April 16, 2008

The Sex-Starved Wife

sex-starved wife.jpg

On the one hand, you have articles in the Economist saying people are spending less time at work and more at home, on the other hand Time writes about the sex-starved wife.  If they're both home more and at work less, why aren't they naked?

The answer isn't porn.

Sex is a good proxy for a lot of things.  The Time article offers a number of explanations for why a man might have a lower libido than his wife, but not the correct one: narcissism.  In women, narcissism manifests itself as a greater libido, and in men, a lesser one.

You might think this is backwards, but it isn't.  The wife is more involved with every part of the relationship-- the money, the jobs-- his and hers-- the troubles, everything-- that the man has no way to construct an artificial identity she'd believe.  He can't pretend he's anything-- suave, a major force at work, a successful investor, whatever-- because she knows his reality in text message speed.  She talks to her husband not once, but four or five times a day.  What's he going to say she doesn't already know?  Even legitimate successes are subdued because they are not at all surprises.

Here's the mistake: women say, "but I get turned on by him anyway, he doesn't have to impress me, he has me."  And my unscientific poll of... some... women suggests they are more sexually open and experimental than ever.  So what's wrong?  And so maybe the wife thinks she's not hot enough?  And catchers his glances at the waitress, the porn on the computer.

Well, the problem with his libido isn't how hot she is.   He's a narcissist: the problem is his libido is that it depends on how hot he is.

It's what women used to go through.  He looks in the mirror, sees a gut-- he doesn't feel sexy, he can't imagine she would find him sexy, so the libido falls.  In the past he could at least draw confidence from the fact that he has a good job; but now he doesn't have a "good " job, it's an okay job, one that pays the bills, but not something that you can build an identity with.  And anyway she has one just as good.  What's his appeal?

The woman, by contrast, might actually feel better about her deteriorating body because she's attained value in other ways; and so she figures, "we are aging together."  A narcissist does not want to hear that, ever.  He can still penetrate you if you become old, fat and ugly; he can't do it if he becomes old, fat and ugly. 

It's a double whammy of feeling emasculated, while his narcissistic personality structure demands that he be hyper-male, ideal male.  He can't attain it.  So he thinks you see him as less than masculine.  So he doesn't bother with you.

So the wife asks, "is he picturing himself with other women when he has sex with me?"  No; he's picturing someone else with other women when he does you.  It's masturbation.  It's not sexy if it's his bloated body underneath Sports Illustrated's Marisa Miller.

It's what the relatively recent fascination with MILFs is all about.  The fantasy isn't that your wife is with another man; the fantasy is that your wife is hot enough that another man would want her.  But this fantasy has nothing to do with how hot your wife actually is, it's about your identity: I'm so great that such a woman would want me.

Consider the cover of the book, The Sex-Starved Wife.  She's not starved because she's ugly.  Get it?

And so, to the diversions.  If you're married and your husband plays WoW, forget it, he's lost to you.  He's playing it because it rewards him with the kind of validation only successful daytrading might give him (and it won't.)  The online porn; the glances at the younger women around him.  It's not (just) that he finds them attractive: their real appeal is that they do not know him, and with them he could be the man he thinks he should be because they wouldn't know it's an invented identity.  And the younger and younger ages of the women isn't about pedophilia-- he's just unconsciously dutch auctioning in on the age naive enough to believe his created identity.  He starts at 30, goes to 20, maybe 18, then 16...?

Interestingly, articles about the sex starved wife are in the current environment of declining, not rising, divorce rates.  For a number of reasons, couples are bonded together more tightly than before.  Divorce is somehow out of the range of options; commitment means something again.   Parents spend more time together and with their kids.  Sounds great.  Still: no nakedness.

They are staying together, but they are less emotionally connected than ever.  Narcissists cannot connect.

Let me be clear that I am not using "narcissism" as a pejorative term, I'm just describing a personality structure and its consequences. 

By the way, don't think you're not a narcissist because you're 30 and having sex every day; the involution, the self-absorption gets unmasked as natural aging slows you down.

And so, too, kids, the saddest generation of the past 100 years.  Why?  Because even though Dad is around more than any other generation, he is less emotionally involved.  Sure, he's home five hours a day; but three of them he's irritable, short, or outright yelling at them.  Kids don't think, "what the hell is wrong with Dad?  He should get himself a drink."  They think, "oh my God, I must suck.  I'm going to get a drink."  Alcohol use among teens is going to rise substantially, you heard it hear first, because alcohol is the drug of the lonely surrounded by everyone.

