Withholding Sex is Not a Joke

David Eagle thinks a recent Jack in the Box commercial featuring a woman withholding sex from her husband reinforces damaging stereotypes about gender and desire.

There’s a Jack in the Box commercial playing on Hulu right now, which features Jack and his spouse (We’ll call her “Jill”) playing Scrabble. Every time I see it, I get really irritated. Jack plays a made up word, Jill suggests that it is made up, then Jack talks about his product for twenty seconds.

As a gamer, both Video- and Board-, I love rules. Rules define the boundaries of fair play and can significantly enhance the challenge of a game, beyond what the base game-play mechanic brings to the table. There’s a great rule in Scrabble for when you suspect your opponent is making things up as they go. After your opponent plays any word, you can initiate a “Challenge”.

There are variations on the Challenge mechanic in Scrabble, but the most common works like this: Jill says she wants to officially challenge “SWAVORY”, Jack and Jill then pull out their dictionary and look for the word. If they cannot find it, Jack removes his tiles from the board, returns them to his hand and forfeits his turn. If it is in the dictionary, perhaps because they’re using Satan’s Lexicon, the tiles stay in play, and the challenger (Jill) loses her next turn.

Instead of relying on the rules of the game to prevent her husband from cheating, Jill plays the word “NONOOKIE”. Which also isn’t a word, and which drives me crazy. If you’re going to make a joke in a commercial, you can probably find a funny joke. There are a lot of them, and smart writers and comedians are working in dangerous laboratories to create new ones every day.

In the commercial, Jack is a suave manipulator, and Jill is a shrewd hard-ass who isn’t taking his crap. Except she doesn’t stand up for herself in the context of the game that they’re both playing, like an adult would. This hypothetical everywoman turns things personal, responding to his attempted cheating with an out and out threat.

Resorting to this kind of gibe, even jokingly, displays a lack of respect for her plastic-headed spouse. I think it’s meant to paint Jill as a tough, no-nonsense woman who stands up for herself. Instead it paints her, and by virtue of her role as an iconic representation of Womanhood, every woman, as a pathetic child unable to compete in the context of the chosen venue and forced to resort to personal barbs.

The type of disrespect she displays is widely condoned by society, and it’s easy to dismiss, because it’s such a common sentiment, such an easy joke. It’s also easy to dismiss because she’s talking to a bobble-head in a bathrobe. This isn’t a real man, he’s a corporate icon.

The marketers made a choice to display Jack as a husband (or unmarried partner?) to this woman, in so doing they gave both players a horrifying shadow of humanity. He cannot be dismissed as a bobble-head when he plays across from a wife, neither can she be dismissed as a caricature. The normalcy of their setting, their very blandness, forces the perspective that they are representative of the marriage ideal. The marketing team chose to do this because it gave them access to a cheap joke, but that joke only works because of societal norms, and in its execution it reveals those norms.

Besides not being funny at all, this joke reinforces the societal view that sex is transactional. Sex, if this joke is to be believed, is something that woman have and that men want. Women can use the promise of sex as an incentive or the threat of withholding as a bludgeon. Men and women should be unamused at the very least, and probably angry, about what this ideology implies about each sex.

I hope, and believe, that the image of women being portrayed here isn’t accurate. If I’m to believe the subtext of this joke, women hardly enjoy sex and there isn’t any emotional connection involved in sexual acts for women. For the fairer sex, lovemaking has nothing to do with love, coitus is a tool used to correct men, or to induce them to behave the way the woman wants them to.

On the other hand, the men from this world are driven primarily by hormones and will do anything to “earn” sex. In any argument or disagreement, rules of conflict resolution, interpersonal communication and ethical relationships don’t apply because any woman at any time can invoke a kind of vaginal Scorched Earth policy whereby a man can be made to surrender out of fear of ultimate reprisal.

The danger that the transactional view of sex presents to young men is discussed at great length here, in Harris O’Malley’s “It’s Okay to Want Sex”, and I won’t go into too much depth on it. I do want to pull a quote out of that article, which describes the authors personal experience:

I wasn’t seeing sex – or romance, for that matter – in terms of “here’s a fun thing we can both enjoy”, I was seeing it as “what do I have to do to get you to sleep with me.” It was an adversarial process – one encouraged by society at large – and one that simultaneously demonized and praised male sexuality while insisting that female sexuality was less important, if it existed at all.

The bottom line: Sex is a sacred and highly personal experience. It is a mutual endeavor, no one owns it*. Painting any gender as the gender that “owns” sex is bound to create tension and engender (!) in their opposite number an adversarial perspective.

It’s disheartening that a group of writers, marketers and executives thought 1) That this was funny. 2) That it’s something we should bandy about light-heartedly.

