June 10, 2008

Is forced frequency the cure for sex scarcity?

What does it mean that this article — about married couples forcing themselves to have sex every day — has been #1 on the NYT most-emailed list for days?

It should be noted that both couples — the "Bible-studying steak-eating Republicans from Charlotte, N.C." and the "backpacking multigrain northerners" from Boulder — both had not so much an idea for their marriage as an idea for a book. And it was a good idea, if getting publicity is the key to book sales. But would you want to read either book? I mean, even if you think that entering a pact like this would resexualize your marriage, don't you already have enough information to go ahead and try it? Do you actually want to read the way the Mullers and the Browns describe their repeated, self-forced sex? It's notoriously hard to write about sex. (Check out the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards.) So the chance that these dreary people have written anything worth reading is low. But book projects and PR will go on and on, even if sex does not.

Oh! I have a new entry for John Steele's contest! Marital sex is to sex as....

Back to the main topic: Is forced frequency the cure for sex scarcity? Should individuals with low desire just force themselves? Should they make contracts with partners and bind themselves to have sex whether they want it or not?

Did the Mullers or the Browns ever arrive at any interesting philosophical thoughts about love and free will? Or is it just cutesy, modestly dirty, and tripping gabbily toward the happy ending where they are tired of doing it every day but pleased with their improved relationship and more-than-once-a-month sex life?

40 comments:

Palladian said...

"Should individuals with low desire just force themselves?"

Should individuals with high desire just force themselves upon their partner with low desire?

Is forced sex the cure for frequency scarcity?

UWS guy said...

...toward the happy ending...

got that right. who doesn't like happy endings?

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian, I was going to include the sentence: Is it possible to rape yourself?

Also, I don't know what is worse, the low-desire partner going along with the high-desire partner out of unselfish devotion (or maybe hope) or 2 low-desire partners forcing themselves when neither one is interested. I think the latter is worse.

SteveR said...

I agree the latter is worse.

I don't think "forced frequency" is the only option. You have to work around all the numerous challenges but *forced*? Slightly overdramatic.

Pogo said...

And what if the two people aren't a couple at all, is forced frequency the cure for sex scarcity?

Is sex scarcity a disease that needs curing?
Seriously, what problem are they trying to solve?

Procreation aside, what is sex for, anyway?
Power and control?
Proof of love?
Relief of the sexual urge? Cementing a loving relationship?
Fodder for a stupid self-help book?

Sex... the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable."
Lord Chesterfield


"Is it possible to rape yourself?"
I tried it once, but I couldn't get past second base. Then I took out a restraining order and I'm not allowed within 500 feet of myself.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Also, I don't know what is worse, the low-desire partner going along with the high-desire partner out of unselfish devotion (or maybe hope) or 2 low-desire partners forcing themselves when neither one is interested. I think the latter is worse.

The former is worse, the latter makes no sense to me. Satisfying sex is supposed to be desired by both and not done as a favor. I prefer the hungry, lusty tear each other's clothes off scenario rather than the "Oh ok (checks watch) but make it quick. Oprah's on in 10 minutes."

Mortimer Brezny said...

I think the point is that forcing isn't really forcing and people who don't want to really want to more than they think. I don't like to exercise -- when I'm sitting around like a sack of bones -- but then when I start exercising, I enjoy it and I enjoy the improved physique and health benefits. So forcing myself simply makes most sense, because the lack of desire to exercise is irrational. It's called maturity!

paul a'barge said...

Is forced frequency the cure for sex scarcity?

It certainly seems to change the problem set, does it not?

Triangle Man said...

Maybe these people are turned on by contracts.

Yachira said...

For the love of whatever, what's the big deal about sex anyways? You'd think they were talking about some massively spiritual, intellectual, supernatural, farthest reaches of the universe type activity. Jeez, it's just locking loins folks! Hump, hump, slurp, slurp, hump, hump, argghhhhhhh!! Goodnight!

Get over it.

Ron said...

Nothing beats self-rape for validating one's own lack of self-esteem.

mcg said...

I'm with Mortimer on this one. How likely is it that both partners are truly are "low desire" and yet are both willing to force themselves to go along with it? I think it's more likely that one of them has more desire than they're letting on.

But even if we are talking about two people truly with low desire, then presumably they would try such an experiment out of a mutual desire to improve their relationship. And if that is the case then it is, in a sense, an act of intimacy just to try.

Maybe it won't be fruitful: fine! They'll find that out soon enough and quit, together. Or maybe it will awaken desire in one or both of them.

Ann Althouse said...

Pogo said..."Is sex scarcity a disease that needs curing? Seriously, what problem are they trying to solve?"

We're always being told about the "healthy sex life" and "sexual dysfunction," so we, without thinking too deeply, imagine there is a healthy rate of sex that we should try to have to go along with a proper weight, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol... All of which seems supremely unsexy... and yet — earnest people will try their best to be good.