Oh, you want a solution?  Here it is: have sex.  Even if you're not in the mood.   It seems like strange advice-- force yourself to have sex-- but it's the correct advice.  The problem is unrealistic expectations of yourself, sex, marriage, etc.  Instead of fantasizing, pretending, teasing, silly text messages that come to nothing, whatever, just do it.  If nothing else-- and this is nearly unimaginable-- you will both feel better that you did it, that there's nothing wrong with your marriage.  

"But I'm tired."  Jesus Christ, have a shot of rum, and get to the penetration.


More: what happens to boys when girls are too hot, and A Quick Word On Porn's Effect On Your Penis


Excellent points. Replace ... (Below threshold)

April 16, 2008 11:00 PM | Posted by phd in yogurtry: | Reply

Excellent points. Replace penetration with pleasuring, and you're on to great sex instead of sex which requires liquid courage. But then, I suppose penetration is apt for a narcissist who would only be focused on his own pleasure, not hers.

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Ow. It takes a little more... (Below threshold)

April 17, 2008 4:52 PM | Posted by Common Reader: | Reply

Ow. It takes a little more than that.

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1) Foreplay consists of the... (Below threshold)

April 18, 2008 10:33 AM | Posted by AK: | Reply

1) Foreplay consists of the way you behave treat your partner the other 23 hours of the day.

2) The best foreplay is respect, and doing your share of the housework..and then some.

3) Additional foreplay consists of helping each other get sufficient sleep. It is difficult to feel alive, alert and curious when you're sleep deprived.

As for sex, dont think 'We gotta have sex'.

Give each other massages. Get off on what ever it is that helps your partner feel good. Get off on thier pleasure.

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Desire good to feel in gene... (Below threshold)

April 20, 2008 2:42 PM | Posted by Diane Abus: | Reply

Desire good to feel in generalized way too,not to penis or pussy.
see Dr.Chopra on for RX. Love

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so let me get this straight... (Below threshold)

April 22, 2008 12:21 AM | Posted by yeah right: | Reply

so let me get this straight. you think men need to feel hot under the covers and have eye candy on their arms, yet women are allowed to be and be fat, old and ugly because you don't care what's under the covers? why, then do you think women refrain from authentic relationships with men? do you wonder if women take a shot of rum hoping their lover does not think they are fat and ugly? what's your point?

Alone's response: no. women have their own issues about body, etc. But when that happens, their libido falls as well. That's not the point here. This is about the sex starved wife-- i.e. she wants more sex than he does. That happens for the reasons related to the man.

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"All men with erectile dysf... (Below threshold)

April 25, 2008 12:20 AM | Posted by happy yawning person: | Reply

"All men with erectile dysfunction are narcissists."

Yawn. By this point it's really become a meaningless, single-variable, infinitely flexible, all-purpose label for anyone you disapprove of or deem unworthy of empathy.

Alone's response: Wow, you completely missed the point of the article, and my own massive insecurity makes me fear that I was not clear in the post. These men do not have erectile dysfunction at all. I'm describing a specific set of people, in which at one time both man and woman anted the same amount of sex, but as time went on, inexplicably to the woman, her libido was the same or somewhat less, while his was a lot less. That's who I am describing. This isn't about women who want sex less than men; or how couples lose interest in sex over time, it's only about that group. And obviously, there could be other reasons why the man might have decreased libido...

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"The Time article of... (Below threshold)

April 26, 2008 5:44 PM | Posted by yawning happy person: | Reply

"The Time article offers a number of explanations for why a man might have a lower libido than his wife, but not the correct one: narcissism."

Out of many possible explanations, only one is correct.

I didn't misunderstand anything. You claim that a household in which the husband's libido is less than the wife's is explicable as the husband's narcissism, period. You don't say: Now if the husband is growing distant because of narcissism, this is how it works. Instead, you say: This common domestic scenario is always the fault of the husband's narcissism. Not that he has ED and is ashamed to tell his wife; not that external stresses can depress his libido without "narcissism" being involved; not that the wife is a shrew, her pop-psych book about being sex-starved is an expression of her own narcissism, and he needs to get out of the marriage; not that sex drive peaks later for women than for men; not that libido might change unequally between two partners for any of a thousand, million reasons. No. If he plays video games, BAM! The condemnatory diagnosis is sealed. The case of the "narcissistic husband" is so overwhelmingly paradigmatic for this domestic scenario that no qualifiers are needed. That's what you say, unambiguously. And that's why you don't offer any qualifiers, and why you immediately spin out into pop anthropology: this explains the MILF phenomenon without blaming the porn I like to look at! This explains grown men playing World of Warcraft! This explains journalism and shabby academic research! Narcissism explains everything about everything I don't like!

