Sunday, March 12, 2006

Virginity -- once an asset, now a liability...

In the past marriage was traditionally more of an owner/property relationship than it is today. I'm oversimplifying a bit, but for much of history a woman and her children were in serious jeopardy without the economic support of a man.

Unsurprisingly, the "obey" part of the wedding vow was more common and taken more seriously. In particular, a wife had little or no expectation of being in a position to refuse to have sex with her husband, nor of preventing him from sleeping with other people if he has the means and inclination to do so.

So a wife's libido was at best kind of irrelevant and at worst a nuisance, given that a wife with a low sex drive was that much less likely to put her husband in the position of spending a big portion of his resources supporting someone else's offspring.

Fast forward to our modern era. Women in western society can earn enough to support themselves and their children if they so desire, so tolerating and staying with an abusive husband is no longer seen as a virtue. According to society's current morals, men are expected to treat their families with love and respect, they are expected to have only consensual sex with their wives, and they know that they will likely be faced with divorce for getting a little action on the side.

In my opinion, this change in traditional marriage is a positive one overall.

One consequence, however, is that a good man with a high libido who chooses his spouse unwisely can be put in a position of having to tolerate a life of little or no sex (after the honeymoon is over) in order not to lose his family. (The same is true for high-libido women as well of course.)

And since the wife's income plus the advent of modern, effective contraception strongly decrease the potential negative impact of spending one's resources on someone else's offspring, a high sex drive has become a very attractive and desirable quality in a wife.

Of course the correlation isn't 100%, but it stands to reason that a girl who has been interested in having lots of sex before marriage is just that much more likely to keep wanting to have lots of sex after.

Mormonism confuses the issue because it trains people not to have any sex at all before marriage -- regardless of their natural inclinations. As a consequence, among faithful Mormons, it is nearly impossible for the couple to determine whether they are sexually compatible until after they've signed on for life.

Now I'd like to ask a couple of questions of my readers, and of my LDS readers in particular, if I have any. (I probably don't have any, although it would be cool if it turns out that I do :D.) I don't intend to debate, denounce, or ridicule anyone's responses on the following -- it is a serious inquiry, and I am genuinely curious as to your position on the following:

1. Do you think sexual compatibility is an important priority in a marriage?
2. Do you think it is possible for two people to determine in advance whether or not they are sexually compatible without having sex?
3. If so, how?


Anonymous said...

The editor of the Humanist News Network, for which I write a monthly column, sent me an email with a link to you about a week ago. I've been enjoying your blog and wanted to introduce myself. I see you already know me, as I am on your blogroll. Thanks!

But to answer your questions:
1. The higher the libido of one particular mate, the higher the importance. Don't forget though, masterbation is an option (but not for Mormons!)

2. No, I don't think a person knows their own libido until they're sexually active. Sometimes the sex-drive goes away once they have had sex. (how very sad)

BUT, I don't think having sex in advance of marriage will necessarily solve the problem either. There are some who lose their drive for the person they married because it's too everyday. They need to lure new fish.

Even more common than that though, is for a woman's sex-drive to change because of hormone imbalances. This is common when a woman has a baby.

So even testing for compatibility ahead of time is no guarantee of compatibility a year later, or even a month later.

This is why I think that unless you have an outrageously crazy libido that must necessarily be satisfied daily in order to contribute to your overall happiness, then I don't think compatibility should rate too high in priority for two people who love each other and are otherwise very compatible.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Noell!!!

You're right, of coure. I'm wildly oversimplifying here. Really, I'm pretty lucky everything has turned out so well between me and my husband. The thing is that I just really like having abstract, theoretical discussions about sex on the Internet for some perverse reason... ;)

Are you "Agnostic Mom"? If so, that's so cool!!! I've been looking over your blog and meaning to start commenting, but I was a little intimidated since you're already established with a following and everything whereas I've just started blogging quite recently. I heard about your blog through this great site for atheists that I've taken to posting to recently: Internet Infidels.

I was happy to hear about your blog because I've had a lot of fun with this brand-new little blog network "Outer Blogness" that has started up recently. But so far essentially all of "Outer Blogness" is composed of people who have met through RfM. Yet I have recently discovered that RfM is not the only hub for exmos on the Internet. Just the other day my cousin told me that she's a long-time regular (now moderator) on an XLDS Womens' emailing list through Yahoo that I had no idea existed...

What fun to make new connections!!! :D

OnigiriFB said...

