://chuckross.blogspot.com Chuck

    I posted something touching on this subject a while back.

    FeministX said above that perhaps women get tired of their men more quickly than the other way around, but the question at hand is *why is this the case*?

    To summarize my post, committal to your wife serves to switch off her sexual desire for the husband – at least compared to the level of desire the husband has for the wife. It stems from female strategies of “coupling” and “dual mating”; the former being a long term strategy to keep a Dad around, the latter being a short term strategy for finding superior genes.

    Sex is a tool used for strategic means for both sexes. This doesn’t stop when marriage enters the picture.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com agnostic

    It all sounds like how to keep the band together when everyone is already in their 40s — some things aren’t meant to last that long.

    Just marry her when she’s out of high school, like nature intended, and you won’t have the hold-up problem. She’ll still be too brimming over with testosterone, which drastically cuts her ability to withhold sex — it would pain *her* too much.

    The same mechanism prevents men from withholding work effort to bring home the bacon — they’re too overflowing with testosterone that they wouldn’t be able to sit around doing nothing. At that age, they are driven to go out there and kick the world’s ass.

    So instead of thinking up solutions to the hold-up problems that arise among married couples where the wife is 30+ and the husband about 40+, we should simply subsidize people to get married much earlier and let nature’s design solve these problems automatically.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      OK, so how do we do this? Seems early marriage conflicts with our over-education.

      • http://www.abs-usa.com Floccina

        How about the parents pay the bills for married couples until they reach the desired level of schooling.

    • Psychohistorian

      This baffles me. You could get married out of the womb; eventually, you’d still end up being married in your forties. I don’t really see how marrying earlier would prevent you from being married in your forties. Nor do I see how it would make your marriage better when you got there. There’s a good chance I’d be pretty miserable if I’d married most of the women I dated at that time, because I hadn’t figured out what I wanted. The goal isn’t increasing years of high-sex marriage, so much as decreasing years of low-sex marriage, which this does not accomplish (and may exacerbate).

      More generally, I believe people who marry somewhat later in life are rather less likely to get divorced than those who marry early (though this may require a control for religiosity).

  • Joe Unlie

    Hmm… I think everybody here should quit reading Roissy and start reading John C. Wright (johncwright.livejournal.com) instead; he posts about matters of sex and marital fidelity quite frequently.

    Though he doesn’t tell you what you want to hear.

  • Err

    Easy solutions:

    don’t get married

    don’t have children

    only enter into sexual relationships with people who enjoy sex for its own sake aren’t concerned with these laughably stupid “power” issues

    Simple. Many of us have done exactly that and are happier for it.

  • Violet

    How about ethical non-monogamy? e.g. polyamory.

    Different people have different sexual and intimate needs, and if one side wants much more sex than the other, then the obvious way is to add an another person to have sex with in an ethical fashion.

    This has seemed work the best in practice for me, both for intimacy and sex (as a bisexual woman). I do require honesty and taking care of risks, but don’t see any worth in monogamy.

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    I read the whole NYTimes article– pulling away from sex after it got a lot better was a phase, not a permanent condition.

    Part of making things better was cranking up the consent level for both partners.

    “Obligatory Sex”, which Robin suggests as a possible solution, will make things worse in the long run, not better.

    • anon

      pulling away from sex after it got a lot better was a phase, not a permanent condition. Part of making things better was cranking up the consent level for both partners.

      This may be consistent with the approach I advocated above. My guess is that the couple simply stopped directly bargaining over sex; perhaps they switched to other ways of signaling/haggling over their power within the marriage.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      The article doesn’t say they maintained more/better sex for long. I read the pulling away as going back to the previous rate after an unusual increase.

      • anon

        The NYTimes article is full of all-over-the-place rambling, so it’s impossible to extract definitive information. But “sex therapy” is an important part of marriage counseling, and Elizabeth would not be writing a book about marriage therapy unless there was at least some partial success.

        And your coment from the OP is relevant: “Each time they found a new pattern leading to better sex, she found herself pulling away.”

        Still, I can see some glaring bargaining problems in Dan and Elizabeth’s marriage–especially the fact that Dan thought of his fancy cooking hobby as a substitute for minding the kids and putting in more effort at work. Perhaps their case is more idiosyncratic than you think.

      • lemmy caution

        Cooking diner is work. Somebody has to do it. I notice that husbands who cook seem to get a lot of shit for it for some reason.

        There really isn’t much Daniel Duane can do about things, his wife is hoarding resentments like a squirrel. At least he is a tall, smart, passionate guy who knows how to cook. He should do OK in the inevitable divorce.

        As a side note, Daniel Duane’s book “caught inside” is very good.

      • anon

        Did you even read the article? Dan is not “cooking diner”, he’s cookng pigeons, squirrels, pigs’ heads and other fancy dishes. The extra time/effort/inconvenience over cooking a plain dinner is completely unaccounted for in the household budget–but Dan still does it because he likes working in the kitchen.

        It’s a hobby, no question about it. The author was wholly justified in resenting that situation.

      • lemmy caution

        I read the article. Daniel is obsessive about food.

        But, you don’t see a lot of men being resentful about how well their wives cook diner (no matter how fancy). Flip it around and now you are the kitchen bitch.

        And, Daniel is obsessive about a lot of things. That is kind of what he does as a book writer and journalist; he gets obsessed and then he writes about it.

        http://www.mensjournal.com/author/daniel-duane/
        http://www.danielduane.com/Site/Food_Videos.html

  • Err

    Violet: polyamory, open relationships, or just being a normal Libertine all work.

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    The most interesting thing about biases in the NYTimes article was the partial debunking of a lot of theories about how to improve marriages. In the opinion of the author, there wasn’t much evidence, and in her experience, too much of the advice was focused on single factors.

  • http://skepticlawyer.com.au/ skepticlawyer

    Here’s a couple of suggestions that may encourage earlier marriage and childbirth (without damaging education).

    1. Bias the tax system in favour of marriage and family by taxing on household, rather than individual, incomes. That means the persistent tiredness many women complain of trying to hold down a job at the same time as caring for small children may well disappear, because the woman will be better able to leave the workforce while kids are small. I’m sure persistent tiredness leads to less sex. Basic division of labour idea, nothing more.

    2. Undermine or eliminate state-funded pensions. Because the state takes on so much of a care role for the elderly, people feel they can skip marriage, children and commitment (including sexual commitment). You will have both more children and more sex.

    3. Stop rewarding feckless breeding by cutting benefits to single parents and upping benefits to those who form stable relationships (opposite-sex or same-sex, I don’t think it matters). At the same time make sure abortion laws are liberal.

    I’m not saying I endorse these suggestions, either; I’m just looking at the way incentives are structured.

    Some of these ideas are outlined in some detail by Patricia Morgan, ‘The War Between the State and the Family’ (Institute for Economic Affairs, London, 2007).

    • Hans

      Taxing household income instead of individual incomes actually penalizes marriage in a progressive tax system. The wage earner with the lowest wage (e.g. the wife) will have their income taxed at the highest marginal tax rate, because both incomes would be added together to calculate tax brackets.