The gist of your rant is a certain reactionary boilerplate: the man has a DUTY to have superior libido and to service his wife, if he's a man, and if he tries to tell his side of the story he's going to get a big dose of shut-the-fuck-up-and-do-it. If we apply the same semiotic analysis that you apply to media coverage of Heath Ledger, we'd make a lot of that shot of rum, wouldn't we? If he's a real man, he should always get it up on demand, so he'll hook back the booze and do his damn duty whether he likes it or not. No excuses, and no empathy. Hardboiled psychiatry! (Or maybe it's Father of the Bride: you're thinking about your daughter, and while you still reserve the male-privilege right to bravely deride political correctness and joke about hot chicks like you did in your frat days, a certain chivalry kicks in when you imagine a suitor failing your little girl, and the overwhelming feeling is that you need to defend the woman and punish the man mercilessly with your derision.)

The main point, Lastie, is that "narcissism" has no technically constrained meaning on your weblog outside of your own needs and fantasies, and also that you have a lot of overdetermined & unresolved contempt for your patients--up to and including suicidal ones--that leaks out of every rhetorical pore if you write about anything but your daytrading. That's why I enjoy reading your site occasionally: all countertransference, all the time! I wish I could keep up the sense of fun, though, when I imagine distressed people with no psychological resources actually coming to you for help.

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Sometimes it's just self de... (Below threshold)

April 28, 2008 10:24 PM | Posted by Another Perspective: | Reply

Sometimes it's just self defense. Men are used to having wives with low libidos earlier in marriage. As women's libido increases, men find it necessary to regulate themselves to prevent further dependency.

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I would like to point out t... (Below threshold)

May 7, 2008 12:27 PM | Posted by Shaan: | Reply

I would like to point out that the author's middle name is "Weiner."

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if you replace the word man... (Below threshold)

May 22, 2008 5:17 PM | Posted by tom: | Reply

if you replace the word man with woman this article holds true. WOMEN are obsessed with being sexy enough, naughty enough, desirable enough. look at women's shows- desperate housewives, the hills, gossip girl. Women getting having constant sex with everyone regardless of the outcome. men aren't having sex with their wives beacuse their wives aren't exciting and new and interesting anymore- they are boring, average, and not at all the girl they used to date.

The problem is expectation- women put up so much pretense- makeup, clothes, accessories, attitude, shoes etc- that the morning after is never as good as the night before, so to speak. Now, after marriage (or dating) you have this person who has infiltrated every aspect of your life. And stopped keeping up that pretense.

For example: viagra isnt for men. its for women. men arent the problem. You put a guy with erectile dysfunction in front of a bunch of cheerleaders at a basketball game and he's good to go. I guarantee it. But marries women demand that men get an erection regardless of their physical appearance, ie "I've had three kids!!". But, those same women dressed provocatively to entice a man in the first place. Walk into any bar and you'll see the sluttiest girl gets the guys. Same with work.

The point is, your assumption here, and in all your articles, is that men are the problem, where they are not. Men have been brainwashed into feminism, where men and women are equal. But we're not. Men like breasts. Women think that men who like breasts are pigs. But women wear revealing clothes.

If people got on the same page finally, rather than this divergent lifestyles of men and women, everyone would be happy.

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I don't know....I'm ... (Below threshold)

June 6, 2008 11:27 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I don't know....
I'm the most arrogant narcissist I know. And I really like banging my wife of 23 years. I fantasize about her when I'm away. What can I say she really trips my trigger. Our libido's have been all over the map in all of those years. Most of the time my libido is higher than hers. Her weight is like a roller-coaster and while my physique has never been nothing to brag about has basically stayed the same since I was 22. My earning power has also roller-coastered. My arrogance has remained a constant though. None of those things have anything to do with the fact I love seeing my wife in the throws of an orgasm. Fat or skinny, it never gets old. I don't care if she gets off through masturbating to the chippendale boys or me banging her - I love the look on her face as she climaxes!
That being said I will wack off to images of women of all shapes and sizes and ages (right now I'm not into the granny fetish but that might change as I get older) and my wife is ok with this. Hell she sometimes finds it a relief when I take matters into my own hands with the aid of a bevy of internet porno concubines.