I wouldn’t blame you for rolling your eyes at me a little bit. It’s beginning to seem like if you dig deeply enough into any joke you can find something to be upset about. It almost feels like we’re approaching a point where everything will be off-limits and comedians will be stoned in the streets. I don’t blame you if you’re thinking “He’s blowing this completely out of proportion, it’s just a stupid joke.”

I agree with you. It is just a stupid joke. The fact is, the joke only works because society at large thinks about sexuality and relationships in some specific ways. Some of these ways are dangerously flawed. While the joke itself isn’t offensive in the context of a woman teasing her husband, the underlying premise that makes the joke work, the premise that everyone must accept to think the joke is funny, has the potential for causing deep and lasting harm.

Maybe it already has.

*Note:  It is within the rights of any person to refuse sex at any time for any reason or for no reason at all, and that must always be respected. 

 

 

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About David Eagle

Bio: David Eagle is a single father, a serious reader of low-brow fiction, a beer snob, writer, and engineer living in Southern California. He writes about life and parenting at bookishdad.com, and complains about his dog on Twitter as @cdeagle.

Comments

  1. I think you completely “nailed” it here. Pardon the amazing pun. ;) There is so much power in sex and it is disheartening that this power is so frequently abused. Sex is amazing and is one of the most important things in a romantic relationship. It should never be used as a punishment or to manipulate our way into anything. It is unfortunate how misused this natural gift is in today’s world. Thank you for this article and your point of view.

  2. I really appreciate the Post – the reality is women/wives/girlfriends often do use sex as a weapon (To steal a song title from Pat Benatar).

    That behaviour ultimately undermined my marriage and destroyed it from the inside out.

    Today I am in a healthy relationship with a wonderful sex life – she never has treated sex as an item to barter or lever to coerce. The feeling has been so freeing I never dreeamed it could be another way.

    Now I can’t believe I seetled for so little for so long –

    Keep fighting the fight -

    • Thank you for your comment, Greg. I’m sorry to hear about your marriage, I know how hard it is when the bottom falls out, but I’m glad that you’re in such a better place now. I think the reality that you’re living is something that men need to hear, especially young men.

  3. I was fascinated to discover a mate of mine experiences exactly this kind of use of sex-as-power with trick his wife, who rewards him with sex, like its a dog biscuit or something. Real eye-opener but maybe its a sign of the tone of the wider relatinonship? And if the tactic works, and he doesn’t mind it, why not use it? I wouldn’t want to be in a relationships like that, but hell, if it works for them…

  4. Worth noting that this notion is not exactly without precedent, note LYSISTRATA by Aristophanes (411 BC). However, I do agree: “Besides not being funny at all, this joke reinforces the societal view that sex is transactional.” It was an okay tactic back in ancient times when it was probably one of the only thing women *could* use as a tactic, but not needed any more. Now days women just need to say, “You’re pissing me off, stop it.” If their partner is a decent human being, that ought to suffice. Perhaps what you’re really identifying is the immature view of relationships being depicted, and a lack of respect going both ways.

    (Just one other thing….I would hazard a guess that there are parts of the world and segments of society where women still *do* need to use such crude methods to ensure some kind of agency….Sadly).

    • Interesting, I’ll definitely check out Lysistrata. I like the historical viewpoint, and I think you’re absolutely right. The evolution of the phenomenon makes a lot of sense when taken in that context.

      I agree, there are probably a lot of societies where women have few options. In fact, sadly, where even this behavior isn’t an option. It really underscores what dramatic shifts happen to a people when they are allowed to live in a true privilege. Thank you for your comment, it made me think.

      • When Lysistrata was written, the standard cultural expectation was that women, not men, were the ones who had the higher libido. (There are various reasons why, but I won’t go into them here.) Imagine a comedy set in the present day in which all the teenage boys in two rival high schools decide to go on sex strike, refusing to date any girls, until the girls reconcile with each other, and you have Lysistrata’s central joke.

        Also, in the play, in addition to going on sex strike, the women do something that’s actually much more serious: they barricade themselves in the city treasury, where most of the gold of Athens was stored. Sparta’s army had driven most Athenians out of the countryside, effectively shutting down Athens’ agriculture and leaving it dependent on trade; they had to buy their food from elsewhere and bring it to the city by ship. Without access to the treasury, the Athenians wouldn’t have the money they needed to carry on the trade that supported the city economically; the men needed to fix this before they found themselves in a whole different kind of trouble.

    • @Alice,

      Are you not the woman who believes in only having sex when you can get a tangible benefit? You posted the comments below on the recent thread, “Who Has The Power In Dating?”