    • Violet

      Does encouraging early marriage lead to more happiness? Especially if people are marrying for financial reasons.

      As for the pensions thing there are several points:
      * investing money in private pensions may be more sensible financially than having children
      * overpopulation is already a problem

      Why is it bad if people skip marriage?

      • Eric Johnson

        > Does encouraging early marriage lead to more happiness?

        Empirical work would be fascinating, though there would be a lot of difficulty correcting for various factors that dispose people to liking early marriage, I think.

        > overpopulation is already a problem

        Not in the western world. Though that will make no difference if things are left to open-borders fanatics like Robin, who in my mind joins the rest of Masonomics in being incredibly romantic on the question of whether large numbers of unselected immigrants are going to create/maintain the culture, stability, millieu, and government that he, Russ Roberts, and Caplan want. I love hearing all these guys on almost all other issues, but I notice not one of them has moved (so to speak, this is a metaphor) to Columbia, or even Mexico — Saudi Arabia, or even Jordan — Russia, or even (eurasian) Georgia. Whoops, I forgot that that last one is even less attractive now, isnt it.

  • http://skepticlawyer.com.au/ skepticlawyer

    Maybe I’ve used a British expression and not made myself clear (confused by a common language, no doubt), because that’s not what I meant. Instead I’ll just quote Morgan and see if she makes better sense than I do:

    Alternatively, adjustments could be made to the tax system so that, like the benefits system, it recognises the concept of a household. Families should be allowed to retain resources on a par with those available to individuals without dependents, probably through transferring tax-free entitlements. A household could be allowed to split the combined income into a number of ‘slices’, with each slice being allocated to a dependent and taxed as the income of that dependent. The aim should be to offer a much lower deduction rate within reach of the working family which is close to average male full-time earnings (p 149).

    Sometimes this process is referred to as ‘income splitting’, especially where it allows earnings from a single worker to be split between two people. I hope that is clearer.

    • Hans

      Yes, that is clearer and would indeed result in a tax system favoring marriage (and having children)

  • Jackson

    Where is the love? [sigh]

  • http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com Clarisse Thorn

    Wow. As a sex activist and someone who has given a lot of sex advice and run sex workshops, this post horrified me for a lot of reasons.* Honestly, on a blog called “Overcoming Bias”, can we at least try to acknowledge and oppose the sexist stereotypes that so obviously influenced this post?

    Most importantly — in fact, I think almost all my issues with this post derive from these points — it would be nice to see some recognition that women sometimes don’t get as much sex as (or the kind of sex that) they want out of long-term relationships. And that there are men who have considerably more complex experiences of sexuality than you seem to acknowledge here.

    And that any sex that happens in a context of requirement and threats and withdrawal and power games is probably going to be bad sex unless, of course, those power games are the fun consensual pre-negotiated kinky kind.

    Hopefully the original post was something of a joke, but it’s clear that at least some of the comments weren’t. Ugh.

    * the original article would probably horrify me too, so I’m not even going to try to read it, but at least the original article probably doesn’t advocate for obligatory sex.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Yes of course we can acknowledge “sometimes women” and “there are men”. Is that really what you find “sexist” about the post, that it lacks a disclaimer that there are always some individuals that don’t fit any trend?

      Would it be enough if I just put a generic disclaimer about that somewhere on the blog? If not, why would on each post be enough; why not insist it be in every clause of every sentence?

      • Violet

        There was some discussion in the past how to integrate more female readership to OB/LW (don’t remember whether this was discussed before the split).

        However this does not seem to work very well in practice:
        * You are very dismissive when someone points out sexism
        * Most of the writing is very male- and heterocentric

        Most OB commenters don’t fit into what is a typical man – e.g. trying to overcome bias and be rational is nontypical. But when it comes to mating the writing ends up considering “women” to be just the stereotype.

        Has there ever been any post on how one would maintain a relationship with two equal rationalists? How to maintain and form relationships ethically? What biasses to avoid in romantical relationships? etc

        Unfortunately many of the “mating” related posts seem to end up as “women should give men more sex and how we (=men) might trick/coerce them into that”.

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        This comment got more of my attention than most – how much attention would it take before you wouldn’t call my reply “dismissive”? If you’ll browse the “Mating” key, you’ll see lots of OB posts useful to both sides of romantic relations.

      • Occasional reader

        Thank you, Violet and Clarisse Thorn. I am interested in how to overcome bias, and I enjoy the occasional posts about Bayesianism, but I avoid commenting here largely because the male- and hetero-centrism seems so hostile. Part of the reason I still read is my unhealthy fascination with observing clueless straight male behavior.

        Robin, I speak only for myself and not for all of your female readers, but what I’d like to see is not just a bunch of arguments and disclaimers about how non-sexist you are (which aren’t convincing or helpful in the first place), but some critical discussion of how sexist biases can distort people’s rationality. Making a serious effort to detect and avoid those biases in your own writing would be excellent. Invite a co-blogger who studies sexist biases to write regular posts, and my brain is all yours, baby.

        As for the posts on mating, one thing I’d like to see is more empirical data and less reliance anecdata and a priori reasoning. Right now it seems like there’s a lot of room for sexist stereotypes to creep in because so much of what you’re doing is severely empirically under-constrained.

        If this is all more effort than you’re willing to expend, I completely understand. It may not be worth alienating your current readers to pull in people like me. (I’d like to think that more discussion of sexist biases would not alienate your current readers, but what I’d like to think is not necessarily what’s true.) But that’s what it would take to convince me that I was welcome as a participant in the intellectual discussion here, and not just as an anthropologically-minded observer. I hope that feedback is helpful to you in some way.

      • Violet

        This comment got more of my attention than most – how much attention would it take before you wouldn’t call my reply “dismissive”?

        The attitude is more important than any disclaimers.

        I’ll try to explain why many of your posts regarding sex/mating are problematic for me (note, the reasons are probably different for many other women).

        The largest bias I and the few rationally inclined female friends I chat with encounter, is that we are treated and expected behave though gender stereotypes of what typical women should be (free hint, typical women in stereotypes are not rationalists).

        Thus seeing those stereotypes perpetuated here is very frustrating.

        Most times when you write “men X, women Y” you are adding a small bit of bias for us to overcome, rather than helping us overcome biases.

        To make a very exaggerated example:
        * Study shows “60% of women prefer red flowers, 60% of men blue flowers” (only red and blue flowers exist in the example)
        * OB posting: “Research shows – give women red flowers!”
        * Critique: “Ask the person and give hir the flowers hir prefers”

        You might think about one definition of sexism:
        Sexism is the belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other. It can also refer to hatred of, or prejudice towards, either sex as a whole (see misogyny and misandry), or the application of stereotypes of masculinity in relation to men, or of femininity in relation to women.

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        Violet, so talking at all about any tendencies that differ between men and women is how I am “dismissive” about concerns on my “sexist” post?

      • anon

        Violet, people form stereotypes all the time (mostly unconsciously) because stereotypes are extremely useful.

        Yes, reasonable generalizations often give way to malicious and unsympathetic beliefs, and due to confirmation bias we’re often unable to make case-by-case judgments in the face of individual information. But this is a case for being more aware about the generalizations we make and the extent of their usefuless. It’s just not possible to renounce them altogether.