From the Ravings of the Psychomancer

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This whole entry is complet... (Below threshold)

July 2, 2008 10:43 PM | Posted by What: | Reply

This whole entry is complete nonsense. People masturbate to porn because they don't have a ready and available partner that they want to have sex with. It's really just that simple. You can add as many levels of psychobabel and 'analysis' as you want to the equation, but it still reduces to what I've written above. Singles masturbate to porn because they're single and don't have another sexual outlet. Partnered people will masturbate to porn when their partner is:

1) Unavailable or unwilling
2) No longer desirable to them

These are facts that will remain true even if you deny them in favor of more convoluted explanations. If a man is abstaining from sex with his wife in favor of masturbating to porn it's either because she's not making herself available or it's because he's lost interest in her. The first reason can be easily overcome by a woman just choosing to be more available to her husband. The second reason isn't something that can necessarily be controlled by a woman. Sometimes a man will lose interest in a woman. Women lose interest in men, too. Sometimes the sexual attraction in a relationship will just die out. This doesn't have to be because anyone has grown fat or ugly. There doesn't have to be any such 'asthetic' related explanation at all.

Sometimes people just lose that 'chemistry' that they once had for each other and it's not always possible to get it back. This is an event that cannot simply be blamed on some person or thing. People grow and change and sometimes this growth and change leads partners in different directions such that they are no longer desirable to each other. Rather than seeking to blame objects for this fact or inventing contrived narratives that say more about their inventor than they do mens internal thoughts and motivations, you should just acknowledge it as a part of reality - because that's exactly what it is. If people are no longer physically attracted to each other then they can either try to reignite the spark or come to terms with the fact that it's gone. That will be far more productive than uselessly assigning blame for the situation.

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This is really extraordinar... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2008 9:10 AM | Posted by D.M. Cook: | Reply

This is really extraordinary thinking.

Especially when you say "their real appeal is that they do not know him, and with them he could be the man he thinks he should be because they wouldn't know it's an invented identity. And the younger and younger ages of the women isn't about pedophilia-- he's just unconsciously dutch auctioning in on the age naive enough to believe his created identity."

-- this has nothing to do with porn being readily available (while partners, not so much): that in itself is not a reason for a decreased libido (often, it's increased-- real sex feels so much better than watching porn). This has everything to do with the real reason why men in committed and loving relationships find porn captivating: It's because we're tired of the identities our girlfriends/wives know so well. No man wants to be predictable and boring -- at least, not while he thinks he's still got some James Bond left to go in him. But domestic life often rapidly turns us into cartoons, simplified versions of who we were at the exact moment we met our spouse. It's often fairly difficult to get someone to accept you if you change dramatically two (or twenty) years into a relationship-- I don't care what some people will say. So once you settle down with someone, you're stuck in their ideas of who you should be-- and feel stifled and (often) emasculated as a result. This is why divorce rates are so high-- people are reinventing their careers at age 55, and who the hell would want to keep those vestiges of an old life around when they clearly wouldn't understand?

So, porn. An endless stream of women you'll never meet, with whom you can be whoever you want to be; always available, never around long enough to get boring.

Makes a lot of sense to me.

Congratulations on some really unusual and fascinating ideas! This definitely got me thinking.

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Dear Doc,Talking abo... (Below threshold)

September 19, 2008 9:21 AM | Posted by Smart Duck: | Reply

Dear Doc,
Talking about narcissism in sexual relationships, I'd love to know your views on the recent phenomenon of women blogging about their sexual adulterous escapades. They revel in the description of the adoration their partners lavish on them and the sexual act itself. Then it is on to the next one, sometimes right next week. We also see now prostitutes who blog about their work, and seem to love the fixation of some clients on them. Is this female empowerment or simply narcissism? Of course there must be thousands of other women who are serial cheaters but don't blog.
On the other hand, there seems to be a reaction from men to this seductive power of women, in blogs such as the one from Tucker Max, where they basically teach us how to treat women like garbage before they can fascinate you and treat you like garbage. What's the future of relationships in this perspective?
Thanks a lot.
Women's blogs:
Men's blogs:

Alone's response: what's this? A side of the internet I was not aware of? Hold on...

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Yeah, Doc. They post their ... (Below threshold)

September 21, 2008 2:26 PM | Posted by SmartDuck: | Reply

Yeah, Doc. They post their pictures in lingerie, they receive and give praise (in comments) from other narcissistic bloggers: "you are adorable", "you are irresistible", "how amazing to see this guy driving 100 miles to f**k you". It is a fantasy they live, for them all men are potential worshipers.
I have two young boys whom I am trying to teach to be respectful and sensitive towards women, but I am scared. 13 y-old girls now paint their nails, use tight fit jeans, paint their hair, trying to look like models. Their whole identity rests on how attractive they are for boys. Not on how they want to grow to be doctors, or astronauts, or teachers. It is all about how "hot" they are. I freak out thinking on how manipulated a sensitive and romantic boy can be by those girls.
Is there a solution? What do I teach the boys?
Help !

