I know that Spreadsheetgate has all died down, but I was watching another Karen Straughan video a few weeks ago and she made a claim that I felt I had to stop the clip and go and check out. Specifically, it was that deliberately withholding sex (and affection) is considered a form of domestic abuse by DV charities and organisations.
Of course it surprised me, but it perhaps shouldn’t have – we need these things in relationships and withdrawing intimacy from a partner can make us feel alone within that relationship. An important bond is being withheld, sometimes for the purpose of punishment, and it is clearly a tool by which a person will attempt to control their partner. Certainly it is and should be considered a form of psychological abuse.
But then it got me wondering how feminists might reconcile themselves with the notion that a man is not entitled to a woman’s body (or vice versa) against this, especially in light of the double standards of the spreadsheet saga. Let me recap: in the first instance, a man listed all the times his wife refused his sexual advances, a list that included her excuses. That started a deluge of feminist critics pointing out that “even though they are married, he’s not entitled to her body”. Just a few weeks later, a woman did the same about her husband persistently refusing to have sex with her and the silence from the same Tumblr and Upworthy feminists on this was deafening.
The double standard showed itself here when with the second couple, her friends came out in support of their friend saying that “he wasn’t respecting her needs and she is justified for doing it, she should leave him for somebody who will give her what she wants”. Again, the silence from the feminists who criticised the man in the first instance was deafening, Tumblr feminists refused to comment that just as men are not entitled to women’s bodies, women are just as not entitled to men’s bodies.
Which brings me back to the first point. The more I think about the issue, I cannot see how anyone can reconcile two beliefs at the same time:
- Nobody is entitled to somebody else’s body and
- That withholding sex is a form of psychological abuse
As somebody who went through a sexless marriage, I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place in that situation – especially as a man when my options were a) leave her (and I would be a bastard for leaving her purely because she wouldn’t sleep with me) or b) pressure her (which is borderline rape and I have always taken no for an answer).
I dare say that if anybody can justify holding both conditions at the same time, then I can’t imagine them not getting a severe migraine from the cognitive dissonance? If you do believe that withholding sex is a form of psychological abuse, then how do you reconcile that with the notion that nobody is entitled to somebody else’s body?