Mortimer Brezny said..."I don't like to exercise -- when I'm sitting around like a sack of bones -- but then when I start exercising, I enjoy it and I enjoy the improved physique and health benefits. So forcing myself simply makes most sense, because the lack of desire to exercise is irrational. It's called maturity!"

Good analogy, but note that you are making the health assumption that I was just talking about. You need to exercise whether you like it or not or you'll be in bad shape. Is the same true of sex? No, especially if you think that the quality of the sex is everything. If you run 2 miles hating it, you get the same health benefit as if you liked it -- and it's likely to improve your mood too. You can't say the same thing about sex (especially if you are female).

And I don't see why the lack of desire is irrational? We have the bodies that evolved when our ancestors had to scrounge for food. Our brains are designed to exercise for the survival motive, and you don't have that anymore. Running just for exercise seems more irrational to me. It's rational to want to want to exercise, but it's not irrational not to want to exercise. The desire to rest and conserve energy had more survival value in the conditions under which our brains and bodies evolved.

Triangle Man said..."Maybe these people are turned on by contracts."

This is an important point and the best reason to do it. It is similar to a couple acting out a rape fantasy for excitement.

dbp said...

Every day seems a bit often, unless it is your first year of marriage, then is seems about right.

There is something to be said for engaging in activities which are beneficial on a regular basis rather than just when the mood hits. Excercise, as Mort mentioned above is a good example, but there are lots of others. We eat meals regularly--three times a day, every day.

I think it is simply true that intimacy between couples strengthens their relationships. It it doesn't happen spontaneously, I think it is sensible to have some kind of rule like once/week or whatever.

Pogo said...

I think it is sensible to have some kind of rule like once/week or whatever.

Especially if it's with each other.

Michael_H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dbp said...

I have learned from experience that no matter how reluctant I am at the prospect of excercise, once I get going I really do enjoy it. So it is perfectly rational to go for a run, even if I am not in the mood. I know that I will be happy in a mile or two. Same with sex, though it is pretty rare for me to be as reluctant about this as I am about excercise.

Wurly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

I know that I will be happy in a mile or two.
I don't know if it's even possible to have sex for a whole mile, much less two.

I suppose it depends on who's driving.

dbp said...

I knew I was in for that as soon as I posted...

If you do it on an airplane a mile only takes around 7 seconds...

Pogo said...

Sorry.
I am in some ways always 10 years old.

Tituslovewilltearusapart..some day said...

Marital sex has got to be the most boring sex around.

Chris Rock does a funny skit about when you first date a girl she knows how to suck a cock but once you get married she gives you a blowjob.

Getting your cock sucked is much hotter then getting a blowjob

save_the_rustbelt said...

The wife and I saw a copy of this article, and decided we were too old to do it daily.

It is not the desire so much as the energy level.

Not that grandparents don't get jiggy.

But it is quality not quantity.

"You'd think they were talking about some massively spiritual, intellectual, supernatural, farthest reaches of the universe type activity."

For us it is!

Tituslovewilltearusapart..some day said...

The thought of having sex with the same person more than once is a challenge.

I have tried but the second time around I generally can not cum.

dbp said...

Titus, you have it backwards:

Why settle for meaninless sex with an ever-changing parade of strangers, when you could hold out for true love?

Tituslovewilltearusapart..some day said...

I don't know if I am capable of true love-cue the violins.

Jim said...

Sounds like Yachira was sitting behind me at the Chinese Buffet.

Jennifer said...

What a sad concept. What's next? Forcing yourself to eat delicious food? (365 Dinners) Forcing a lovely wine down your own throat? (Just Drink It)

mcg said...

What a sad concept.

Not as sad as your judgementalism. It was a shared experiment, an adventure of sorts. Crazy and wacky. And if their own analysis is to be believed, it was a successful experiment, too: their relationships were changed for the better.

What's next? Forcing yourself to eat delicious food? (365 Dinners) Forcing a lovely wine down your own throat? (Just Drink It)

Maybe. Why the heck not? It might be interesting. Some people skydive, too, which to some seems quite insane, too.

mcg said...

And I don't see why the lack of desire is irrational?

Who says it's irrational? Neither the couples, nor the author of the article, nor the experts interviewed suggest that it is. But that doesn't mean it's entirely fixed and immovable, either. Indeed, the couples' experiment proves otherwise: the Browns' frequency has doubled post-experiment. The other couple says their sex is better.

Chip Ahoy said...

This is where porn can be valuable. Helps stimulate imagination. Shows what others are up to. Gives a couple ideas, something to work on, to build upon. Helps broaden the repertoire. Ha Ha, the repeat a toire. "Hey! I wanna try that." Can I handcuff you? Com'on, be a sport!

No, it's not possible to rape the willing. But that shouldn't stop a person from coming out of character once in awhile. When all else fails, you can always loosen up with a few beers. Blame it on that. This is why religious people are the biggest maniacs. All that suppressed energy suddenly explodes.

