Ramya reluctantly accompanied her husband, Raman, to the fertility centre, where the specialist found out that their marriage had not been consummated. Even after eight years, the couple had not attempted sex. Ramya could not bring herself to ask for sex. Raman never bothered. The doctor was taken aback when Raman explained, nonchalantly, that sex was not his priority and he had more important things to do.
This couple’s example raises questions. Can a marriage survive without sex? Can we call this relationship where sex has been denied as marriage?
The answer is both yes and no. Yes, it can survive when the partners choose it and when it suits them. However, such couples are a minority. A majority of couples in sexless marriages pull along for societal reasons, even though one partner wants it and the other refrains from it. In some marriages, both may be experiencing sexual problems. For example, the husband may be having erectile dysfunction and the wife may be having phobic fear of penetration. Hence, it suits both to avoid sex. In other cases, professional ambition may prevent them from having children so they can focus on their jobs.
In cases where both have low sex drive, which is very rare, the decision is voluntary and mutually accepted. In a majority of cases, though, the decision of no sex is not mutual but taken by one of the partners.
Physical factors like addictions, hormonal imbalance, effect of certain medications, obesity, psychological factors like performance anxiety, guilt about sexual pleasure, fear of intimacy, marital discord, aversion to sex owing to childhood sexual abuse, phobic avoidance of intercourse, unconscious con- flict about sex/commitment/parenthood, psychotic delusions and mild mental retardation are some common factors that lead to a sexless marriage.
Today’s stressful lifestyle and work regimen may exhaust individuals. It saps them of the energy needed for an active sex life.
Whatever be the reason, refusal to oblige in sex has negative effects on the deprived partner. Feelings of inadequacy, reduced self-esteem, frustration, anxiety and depression are some of the emotional traumas experienced.
The deprived partner may feel rejected and may seek sex outside the marriage for a reassurance of his/her sexuality. Left unresolved, it can tear the relationshipapart.
Sex has been called one of the most intimate and binding forms of non-verbal communication. Trust, warmth and comfort often go hand in hand with it. Thus, taking it out of the equation should be done only for the most sound reasons. For most human beings, sex is a fully functional biological need that should not be ignored.