“Typically, men want sex more than women do. The one who wants sex the least is the one who is in control, and this is how women use sex as a weapon—to manipulate,” Anne Gagliano
I’m sat in a Costa Coffee looking out at the grey London rain, furiously typing out this blog post. This has probably been one of the most painful, and yet enlightening, posts I’ve ever written- for reasons you’ll read below.
The inspiration for this post came from last night, when my guy told me he thought “sex is hanging over us and only you decide when we have it”.
WTF, I thought as I flounced out of the room. How can he possibly think that?
How have we got here? How does he think I have managed to weaponise sex, the most natural thing in the world, to the point he sees it as some commodity that only I have the rights to give out?
He’s a rational human being that has been really understanding of how I’ve been feeling, in spite of his frustrations that sex just hasn’t been what it used to.
How can he feel like sex is something I’ve been withholding for an awful purpose, when he knows how many things have been impacting on my desire?
So, I wanted to dig a little deeper into this idea that sex can be used as a weapon, to figure out why he might feel that way, and whether I might somehow be adding to this dynamic.
If you’ve ever felt your partner withholds sex, or have been on the receiving end of this accusation, this is for you.
Obviously, the first place I hit up to understand ‘weaponizing’ sex was Google.
weapon ˈwɛp(ə)n/nounnoun: weapon; plural noun: weapons1. a thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage.“nuclear weapons”2. a means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself in a conflict or contest.“resignation threats had long been a weapon in his armoury”
What struck me first was that there are literally THOUSANDS of articles dedicated to women using sex as a weapon, mainly with the theme that women are “notorious for withholding sex”.
Sex was described in terms of either being used to reward or punish a partner.
Really specific examples were used, like if a partner didn’t put a bin out, sex wouldn’t be given. Or if a gift was bought, sex would be the reward. This coerces a partner into performing (or not performing) a certain behavior.
Withholding sex was also seen as ultimatum or a threat, a way of using force or coercion to get your partner to do something your way.
“more people than not still view sex as a way to get what we want: attention, commitment, monogamy, and the occasional load of dishes done.”
Sex was also shown as a power struggle, in which women are seen to have all and men the ones hard done by. Some articles explained this as a fault to do with society and the perception that because women “give in” to sex and men pursue, women are the ones with all the power:
Even in the “supposedly liberated” era of 2016, women are still stigmatized for actively seeking sex or having numerous sex partners. “This is not at all true for men. In fact, men are encouraged to [be sexual]. This puts our culture in the position where men actively seek out sex, and women tend to avoid doing so.” According to Giles, it is this social imbalance, and not an innate difference between the sexes, that imbues women with “the power to decide if and when sex will take place.”
But others saw it as much more of an individual issue, with women using their power as sexual gatekeepers as leverage to control.
There were also examples where women used sex as a way to play “hard to get” (often in the early stages of a relationship).
The articles were seeped with a deep sense of injustice, with both men and women writing about how women use sex as the bargaining chip, withholding it as a way of gaining “one over” their unsuspecting partners.
While there may be women out there that do consciously use these tactics (and if that is you, not cool man), reading these examples made me feel really angry, and also defensive about my own actions.
Am I this awful woman that wants power over my partner, and I use sex to do so?
Could I be “withholding” sex to manipulate, or control?
Sex: bad economics?
Reflecting on what I had read, my initial thoughts were- how can I refuse to give sex, when I don’t see sex as mine to give away in the first place?
I felt there was some confusion.
Men are angry at us for not giving them sex.
They see it like it’s a delicious cake we have and are refusing to share.
This paints sex as something tangible that we’re able to give away. And they are mad because we’re selfishly and purposefully not doing so.
If seen in this way, sex in a relationship where one partner wants it less, then becomes an economic issue of supply and demand.
When sex is abundant, both partners have equal access.
When sex becomes scarce and the supply goes down, it then becomes a sellers market. The “buyer” must cater to the preferences of the seller.
This effect might be whats leaving men feeling that the power is in the hands of the supplier (the woman).
They see her as the gatekeeper of sex, who only gives it up when the man has “met her price”. Thus, men feel hostage to her whims and preferences, jumping through her hoops to get the end product.
Sex: a piece of cake?
But for me, this view is really problematic because I don’t see sex as existing as a commodity in itself for me to give away.
Sex instead is something we only create when we come together.
Sex is an action we DO together, an emotion we feel together, a place we go together.
So neither of us can possibly “own” sex, or have rights over it, because it’s a completely joint venture we negotiate in partnership.
Without the other, sex doesn’t exist.
HOWEVER, what I do believe is that each of us individually have the raw ingredients for sex.
And we can refuse to share our ingredients, meaning sex isn’t possible.
It’s like a cake that we bake together between the sheets. Individually we only have the ingredients. And unless we both share what we have, the cake doesn’t get made.
So in my opinion, the problem then is that in sexless/low sex relationships, it’s not that the sex itself is not being supplied.
It’s that women are refusing to add their share to the pot. And men are not happy because they cannot create sex without them.
Although I want to address more about women’s refusal later (see part 2), my most important point first is…
WE DO HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT WANT SEX.
No-one is entitled to our ingredients and to bake without our consent.
We aren’t obliged to share our bodies with anyone if we don’t feel like it.
And in cases where women were accused of withholding sex by feigning headaches (the classic excuse), I wondered instead:
Was this really because they want to manipulate their partner?
Or, what if they genuinely don’t want sex?
Because they feel stressed, or bad about their body, or angry from an argument?
Is that real control?
Are genuine reasons for not wanting sex being perceived as attempts to manipulate men by withholding sex?
None of the articles I read were written from someone with a low sex drive’s point of view- only pointing blame at them for rejecting their partners.
Although being rejected feels soul-destroying (more on this in part 2), I feel that this view of women purposely weaponizing sex is problematic, and I wanted to be a voice for the thousands of women out there genuinely not wanting sex and being deemed manipulative for doing so.
My thoughts are that perhaps, instead of being angry that there is no cake, instead we need to look back up the supply chain to understand more about why women don’t feel like adding their ingredients into the mix.
Rather than viewing women as manipulative or fickle, or believing that women in general want sex less than men (thus meaning they are always the suppliers and sex always has a price), we should try and see things differently.
If sex is seen as created together, and sharing ingredients to get there is instead seen as a negotiation, neither partner has more power or rights over sex.
And having a conversation with women about what’s happening for them to not want to invest themselves in sex, instead of assuming mal intent, will begin to build bridges that enable better relations between partners.
There’s a lot more to discuss on this topic, including how I realised that I DO (less consciously) use sex in an unhealthy way in my relationship, so read on for part 2 coming soon!
But for now, what about you- do you think people can withhold sex? Have you experienced this, or ever done this before?
P.S. also the blog is undergoing quite a lot of construction again, so bear with me 🙂