I’m away this week. Please enjoy this column from July of 2019.
I’m a woman who married young (21) and I’ve been with my husband for seven years. Within the last year, I’ve realized that my falling libido probably comes from the fact that I am not turned-on by our boring vanilla sex routine. I get so little fulfillment that I’d rather not even do it. I’ve tried talking to him, but he says he prefers sex without foreplay or a lot of “complicated stuff.” I had some great casual sex before we met but it turns out I’m into BDSM, which I found out when I recently had a short affair. I’ve kept the secret and guilt to myself, but I have told my husband I’m into BDSM. He wants to make me happy, but I can tell he isn’t turned on doing these things. He...
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...n tell he isn’t turned on doing these things. He denies it, because he’s just happy to have sex at all, but a butt plug and a slap on the ass does not a Dom make. I’ve tried to ask him if we can open up our relationship so that I can live out my fantasies. I would like to go to a BDSM club and he isn’t interested at all. He was very upset and said he’s afraid of losing me if we go. He also felt like I was giving him an ultimatum. But I told him he was allowed to say no, and that I wouldn’t leave if he did.
When I was younger, I thought there was something wrong with me because everyone else wanted monogamy, but it never seemed important to me. I’m not a jealous person and I wouldn’t mind if he had sex with other people. In fact, the thought of it turns me on but he says he isn’t interested. I know he loves me, and I love him. At this point my only solution has been to suppress this urge to have BDSM sex, but I don’t know if it is a good long-term solution. What should I do? Keep my fantasies to myself? Have another affair or ask him to have an open relationship again? We have a 3-year-old daughter, so I have to make our relationship work.
Want The Hard Truth
Two quick points before I bring out the big guns: First, marrying young is a bad idea. The younger two people are when they marry, according to a mountain of research, the likelier they are to divorce. It makes intuitive sense: the rational part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex—isn’t fully formed until we’re 25. We shouldn’t be picking out wallpaper in our early 20s, WTHT, much less life partners. And second, basic sexual compatibility (BSC) is crucial to the success of sexually exclusive relationships and it’s a bad idea to scramble your DNA together with someone else’s before BSC has been established.
And with that out of the way…
“WTHT might be surprised to hear she is just a normal woman being a normal woman,” said Wednesday Martin, New York Times best-selling author, cultural critic, and researcher. “Like a normal human woman, she is bored after seven years of monogamous sex that isn’t even her kind of sex.” You mentioned that you used to feel like there was something wrong with you, WTHT, but just in case you have any lingering “what’s wrong with me?!?” feelings, you’re gonna want to read Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, Martin’s most recent book.
“We know from recent longitudinal studies from Germany, Finland, the US, the UK, and Canada that among women only, relationship duration and living together predict lower desire/boredom,” said Martin. “In fact, the Finnish study found that even when they had more/better orgasms, women in monogamous relationships of several years’ duration reported low desire.” A straight man’s desire for his long-term, live-in female partner also decreases over time, but not as dramatically as a woman’s does.
“Contrary to what we’ve been taught, monogamy kills it for women, in the aggregate, more than it does for men,” said Martin.
So, that’s what we know now—that’s what the research shows—but most advice professionals, from the lowliest advice columnist to the most exalted daytime talk show host, have chosen to ignore the research or are unaware of it. So, they continue to tell unhappily sexless couples that they’re either doing something wrong or that their relationship is broken. If he would just do his fair share of the housework or if she would just have a glass or two of wine—or pop a “female Viagra,” if big pharma could come up with one that works, which (spoiler alert) they haven’t and most likely never will—they’d be fucking like they did the night they met. This advice not only isn’t helpful, it’s harmful: he does more housework, she drinks more wine, nothing changes, and the couple feels like there’s something wrong with them. In reality, nothing’s wrong. It’s not about a more equitable division of housework (always good!) or drinking more wine (sometimes good but not always), it’s about the desire for novelty, variety, and adventure. Those are things a couple can build into their monogamous relationship, WTHT, but they not if they’re only being told that dishes are the problem and/or wine is the solution.
So, the big issue here is that you’re bored, WTHT. No foreplay? Nothing complicated? Even if you were 100 percent vanilla, that shit would get tedious after a few years. Or minutes. After risking your marriage to treat your boredom (with an affair), you asked your husband to shake things up—to fight sexual boredom with you—by incorporating BDSM into your sex life, by going to BDSM clubs, and by at least considering the possibility of opening up your marriage. (Ethically this time!) And while he’s made a small effort where BDSM is concerned (butt plugs, slapping your ass), your husband ruled out BDSM clubs and openness. But since he’s only going through the BDSM motions because he’s just “happy to have sex at all,” what he is doing isn’t working for you.
