Report: Denying Men Sex Is Like Child Neglect

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Photo: iStockphoto

This week's "Bonds" column — the Wall Street Journal's answer to "Sex and the City" — tells the story of Chris and Afton Mower, high-school sweethearts turned Mormon newlyweds whose marriage has improved drastically since Mr. Mower taught his wife that not having sex with him amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Ms. Mower had been turned off by the "pressure" to have sex again after a miscarriage, she says, until "he said, 'It feels like you don't love me' — and that really, really scared me." Now the couple wants to spread the word. Herewith, all the terrible things that happen to a man denied sex, according to the Mowers and the Journal’s cast of scientists and therapists.

It makes him depressed.
According to Mower, the vagina is the source of all of a man’s self-worth.

“He became grumpy, gained weight and stopped wanting to come home at night. ‘For me to feel good about myself, I needed her to have sex with me,’ he says. ‘Otherwise I thought she didn't love me.’”

It's like you're hiding his antidepressants.
Because men “often limit hugs and physical affection,” the Journal writes, women may be their only source of oxytocin.

“‘Take sex away and they don't have the chemical stimulants that give them a sense of well-being,’ says Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University research scientist in anthropology.”

Or censoring his self-expression.
According to the Journal, “men tend to express feelings with actions, not words," and by actions, they mean sex. Squishy noises are the key to his soul.

"For some men, sex may be their primary way of communicating and expressing intimacy," says Justin Lehmiller, a Harvard University social psychologist who studies sexuality. Taking away sex "takes away their primary emotional outlet."

It may drive him to housework.
Mower is the only known person to have taken that study that says women find men who do chores sexy seriously.

“After reading online that women are turned on by men who do housework, he washed the dishes and vacuumed more often. ‘It didn't change anything,’ says the web designer and food blogger, now 30, who lives in West Jordan, Utah.”

And fastidious chart-making.
Mower tracked their sex life as if he were scoring a baseball game. He estimates he was batting around .05.

“He drew a chart and filled in different-shaped dots to represent various scenarios: He initiated sex but was declined. They planned on sex but didn't follow through. They actually had sex.”

It dredges up childhood trauma.
Every sexual rebuff has oedipal implications.

"When a man gets depressed because he's not being touched, it's just like the little boy who stands in his crib and cries to be picked up," [Esther Perel, a marriage therapist and author of Mating in Captivity, says.] "He is experiencing emotional deprivation."

In short, when a woman denies a man sex it is a form of emotional torture second only to that inflicted by his distant, refrigerator mother.