Location: Knoxville, TN
I was listening to one of your Q&A podcasts recently. In it you responded to several women who were in relationships with men they liked (or even loved) but who didn’t sexually satisfy them. Your advice was for the women to tell their men to essentially “shape up or ship out.” Even considering the reasoning you gave in the podcast, is this really the best advice? I’ve heard similar advice from other “sex positive” commentators, which makes it seem that “sex positive” is a synonym for “relationship negative.” It didn’t appear as if any of the women involved were looking for a way out of their relationship, just a way to improve the sexual aspect — and it’s not entirely clear how the approach you suggested would do that. If the men didn’t have performance anxiety, a blunt discussion would almost certainly provoke it. If I remember correctly, one of the women was about my age — early 50s. Surely you must know the ever-increasing difficulty women have finding a happy relationship as they get older, and that a woman must know how lucky she is just to be with a man she likes, even if the sex could be better. Besides, there are probably very few women these days who need to be told they can leave a relationship if they choose. If the women’s sexual complaint had seemed to be just the tip of an iceberg of unhappiness, I could see the efficacy of your advice — but that’s not how their queries came across.
Listen Bill, I stand by my advice. And yes, I think it was the best advice I could give these two women. And ya know why I say that? I say that because had it been a couple of men writing in about the same concern, I would have given them the very same advice. If you are unhappy in your relationship because the sex has dried up then that’s a pretty serious concern in my book.
Being sex positive is not being relationship negative. But, settling for the lowest common denominator in terms of sexual expression is. Here’s another thing I know for certain, by the time someone makes an appointment to see me or writes to me about their sexual complaint, I can be pretty certain that they’ve struggled with it on their own for a long time. This is particularly true for women.
I also want to take issue with your statement: “Surely you must know the ever increasing difficulty women have finding a happy relationship as they get older, and that a woman must know how lucky she is just to be with a man she likes, even if the sex could be better.” So you’re sayin’ older women can just kiss their sexual needs goodbye after they reach a certain age, because the relationship they have is as good as it gets? Is that what you’re sayin? Because, if it is, it’s hogwash! Women of any age don’t need a man to be happy or fulfilled and they certainly don’t need one who to tell them to suck it up and settle for what ya got.
Besides, if I remember my advice correctly, and I think I do, I suggested that my correspondent give her husband the right if first refusal. That means she offers her old man her sexual energy first. If he doesn’t rise to the occasion, so to speak, she’s free to take her sexual energy elsewhere. This strategy takes the pressure off the sexually uninterested partner, it can overcome the disparity in libido between the couple, as well as saving the relationship. No need to throw out the baby with the bathwater, right?
To my mind we do too much “settling for” as it is. Complacency is the real enemy. You got issues in your relationship; hash them out. If your partner won’t join you in that effort he/she is telling you that your needs don’t matter. And when that occurs, regardless of what else you may have in place, your relationship is in its death throws. And you can bank on that!