I think it can be important but not necessarily that important. Sexual compatibilty can lead to better intimacy and bonding but, it can also hinder bonding. There are many types of human bonding and sex is not necessary in all of them. In some areas of my life people who I would never have sex with are closer to me than people who I have had sex with. While not the ideal in marriage this can also hold true. Sexual compatiblity cannot be the only thing holding a relationship together. Therefore, I'm not sure if the mormon view is that wrong. I think it would depend on the individual as to what criteria they find important when bonding with another. Personally I have had great sex with people who I have had little or no emotional bond with. I have also had so so sex with some who I had a high emotional bond. Who did I stay with the longest? The one with the so so sex. WHy? Because he satisfied an emotional need greater than my sexual need. We had a bond from something other than sex and that was more important to me. The ideal would be to find some who you have a sexual compatibility with who you also emotional bonded to. But that may not be possible or desirable to everyone.

In the case of the mormons if their criteria for marriage is something other than sex it wouldn't matter. Unfortunately, with their ban on per-marital sex the development of the relationship becomes stunted and marriage is rushed into because of culture and fear of sinning. If it weren't stressed so desperately perhaps a relationship based on things other than hormones could develop. If it it were a case of not exploring sexual compatibility prior to marriage to allow a emotional bond then that would be a bit different in my opinion.

One thing I can't help but think about also is that I come from a society where is rare for arranged marriages in this age but, it hasn't been that long since it was acceptable. Arranged marriages where the groom or bride would not have an opportunity to find out they were sexual compatible can (not always) be a surprisingly happy and strong marriage. Why? Because often the parents are doing the choosing and their criteria is not based on hormones.

Ok I'm not sure if I'm making sense and I could probably expand on this theme given time.

C. L. Hanson said...

It's true (as people here and on RfM have pointed out) that a couple can't expect to be compatible on every important aspect of a relationship. So really communication, consideration for one's partner's feelings, and willingness to compromise are probably more important than compatibility on various relationship issues, including sexuality.

Still, I think that sexuality is a fundamental part of a romantic love, and it is one of the few things that married couples typically promise to share exclusively with each other and strongly object to other people picking up the slack when there's some incompatibility. So sexual compatibility is a non-trivial consideration in a partner. But depending on the temperament of the individuals involved, it won't necessarily make or break the relationship.

Anonymous said...

Me again! Yes, I am Agnostic Mom.

You will find as your readership grows that you still crave new readers! Please, speak up any time you feel inclined.

Please! Please!

But if I can move beyond groveling, does your "Outer Blogness" network (I love it) have a meeting place? Or are you just reading eachother's blogs and talking in the forums?

I clicked on the links to the forums, BTW, but I have a hard time with the format of forums. I tend to back away when I see one!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hi Noell!!!

Okay, I've posted a comment to your blog. :D

Also, that story about existence looks interesting -- I'll try it out on my four-year-old and post the results to your blog as well.

"Outer Blogness" is a pretty informal grop with no set meeting place or really even any set list of who's in it and who's not... Basically the collection of all of the regulars on RfM who have blogs just started linking to each other. If you introduce yourself on some of the other outer blogs, you can probably get them to link you in.

I like the forum format myself, but I should really cut back... Internet: too addictive!!! :D

Anonymous said...

1. Sideon and I were discussing this very topic the other day... Yes, sexual compatibility is very important. I don't think it should be your entire focus when finding a partner, but it's certainly should be near the top of the list.
Not to ruin my wholesome and clean image (stop laughing), but I test drove a few models before buying. I was initially engaged to a man that had a low drive, average sized cylinder and only revved my engine completely, once. I was not concerned about this at the time because he met my physical needs very well. I tried to tell myself that it didn't matter, love could conquer all; in reality, I was nervous about spending my life stuck in "2nd gear". My drive continued to increase and his performance suffered further because of my high expectations. In the end, I was glad that I found this out sooner than later.

2. I do not. Had anyone told me prior to being with my first lover that it would be anything less than fireworks, I would have never believed them. He was very attractive and wonderful at everything else, he just never met my physical needs.
I do believe it's possible to find a partner that can provide both. I don't encourage "test driving" every model out there, but find those you have a connection with and feel free to explore.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Caryn!!!

That's basically my position -- it's not everything, but it's not irrelevant. If your plan is to be with only this one person for the rest of your life, then it makes sense to get a basic idea of what it will be like before making the commitment.