Jewish Journal

Who Says No to This?

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

February 9, 2011 | 11:15 am

So this past weekend, I had one of those long girly dinners where you go out to eat, drink wine till you’re giggling obnoxiously, and talk about men.  The topic turned to what happens to us when we as the girl in a relationship are the ones who get rejected, as in turned down for sex.  The stereotype is that men always want it and women never do, but we all shared stories about times in a relationship when we were the ones left awake as he went to sleep. 

It seems men are more practiced at getting turned down for sex.  They don’t seem to take it as personally.  Perhaps men expect to be turned every once in awhile - maybe society reinforces the idea that there are plenty of good reasons women might not want sex such as emotional disconnectivity, hormonal fluctuations, menstruation, not to mention the underlying presumption that men are wired physiologically to want sex at a higher frequency than women.

But women don’t usually think about reasons men might not want sex.  We generally assume they all want it, all the time.  All this is it say, that when a woman is turned down for sex, we’re very shocked, can’t understand why and take it very personally.  We’re not used to it and are completely unprepared when it does happen.  And thus, on those rare occasions when it occurs, we blame ourselves. 

As we went around the table at dinner, it seemed there were very legitimate reasons why such an event had occurred in a relationship.  He had drank so much he was on the verge of passing out, he had been up for two days straight traveling and just wanted to sleep, he was too high to perform, he thought it was too early in the relationship.  These are legitimate reasons not to have sex and if a woman on rare occasion said as much to her boyfriend, I doubt he’d take it as a reflection of his own self worth.  But when it happens to a woman, it’s rejecting.  You start asking what’s wrong with me?  Am I over-sexed?  Am I slut?  You feel dirty and like there was something unsavory about you even asking for it.  You feel that the problem is yours for asking for sex in the first place.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Clearly the vestiges of our puritanical society remain and we still attribute some element of shame to a woman who wants sex too much, too often, or with too many people.  The problem is, it’s no longer men who are reinforcing these stereotypes, women are perpetuating it all themselves.  When my girlfriends and I were talking, not one of us could offer up an example of a man actually saying you’re oversexed, or why can’t you control your libido or some such variation that would imply that the problem was with the woman for asking.  The men were offering up excuses for themselves because the reasons for turning us down resided solely with them and yet, we still felt we were impure for having asked. 

The other problem with this self-imposed guilt is that it really isn’t fair to men.  We make them creatures without feelings who should want sex all the time regardless of their feelings.  When a man has a legitimate reason for not wanting sex, the woman should respect that just as we expect them to respect our decision to decline when the situation is reversed.  Men aren’t walking libidos and to be so reductive does exactly to them what we don’t want done to us.  So with Valentine’s Day coming up, girls ask away.  And feel no shame, whether the answer is yes or no.  Women have long demanded the sexual freedoms that men enjoy.  Now that we are able to ask for sex the way men do, we must accept that this means that every once in a while, we’re going to get turned down the way men do.

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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