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Friday, April 5, 2013

SL Letter of the Day: Withholding Sex Is Always Wrong?

Posted by Dan Savage on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Long time listener, first time caller.

I will qualify this by saying that I have been reading your column since sometime in 2006 and have over time gone back and read all of your archives as well. Your advice has improved my life not just with my partner but with everyone that I love. Anyone that reads more than a few of your columns can see that “GGG” is a concept that applies not just to the physical aspect of a relationship but to every aspect. Reading your column has been some of the best value for money I have ever seen.

But I have to call you out on your advice to WIMP. In 99% of relationships, Dan, the withholding of physical affection is never the answer. I bet that your relationship can handle the type of thing you described in your response because there is already good communication, your partner otherwise knows where he stands, is confident that you love him, and knows that you would only do something like that after deep reflection. In most other relationships, however, withholding physical affection may change behaviour but it will also plant seeds of resentment that lead to far worse problems down the line.

I realise that you only have one (short) letter to go on. You do not know anything else about WIMP’s relationship. But based upon her statement that her boyfriend has not had a motorcycle before he met her I would suggest that the man she is with either 1. has needs that are not being satisfied, needs that have nothing to do with a desire to ride a motorcycle, and that these needs could be satisfied by WIMP in other ways if she truly loved him AND he lets her know what those needs were (unless she just wants to control him) or 2. the man WIMP is with is a selfish dickhead that does not love WIMP (after all, they both already agreed to a compromise and she allowed him to enjoy the motorcycle/scooter hybrid without any further emotional blackmail). At the end of the day who knows if this is the only thing going on in that relationship.
My point is that withholding sex will not solve any of these relationship problems, it will only make everything worse.

Just Another Dilemma

My response after the jump...

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Let me see if I follow you, JAD: Since WIMP's BF didn't have a motorcycle before they met, his sudden desire to acquire a motorcycle is evidence that he isn't satisfied with something... and there are other ways (sexytime ways?) that the WIMP could satisfy her BF and if WIMP were satisfying him in those other ways (sextime ways?) then her BF wouldn't need or want a motorcycle. It's either that or he wants a motorcycle because he doesn't love his girlfriend.

That's quite a leap you're making there, JAD. Two leaps, both big.

The BF's interest in acquiring a motorcycle could Mean Something Major, I suppose, but it's far more likely that motorcycles are something he's taken an interest in. People—even people in relationships—aren't static. They grow, they change, they lose interest in some things, develops interests in others. Sudden interests happen and they don't necessary Mean Something Major. Sometimes a motorcycle is just a motocycle.

As for your point that withholding sex is almost always wrong—or wrong 99% of the time—I respectfully disagree. I'll concede that withholding love and affection is usually wrong. And here's a little of that full disclosure stuff: I was mostly joking when I recommended to WIMP that she withhold sex to get her way. (Fuller disclosure: I wasn't really interested in helping WIMP. I just wanted to talk about how I stopped Terry from growing a mustache.)

But all that said/disclosed, JAD, I can think of lots of cases where withholding sex is absolutely the right thing to do: when your partner's personal hygiene is terrible and they refuse to bathe/brush; when your partner wants oral but refuses to give it; when a kinky partner neglects a vanilla's partner's needs and vice-versa; when your partner will only have sex in one position and you're bored out of your fucking mind. The line between refusing to fuck your partner in protest—withholding sex for reasons like the ones I've listed here—and simply not wanting to fuck your partner because he or she is a lousy, selfish, smelly lay is a blurry one.

So, yeah, there are times when withholding sex is the right thing to do. People shouldn't abuse their power to withhold, of course, and we shouldn't unfairly manipulate our partners by withholding sex. But withholding is sometimes the only way you make someone understand that bathing, reciprocity, and variety are important.

And shaving—shaving is important too.

Finally, JAD, Terry didn't regard my refusal to kiss him until he shaved off his mustache as the product of deep reflection. He regarded it as a product of deep assholery.

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