      “What worth? I don’t think sex has any intrinsic worth. A lot of times sex is just fucking. Like I said elsewhere I dont have a problem with exchanges. Both parties gain- guy gets sex, and hopefully soon I can get a couple pairs of Colin Stuarts that I want.”

      Clearly, this is an example of just what the author is pointing out. No?

      • Heh. Totally not the same Alice, Jules. I am now using a more specific handle.

        Personally that’s not my view of sex, I guess it works for some people.

      • @Jules

        You rang?
        I did say that, but I never said that was the only condition in which Id have sex. The point was the men who only want to have sex need to bring something to the table. I also said that guys that were serious about me dont have to do that.

        • @Alice..

          ” I also said that guys that were serious about me dont have to do that.”

          No you did not! Go back and read your posts. You made it very clear that you MUST get a tangible benefit.

          Anyhow…whatever.

          • Here yo go, under the same article

            Archy says:
            August 23, 2012 at 3:39 am

            If it works it works. Do you think it might interfere with love? Or do you mean if he wants to get to know you he bypasses the buymestuff requirement?
            Reply

            Alice says:
            August 23, 2012 at 10:11 am

            Serious inquirers bypass buymestuff requirement.
            Reply
            Archy says:
            August 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

            Ah makes sense, no free rides so to speak, they either have to care or give you something of benefit as they take something of benefit.

            So maybe YOU should go back and read what I said. Please stop putting words into my mouth. Thank you.

  5. The idea of an invented word is amusing, as is the idea of an “answer” invented word. Unfortunately when the “answer word” joke reinforces the idea that men are the supplicants in the sexual arena, and that a woman resorting to sexual manipulation to get her way is blithely amusing in 2012, it lands with a thud.

  6. The reason the commercial is funny (sort of) is because it does mirrors reality. Women DO punish their men by withholding sex. There is no sense in pretending that it doesn’t happen on a regular basis, certainly far more often than the reverse.

    • Thankfully, men have other options and don’t have to cave in to this ‘trump card’ any more.

      • So Copyleft,
        If men get the sex they want will they stop exploring other options?
        Men have always options, this is not a new thing.

        • @Alice..

          Most men do not have options. Only the few men that women find attractive have options. About a quarter of all adult men are involuntarily celibate.

          Women tend to be attracted to the same men. So, you have some guys who are shtuping multiple women. You know who they are! But, women want to PRETEND these men are going to cease and desist with their behavior.

          So, your are wrong. Most men do not have options.

          • Porn and prostitution are two options that come to mind.

            • Those were the options I was referring to. Coincidentally, many ardent feminists absolutely hate both of these things.

            • Thats what I was saying.Not sure what happened to my post though.

              If a man has a computer or a few bucks he always has options. This isnt true for every guy, but a lot of guys will use those options whether or not the wife/gf pulls out th ‘”trump cards.”

  7. Although I agree with the article, withholding sex as a weapon is not acceptable in arelationship, I also think women (in general) have a hard time separating their libido from their emotional state. If I’m upset with my boyfriend, it is really difficult to get in the mood for sex. Luckily I’m not upset with him very often, but “withholding sex” is usually a symptom of a deeper problem of communication in the relationship.

    • Being upset with a partner and not wanting to have sex is reasonable and understandable.

      However, there are so many women who have just grown bored with their partners/husbands and no longer want to have sex with the man. So, there is nothing wrong with him. The problem is the woman. There is really nothing he can do to change things. Once it is set in a woman’s head that she no longer wants sex with a man, it is a wrap! It’s done Sarah. The guy could have done zippy to her. It just does not matter.

      • The idea that sex is a gift women give to men (I believe) contributes to women withholding sex in the bored scenario you list.

        When society sees sex as a gift women give to men, then whenever a woman is not ecstatically, enthusiastically head over heals excited to have sex then it seems to become a chore for women.

        I have been very tired or blue or whatever and my wife has started caressing or groping me to get me in the mood and it almost always works. Despite having not been in the mood, I was shortly raring to go.

        I don’t know if this is due to men being more willing to have lousy sex, men being more easy to seduce, or maybe that a woman showing obvious lust is more sexy (than a man) or what.

        However, probably the top 5 fights we had was when my wife wanted to have sex the day after my uncle passed away (this May). She thought of it as the opportunity to have some physical intimacy, but there was just no way I was ready.

        Maybe it all comes down to men and women having different views of what sex is for.