      • Violet

        Violet, so talking at all about any tendencies that differ between men and women is how I am “dismissive” about concerns on my “sexist” post?

        Yes of course we can acknowledge “sometimes women” and “there are men”. Is that really what you find “sexist” about the post, that it lacks a disclaimer that there are always some individuals that don’t fit any trend?

        Would it be enough if I just put a generic disclaimer about that somewhere on the blog? If not, why would on each post be enough; why not insist it be in every clause of every sentence?

        Are you insisting in good faith that you don’t see how this might be considered dismissing?
        1) attitude
        2) the double quotes
        3) the sarcasm

        Consider this:
        Could you please be more polite?

        What do you mean by “polite”?

        Should I add “no offense but” in front of each post? Or each sentence?

        I think we should stop arguing over this. It probably will be fruitless. I will try to post some actual data further down.

      • Eric Johnson

        “Sexism is the belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other. […] stereotypes”

        If I go on a date with a girl I dont know, I am going to start with the assumption that she has an average female personality, or at least average for the kind of girls I would know and who look like what she looks like (which we all known conveys a lot of information on average; she could be a jock, dork, goth, whatever). Or at least average for the kind of girls charactarized by whatever few things I would know about. Why would I start with the assumption that she had average human personality or beliefs, the average for all people, men and women who are the kind I would know, or arent?

        And you will do the same! To men, if it be men that you date. Everyone does it. And they would do the same at a job interview. Assuming the person is probably most like the average of all people, would decrease your performce, ie make you less likely to get hired.

        Thus, it is over stringent to demand a total elimination of stereotyping, even demand it from yourself let alone others. This definition of sexism is over stringent.

      • Kevin

        On average women don’t want sex as much as men. It’s not a “sexist stereotype”. It’s just a simple, true, fact.

    • Doug S.

      The original article would probably horrify me too, so I’m not even going to try to read it, but at least the original article probably doesn’t advocate for obligatory sex.

      The New York Times Magazine article is basically a very personal account of one couple’s experiences. I don’t think you’ll be horrified at all. At least look at it.

    • Eric Johnson

      I would guess that most of us here believe that men and women have biologically different minds, and that there are major asymmetries in sexuality. For example, that it will never work, speaking in general, for women to be chasers and be sexually pressing/forward, its just not sexy for people on average. And that men have to be able to stand up to and deal with other people very assertively, and be self-confident, in order to be attractive, whereas this is significantly less true for women. And that (hetero) attraction to women is more corporeal than attraction to men.

      I dont necessarily believe that these things are good, just that they are more or less fixed and not at all robustly alterable on average. And that it is good, for practical purposes, to recognize them.

      If you are determined to disagree with those things, you will never agree with me on anything. I consider these things to be fairly obvious via even informal observation, let alone more scientific ways of investigating.

      • Psychohistorian

        “For example, that it will never work, speaking in general, for women to be chasers and be sexually pressing/forward, its just not sexy for people on average.”

        Interesting fact: women approaching men was once the norm. Late 19th century, women would invite men to call on them, and that would initiate courtship, at least among the middle class. Men might signal that they would accept such an invitation, but they were not the initiators. This doesn’t include “sexually pressing,” but it is a rather large counterpoint.

        Furthermore, insofar as there is some subsection of the population for whom women being forward is an effective strategy, you can’t say that this strategy will never work, as this minority could potentially become a majority.

        Much more significantly, I doubt that’s actually true. Plenty of men would really enjoy an attractive woman being sexually forward with them. Many such women could probably attain long-term romantic involvement from this approach. Your claim requires evidence that you do not provide and that I have never seen, so I’m skeptical.

        But even it is true, on average, this is not strong evidence that such a tendency is hard-wired into the male brain at the genetic level. It is very reasonable that such a value could be an outgrowth of social or cultural values rather than base-level programming. You can make up an ev-psych story to explain damn near anything, so the fact that you can explain a current phenomenon in ev-psych terms does not actually make that phenomenon wired in at the genetic level.

    • Peter Twieg

      it would be nice to see some recognition that women sometimes don’t get as much sex as (or the kind of sex that) they want out of long-term relationships

      So do you actually think that this is somehow relevant to the point of this post, or do you just want Robin to show some fealty and rhetorical submission to the groups he’s writing about? It seems like the implicit rule is that you’re not allowed to make criticisms about “oppressed” groups without either making equally-strong criticisms of the complementary non-oppressed groups, or granting equally-strong praise to the oppressed group in some other way. Is this necessary in order to overcome bias?

  • other opinion

    a couple points

    In my experience the main reason women lose interest is a busy schedule with kids, not some malicious intent.

    If you have kids, you really have to be a jerk to have an affair to get your wife’s attention. There are many more modest options – like reduced attention.

  • another anonymous

    Are we really so sure that coasean bargaining has broken down?

  • Psychohistorian

    “Dan wanted more sex, while Elizabeth wanted more money and time from him.”

    Was there another article besides this one? Do you know the couple personally? Because there’s absolutely nothing in the article to suggest either person principally wanted any of those things, at least not as this sentence implies. Nor does she view her sex life as being related to what she gets out of him. You’ve taken something completely out of context, misrepresented it, and used it to reinforce a point that it doesn’t actually support.

  • Ed

    I didn’t really see this – “Elizabeth wanted more money and time from him.” Not that I doubt it but I didn’t see it explicity stated, well, except that she thought his cooking was a way to avoid her and the kids.

    I think you are dead on here –
    ” And initially she noted, “Admitting too much satisfaction seemed tantamount to ceding the upper hand.” The obvious interpretation here is that she had been unconsciously withholding sex to gain marriage power; when better sex increased her unconscious fear of losing power, her unconscious pulled her away to regain that power.”

    Interesting metaphor, upper hand. Is their marriage a competition? A battle? What does the phrase mean to her? What does she think she’s gaining by having the upper hand?

    I wonder if she finds her husband nicer when she’s stringing the possibility of sex before him. Maybe she just likes exercising her power.

    I can see why women wouldn’t be attracted to a dude begging for sex, on the other hand, a 40 something woman writing about your marriage and sex life and how uninspired it is isn’t exactly appealing either.

  • LauraABJ

    Has no one pointed out yet that married women frequently want more (and longer/harder/more satisfying) sex than their husbands are willing (or able) to provide? I had a boyfriend who claimed to prefer married women, because they were always so deprived and hungry for it… Watch it with the hot tub guys–unless you really don’t mind your wife climbing in with a more virile guy…

  • Eric Johnson

    Anon,

    > Elizabeth would not be writing a book about marriage therapy unless there was at least some partial success.

    Nonsense. If you like, I can show you plenty of paeans to the healing power of magnetic wristbands, as well as many other things that have been disproven by high-quality trials (I dont think anyone has bothered when it comes to the magnetic wristbands, but they have, repeatedly, when it comes to homeopathy).

    Do you have data?

    Err,

    Enjoy your darwinian-biologic demise. Your advice does not suit everyone, just as marriage doesnt suit you. I wouldnt pretend that it does suit you. But you may change your mind about wanting to reproduce, especially if you are still 25 or so. Thats what happened to me.

