The issue I see here is that by writing about withholding, you are assigning blame to the partner who is being unresponsive without understanding what might be triggering that lack of response.
Writer Franchesca Warren recently posted an article in the Huffington Post examining whether or not women use sex as punishment or reward in relationships:
A couple of nights ago my husband and I were hanging out with some married friends of ours when we got on the subject of sex. One of
our friends remarked that because her husband had been “good” all week she’d have sex with him that night…Some of the wives at the
table reasoned that sex had to earned by their husbands. Ultimately, if their husbands were “well behaved” they would be rewarded with sex.
The husbands chimed in and despite them hating this power play, they went along with it to get their wives to “put out.” As we
continued the discussion, I realized quickly that sex is used as a weapon and reward in relationships. It gives the person with the
decision (usually the wife) the power and can be used to leverage men into doing what us women want them to do.
This is not an uncommon discussion online. I have certainly been on both sides; I have not had sex with my partner when I was upset, and I have been refused sex by partners who were upset. It is an interesting discussion, but I want to question its terms.
The discussion is framed as follows: “sex is a tool, and people use it as a reward or as a punishment.” I disagree with this reading of how sexuality plays out in relationships. I believe that sexuality is expression, and that expression plays out in a myriad of ways beyond the conventional narrative of withholding.
People might not feel like having sex because they are tired, or depressed, or triggered, or because they are stressed at work or there may be larger issues at play. A couple may be in a rut, and a lower libido is a result. Maybe a new baby or addition to the family means less sleep and less desire to have sex.
The issue I see here is that by writing about withholding, you are assigning blame to the partner who is being unresponsive without understanding what might be triggering that lack of response. While it may seem on the surface level that a minor disagreement is the cause of withholding (“I can’t believe he/she said that and embarrassed me at Kevin’s party! No sex tonight”), it may stem from deeper issues with how the couple relates, or individual stress.
Moving away from blame means discussing what is at the root of withholding, and understanding how to communicate around those deeper issues constructively.