Using sex to get her way is a familiar ploy of the sitcom female. She threatens her mate with “the couch” if she doesn’t get what she’s after. Or she’ll make him happy if he does her bidding. Either way, he’s at her mercy. In real life, however, using sex as reward or punishment isn’t funny.

In the 19th century, the idea that a woman could refuse to have sex with her husband was a radically feminist concept.

Cupid wearing eyeglasses

Many feminists in the 19th century, in fact, opposed birth control and abortion because they wanted to establish the right of women to abstain from sex even in marriage. Abstinence was still the most effective method of birth control, and abortion wasn’t readily available or safe.

But the post-sexual revolution era has provided women with many birth control options, so that most women need not fear pregnancy. Today, very few people question anyone’s right to decline sex, even in marriage. But couples should be aware that when one partner has begun to withhold sex or give in to sex as a duty, there is something amiss in the relationship that must be addressed.

“If you can negotiate whether or not you want to sleep with the window open, you can learn to negotiate disparate sexual desires,”


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