  • Eric Johnson

    > True intimacy arises from the sharing of vulnerabilities.

    Yes, exactly — to be precise, sharing them privately, indeed fiercely privately, as I see it. And it is joys as well as sorrows. This is why I react against the whole couples therapy thing.

    My formula for being close to someone, particularly a lover: be together. Good and bad things will soon happen to you as individuals and as a pair, they always do. Then never tell anyone else, besides her or him, just exactly what you felt about that stuff, not your best or wisest friend, or most admired confidant. Viola, you are close, thats a huge part of how it works, or so it seems to me. It seems like therapy is the opposite of that.

    • Eric Johnson

      > Then never tell anyone else, besides her or him, just exactly what you felt about that stuff

      about much, or most, of that stuff, to be exact

      • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com Richard Silliker

        Thank you.

  • A

    i would NEVER put up with a woman who uses sex as a bargaining chip.

    this is why i am attractive to women.

    i am caring, but always maintain the integrity of my self-respect with appropriate use of the word NO.

    guys don’t understand they can do what women do (use the word no) and do it better. AND be more attractive for it.

    women have expectations. (about 2 million).

    what are your expectations, men, and why do you feel embarrassed to have them?

    typical female: i expect a guy to have no expectations.

    women will tend toward this childish mental state (like children) without a real man who can say NO.

    someone who can say no commands respect.

    respect equals attraction.

    most of the posts here fall way short.

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    And on the other hand, one of the things on his wish list is for her to “submit to kissing”. He knows she doesn’t like it. He apparently either can’t (at that point) imagine her liking it, or he prefers that she doesn’t like it. I don’t know what they should do at that point, but there’s a problem.

    I reread the last paragraph, and it’s ambiguous to negative about how much sex is going on.

    It would be interesting to get the husband’s point of view on the marriage.

  • Eric Johnson

    R Kenneway, I know Roissy didnt originate most of those ideas, but I and perhaps Robin read him almost exclusively rather than others. He’s a very fine stylist, for one thing, and it would be a blast to read him on any topic. (The mysterious blogger IOZ is one killer writer who I love to read even though I never agree with him.)

    I dont have a taste for severe domination of women, though domination has to be done, even if mildly and really rather trivially or symbolically, or even semi-ironically. Personally I find it distasteful when taken far, just as distasteful as betas and herbs are. So I have no outstanding interest in sadistic writings such as those of the good Marquis. Even Roissy is too extreme for me, and probably “Roissy” is too extreme even for Roissy; I think he is habitually a bit of a caricature and advocatus diaboli when he writes.

  • Kezia Kamenetz

    I have just been lurking at this blog for about 3 months now, and am truly shocked by this article. It SO poorly argued and presented, it strikes one as a complete joke. Overcoming Bias? Are you kidding me? And are you serious with saying “people express strikingly little sympathy for sex-starved men.”? Basically, as I understand it, Robin is trying to argue that the reason most marriages are sexless is because women withhold sex in order to gain power over men. He argues this by stating that women are “allowed to be confused” about sex, but this really just masks the fact that they withhold sex to gain power over men in marriage.

    1. “This complexity allows women to be honestly confused about what they want, but it can also hide motivated differences between what women say or think they want, and what really drives their choices.
    THUS: For example, reduced sex might come from wives respecting husbands less than before, from seeing overly willing wives as lower in status, or from withholding sex to gain bargaining power on other issues.”

    He then takes selected comments from Weil’s deeply nuanced story and extremely long chronicle of marriage improvement to demonstrate the power dynamic he outlines. I have read this entire article, and his interpretation of their overall dynamic is strained at best, completely irresponsible at worst.

    I’ll start my critique of this argument with it’s first premise—women are ‘confused’ about sex, but this is just a cover for the fact that they use sex to gain power in relationships. Is it possible that women are “confused” about what they want when it comes to sex because they are told by their culture from a very young age that they are not to desire sex? When sex is constantly being forced upon them as their only value and worth in society, their only bargaining chip, instead of an act that will bring them pleasure or strengthen their love relationships? Models for girls who desire to have a healthy sexual relationship are basically non existent.

    It is a huge taboo in our culture to allow any images of women pleasuring themselves, while boys and men masturbate constantly and without much societal rebuke. Only women who are exceptionally beautiful engage in the sex they want in our television shows, movies, magazines and novels, while average and even ugly men (RE:Knocked Up) engage in all kinds of sexual escapades without anyone batting an eye.

    Could this possibly be contributing to the fact that most women are not sexually satisfied–that upwards of 10% of women report never experiencing an orgasm, and anywhere from 33%-50% have trouble experiencing one when they want to? Are you really going to say “people express strikingly little sympathy for sex-starved men.“? Do you have any clue how ridiculous that sounds? You can masturbate for god sake! A lot of women can’t even find this sort of pleasure on their own, let alone with a partner. [cutff at 500 words – RH]

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      You ask “is it possible”; sure that is possibly one contribution. Are you really complaining that I would dare suggest wives withhold sex for bargaining, when you complain that message “is constantly being forced upon them as their only value”?

      • Kezia Kamenetz

        I’m not saying that women don’t withhold sex for bargaining, I’m saying that society’s relationship to a woman’s sexuality is a much larger and more interesting problem than the one particular side effect that you address here.

      • Grant

        While I agree with your assessment of this article (where are the statistics? do these anecdotal stories tell us anything?), I don’t think the rest of female sexuality is that much of a larger or more interesting problem.

        Consider:
        Men like sex a lot.
        Women like sex a lot.
        Both men and women are better off in health and happiness metrics if they have lots of sex.
        Its much harder to get a woman to have sex than it is a man.
        Women seem to enjoy being seduced just as much as men do.

        Sex is clearly good, and the bottleneck for more sex is clearly female desire. So that poses the obvious question, how can we get women to want to have more sex? Does ‘game’ work on society as a whole, or is it just zero-sum?

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        Kezia, how exactly did I appear to say female sex is small or uninteresting?

      • Kezia Kamenetz

        What? I’m unsure if you mean ‘sex’ to be intercourse or genitalia here, either way I didn’t accuse you of that (where are you interpreting that from?). My problem with your post is that it appears to dwindle all marital issues down to the problem of women withholding sex from men to gain power, or at least thinks it is shedding light on some interesting issue in today’s marriages. I’m suggesting that the issue you talk about really isn’t interesting at all, because it stems from a tired and useless trope that Eric J. reiterated, “For example, that it will never work, speaking in general, for women to be chasers and be sexually pressing/forward, its just not sexy for people on average. And that men have to be able to stand up to and deal with other people very assertively, and be self-confident, in order to be attractive, whereas this is significantly less true for women.”

        Your post takes attention away from what I think is the actual issue, that the majority of women are not given the space and support in our culture to grow into sexually satisfied adults, because our male dominated sexual culture sends them mixed messages about what kind of relationship to sex they should have (especially emphasizing that they don’t want sex as much as men do).

      • anon

        What?