  8. I agree with Sarah. I wouldn’t “punish” my man by withholding, but I won’t fake it either. If we have a rough day and I don’t feel close to him, or I’m not being treated appropriately, I won’t be available for love making either. It wouldn’t be honest for me to engage in physical intimacy when my emotional or mental state is not in sync with my body. When things are good, then sexual intimacy is a natural outpouring of our relationship and an amazing celebration of our love. And yes, I am grateful every day that I live in a society where women’s rights are recognized and I have the freedom to make that choice, that I am not someone else’s property to use and abuse as they please.

    • Becki and Sarah,

      I completely agree. I thought about adding this to the original article but it already felt too long. Because sex is a “mutual endeavor” both parties need to be willing, and desirous. While I’m pointing out a problem (sex is often viewed as transactional) I definitely don’t advocate that people have sex when they don’t want to. That’s not how the solution.

      Sex is physical and emotional, I think it should be about emotional intimacy, and sex should follow emotional intimacy, not the other way around.

      Men and women should both only engage in sex when they desire it with their partner. If sex isn’t happening, the conversation should be about the intimacy that’s missing. “I’m not happy, so I don’t feel close to you, and we need to solve that.”

      If the conversation is “I’m not happy, so you’re not getting sex” that’s not a relationship talk. That’s a punitive discussion. But even that isn’t what I’m talking about, exactly. This article is really looking at cases of, “You didn’t behave the way I wanted you to, even though my desire was subjective and uncommunicated, so you’re not getting sex”. I hope few relationships contain this element, but it sounds like it might be a larger number than I would have expected.

      I agree with both you and Sarah. For Sex to be what it should, the emotional side of the relationship, and the intimacy, must be strong. Thank you for raising the point.

      • @David…

        You are ignoring the asymmetrical nature of this “I am unhappy….” business. In the vast majority of cases, this comes from the woman.

        Unfortunately, most women (and some men apparently) fail to grasp the fact that emotional intimacy derives from sex for many men. We are so backwards with this one-way approach to sex and intimacy. You are guilty of this when you say, ” I think it should be about emotional intimacy, and sex should follow emotional intimacy, not the other way around.” It is not a linear relationship as you state.

        We need to step outside the box about sex and intimacy. This outdated traditional notion of sex and intimacy is thoroughly biased in the direction of women. It shows little to no consideration to how we men feel.

        While I was married, sex was an emotionally bonding vehicle for me with my wife. However, when our marriage became sexless, I was shut out emotionally and mentally. She wanted affection, back rubs, massages,….all the things I once did. However, I refused because I was not getting my emotional food/intimacy: sex.

        The sex in my marriage went down to once a month. We’re talking people who were in their early 40s here. But she arrogantly and selfishly thought I was suppose to be happy with it!!!! This is the mentality of the majority of women. They arrogantly believe the man is suppose to be happy with the sex they offer, however infrequent. In my case I stopped even touching her. I no longer wanted to around her. The once a month she wanted sex I said NO. I filed for divorce. I and am now happy with two friends with benefits and enjoying sex 2-3 times a week. I have no desire for any type of emotional relationship.

        So, you are dead wrong with this antiquated unilateral view that sex should always follow intimacy. Sex can also create intimacy. Learn to think and act outside the box!

        • If a relationship has become sexless that is a huge problem and it sounds like you made the right decision by divorcing. At the same time, you cant expect someone to have sex with you when they really don’t want to. You seem to be saying “for me to meet your emotional needs you MUST have sex with me, like it or not” which is bad as a woman refusing sex as way to have power in the relationship. It SHOULD be mutual.

          • @Sarah….No I am not saying she must have sex with me.

            I have zero interest in having sex with a woman who does not wish to have sex with me. So, Yes, sex MUST be mutual.

            All I am saying is our mutual needs have to be met. If a woman seeks emotional intimacy, then her partner should provide her with it. Same for the man.

            My point is few people seem to understand that many men emotionally bond with their partner through sex. He might love his partner, unconditionally. That’s great. However, he is entitled to state how he wants his intimacy and/or emotional needs fulfilled. Few women appear to believe men use the physical to create intimacy.

          • “you cant expect someone to have sex with you when they really don’t want to.”

            Why not? What about what your husband/wife wants? Doesn’t that count for something?

            Or, should it be that I don’t do anything I don’t want to do, and she doesn’t do anything she wants to do, regardless of how the other feels?

            If she really wants to talk to but I don’t want feel like it, what she wants shouldn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what I want, right?

            That viewpoint is why 50% of marriages end in divorce.

            • If a woman is not aroused, then sex can be uncomfortable and even painful. Example: when I’m turned on, I love it when my bf plays with my nipples. It’s a delicious feeling. If I’m not turned on ( I have dometimes agreed to sex when I wasnt really in the mood), it’s very unpleasant to have him squeeze or suck my nipples. I get a weird ticklish feeling and it gets painful to the point I have to ask him to stop. So expecting me to have sex under those conditions is a bit unfair. Luckily I’m usually in the mood.

