The trouble with monogamy

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Last week you wrote this about your readers’ responses to WILLIE and FS: "I find it odd that no long letters arrived laying out what FS was doing wrong. Is it always the man’s fault, I wonder? If something is going wrong in a couple’s sex life, the man must be to blame?" I wanted to answer your rhetorical question.

If we assume FS is at fault, I would say that she probably forced her husband to watch her bear their children and it freaked him out. She did say that the sex dried up after the kids came. Guys don’t want to be labeled as bad husbands or disinterested fathers, so they go into the delivery room as ordered even though they know damn well that it will be impossible to delete the mental images.

Then, after they watch a pussy (one they once cherished as a snug home for their dicks, 2 inches wide at most) stretch open 4 or 5 inches, and then they watch something slimy force its way free kicking and screaming, and then watch something that looks like raw meat slide out, all accompanied by screaming and usually urine and feces, both from the mother and the child … well, some guys just have trouble looking at that specific pussy the same way ever again. (I have told my husband that he is not to watch that process, and while I want him there holding my hand because I am selfish, I want him safely behind a drape for entirely different selfish reasons.)

I have one friend who can’t get it up with his wife without watching porn first, because he can’t shake the thought of her crotch covered with meconium without a lot of distraction. Know what meconium is? Yeah. Ron Jeremy couldn’t fuck a porn star covered with meconium.

On top of that, women who have had children certainly can get their bodies back, and often "better" than it was before the babies. However, unless said babies were popped out when mama was young and her skin tone was fresh and dewy, there is a … kind of a pooch of skin. It does not make her less sexy, to some men. Some men find it more sexy. Some do not, and if FS is married to someone who does not, all the crying in the world won’t change it.

Finally, FS is strutting around in what she thinks is sexy. She should ask what he thinks is sexy. She may be in for a shock. As a personal example, I once owned a black leather bustier with fishnet panels and a matching thong. All of my previous lovers had thought it was deliciously naughty. The fellow (with the low sex drive) I actually married, however, nearly died and not in a good way when he saw that outfit. We had a nice honest conversation — what he thinks is sexy is not as blatant, and furthermore he thinks that thongs make everyone’s ass look supersized. Fuck if I care about the costuming, it’s about getting him going, so out with the leather and the thongs and in with the negligees and the lace boy shorts. —Equal Opportunity Critic

Fuck all those people who were mad that you recommended cheating for WILLIE and FS. My boyfriend and I are in an open relationship, which (as you know) is not cheating because we engage in this little thing called "communication." If you’re in a relationship where you can’t talk about sex or your sexual needs with your partner without being told you’re "selfish" and demanding too much of them, then maybe that’s not a good relationship for either of the people involved. This freak herself has had moments where I just wanted to be held, maybe get a nice foot massage, without any other kind of play going on. Know what I did? I told my boyfriend exactly that. He rubbed my feet for me. Later, he got laid. Happy ending for everyone.

I apologize for the women who abused and blamed you (and the men in their relationships) for their sexual problems. If your relationship is so bad that you’re withholding sex as a result of other problems, you maybe need to go see a counselor — both of you. If you aren’t interested in sex, you maybe need to go see a counselor (if you’re not willing to give your spouse freedom to roam). Those are healthy options for fixing broken relationships. Blaming everything on the people with Y chromosomes is not. So on behalf of all the XXs out there who have no problem accepting responsibility for our relationship fuck-ups, I’m sorry that those women yelled at you. —AMBS

Well, the letters from WILLIE and FS got me thinking, smirking and grimacing about my former marriage. My ex-husband was my best friend, and he’s still one of my closest friends — now that we’re not married. At first the passion, intensity and bond that we had was unequaled by anything that I could’ve dreamed of. We shared common interests, involved each other in new aspects of life, and made possible a lifestyle that we both had only imagined. It’s funny, though, that in the end comfort didn’t always mean happiness.

Sex was great, and after a few years it got only better — for him, as long as I just lay there and didn’t make a sound, which was how he liked it. Oh, and the compliments from him abounded: "For such a smart woman you sure are an idiot." Finances were always a source of entertainment, especially when he’d lend substantial sums of money to people "in need" so that they could buy ATVs, cars or trucks that were to be trashed for fun, or if he needed a "tool," like a new propeller for our boat, which we only used maybe twice a year for dinking around in Puget Sound.

To be honest, the failure of our marriage was both of our faults — him for being a control freak and me for letting him control me.

So, what did I do? I confessed that I’d met someone, but that I wanted our marriage to work — can we please go to a counselor? Anger, anger, anger! "I don’t need some asshole to tell me there’s nothing wrong with me, and have you fucked _____?" No, I hadn’t. The only person I’d fucked is myself, literally and figuratively. I left, married a man that loves me unconditionally, and even though our sex is 50/50 basic/adventurous, it’s always exciting because there’s no bullshit involved — just love, lust and respect. —Content And Loving Marriage

If you can stand one more e-mail on this issue: Although I come from a devout Christian family, my mother always made it clear to my sisters and me that if we have a good and loving husband, we should be willing to give him sex even when we’re not in the mood (luckily, I have a husband who’s good at putting me in the mood). It’s a small price to pay for making someone you love happy. She also believed that you should expect a spouse to cheat if you aren’t willing to have sex with him yourself. We are Greek, and the idea that you have to accommodate your spouse’s sexual needs seems to be a basic part of Mediterranean and Latin cultures. I’ve always been amazed at Anglos who think they have the right to demand faithfulness from a partner when they withhold sex. To me this seems to be a cultural, rather than a moral, issue. —Pennsylvania Girl

I’m sure you are probably over this topic by now, but that letter from Sad Cow was the saddest thing I ever read, and I just want to say to her, "Get out get out get out!" Her experience sounds like a carbon copy of my very-brief marriage — brief due to the continued emotional abuse. Sorry, boy and girl withholders, it is abusive to continually reject a person and demand monogamy. It’s the combo that’s the killer. And, yes, the effects can be as far-reaching as any other type of abuse, as Sad Cow tells us. My husband and I loved each other, blah blah blah, and I was personally spiraling down to a pathetic shadow of who I had been when I met him. I gained 30 pounds (which I lost in about three months after I left). My career dead-ended, and I found myself at the ripe old age of 28 looking like I was 40, and acting like I had given up on life. Something in me was luckily still kicking, and I left. Two years later I have a master’s degree, my career is back on track, and, frankly, I look better than ever. Sadly, I am still fucked-up as far as sex goes. I am terrified of experiencing that type of rejection and control again, and so I mostly spend time with electronic toys, but I’m getting there.

The point in withholding situations is that people with higher libidos are made to feel like there is something wrong with us that we can’t just be happy with this "great person who loves us." It’s bullshit. If someone steps on your toe, you tell them it hurts you, they apologize, and life moves on. If they continually step on the same toe, however, they know very well that they are hurting you by doing so. Likewise with continual sexual rejection, the infliction of pain is intentional, and the demand for monogamy is a means to control. It’s a classic abuse pattern.

Monogamy is tough, but if it is something that you want it comes with certain obligations along with its rights. If you want exclusive rights to someone’s body, you better be ready to step up and make sure that body’s needs are met. If not you are simply using a societal convention as a means to control a person. —Monogamy Doesn’t Mean No-Gamy Send letters to [email protected]

About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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