One complaint I hear a lot from couples is where they feel like their spouse is consenting to sex but isn’t enthusiastic about it. These reports sound like, “let’s just hurry and get this done.” “I know it’s been a while so let me give you sex so that you’ll get off my back.” “I know sex is important for our marriage, and if I don’t give you sex, I’m afraid you’ll stray, besides it’s my wifely duty.” Or, “The bible says that I should never deny my husband so I let him have me, even if I don’t enjoy it at the moment, because aren’t we supposed to make sacrifices – and we’ll be rewarded for it later on?”
Sexual desire is strongly tied to a sense of self and freedom. But when you don’t feel free to be yourself in sex, it can be more harmful than good in your relationship.
My guest today is Dr. Cami Hurst. She recently completed an extensive study for her dissertation on the effects of “consensual” yet duty-focused sex in marriages.
I personally gained a lot from this episode. It made me reflect on how important choice and freedom is to a healthy sexual relationship, and how harmful duty sex can be to the intimacy of the marriage.
She makes an important distinction between responsive desire (where you may not be in the mood when sex begins but as things get going you generally can get into it and enjoy it) and duty sex, where you don’t enjoy it but you feel like you can’t say no. She talks about how PTSD symptoms show up in women who engage in duty sex over time. She also talks about what you can do about it!