A book about couples forcing themselves sounds boring right off the bat. But who knows? Maybe they learned something useful. Still, I don't know about a book. Reminds me of those male enhancement ads where they interview guys on the street and everybody remarks smugly how pleased they are with the results. "Right , Honey?" Honey nods affirmatively. But nobody whips down their pants to prove anything, or shows you before and after pictures.

mcg said...

But nobody whips down their pants to prove anything, or shows you before and after pictures.

Hmm. You're not getting the same spam I'm getting.

Eddie Thomas said...

I agree with mcg.

Our brains seem wired to focus on what we don't have or what causes us pain over what brings real meaning to our lives. It isn't a sign of something being wrong with these couples that they needed to invent a means to recover what time has diminished. It is a sign, rather, of a more universal struggle. I think my wife and I would kill each other before reaching 100 days -- I still remember the challenge of forced performance when we were involved with fertility treatments -- but I applaud these couples.

Celibacy is an interesting experiment too, by the way.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I'm tired of television."
"Me too. Let's turn it off."
"Now what?"
"We could read. Wasn't there a book..."
"Yeah, that book..."
"Perhaps later."
"Yes, I'm not in the reading mood."
"We could play a game."
"A game?"
"You know, cards or something."
"I hate cards. How about a board game?"
"Board games bore me."
"There's nothing to do in the evening during the week."
"I know. Isn't it awful?"
"We need to take up a hobby."
"Yes. Good idea."
"I can't think of a hobby I'd want to learn about."
"Me neither."
"And you have to buy so many things."
"True."
"I know!"
"What?"
"Sex!"
"As a hobby?"
"Sure, we already know how."
"Good point."
"And we don't have to buy anything."
"Yes, that's true."
"And we could write a book about it and make lots of money."
"Sold."

Mr. Forward said...

My job won't pay
For sex every day
But sex every night
Is just about right.

Laika's Last Woof said...

"Procreation aside, what is sex for, anyway?"
Those moments of perfect intimacy when you collapse and spoon after sex and your hand slides down around her and your fingertips touch her tummy wet with sweat and trace a little circle around her bellybutton.
That's what sex is for -- it leads up to that perfect moment. The smell of her hair, the beads of sweat, the curve of her neck, your heartbeat against her shoulder, the press of her body curled into yours, waking up all bedraggled though you both were putting on the Ritz last night, making that run for the toothbrush before she kisses you in case you've got the morning breath, slipping back into bed, more sex, some cuddling, some talk, more sex, then hunger compels the inevitable:
"What time is it?"
"Oh my God it's 4:00? I'm starving!"

Miss Antoinette Cavendish said...

I take it nobody's ever made love to Professor Althouse out of pity.

Sometimes mercy sex is the best sex there is.

Forcing your partner to have sex = Seduction .

Kurmudge said...

The issue is whether or not you want your marriage to be healthy. Ann points out some cold hard reality: "If you run 2 miles hating it, you get the same health benefit as if you liked it -- and it's likely to improve your mood too. You can't say the same thing about sex (especially if you are female)." I totally agree that a female who doesn't desire frequent sex should not be forced to participate. She should also recognize that her marriage is probably bad, even if he isn't confiding that fact to her. Caitlin Flanagan went into detail in Atlantic on "The Wifely Duty" (Google it- it is posted somewhere)

That is the case, according to most studies on the subject of inherent physical drives and desire, and that leads to the classic conundrum- if you only make love when both parties are in the mood, your marriage is not going to be happy, or possibly not even going to survive. If you are the lower desire party, usually (as Ann says) the female partner, and you believe that you should only Do It when you Feel Like It, stop. Let the poor SOB go and find himself a life, because he may not say it to you, but he is probably miserable.

Hmm. Sex is the historic binding core of marriage- consummation is the ultimate arbiter. But we will do all kinds of chores around the homestead and simply realize that they are necessary parts of the deal. But sex, the single most basic and primal element of the relationship, no, we can't participate unless the *mood* strikes us.

If people were truthful, and anonymous surveys were ever taken on this, besides the one famous Ann Landers column- in today's politically correct world we are supposed to pretend that both genders have the same testosterone levels and responses, which is physiological nonsense- we would see that mismatched sex drives is probably the single most common reason marriages die on the vine. The divorce grounds may say something else, like "adultery", but there is a real cause and effect even though we are all supposed to pretend to the contrary.

And it would take an investment, by a lower desire partner, of maybe an hour a week to fix. That is exactly what Joan Sewell's book, "I'd Rather Eat Chocolate" is about. She decided to compromise because she wanted to be married to her husband.

Salamandyr said...

You know, even if you are not in the mood, sex is not painful. It's not debilitating in any way. It's not even particularly time consuming (cue macho protestations to the contrary) Is it really all that awful to occasionally do something you don't really want to do because it makes your spouse happy?

mcg said...

The worst orgasm I ever had was right on the money.
--- Woody Allen