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I commend SmartDuck on his ... (Below threshold)

December 2, 2008 11:23 AM | Posted by La BellaDonna: | Reply

I commend SmartDuck on his ability to time-travel. He's obviously not from this or any recent century if it's news to him that 13-year-old girls paint their nails, do their hair, and wear tight-fitting jeans, and try to look like models in an effort to appeal to boys. They've been doing this - or variations of it - for quite a while. Is it actually news that sexually maturing heterosexual females are interested in attracting sexually maturing heterosexual males? And I would point out that unless he adds mind-reading to time-traveling, he is not privy to all their thoughts - he has no idea, in fact, whether they want to be doctors or lawyers. Being sexually attractive to the other sex (or the same) does not, in fact, actually preclude a future as a doctor, lawyer, or bricklayer. And I'm perturbed that all the onus appears to be on the girls, considering that the greatest percent of information that the girls receive, from men AND women, is how important it is to be attractive. No one's holding wet hat contests to see what their brains look like. There aren't that many math tests, despite Miss America's assertion of scholarship winnings (although, to be fair, a number of women have in fact gone on to become doctors after winning pagent money). But since nail polish, jeans, and hair dye cost money, you can bet the girls will be interested in earning more money, not less - they would rather be lawyers than legal secretaries, doctors and not orderlies. You want to raise your sensitive sons properly? Stop treating women as the enemy. They'll never have a decent relationship if you continue to behave as if women were the Big Bad.

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Ah, and a response to Last'... (Below threshold)

December 2, 2008 11:26 AM | Posted by La BellaDonna: | Reply

Ah, and a response to Last's post: I can certainly attest to what you've posted, in my own experience - right down to his wanting me to be someone that other guys wanted. For me, at least, more of this post was accurate than not.

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One of my fav posts and i'v... (Below threshold)

October 12, 2009 11:46 AM | Posted by Jbow: | Reply

One of my fav posts and i've read it a few times, but the "It's what the relatively recent fascination with MILFs is all about" is wrong (or at best only partially right).

Single guys in their teens/twenties watch MILF porn. It's just something to mix things up and maybe fulfill a fantasy about your friend's hot mom or a teacher you had a crush on.

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"They're putting the cart b... (Below threshold)

October 25, 2009 10:59 AM | Posted by Jbow: | Reply

"They're putting the cart before the horse on this pornography issue. Playboy doesn't cause sexual thoughts. Sexual thoughts exist and, therefore, there is Playboy. Do you see? … You know what causes sexual thoughts? I'm gonna clear the air for you tonight. I'm gonna end this debate, hopefully once and for all while on this planet, 'cause outer space awaits our presence, we are better and more unique creatures than this and all eternity is our playground, so let me go ahead and clear this one issue up once and for all and let's move on to real issues. Can we? Great.
Here's what causes sexual thoughts: having a dick."

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Look up the " The Coolidge ... (Below threshold)

January 22, 2012 8:56 AM | Posted by laurel Phd MD: | Reply

Look up the " The Coolidge Effect" . Any physician or psychologist with proper training is aware of the " The Coolidge Effect" . The writer has failed to account for biology in this overly simplistic & sophomoric writing which provides no evidence to support the conclusions reached.

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Could you please expand on ... (Below threshold)

February 12, 2013 4:17 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Could you please expand on this?:

"In women, narcissism manifests itself as a greater libido"

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I know this is an old, old,... (Below threshold)

February 21, 2014 1:51 AM | Posted by Brie: | Reply

I know this is an old, old, old post, but I just wanted to say that this is my relationship with my (soon-to-be ex-) husband exactly. He has even told me that the reason he doesn't want sex as much as I do is because he doesn't see himself as attractive enough (nevermind that he jerks off twice a day and has no problem getting down with other women). I used to have a hard time understanding him, his motivations, but your posts on narcissism have opened up a window for me. Thank you.

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Ha... (Below threshold)

May 28, 2014 9:26 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply


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First sign not to listen to... (Below threshold)

May 28, 2014 9:30 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

First sign not to listen to any of this crap is when the use of the Lords name follows. Sure some good points but ^

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