            • @sarah…This is not really the issue. If a woman is not in the mood sometimes, we men accept and understand.

              It is these married women who just don’t want to fuck their husbands anymore, period. They conjure up all sorts of lies and excuses to avoid it. They are not interested in sex with their husbands, only. These women still want sex. Just not with their husbands.

              I am telling you the man could have done nothing at all to these women. These women have just gotten bored. They are no longer in love with their husbands. Half of them probably never were in love with the men.

              This really is the sordid state of affairs with many marriages.

            • I propose a clear outline of expectations: “Dear, I’m going to have X orgasms a week. Whether you want to be involved in them is entirely up to you…..”

        • I appreciate your openness in talking about your past marriage and your experiences. Thank you for this comment, and for sharing your perspective. I really respect your viewpoint and I’m glad that you have found something that makes you happy.

          I agree that this blanket statement is probably safe to make: Men get tremendous affirmation and feel loved when they have sex with a partner who desires them.

          For myself, I don’t agree that emotional intimacy and physical intimacy aren’t linear. I know that sex may create a degree of emotional intimacy, but if it isn’t built on a foundation of genuine love and emotional intimacy, the resultant sex and emotional intimacy are going to be less good, less fulfilling, and make me less happy.

          I don’t think sex should be used to bridge emotional gaps, I believe that’s a misuse of sex which leads to minimizing or ignoring real intimacy issues that must be resolved for a relationship to survive.

      • “Sex is physical and emotional, I think it should be about emotional intimacy, and sex should follow emotional intimacy, not the other way around.

        Men and women should both only engage in sex when they desire it with their partner. If sex isn’t happening, the conversation should be about the intimacy that’s missing. “I’m not happy, so I don’t feel close to you, and we need to solve that.” ”

        That’s one way of looking at it. For me, and perhaps other men, the emotional follows the physical. For example, “We’re not having sex so I don’t feel happy or close to you.”

        • @some guy…

          Precisely. I just do not understand why people are so stuck and closed mined about this. David has taken the predominate female perspective here. It is clearly biased.

          Regardless of what perspective is taken, the dynamic is not one way. We must understand (and accept) that the physical leads to the emotional for many men.

          • Thanks SG And Jules. I wrote you a long reply but it somehow got lost. I will say this, and it’s akin to what I told you above Jules:

            Sex and emotional intimacy are part of a loop, in a healthy relationship they strengthen and reinforce each other. I think it’s vastly more difficult to get into this loop if you begin by having sex, I believe the emotional connection needs to exist for sex to function the way it’s supposed to in a relationship.

            I also agree with both of you, I think men probably get more emotional…”juice” from sex than they do from other aspects of the relationship, whereas it seems to me, women are emotionally charged by things that don’t fuel us as much. Like talking, holding hands, doing things that show the other person you care (i.e., the dishes), spending time staring into each others eyes. Okay, the last one was a joke. I know! I’m bad at them.

            • I don’t see how sex can create emotional intimacy if the emotional intimacy isn’t already there. Otherwise you are just having emotionally disconnected sex. I’ve had emotionally disconnected sex and I haven’t noticed that sex suddenly makes a guy want to feel close to me. The desire for closeness has to be there already. Otherwise the sex is just a meaningless physical act, like scratching an itch. If sex makes guys feel close, why don’t they call the next day? Kidding, a little. Anyway, I agree it’s a loop, it’s not a one way street.

            • Scratching an itch isn’t a meaningless act. It’s at least a measure of relief. As a man who’s enjoyed a varied a sex life and married a woman he expected to continue to enjoy that with for many years to come… I’m mad as hell that my married sex life sucks.

              There’s an article up today about men being time thieves. Well, women steal from us too. Better sex might not create intimacy, but shitty sex kills it for me. And honestly, there’s no other sphere of a relationship that’s going to counterbalance that shortfall.

              I see a lot of posts on here explaining that women differentiate “good” and “bad” sex and that it influences their feelings on it; with men just responding “SEX!” I’ve no idea how many people take those seriously, but come on. I suppose a starving man will eat anything.

            • @some guy..

              Yes, a starving person WILL eat anything!

              My sexual history is the opposite of yours. Prior to marriage, in my early 30s, I had only been with four women. No casual sex. I am a non believer in pure casual sex. So, I viewed my restraint as “saving myself” for marriage.

