Woof, Woof

A friend once wrote to me, “Denial of intercourse is how women attempt to train and control the males. Both genders use the latter strategy to, for example, train dogs.” Well, that certainly sounds as misogynist as certain spoiled rich kids like to accuse any agenda-frustrator of being. But then I remember the way it is a commonplace of our culture that a man who fails to comply with any wifely instruction has to “sleep on the couch”, as a metonym or literally. The “sexual strike” goes back, of course, to the Lysistrata, but Aristophanes was upfront about the internal conflict involved: he showed us Athenian women who wanted to stop the war but also wanted to get laid.

The peculiarity of the modern sexual embargo, imposed not to end a ruinous war but on account of some triviality, is what it says about female need. A sexual strike sits very badly with what women have been telling us ever since the Sexual Revolution, namely that girls want to have fun too. Indeed, it seems a throwback to the days of our great-grandmothers, who spoke about giving their husband “what he wanted” to secure their economic support. Withdrawing your labour only makes sense if it is labour, that is, something onerous that you do in order to get something else. That is, if the benefit is worth the unhappy sacrifice of having to provide sex. This economic approach is simply not compatible with sex being a matter of mutual pleasure. Not many women say, “I shall eat no more cream cakes until you obey me!”

So, was this the truth all along? Were our great-grandmothers telling it like it is, that women only put up with sex to get what they wanted more? Then, perhaps, but the modern woman wants to be rewarded twice: once by sexual gratification, and a second time by other goods as if she has just performed a chore – that can be refused to punish disobedience.

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