Marriage: What Happens to $exual Desire When Gender Roles Are Removed

housewifeEmphasizing an egalitarian bond, reducing traditional gender roles, and focusing on emotional problem-solving to foster a shared intimate relationship is a healthy marital trend. For most couples, this results in greater marital satisfaction and security. The question is whether an intimate, egalitarian marriage promotes or subverts couple $exuality. The “politically correct” answer may be that it promotes marital $exuality, but that is not the reality for a large number of satisfied, securely bonded couples.

Does that mean the couple has only two $exual choices: revert to traditional double-standard marital roles or find erot!c $ex through affairs? No. Awareness that the egalitarian/best friend marital style may not be right for you can be a vital step forward to a functional relationship.

There are two major reasons that this couple style doesn’t work for many. The egalitarian marriage puts such an emphasis on intimacy and mutuality (we label this the “tyranny of mutuality”) that the partners are very hesitant to take personal and sexual risks. So, one or both partners avoid sex (especially playful and erotic $exuality). The definition of a non-$exual marriage is being $exual less than ten times a year. Unfortunately, egalitarian/best friend marriages are frequently vulnerable to this problem, resulting in an intimate but non-$exual marriage.

For most heterosexual couples—although certainly not all—the “complementary” couple sexual style is healthy as well as emotionally and practically functional. The complementary couple sexual style allows each partner to value his/her “sexual voice” (autonomy) while acting as an intimate sexual team. The key concept is openness to “her”, “his”, and “our” bridges to sexual desire. Although the couple values mutual, synchronous sexual experiences, they are receptive and responsive to each partner’s initiations and preferences. This includes asynchronous sexual scenarios; sensual, playful, erotic, as well as intercourse scenarios; and fun, playful, or lustful sexual encounters. Rather than sex always needing to be intimate, serious, and mutual, the complementary couple sexual style accepts the multiple roles and meanings of sexuality. It’s normal and healthy that sometimes the experience is better for her than him, sometimes better for him than her, and normal for 5-15% of sexual encounters to be dissatisfying or dysfunctional. A crucial emotional agreement is that asynchronous sexual experiences are healthy as long as they are not at the expense of the partner or relationship.


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