How lack of equity in relationship is killing women’s libido
Women in less equitable relationships are at a higher risk for low sexual desire than those in egalitarian relationships. This is according to a study recently published in The Journal of Sex Research.
The research shows that relationship satisfaction and female sexual desire are highly correlated with an effect that is bidirectional: This points to a new direction, namely that of relationship power dynamics. This idea is derived from social exchange theory (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978), which posits that if decision-making, resources, and division of labour are not perceived as shared, relationship conflict and dissatisfaction occur.
Given the resentment, fatigue, and stress that relationship inequity can produce, the study makes perfect sense. Women commonly identify being physically and cognitively exhausted as a primary reason for not wanting sex. Chronic stress also leads to decreased female sexual desire, as distracting thoughts and rumination can easily kill libido.
How inequity manifests
Psychologist Jane Ngugi shares that inequity in intimate relationships can manifest in a multitude of observable ways, including large differences in how much income partners earn, their relative social status, how they divide household labour, and who controls finances.
However, more subtle imbalances of power exist. “Look at it this way, inequity in invisible and emotional labour, such as anticipating a partner’s or their children’s needs, organising family members’ activities, and delegating household tasks, can cause significant conflict within couples,” says Jane.
“No rule is absolute,” shares Reggae musician Cathy Matete, when talking about sexual desire. While there might be no rules, the Desire hitmaker believes that there are some pretty fundamental aspects to look at when it comes to searching for a lifelong partner.
“Women are naturally drawn to men who are well established, capable and able to care for them. In the modern world that means a man with money. Of course, there are many exceptions to any of these rules, but a majority of women in any society are drawn to men with means. On the other hand, it is hard to date a man who does not do things men are expected to do in a relationship, and I too have. Ask any woman today, we want to feel safe with our men and rely on them if we need to. Even at home, simply being handy becomes a turn…fix my TV, my shower, my fridge, do it without even I telling you…” shares Cathy.
And while domestic housework may start as equally shared, over time, women tend to do more household tasks. Other relationship factors are involved. The research found children increased the workload for women, leading to lower relationship equity and consequently, lower sexual desire.
Relationship length also played a role. Research shows long-term relationships are associated with decreasing desire for women, and this is often attributed to the tedium of over-familiarity. However, the study found relationship boredom is not the reason, with the increasing inequity over the course of a relationship often the cause of women’s disinterest in sex. The longer some relationships continue, the more unfair they become, lowering women’s desire.
Long term relationship suffers
“The tedium of long-term heterosexual relationships likely contributes to low sexual desire in women in a way that far outweighs the impact on that of their male partners. Different findings suggest that this effect may be due to power imbalances. A woman who has been delegated most of the household and emotional labour over time will likely become exhausted and resentful. Obviously, this is likely to reduce how much she craves sex with a partner who, by comparison, does and cares little,” shares the expert.
She advises that whenever couples feel that there is tension in the relationship or marriage, it is important to table out their concerns about having their needs fulfilled.
“When both partners are willing to work on it, it starts by empowering themselves first. Then ask for what you need and also keep your partner’s needs in mind. If you are consistent, you will see progress, especially if you have expert help by your side,” says Jane.
Europe-based Kenyan musician, Kitole Kenda believes that men relinquish their power by looking desperate for intercourse. When the women realise this, they use it against men.
“The main reason relationships fail depends on the reason the two people got together in the first place. Most of us have intercourse and when the sex is hot, we say ‘I have found my soul mate’ after the intense orgasm. But life has many facets to it. When you later minus the sex, you realise that you cannot even hold a conversation,” shares the artist.
While being financially stable can get a man any woman they desire for sex, Kitole shares that the money makes some men hold dark sexual fantasies, which might bring a woman off balance altogether, therefore it should not be the basis for sexual desire as such.
“It all depends on the initial agreement. So, don’t hold anyone for ransom. Some people are asexual; there are also men who just want money from their women, trophy husbands. In my case, for instance, I grew up in a family where my mother did not always have to do the cooking. My father would surprise the family on some weekends, making nice meals for the whole family. And I feel this was a real spice to their relationship,” he adds.