At bottom, WTHT, what you’re saying—to me, not your husband—is that you’re gonna need to do BDSM with other people if your husband doesn’t get better at it, which is something he might learn to do at those BDSM club he refuses to go to. Which means he has it backwards: he risks losing you if he doesn’t go.
“She once put her marriage at risk to get BDSM,” said Martin. “WTHT’s husband doesn’t need to know about the affair, in my view, and he doesn’t need to become the world’s best Dom. But he owes her acknowledgment that her desires matter. Get to that baseline, and other things tend to fall into place more easily. The discussion about monogamy becomes easier. The discussion about needing to be topped becomes easier. Working out a solution becomes easier.”
I’m not suggesting that an open relationship is the solution for every bored couple, and neither is Martin. There are lots of legitimate reasons why two people might prefer for their relationship to be, remain, or become monogamous. But two people who commit to being sexually exclusive for the rest of their lives and also want maintain a satisfying sex life—and, open or closed, couples with satisfying sex lives are likelier to stay together—need to recognize boredom as their mortal enemy. And while the decision should be mutual, and while ultimatum is a scary word, bringing in reinforcements isn’t just the best way to fight boredom in some instances, there are times when it’s the only way to save a relationship.
That said, a couple of weeks back I told a frustrated husband that his cuckolding kink may have to be put on the back burner while his children are young. The same goes for you, WTHT. But at the very least your husband has to recognize the validity of your desires and could put more effort into pleasing you.
“In straight culture, people tend to define sex as intercourse, because intercourse is what gets men off, and we still privilege male pleasure,” said Martin. “But seen through a lens of parity, what WTHT wants is not ‘foreplay’ or ‘complicated stuff.’ It’s sex, and the sooner her husband lets go of this intercourse = sex fetish of his and acknowledges that her pleasure matters as much as his does, the sooner he’ll be a real partner to his wife.”
For the record: a relationship doesn’t have to be open to be exciting, BDSM doesn’t have to be complicated to be satisfying, and date night doesn’t have to mean dinner and a movie. Date night can mean a visit to a BDSM club where your husband can learn, through observation alone (at least for now), how to be a better Dom for you.
You can find Wednesday Martin on Twitter @WednesdayMartin. You can find her books, blog posts, videos, and more at wednesdaymartin.com.
I am a 27-year-old man in an open marriage with a wonderful partner. They’re my best friend, I smile whenever they walk into the room, and we have a ton in common. We don’t, however, have that much sex. I’m currently seeing someone else, and our sex is great. We’ve explored some light BDSM and pegging, and I’m finding myself really enjoying being a sub. I’m kind of terrified that, as a man, I might accidentally violate someone’s boundaries. I’m also autistic, which makes navigating cues from partners rather difficult. Completely submitting to someone else weirdly makes me feel totally safe and free for the first time. The problem is, my spouse is also pretty subby. When they do try to initiate sex, it’s often so subtle that I totally miss the signals. In the past month, I’ve had sex with my spouse maybe once, compared to four or five times with my other partner. My question is this: have you seen examples of people in open marriages who essentially fulfill their sexual needs with secondary partners, while still maintaining a happy companionable partnership with their primary?
Sexually Understanding Butt-Boy
I’ve known people in loving, happy, sexless marriages who aren’t leading sexless lives; their marriages are happy and companionate, and both partners find sexual fulfillment with their secondary, tertiary, quaternary, etc., partners. But companionate open marriages only work when it’s what both partners want… and your partner’s feelings are conspicuously absent from your letter. How do they feel about being in a sexless or nearly sexless marriage? Your spouse seems to wanna have sex with you—they occasionally try to initiate—but perhaps your spouse is just going through the motions because they think it’s what you want. So, you’re gonna have to talk with your spouse about your sex lives. If you’ve found being told what to do in unsubtle ways by your Dom second partner to be sexually liberating, SUBB, you could ask your spouse to be a little less subtle and more demanding when they initiate—or, better yet, ask them not to be subtle at all. Nowhere is it written that subs have to be subtle or sly when they initiate; nor do subs have to stand there waiting for others to initiate. “I’m horny and we’re having sex tonight” is something a pushy/bratty sub can say to another sub or a Dom.
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