Every Sunday I read About Last Night in The Age Newspaper’s Sunday Life Magazine. It’s a column that answers personal relationship questions. The columnist is Sex and Relationship Counselor and owner of Bliss 4 Women, Maureen Matthews. So I thought I’d contact her to see if I could include a letter she’d received that really intrigued me. This letter is also generating a lot of discussion between me and Reservoir Mum, and among the members of the Northern Dads Group. Maureen gave me the okay to include it here, so here we go.
A little bit of background first. In the About Last Night column published November 6, a woman wrote to Maureen to ask for advice about the fact that her husband had gone off sex and had not been attracted to her since her pregnancy. Even though months had passed, she was feeling great and the baby was sleeping through the night, he had not regained his desire for her. She said she was feeling humiliated and frustrated.
Maureen responded by saying that a pregnant woman’s body once once a symbol of sexual beauty but in modern times we’ve come to separate sexuality and pregnancy. Some men who do see the pregnant body as sexy will still choose to abstain from sex at about six months because they believe this will keep Mother and baby safe. But if his desire doesn’t return he may have a ‘severe problem’. She recommended counseling for him to address his feelings about ‘femaleness’, and also suggested they have relationship counseling as a couple.
I found this column engaging because it didn’t reflect my experience at all. I’ve never lost interest in sex during any of RM’s pregnancies. And most men I talk to say their desire actually increases with the changes in their wives’ bodies. It also helps that their wives’ desire also often increases during pregnancy. To read in Maureen’s response that it was common for a man to voluntarily ‘abstain’ had me shaking my head. Still, the world’s a big place. And I’ve only got a small view of it!
But then came the following letter from a male reader, published Sunday 27 November. This is the full unedited copy.
I read your column regularly and often I am dismayed. Your advice November 6 is dead wrong.
Men are visual creatures, we are turned on or off by what we see. We are attracted to young, healthy women. It is genetically programmed in us. Pregnant or other fat and distorted bodies turn us off sex. Men do not masturbate to pictures of pregnant women. Also, seeing a blood covered head ripping though our wives’ vagina can turn us off sex for life. It did with me. I left the marriage.
Your advice should have been.
1. Look as sexually attractive as you can, get back into shape.
2. Hide your body from him unless he asks to see it ( a woman’s body either turns him on or off, e.g. if he looks away when she is getting changed or coming back from the bathroom, her body is turning him off, it’s that obvious).
3. Accept that a child may start your family life but end your sex life.
4. Accept that he will still be having daily sex without you (masturbating, prostitutes, girlfriends or bisexual). He will not tell her that he is no longer attracted to his wife because he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings.
5. If she wants to be part of his sex life, suggest that they watch pornos together and give him a great head job. Women do not understand how important this is. If he gets really excited he may want to fuck her, but hide the body under a skirt.
At first I thought this bloke had to be taking the piss, or was just being provocative because it amused him. But unfortunately this is for real. I can’t help but feel very disturbed. Going by his response, his wife is not his ‘partner’ who he shares his life with. Her value to him begins and ends with his sex drive. I don’t hear anything about her in this letter. It’s all about him.
Although I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone like this. All my friends have been right by their partner’s side for all the terrors and joys of pregnancy, labor and birth, and all have emerged more in love and more committed to their partners. And when we speak about our sex lives in this context it’s only to talk about the after pregnancy ‘dry spells’ . But concern for our partners and an understanding of the traumas they’ve gone through, and the very real physical issues of post pregnancy recovery, is always a given in our discussions. We’re sharing experience about our commitment to our partners. None of us are insinuating that we’re no longer attracted to our partners, or that we’re heading off to the local brothel. We’re just saying we can’t wait to ‘get back at it’ again with the woman we love most!
I’ve seen four “blood covered heads rip through” RM’s vagina. And I’ve seen our four babies feed at her breast these past several years. That has confirmed to me that RM is amazing and beautiful (I would die for her!) and it has only had a positive affect on our sex life. That we’ve been through so much together and know each other better than anyone else is what keeps the desire strong.
When I was discussing this topic with the Northern Dads Group last week the consensus was that the whole process of having a child just brought us closer together with our partners. The years that we’ve spent together has done the same. Even the way our bodies are changing – ours and our partners – has only strengthened the bond.
What disturbs me so much about this letter is the lack of concern this man has for his wife. I imagine RM in that situation and my heart aches for her. She would feel rejected, vulnerable and alone. I have to feel sad for this man as well. He seems to be stuck with an adolescent view of sexuality and doesn’t understand that it can develop and mature and grow if you allow it. He also doesn’t seem to be aware of how much you miss out on if you don’t.