        He meant sexuality of course. Robin likes to be extremely terse in his writing, and that occasionally leads to problems.

        it stems from a tired and useless trope

        Yes, “women cannot possibly be sexual beings (or similar)” is a widespread canard. One which influences female sexuality in pernicious ways. But given that this mistaken idea exists, what’s wrong with tracing out its effects on married sex (assuming that these effects are real)?

      • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

        Kezia, ok, your complaint is that my discussing how to help sex-starved husbands “takes attention away from what I think is the actual issue, that the majority of women are not given the space and support in our culture to grow into sexually satisfied adults.” Apparently you think no other issues should be discussed until your issue is solved to your satisfaction.

    • anon

      because women withhold sex in order to gain power over men.

      Robin is emphatically not arguing this. As far as I can tell, he argues that in some marriages sex ends up being the only ‘bargaining chip’ (because just about everything else has become entrenched and hard to modify) and this uncosciously reinforces the behavior of withholding sex as something that leads to more power, while punishing any tendency to have sex more freely since it leads to loss of control in the relationship.

      This mechanism is eminently plausible from the POV of perceptual control theory and other accounts of unconscious psychology. It’s also expressly referenced in the NYTimes article.

      Granted, Robin’s proposed ‘solutions’ were amateurish and most likely unhepful, but that point has been made by multiple posters in this thread. Your 500+ words long post does not add much to the discussion.

      • Kezia Kamenetz

        This complexity allows women to be honestly confused about what they want, but it can also hide motivated differences between what women say or think they want, and what really drives their choices. For example, reduced sex might come from wives respecting husbands less than before, from seeing overly willing wives as lower in status, or from withholding sex to gain bargaining power on other issues.

        How do you interpret from this that Robin is emphatically not arguing that women withhold sex from their husbands to gain power?

      • anon

        This blog often proposes behavioral accounts of human actions.

        Believe it or not, when we say that people choose something, or are driven by something in their actions, what we _really_ mean is that some conscious or unconscious mechanism exists which was trained, conditoned, evolved etc. to pursue that objective. No conscious agency need be implied. It’s a bit like saying that water flows downwards because it “wants” to get closer to the Earth’s center.

        And yes, newcomers to this blog should understand this or they’ll be puzzled by our approach. It’s something we should be thinking about, but aren’t.

    • LauraABJ

      I agree with everything Kezia is saying. This post decreases my opinion of this site, as it is either A) really poorly considered or B) deliberately inflammatory. I don’t know which puts Robin in a better light.

      Most of the men here (based on comments) really don’t know what women talk about to each other. Women do complain a lot about sex to each other, though they complain more about their SOs not being caring enough (as the trope goes), and these problems run deeper than a quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solution. I don’t know if men would want to hear what is said about them, since it would be very ego damaging. Kind of like all men think she’s never faked it with him…

      Also, in response to some people doubting the masturbation issue, I have several friends who claim to have *never* masturbated, and to find discussion of the topic scandalous.

      • Grant

        I don’t know if men would want to hear what is said about them, since it would be very ego damaging.

        We hear what women say about other SOs, and can easily extrapolate that. However, I’m not sure if overhearing such conversation damages the ego of the man as much as it damages the man’s opinion of the woman. For me it does a bit of the former through the later, as my ego is hurt from realizing I let myself become emotionally invested with someone low enough to talk badly about me behind my back. Men with much intelligence learn very early on (in school typically) that people talking badly about them has little to do with their actual worth.

        Of course men do the same to women. I’m not sure if one sex does it more than the other. Men seem to primarily complain about their SOs complaining. They likely tend to forgo many complaints for fear of making themselves appear impotent to find a better mate; do women do this?

      • LauraABJ

        From what I gather from outright asking men if they complain about sex with their guy friends (a somewhat small sample), is that they tend to brag more than complain when around other men (though they will complain to sympathetic female friends if the topic comes up, and she is very inquisitive). Women tend to want more sympathy, and seem more willing to share their frustrations about relationships to a third party. I don’t really think this says anything bad about them as people, as female friendships are often more serious and more long-lasting than their relationship with the current guy they are dating. Women do sometimes defend the actions of their schmucky SOs, however, if *you* start taking pot-shots or strongly suggest they actually leave him…

  • NE1

    I am halfway through the Weil article; wanted it to note that I liked it because it has the word “titrate” in it:

    “Leaving Holly’s office one day, Dan, ever valiant, made a strong play to titrate how much negative feedback we let in. “Do they spray shrink powder in these places,” he asked, “to make them extra depressing?””

  • Ed

    “It is a huge taboo in our culture to allow any images of women pleasuring themselves, while boys and men masturbate constantly
    and without much societal rebuke. ”

    1. You’ve obviously never spent time in a junior high locker room.
    2. If women want to masturbate as much as young men do, no societal rebuke is going to stop them, short of tying their hands behind their backs.

    • Kezia Kamenetz

      You don’t think there is a difference between the social acceptance of men masturbating versus women? You don’t think this discourages women from exploring themselves sexually?

      • Chris

        I think there is a major difference. Female masturbation is considered both attractive and empowering (i.e., practiced by strong women), while male masturbation is considered disgusting and weak (practiced by losers unable to find a woman).

        Consider this (NSFW) picture; honestly, did you respond any differently than the caption predicts?

        http://gallery.homostelu.info/id/20

      • Ed

        “You don’t think there is a difference between the social acceptance of men masturbating versus women?” Like how? Masturbation isn’t a social activity. It’s a solo one. Do women get thrown out of the Oprah book club if they admit to it?

        As far as social acceptance, watch the movie Heaven Help Us. Catholic school boys were taught it was a sin to masturbate. (I doubt it stopped many of them.) Watching Oprah Winfrey and I get the impression it’s empowering for women to masturbate.

        My point is males will do it regardless of whether it’s discouraged or not. If women don’t, they are either more succeptible to social pressure or have less desire for auto erotic endeavour.

  • Evelyn

    Thanks for the recommendation to Daniel Duane’s Caught Inside lemmy caution. It does look excellent from the Google Preview.

    Each sexual encounter and relationship has habits, opportunities, discomforts, joys, secrets, costs and details to pay attention to. The complexity of the mixture, and the changes from day to day and moment to moment are a big part of the pleasure, even if it’s not always great, or predictable, or just what you wanted.

    And really, if you always got just what you wanted, wouldn’t that be dull?

  • Girl

    My initial response to Robin’s suggestions, obligatory sex and giving men more bargaining power, was that they would strain the marriage even further than lack of sex. The obvious reason is that using them would show a lack of caring for the reticent partner: the husband to would pressure the wife to do something she found deeply unpleasant, as sex without arousal often is for women, to make him feel good.

    But I think my reaction mainly stems from the fact that explicitly stating the transactional nature of relationships is bad for the relationships themselves. Love and intimacy are usually represented as a black box processes: showing how they work disqualifies them from being real.

    (It’s like the Scooby-Doo episode where a woman asks her fiancee, “Do you love me?” and he responds, “I love your beauty, intelligence, money, etc.” She’s horrified. She exclaims, “That’s not love!”)