              What an enormous disappointment. My ex wife had engaged in far more sex with far more partners than me. Hence, I really think the number of partners DOES matter. I went into marriage thinking “hey I will now enjoy a long, vibrant, and healthy sex life.” I ended up in an essentially sexless marriage. Sex was once a month, right after her cycle, and the same damn position. I was TOTALLY for her. If I tried to initiate sex, I was rebuffed. If she said yes, it was hurried. I felt like she just wanted it over with.

              I would ask her if I was a shitty lover….I was trying to find out what was wrong. I told her geriatrics had better sex lives. She would say things like, “you should have caught me in my 20s, ……, just not interested…”

              Hence, I divorced over it. She just could not believe I would divorce due to sex. I now only have friends with benefits. But, my sex partners is still a mere 7 women. I am not interested in a bunch of sex partners. Maybe it is religion.

              I always felt before I got married that I should never sleep with a woman that was not worthy of being my wife. So, I was extremely selective. I even went 5 1/2 years with no sex, no dates during my 20s!

              People who do not share similar sexual experiences should NEVER marry. It WILL be a problem.

            • @Sarah….

              Yes, you are correct. The emotional bond MUST be present to start with. What sex does for me is create an even firmer, stronger and closer emotional tie to a woman. If she stops having sex, it does not mean I immediately lose all feelings. I endured the 10yr + of misery because I did love my ex wife. So, I did have feelings.

              But, when you are treated like a second class citizen, and your feeling as desires dismissed you develop resentment and anger. This shuts off all emotions and feeling for that person. This is what happened with me.

              No, giving a man sex and thinking he is going to bond with you is totally wrong. I was not suggesting such.

            • @David
              Sex and emotional intimacy are part of a loop, in a healthy relationship they strengthen and reinforce each other. I think it’s vastly more difficult to get into this loop if you begin by having sex, I believe the emotional connection needs to exist for sex to function the way it’s supposed to in a relationship.

              Yes, I also believe that sex is an important part of the loop.
              And I think that’s what Jules and SG tried to say as well.
              Noone’s advocating that the loop should necessarily start with the sex. But what we’re discussing, and what seemingly a lot of women (and some men too, I’m sure) are failing to grasp is that by removing the sex you also remove a sequence of the loop that is important and even necessary to alot of people.

  9. I can understand that there’s real concern about why sex may or may not be withheld in the context of some relationships…but I cannot help from feeling that there is too much being read into this commercial.

    For example, this part seems particularly off:
    “In the commercial, Jack is a suave manipulator, and Jill is a shrewd hard-ass who isn’t taking his crap. Except she doesn’t stand up for herself in the context of the game that they’re both playing, like an adult would. This hypothetical everywoman turns things personal, responding to his attempted cheating with an out and out threat.”

    This posits a context to the situation that need not be true.

    When I see the commercial, I assume that there’s a great deal of familiarity there (they do seem to be married…or something), and she even has a specific smile when she plays the “nonookie” phrase. For all we know this is something of a running gag in their relationship. Most relationships have “inside jokes” and given that she doesn’t actually seem angry, it’s hard to believe that there’s real anger here.

    Instead, I’m more likely to assume that Jack thinks it’s funny to play nonsense words on a regular basis. He probably also tries to slip them into casual conversation. Not to be outdone, his wife (partner or whatever) has adopted her own reply to this behavior. It’s never been a real threat, just something she says to let him know that’s she’s not fooled.

    Now, this isn’t the only available context. You could also assume that there’s some kind of genuine anger, that the threats are real, and that this displays a cruel gender dynamic.

    But doesn’t that sort of assumption say more about the viewer than it does about society at large?

  10. I’d rather shave with Occam’s razor. Which of those two scenarios do you think the writers truly had in mind? Which of those two scenarios do you think most viewers will imagine? What does the look o Jack’s face at the end of the commercial suggest?

    I think you’re right that whatever assumption is reached says something about the viewer. I think, however, that the people making these ads are appealing to society at large with ideas that are easily understood without too much imagination or leaps of insight.

    The woman in the ad doesn’t look angry, but she doesn’t have to be. I’d only turn down sex if I was angry. But, I’m not the gatekeeper. I don’t think my wife is always angry when she’s not in the mood.

  11. Quadruple A says:

    I think he was breaking the rules so blatantly that it was obvious that he was messing around and she knew that. There is no point in challenging somebody if they aren’t playing the game. When she placed her own made up word it was only in reference to that fact. She is “saying I can make up my own rules too.” I think the idea that she is resorting to childish tactics is based on a misunderstanding of the ad. We also don’t know whether he got laid or not- that would be taking things too literally.

    • justpassing says:

      she was just matching his childish act.

