“I don’t like sex, so I should get something out of it.”
This was how one woman – let’s call her Marie – justified charging her partner $50 any time he wanted sex more than twice a week.
But this isn’t a 50-year old mother of seven indulging her over-sexed hubby’s desires. This is a 24-year old, childless, career woman.
And if she can’t “get it up”, well frankly it makes me feel a hell of a lot better about myself.
While the unusual foreplay – “and here’s your change, sir” (naughty wink) – garnered its own moral debate, it unearthed something many female friends were willing to share – albeit in barely audible whispers – with me.
This feisty, young woman had said something out loud that many were holding inside. And every time I told a friend about this article, they’d begin to leak secrets of their own lacklustre libidos.
One, a married mother of three children under five, said if she didn’t “lock in” sex with her husband, she simply wouldn’t ever have sex.
“I’ve got so much on every day, sex just never occurs to me. But if I have it pencilled down somewhere, I can literally tick it off my ‘to do’ list.”
While some pencilled in “date nights” and others received payment for services rendered, the clear front-runner for handling poor sex drives in married couples was “the mercy fuck” – resorting to sex to stave off any further unwanted advances.
One married professional said she only “put out when he gets annoying to be around”.
Australia’s own leading sex therapist, Dr Rosie King, said financial transactions or contracts could be used to encourage “decision-driven” sex, as opposed to “desire-driven” sex.
“Receiving a cash donation may increase her willingness. It’d increase my willingness,” the good doctor laughs.
But her voice drops ominously as she refers to “the mercy fuck”, like we’re wrestling with a savage beast, known to rip relationships apart.
“Mercy sex is the sex you have when you really don’t want to have sex. It’s unwilling sex. That’s the solution that women tend to come up with – they endure sex with their partners rather than enjoy it.”
Mercy sex can reduce a woman’s desire even further, locking the couple into a downward spiral of pressure and resentment.
“Women become avoidant of sexual advances. They stop kissing and cuddling, they stop undressing in front of their partner, they go to bed early and pretend to be asleep when their partner comes in.”
Sound like someone you know?
It’s called the Limerence Period and Dr Rosie goes into it at length in her book, Where Did My Libido Go?.
She said a woman’s lust runs on two neuro-transmitters, dopamine and adrenalin, which peter out during the first six, twelve or eighteen months of their new relationship.
Yes, you can literally count the honeymoon period on your fingers and toes. And after that?
“After the Limerence phase, many women will never again or rarely feel enough desire for them to initiate sex.”
“That is very disappointing for the woman and very disappointing for her partner because she’s gone from being a hot tamale to being, at best, receptive to his sexual advances and, at worst, being avoidant of them,” Dr Rosie said.
After that heady honeymoon stage, a woman’s sex drive can be affected by fatigue, stress, poor diet, a poor body image, painful sex, her husband’s pouting … the list can go on and on.
But have you ever heard a man turn down sex because of a headache?
We don’t possess the single-minded testosterone of the men.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to judge Marie’s $50 encounters. She’s seen this imbalance and created a solution that works for them, where most women would stick their head in the sand.
“Women need to realise that the sex problem isn’t just going to go away,” said Dr Rosie.
“His lust is not going to evaporate and one of the things I say to women is, so long as your relationship is good and as long as you enjoy the sex when it happens, then you may need to have – instead of desire-driven sex – you may need to have decision-driven sex.
“But you have to have a good relationship with your partner and you have to enjoy the sex when it happens because I’m not saying that any woman should engage in sex when she has a poor relationship with her partner or when she doesn’t enjoy it because that takes us back to the old days of, you know, ‘close your eyes and think of England’.”
Peta-Jo is a newspaper subeditor based in Queensland who journals her trials as a fledgling author and a haphazard mum of two at petajo.com.
Would you charge your partner for sex? How do you handle differing libidos?