    So the challenge seems to be for partners in unsatisfying relationships to reshape them in harmony, but also in silence. This would seem to require actions that are in line with each person’s preexisting drives.

    Honestly, to me this aim seems pretty unattainable in the case of sex for most couples. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d try to solve the problem by encouraging my partner to meet his needs elsewhere.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Yes, presumably any changes would be helpful mostly when they sat in the background as defaults that couples assumed and did not discuss.

    • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

      But I think my reaction mainly stems from the fact that explicitly stating the transactional nature of relationships is bad for the relationships themselves. Love and intimacy are usually represented as a black box processes: showing how they work disqualifies them from being real.

      Based on this comment, you seem to be what I call “feeling person” as opposed to “thinking person”, who mostly populate this site. By this I do not mean to imply that you do not think, but that you have learned to process information in the world primarily through your feeling function rather than your thinking function. In my opinion this does not make you in any way inferior, although many people here do not necessarily always see the value of feeling people.

      Women are more often feeling people, and most feeling people seem to be women. This does not mean are women are feeling people, nor that all feeling people are women.

      In relationships, opposites seem to attract, and often thinking people seem to end up with feeling people, regardless of which sex has which role.

      There is very fundamental communication problem between thinking and feeling people, and your comment catches one part of it quite well. For feeling people, relationship is primarily a feeling. If the relationship feels good, they are strongly in relationship. If it feels bad, they are not so much in relationship, and are more willing to cheat, for example. Really analyzing the relationship does not feel good, so it is actually detrimental to relationship.

      For thinking person, relationship is mostly a contract. When contract is made, it is valid until either one breaches the contract, or it is mutually ended. According to this view, any problem in the relationship is an obstacle that can and should be overcome by analyzing it.

      This fundamental disconnect between two ways of thinking about relationships explains many things.

  • Cyan

    I see two general ways to avoid this time-inconsistency problem:

    http://xkcd.com/592/

  • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com Richard Silliker

    “The largest bias I and the few rationally inclined female friends I chat with encounter, is that we are treated and expected behave though gender stereotypes of what typical women should be (free hint, typical women in stereotypes are not rationalists).”

    Any chance you would define rational for me? It seems to me that it is the lack of rational behavior that allows us the pleasure of talking about this most abstract topic. As humans, we have been abstracted from our sexuality. We do not have to perform on some demand like a cat or dog. We have the choice,

  • Violet

    I did some digging on studies that measure sexual satisfaction in marriage. And it appears that the whole post rests more on anecdotal data than real data. Survey data seems to indicate that there is little difference between genders in sexual satisfaction in marriages.

    Google scholar was used to find articles, it might of course be biased. If you think so please point me to better journal articles.

    Sexual satisfaction among married and cohabiting individuals.
    Perlman, Stuart D.; Abramson, Paul R.; Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 50(3):458-460, June 1982.

    The data was first analyzed for gender differences by means of of a t test. The most consistent effect was the absense of such differences.

    Correlates of Sexual Satisfaction in Marriage
    Journal article by Michael Young, Raffy Luquis, George Denny, Tamera Young; The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 7, 1998

    There was no significant difference in sexual satisfaction scores between males and females (t=1.757, p=.185) nor did gender account for a significant amount of the variation in sexual satisfaction when added to the regression model (t = -1.506, p=.I33). With respect to sex differences on the various dependent variables, we found differences between men and women in: (1) satisfaction with non-sexual aspects of the relationship (t=2.47, p=.014), with males’ indicating greater satisfaction; (2) sexual uninhibitedness (t=4.49, p<.001), with males' indicating greater uninhibitedness; and (3) religiosity (t=-4.13, p.05) between males and females regarding marital satisfaction, self/spouse orgasm, frequency of sexual activity, perception of God’s view of sex or the interaction of God’s view of sex and religiosity.

    Correlates of increased sexual satisfaction
    E Haavio-Mannila, O Kontula – Archives of sexual behavior, 1997 – Springer

    Women of today find their steady relationships as happy and are just as satisfied with their sexual life as a whole as men. However, women still find sexual intercourse less pleasurable than me do.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Equal satisfaction is consistent with the story here. What people say is that he’s unsatisfied because she won’t have much sex, and she’s unsatisfied because she doesn’t like sex with him much. What exactly she wants is less clear, an issue the post discussed.

      • Ed

        Good point Robin. This is the key point –
        “Women of today find their steady relationships as happy and are just as satisfied with their sexual life as a whole as men. However, women still find sexual intercourse less pleasurable than me do.”

        I think this is just biological. I don’t think media pressure or whatever is causing women to be less into sex, I think it’s just less testosterone.

        The best situation is for people to be able to evaluate what they want and what their partners wants. And work within those parameters.

        Real life, of course, isn’t like that. People don’t negotiate this stuff overtly. They dance around a little bit, flirt, tease. Then a couple years later in a sexually comatose relationship they wish they hadn’t gotten involved in the first place.

    • goodsurvey

      You forgot to mention that the surveys were mailed to married couples/
      I can see it now
      Hey honey, check out this survey.
      Fill this out
      Ok
      as he looks at her wondering “she is going to read this MF”
      k babe I’m done.
      Babe what did you put for number 2?

  • Kezia Kamenetz

    Kezia, ok, your complaint is that my discussing how to help sex-starved husbands “takes attention away from what I think is the actual issue, that the majority of women are not given the space and support in our culture to grow into sexually satisfied adults.” Apparently you think no other issues should be discussed until your issue is solved to your satisfaction.

    My point is that the reason these husbands are ‘sex-starved’ in the first place is because women are not given the space and support in our culture to grow into sexually satisfied adults. If you want to understand the issue you bring up, I think your focus should be on female sexuality, which is the root of the problem, not the at best bizarre band aids you suggest.

    • Cyan

      I’m put in mind an interesting cognitive bias that Seth Roberts calls gatekeeper syndrome: “lack of interest in anything, no matter how important to your work, that doesn’t involve you being a gatekeeper.” Perhaps since Robin’s an economist, his focus is on economic methods, and approaches based on understanding the effect of culture on female sexuality don’t interest him.

    • anon

      My point is that the reason these husbands are ’sex-starved’ in the first place is because women are not given the space and support in our culture to grow into sexually satisfied adults.

      Are you sure that your point is correct? Sure, many women are constrained in their sexuality by lack of cultural support, openness, space and the like. And this probably causes a lot of male sex-starvation. But many other women may be limited by contingent factors such as stress and fatigue, lack of romance or similar on their husband’s part, and yes, relationship problems such as treating sexual contact as something to haggle over (this goes for both men and women).

      Focusing our attention on female sexuality specifically, do you realize that the nature of female sexuality–and the best way to develop it–is an extremely contentious issue with huge social, cultural and political overtones? Are you willing to stand your ground in what will probably be an adversarial effort?

      Most importantly, will you entertain the possiblity that some of the aforementioned “useless tropes” and stereotypes might be vindicated by empirical data? Or should we only look for confirmation of whichever approach is most politically convenient?

    • Ed

      “women are not given the space and support in our culture to grow into sexually satisfied adults.” – What does that mean?