      And I’ve been doign slave labor for the past year because “puling your wieght, being a self-reliant responsible adult” has been withheld by my partner. But because he doesn’t see it as important as what HE SEES is important its not cruel, it’s not anything worth mentioning.

      But then I have to do yet ANOTHER CHORE (sex) because god forbid I hold back ANYTHING he deems worthy.

      I’m sure some women are withholding for reasons that aren’t honorable or respectable. but There’s alot of women out there who have enough chores to do without having to add another one on the list.

      • If sex is a chore then your relationship is probably fucked anyway….Either that or you don’t appreciate the importance of sex. Why stay together?

  12. Witholding sex as a weapon IS abuse. Not wanting to have sex because you’re angry is ok, but using it to control your partner is abusive. Dishing it out as a reward and denying it at other times when the person doesn’t behave how you want them to be is not love…

    • Concise and well said. Thank you! Great perspective. It’s obviously a very complex issue, with tons of variation based on everyone’s unique personality and situation, but I think what you’ve said is true in the scope that you have created. Well done.

      • Thank-you. I’ve seen n heard the effects of lack of any kind of intimacy to know how it can be used as a weapon, it’s great to see people talking about it because it’s one of the types of abuse that is rarely mentioned.

    • Withholding sex is shitty behavior. Is it abuse? There was some post the other day, a woman seemed to be complaining that because her boyfriend criticized her choices and didn’t love her unconditionally, he was abusive.

      Are we so lowering the bar with respect to what we call abuse as to render the term meaningless? As you point out, the scenario you describe is not love. It’s not abuse either.

      • Thank you. It may be unpleasant and uncool, but “abuse”? I do hate to dilute that term so much that withholding sex gets equated with someone being beaten, threatened or viciously demeaned.

  13. I don't know says:

    I’d like to see an article about men withholding sex from women.

    • Do men withhold sex from women?

      • I don’t know the frequency at which it occurs, but men do withhold sex from women. My ex-fiance did it constantly enough that my friends thought he was gay. He wasn’t if course, but no one could understand a man in his early twenties saying no to sex, no matter how tired he was. When we went out he would tell me it pleased him to be with the most attractive girl in the place, so I know that my physical appearance was not the problem. Years after our break-up, my friend showed me a passage from a book on narcissist (the title escapes), which reminded me a lot of my ex-fiance. A portion explained how some narcissist use sex to control and punish their partners. I’m sure it’s a minority, but I would find it very interesting to learn how often a men do withhold sex.

        • Probably more often than people realize. There are also other forms of intimacy that get withheld, even hugs, kisses, cuddles, hell probably even nice words. Anything that makes a person feel good coming from their partner could be used as a weapon.

      • Yes. I was in a long-term monogamous relationship with a guy who withheld for what I believe is a variety of reasons including low libido (which he was in denial over, but I can almost understand that given the social pressure on men that masculinity=high libido), passive-aggressive behaviour that came out in a variety of ways, and some repressed resentments or unhappiness left over from childhood and carried into romantic relationships. Unfortunately, he was either unable or unwilling to communicate about the causes of our almost nonexistent sex life, and I stayed longer than I should because he was at the bottom of it, a good guy that I cared about and I wanted to try to work things out, but in the end, I just couldn’t accept the possibility that I could go the rest of my life with little to no sex (I am a high libido woman who prefers monogamous relationships). The lack of intimacy and touch as well as frustration can be absolutely hurtful, and I sympathize with anyone who has been or is in such a situation.

        • Yes, this does happen the other way around too. I think the fact that people might think a man is gay for refusing/turning down sex with a woman tells alot about our society. Men who have a high sex drive often assume all men do, because no man with a low sex drive would ever want to admit it to other men. I’m tired of it being assumed that men always have higher sex drives than women, just as I’m tired of the idea that sex is something to be traded.
          I’m female and I’ve been in several relationships with men who wanted sex less often than me. I understand the frustration, especially if you’ve been having a good time with the person you love, and that feeling burns in you in a sexual way and then they aren’t feeling it that way. You feel rejected as a person. You wonder why they can’t feel the chemistry you feel. It sucks.
          I am surprised at how many men are saying so many wives stop having sex with their husbands. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty young (late 20s) but as for myself and my other female friends we love sex, we talk about it, we ask for what we want, we find out what our partners want. None of us would ever not have sex if we did want to just to gain something. Maybe there should be some research on why women stop having sex.. is it because they never liked it in the first place? Or because they’re not in love anymore but are afraid of divorce? Is the man not good in bed and for some reason they married him anyway and never tried to improve their sex life? Or they do like sex but see it as their only source of power in the relationship? I don’t really understand it myself. If I’m in love with someone I want sex very often with them, even after years of being together. I would only stop wanting it if I stopped wanting them as a person, in which case I would break up with them.

