#Sexual Health

Women In Sexless Marriages Need To Address Their Sexual Frustration

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What is sexual starvation? Sexual frustration or starvation refers to the imbalance stemming from a difference between a person’s desired and achieved levels of sexual activity. When it happens to someone, they don’t just get irritable or grumpy. They can also experience impaired impulse control and engage in types of behaviour that they normally would not.

All those men in your DMs trying to get into your pants? It is not just the lack of sex education that has failed to teach them sexual values of respect, consent, and privacy but also that they are sexually starved. Being raised with no social skills on how to interact to a woman in an intimate context, they have relied on misogynistic porn and media that tells men are entitled to see women as sex objects. No wonder, most of these men will be sexually starved.

As a sexuality coach myself, I get many flirty messages, unsolicited pictures of their genitalia, and random video call requests from many men who are very dissatisfied with their sex life. Many women, including myself, have had to unwillingly become the medium for their unreciprocated sexual expression. But in the case of women, sexual frustration is more subtle and often hidden deep within.

While sexual frustration makes men more aggressive and reckless, it seems to have a different effect on women. Sexual starvation in women is more likely to make itself known through feelings of depression, self-doubt, anxiety, restlessness, and hypersensitivity. Not only do most women ignore these signs, but they also explain away all their negative feelings by normalising sexual contact as optional but not pivotal to a relationship. I once received a message from the spouse of a national award winning Indie filmmaker, who is suffering from erectile dysfunction but refuses to seek any medical treatment for the same. She is in a sexless marriage for 14 years. She said morosely.

“I tried to convince him many times to go to a doctor, but he plainly refuses. He might be feeling inferior about his problem and is not able to confront it. We share otherwise a very warm relationship. He is a good father and a good husband. Yes, I badly miss the physical intimacy part, but I cannot leave him just because of this.”

There are many Indian married women like her who bear living with lustless husbands. The conservative values that have been drilled into the brains of most Indian women are hard to shake even in your adulthood. Women who are in forced sexless marriages and want to pursue an extramarital sexual relationship with another man are faced with a moral dilemma and an overabundance of internalised shame. Their sexual desires seem to not align with or sometimes contradict the paramount value of marital contract. Their body wants something, but their conditioned brain tells them they are wrong for wanting it. Many women do not want to come off as “one of those” to anyone in their life.

The existence of female sexual frustration is denied any validity in the mainstream narrative. Many women don’t even know about the correct names of their genitalia, have never looked at them, have never masturbated. But what can even sex-positive and sexually aware women do in a society which denies the very existence of sexuality while sexualising her body?

For the single heterosexual women and mothers, finding a penis owner to have sex with is not a difficult feat. With so many women raised to protect their virginity until marriage and an equal number becoming sexless in marriage once the childbearing role of sex is accomplished, most men are sexually frustrated, single or married. These men cannot find many women who will sleep with them without any strings attached. So, when a woman does agree to a casual encounter, several men will jump at the chance.

The problem here is not the lack of men, but the belief women hold that once they have had sex outside marriage, they would not be respected anymore. Questions like “what if someone found out” or “would he think less of me if I sleep with him” will put out the fire that was burning within her. Plus, some women are looking for a serious relationship but most men they get to meet are either married or non-committal There is also the ever-present fear of not having your consent and agency taken seriously among women who think of engaging in casual sex.

So how do you deal with this? First, learn to see masturbation through a different lens. Most women are not even aware of their own erogenous zones. Masturbation can be a beautiful experience that can truly satisfy you if you take the time to explore and experiment. You might also need to invest in some sex toys. You might not always get a partner around the clock, and your battery-operated boyfriend will always be available to take the edge off and help release the widely sought-after oxytocin and dopamine (happy hormones).

If your sexual frustration branches into deeper emotional issues and real-life problems, do not wait for things to get worse and talk to a mental health professional. If you are not ready to take that leap of stranger sex, see if you are more comfortable in sharing sexual contact with a trusted friend. Women in sexless marriages can also explore the possibility of opening the relationship consensually by asserting their sexual needs and talking about it with their spouses. You can only solve a problem by acknowledging it and ‘doing’ something about it. The more you try to ignore the elephant in the room, the more destruction it is going to cause.

Pallavi Barnwal is a certified sexuality coach and founder of a sex-positive platform Get Intimacy. She has been featured as a sexpert in publications such as Huffington Post, India Today, Vogue, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, Times Of India, BBC, Deccan Chronicle, Femina and more. She specialises in helping people gain courage to talk openly about sex and relationships and equipping them with actionable tips and skills so they can start having more pleasure both inside and outside their bedroom. The views expressed are the author’s own.