      Some people just want sex more than others. IMHO I dont’ think it has anything to do with culture, it’s biology.

      If your libido doesn’t match your partners, I think the thing to do is admit you have different needs and act accordingly. For example, in Tiger Wood’s case, I think he shouldn’t have gotten married. Or got into a marriage that acknowledged he liked to mingle.

      Also, I think our culture is pretty open to women’s sexuality. Women don’t get stoned for committing adultery here, they get a nice legal settlement when they get divorced.

      • Violet

        If your libido doesn’t match your partners, I think the thing to do is admit you have different needs and act accordingly. For example, in Tiger Wood’s case, I think he shouldn’t have gotten married. Or got into a marriage that acknowledged he liked to mingle.

        Exactly.

        Coercing people to have sex seems like a very poor solution to this.

        And the needs will most certainly change in the future with e.g. children.

        Thus the most obvious way seems to be opening up marriages.

      • Eric Johnson

        Ending marriage fidelity basically means de facto polygyny. This has good and bad possible effects. For one, it is eugenic to the extent that it extends beyond mere sex to reproduction. The social impacts are more complex. Probably it will make males have to conform more attentively to what women want them to be like. I tend to oppose the whole idea on grounds of Burkean conservatism.

        Are you familiar with female hypergamy? It has a huge connection to this thread. Anti-marriage statements might be interpreted by the suspecting (paranoid?), as pro hypergamous polygyny.

        You should also be aware of the possibility that women may request minor things from males that they dont actually want, or attempt to dominate their man in some fashion, just to test for subordinate tendencies in the man. I am not aware of any research behind this, but it is potentially an amazing insight. This would of course be an evolved, and unconscious behavior. You are *not* going to like this, but I’m not entirely certain this hypothetical phenomenon doesnt influence female critiques of maleness and of whether women are oppressed in modern america, etc, in intellectual discussions like this one. It could be a component of feminist intellectation, and of its popular acclaim. Of course this is going to grate on you tremendously because I am basically saying that to some (perhaps subtle) extent women may be more confused about what they *really* want (on average) than men. I hope you note that I treat this as a speculation, not a fact. Do you think that males who act more feminist are really more attractive, individually, *after* they actually *do* the “feminist man” type of behavior — as opposed to you honestly wanting them to do it, before they actually do it, and in general?

        I do change my mind, I actually like to. I can pay the emotional price of “having been wrong”, I cultivated myself towards feeling it as a trifle. I’m sure these ideas are anathema to you, but I will actually downgrade my already-partial degree of belief in them, if you think they are rubbish and I think you are being objective. But if you just think I’m the devil, the apologist for all kinds of terrible things, or just a Iate, barbaric yet impotent squawk against progress, I wont care.

      • Violet

        I would like more citations and less speculation.

        What do you mean by the Burke reference (sorry, he is not really often cited locally, so what were his views on marriage etc)?

        Are you aware how non-monogamy works in the free love/polyamorous/… tradition as compared to e.g. abrahamic polygamy? Actually the result seems to be that all kinds of more balanced webs, rather than hypergamous polygamy. Culture seems to make a large difference.

        If you read my comments carefully there are not many categoric statements about men there. If you think that women are confused about what they want, then the obvious solution is to help more women overcome biases in their lives, rather than trying to shift stereotypes.

        Do you think that males who act more feminist are really more attractive, individually, *after* they actually *do* the “feminist man” type of behavior — as opposed to you honestly wanting them to do it, before they actually do it, and in general?

        I don’t know how my preferences are relevant, but if you are curious (based on past and current relationships):
        + hot: androgyny, radical honesty between friends, constant re-negotation of relationships, self confidence, playing with power dynamics and pain
        – turn-off: traditional roles, lying, people pretending to be friends while wanting only sex

        Currently I’m with multiple people, one of whom is a feminist man and he is very hot.

  • GoOpenOrPoly

    The comments on this page are an amazing argument for consensual, childfree non-monogamy. People should be having sex with who they want, when they want, and because it’s fun. All this other stuff about power, etc. would just be laughable if it weren’t so very, very sad.

    Unless you and your partner are truly the kind of people who monogamy works for, I’d think twice (or more) before going that route – especially with a legal document involved. Don’t just blindly follow the lifescript. This goes doubly so for people trying to Overcome Bias. Relationship style and children should be given the same thorough investigation and objective, critical thinking as any other important thing in your life. It’s not, and should not be considered “special” or exempt from scrutiny.

  • Eric Falkenstein

    A good way to see the validity of generalizations about male and female sex drives is to observe the huge difference between lesbian and gay sex (frequency, number of partners). It’s like they’re from different planets!

    • http://doesitfollow.blogspot.com przemek

      Could you maybe provide me with some sources as to the comparative frequencies of sex in straight/gay/lesbian couples? I looked, but didn’t seem to be able to find anything useful.

  • Shae

    LauraABJ: “This post decreases my opinion of this site…”

    Amen. Sadly.

    • Eric Johnson

      I hope you arent mad about Robin suggesting gamesmanship and incentivation/coercion to get more sex within marriage. Because you are obviously attempting to coerce or incentivise Robin and his commenters, no?

      • anon

        Bad comment, Eric. Bad, bad, bad, bad comment. Sit! Stay! Staaay.

    • Doug S.

      Indeed, I’m thinking of taking it off my bookmarks list.

  • Doug S.

    Robin, you’re currently being what has been called such terms as “boor”, “jerk”, “pig”, “asshole”, and “Eric Cartman”. Stop it.

  • Girlie

    Are Women As Horny As Men?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL61JreooRk

  • http://infiniteinjury.org TruePath

    This can’t be solved by any kind of remotely explicit bargaining since for the most part what the man wants is for his wife to WANT to have sex with him..

    Indeed, as evolutionary reasons suggest is plausible, it seems what men in relationships tend to really want is (LARGELY) to believe their mate is still highly emotionally and sexually attached to them and to believe they are doing a good job sexually satisfying her. I suspect that most guys would much prefer a situation where their wife is so overwhelmed by sexual attraction to them she demands immediate, repeated and thourgh sexual gratification at a relatively low fequency than have 10x the amount of sex but in ways which signaled their wife could take it or leave it.

    So any improvement will either require drugs or if we have to leave humans unaltered, some means of convincing men their partners are more sexually excited/gratified by them than. Ideally by actually increasing how much the women enjoyed the sex. Arguably one possible direction to explore is to reduce the level of long term monogomous cocmmitment expected by society, e.g., less long term monogomous marriages and more serial monogomy. Unfortunately, this is all tied up with other benefits we recieve from intimacy and a decreased perception of long term commitment would be a significant harm for many people.

    Maybe in the short term we could get a drug that reduced men’s inclincation to be jealous of sexual contact with their s.o.’s that doesn’t pose a threat to the relationship. Then maybe marriage+serial affairs would be a decent solution.

    • anon

      Yes, clearly we like our wives to be sexually attracted to us, and this is one reason to work on sexual attractiveness directly. But perhaps some people rely on sexual attraction more than they otherwise would, because bargaining is too difficult and unreliable. The former prevalence of sex as an expected duty (a norm which benefited those who cared about sexual contact, not their own attractiveness) would seem to argue for this view.