  14. Keep in mind that, in a marriage, a woman and her husband make an agreement that neither can go outside the marriage for sex. So if you won’t have sex with him, you are telling him:

    “I don’t care about you, taking care of your needs is a bother to me. I don’t love you enough for that.”

    Now, consider the quality of the companionship in that marriage. How much is he going to enjoy spending time with a woman who sends him that message loud and clear every day?

    But why can’t he just love her for her, right?

  15. What about when a man or woman “withholds sex” by making themselves undesirable so it doesn’t overtly look like withholding? (And that can be done knowingly or unknowlingly.) My husband has avoided sex (despite me being interested on many an occasion) by claiming he is tired or has a headache or has to go to bed and get up early the next day etc. He’s lazy and unspontaneous. Now before you all go off on me and demand that I “spice things up” — I’m the spicy one. I’m the one who had partners before getting married and he hadn’t (he had a steady diet of porn, though. Which pretty much rendered him useless in the bedroom.) I’m the one who approaches him. NOW he has taken to not shaving, not showering, not brushing his teeth. He’s disgusting, to put it bluntly. I don’t want to have sex with him now, whereas when he took care of himself of course I did. That to me is withholding sex as punishment. I’m sure women do it too! It is an abandonment of affection and I’d say grounds for divorce. Men and women both can withhold sex, it’s not just women. But you know, how many guys can be angry at their wife or upset with her and still have sex because they see sex as akin to taking a dump? At least for women they usually have to feel emotionally connected in SOME way. Maybe that is why men perceive women as withholding when women just don’t feel what they need to make sex worthwhile.

    • Inky, that sounds like classic depression if he isn’t shaving, etc. I doubt it’s to withhold sex but sounds like he is depressed and given up. Might want to suggest he sees someone for that, encourage him to see a counselor.

      Both in the relationship have a duty, yes a duty, to ensure the emotional, physical, n sexual needs of their partner are met where possible otherwise why be in a relationship? If you don’t let them seek that intimacy with other men or women then you have to keep em happy. Of course that doesn’t mean they can rape you or anything like that.

  16. David, just to add to the variety of the issue, I have TWO close friends whose marriages broke up because the male had low libido and the woman got frustrated, felt rejected, unloved, etc. That said, in my view it is impossible to “withhold sex as a weapon or punishment” if the target partner refuses to play that game. We choose to give other people power over us, or not. Making our sex life entirely “up to” someone else is asking for disappointment. Also, low libido, loss of sexual desire or sexual attraction often has NOTHING to do with the partner it upsets. It affects the partner, and so must be discussed. But blame is silly. The commenter who says her partner has “let himself go” to avoid sex doesn’t even consider that her partner may be suffering from depression or an undiagnosed illness. Talking and connecting is the best form of intimacy there is. The lack of THAT is what kills relationships. The underlying assumption in many cases is that one person owes the other sex, and not wanting sex equals meanness. NO. But, it’s perfectly in the right of the partner to say, “For me to have a fulfilling romantic relationship, I’d like a partner who truly desires sex/intimacy/ cuddling/freakiness at least ‘x’ amount of time. Where does that leave us?” and put the ball in the other person’s court. If the other person truly doesn’t want sex nearly as often, then either they need to work out some kind of arrangement (I’ve seen women buy sexy massages for their husbands, or give him permission to engage in sex play with others, with agreements about what kinds of relationships may be allowed to emerge around that activity), or they need to agree to be friends and seek romantic fulfillment elsewhere.

  17. I think this commercial only has the implications listed in the article if the “no nookie” statement really is a threat, rather than a joke.

    From the light playful manner, it seems to me this is more of a joke. In other words, I don’t really expect her to follow up on the playful threat.

    Me and my wife do this all the time. I or her will state things like: “keep that up and you just may get lucky tonight.” or “I see somebody who isn’t going to get any action tonight”.

    It keeps things light and playful. I particularly like saying it, because it underscores the idea that sex is a good healthy pleasurable thing for both of us, and plants the suggestion that sex w/me is something she wants.

  18. According to famed and respected sexual researchers, Dr. Buss and Dr. Cindy Meston, from the University of Texas, there are at least 200 plus reasons women have sex. Among those are,getting a better job, getting a raise,revenge, getting a movie part, money, getting a better grade etc; too much to list. The reason this commercial works is because we as a culture recognize the behavior. Behavior, of course, that women are quite successful at hiding in plain sight.This wouldn’t be so bad if women didn’t lie and obfuscate the facts. My only question is why aren’t we telling our sons and daughters the truth.

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