Sexual deprivation of wives

Lately, so many women shared with me their stories of sexual deprivation and isolation within their marriages. The withholding of sexual contact reminds me of the dominant discourse that a wife’s body becomes the property of her husband. I argue that this discourse is based on the premise that a husband has the power and right to decide when and how his wife could engage in sexual activity. Linked to this premise is the dismissal of female sexual desire and female sexual fulfillment. Women’s sexuality was and still is at times mostly linked to reproduction, and therefore men and women often hold different expectations for sexual fulfillment. Women (and men) are socialised to be indifferent to female sexual desire and fulfillment. This indifference is reinforced by the dominant discourse which encourages women to be passive in sexual activity and to wait for men to initiate sexual contact as “good girls” don’t. This discourse was present as far back as the time of Plutarch (46-120 CE), when it was believed that a wife who seeks sexual fulfilment for herself was regarded as bad, meretricious and impetuous. This discourse placed the fulfillment of a wife’s sexual desire under the control of her husband. It follows that if a husband disregards his wife’s right to sexual fulfilment – or even worse, if he believes that she has no need for sexual fulfilment – he might never attend to her sexual needs and desires.

Extract adjusted from my doctoral study: Spies, N 2011. Exploring and storying Protestant Christian women/s experiences living in sexually unhappy marriages. DTh thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria. 

Electronic version available at –


4 thoughts on “Sexual deprivation of wives

  1. Hi there, I practice narrative therapy here in Australia, I also see many women stating they are sexually deprived. This is an interesting topic surrounded my many discourses – thanks for sharing your work – glad I found you!

    • Dear Julie Anne, thank you for you feedback. An electronic version of my thesis regarding women in sexually unhappy marriages are available at the University of South Africa. You might be able to access it. I am busy with my first book regarding my research and will forward you the title once it is translated into English. Most of my posts are written from a narrative perspective. I hold fond connections to Australia due to Micheal White and his colleagues.
      Kind regards

  2. I won’t say sexless marriages work, I will say its only an existance of a man and a woman.
    I’ve been married or unmarried for 45 years. The last time we had sex was on our wedding night 45 years ago. The day after my husband decide he wasn’t going on our honeymoon, but was going back to work. He immeadiately started working the midnight shift and was never at home at night. Also he moved all his things from our bedroom down to the basement and slept on an old camping cot. In his spare time he built a small apartment down stairs. I asked what he was doing and he said I tryed sex and I don’t like it nor do I desire it, just leave me alone and don’t bother me. I cry alot, lonely, depressed, unwanted, unloved and I hate him so much. To this day I’m still angry, I wanted kids and a loving family. I’m to old now and maybe it will just end quickly.

    • Dear Amy, your story is a very sad one. I agree, sex is not the be and end all of a relationship, but a sexless marriage can cause much heart ache and sorrow. Sex as any other aspect of a relationship need to be negotiated that both parties feel safe, heard and fulfilled.

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