      • http://infiniteinjury.org TruePath

        Well consider from an evolutionary perspective what the pair bonded man’s risks and rewards are.

        Likely he has enough sex with his s.o. for the marginal increase in genetic survival of more sex to be fairly minor. What is not minor is the risk of his s.o. cheating and getting impregnated by another man.

        Bargaining does nothing to reduce the likelihood of the evolutionarily significant risk (it’s already a deceptive breach of trust) but keeping your woman sexually gratified and attracted to you does reduce this risk. Thus we should expect men to care about the later while being less interested in achieving sex through explicit trades.

        I think there are others pressures that discourage this as well. For one there is the signaling problem that by conditioning some grant of resources/effort on sexual activity one indicates less of an irrational commitment to support the other even when it’s not in your interest.

  • http://truth-about-women.blogspot.com Jack Lover

    Many writers seem to assume that female sexuality towards their partner is always higher than towards other people, i.e. women do not value sexual variety. It does not seem to hold for men, why do we believe so for women? It is possible that women withhold sex from their partner and still feel there is not enough sex in their life. This woman makes an excellent case that this is indeed the case.

  • xx

    Oh wow…
    It is entertaining to read what motivates women’s actions from a male perspective.
    But as a women maybe I can bring her thought process closer to the xy. She is not playing a game, women do want sex (if a man is at least an adequate lover) but only if they feel loved, respected and relaxed, otherwise, sex is not a pleasure.
    To put it bluntly, for a women to have sex when stressed and unhappy with the marriage is an equivalent to a man having sex while watching photos of his mother in a bathing suite. So more housework done by husband=more sex (and there are studies that prove it)

  • Pingback: In Mala Fide

  • megmuck

    Whoah – How did the conversation get so far without discussion of the major economic sexual disincentive for women, i.e. unwanted pregnancy?

    There are over one million abortions in the U.S. every year. The most reliable contraception (sterilization, the pill) are expensive and require attention, and can have severe side-effects. Unplanned pregnancy can take a physical and emotional toll on women.

    Men don’t have to deal with it if they don’t want to. If the woman choses an abortion, she picks up the tab. If a baby is born, the woman can spend years trying to collect child support. Even women who are in a stable, committed monogamous marriage can have strong disincentives to have children (or more children).

    Until every woman of child-bearing age has access to reliable, healthy contraception, you’re going to have a lot of women who are ambivalent about sex.

    • kevinkyper

      what drugs are you on?

  • Joe Mommamia

    Well this whole thing would have seemed unfathomable to me a few years ago. I am a married male 50ish and my wife is 40ish we have 4 kids of which one is still in school. When the kids were young, sex was like Friday Saturday and Sunday nights then Weekdays in the mornings a few times too. We even did it at her workplaces when I would visit for lunch and no one was around (no security cameras back then!). Then about 5 years ago it stated to slow down to like once a week then maybe 3 times a month about two years ago. Not much changed other that we were getting older but the sex was just as great as ever when it happened. Then out of the blue no matter what I did the answer was always NO. Then it became: “I’m NOT interested in you.” Where the heck did that come from? She won’t talk about it other than to say I need to lose weight. Sure I gained weight over the years but so has she and I don’t see that as the real problem. I tried everything you could think of to please her all to no avail. (yeah I lost some weight but it was not good enough!) Now mind you over these years together I never cheated on her nor looked at other women, I don’t drink nor smoke nor do I do drugs and am disease free and she is the same. We both have great jobs and plenty of income so money is not much of an issue. So her demand that I lose weight is kind of a death sentence to me if not to my sex life with her. It took me over 50 years to get here and I will be dead before I lose the weight she says I have to lose before I can get back in bed with her! I still can’t believe this attitude after all this time! We have been through some trying times in the past and I was always there for her, but sex was never an issue – she likes it as much as I do. I must have done or said something but I can’t figure it out. She seems happy to keep the situation as it is and it has been going on for close to two years now. One exception was last year just before the holidays out of the blue she jumped in the bed and let me have my way with her for hours and I thought all was forgiven, but I was wrong and stupid! It was a one shot deal. We had lots of family coming to visit for a few weeks and I now see she did that to shut me up so I would not mention our troubles to my parents or her parents which I was planning to do to ask for advice. After the sex we were both upbeat and happy but as soon as everyone was gone and the “Coast was clear” I was told nothing was changed and she was “still not interested.” Turns out after talking to my dad this is all too common in marriage. Then he tells me stories about him and others. Turns out my dad cheated on my mother when she got heavy into religion. Later in life she forgave him and they got back together but not after a tumultuous time in their marriage of which I did know sort of what was going on but not why. Turns out my granddad had a mistress that lived in his house with his wife! My uncle was all over the place with other women and we saw it all the time. Then I find out about my wife’s parents had their share of the same sort of stuff! What is wrong with women! (It is not a question!) I mean we marry you and love you and adore you. You are not a sex object. But we are sexual beings and as such I want to know you as my opposite. Sure if you are sick or not up to it I have feelings too and never want to pressure you nor you me. Sex should be like eating or breathing or laughing, it should be fun and enjoyable and bonding. Now I feel distant, I feel I not can kiss you or touch you or say “I love you.” You have turned sex into something I never wanted – it is some sort of bargaining chip or weapon. I am having bad thoughts about you and thinking of divorce in spite of all we have or had just because you are not interested! I’m not too old that I cannot masturbate to take care of those urges but why should I being doing that or why should you be doing that? I want to go to therapy but you say it is not your problem. What a shame – She may have a job we may have some money but what got us here is us not her not me but us! If I walk out she will lose as much as me if not more. I can live in a cardboard box if I had too. I do not think she is that resilient. What it comes down to is sex in marriage cannot be taken for granted but should always be appreciated for what it is. Sex is as old as time itself and is just as natural. What is unnatural is that we sign a marriage contract that makes me financially responsible for you and you for me and we base it on sexual fidelity which works great as long as both sides have give and take within reason. If I am such a slob please at least divorce me so I can move on. I can really understand why men have mistresses I’m just not sure why women would want that but apparently they do. Very mixed up male in a sad relationship. I hope it gets better and that by next year we can laugh about it as life is really too short to be wasting time just living when we should really be loving.

  • Amy

    Our marriage is lousy ! We only had sex once in 45 years and that was our wedding night. Husband thought it was terrible, no excitment or pleasure, to much work for so little, digusting and messy. From that night 45 years ago, he distanced hinself from me. Went to work on the midnight shift took no vacation, then moved all his stuff down to the basement . We only slept together once and that was only a couple of hours. He hasn’t spoke to me in months! you might think hes gay but hes not he goes no where. I’ve had him followed many times over the years but nothing. Now hes retired, dresses like homeless man and looks the part. I’ve only stayed for the money and medical benefits. Its been stupid of me to stay with this creep, I guess I have been scared to be out on my own.

  • TedCruzIsMyChoice

    Thanks for this. This is awesome, hopefully Cosmo reads this and gets an actual consultant for future articles. Btw, would you recommend to try this camsexbabe_com/brunette? is it worth it?