Over at SSM’s, they’ve been having a lively discussion about duty sex. Commenter Lee Lee Bug’s husband has a lower sex drive than her. Commenter feeriker mentioned that men feel extremely vulnerable talking about this (do we? I don’t feel vulnerable talking about it all—but then, as a 26-yr-old male, it’s through the roof, so, yeah). Feeriker advises approaching it sensitively:
I would say that the one thing (probably the only thing) that might make him willingly open up to you about this is for you as his wife to make it clear to him, in word, deed, and attitude, and in NO uncertain terms, that you love him and have his best interests and long-term well-being at heart,
So, this is probably good advice. I can’t speak to Lee Lee Bug’s situation, but wish her well.
What I do want to talk about, though, is how approaching your husband with his best interests at heart may not be the right way to do it—especially if you don’t understand his interests.
So, what are his interests?
Here it might be worth it to take a second to talk about male biological imperatives, considering how much time we give to female ones.
For women, interestingly, social status doesn’t matter all that much—or at least not in the same way. You don’t have to be the most beautiful woman around for your children to have a good shot at survival. You just have to be basically doable. The life of a 10 is not that much different from the life of a 9, which is not that much different from the life of an 8. Just don’t be a 2.
For men, there is a world of difference between the life of a 10 and the life of a 9. While the guys themselves may be very similar, the benefits of the positions are so different as to merit different categories in Vox’s hierarchy. If you’re a 9, it may well be worth it to risk death to become a 10. For men, in many ways, it’s better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.
Women are born with inherent middling social status, and their main task is to not screw it up. Men are born with zero inherent social status, and their main task is to claw their way to the top. Not being at the top is genetic death.
Let me reiterate that: not being at the top means genetic death for men.
This is why men may dig in their heels against perfectly reasonable suggestions if they don’t come in the right frame. A victory for the group or family, if it topples the man from his perch, is merely the replacement of one threat with another. And if it’s an unimportant victory for the group—say, the difference between being being lost for fifteen minutes and pulling over to ask for directions—then it is far, far preferable to maintain status and be lost for fifteen minutes.
And this is where approaching a man with his best interests at heart can go awry. “Doing what is best for him,” if it causes a drop in status, is emphatically not what is best for him. Not being at the top is genetic death. What profiteth it a man if he arrives on time and dies childless?
This is where Athol Kay’s Captain-First Officer model comes in handy. Men are all too aware that they have faults. They even poke fun at themselves about them. They are entirely willing to take advice or even criticism—as long as their position is not called into question as a result. If it is, the interaction is now seen as a subversive insurrection rather than a helpful offer.
This is why “love, honor, and obey” were in the marriage vows of yore. For men, they’re all the same.