- Politics and Social Issues
The Secret of Sexual Abuse in Marriage
The Reality of Sexual Abuse in Marriage
Much has been written on the subject of sexual abuse in general but I find that the topic of sexual abuse within marriage is curiously silent in literature. I suspect that many women have experienced some form of sexual abuse, but it seems that many are afraid to speak out, and others may still wonder if what they are dealing with is normal or not.
Generally we don’t go around talking about our sex life. It’s personal and private. We don’t have a point of comparison from previous marriages or other women’s experiences. We know that sex is a part of marriage and we think it should be a good part of the marriage where our mutual love can be expressed and enjoyed. What many women didn’t know when they got married was that their sex life would turn into a struggle to be heard for some and a living hell for others.
What is sexual abuse in marriage?
Until recent years spousal rape was not considered a crime. Women were seen as property of the husband and thus the husband could do whatever he pleased with “his” woman. Fortunately now laws are in place to protect women at the hands of their spouse.
Spousal rape is not the only form of sexual abuse in marriage. Abuse occurs anytime a woman is either forced or persuaded to perform sexual acts that she does not want to perform or feels uncomfortable doing. Anything painful is abuse and a woman may express her pain and discomfort but her pleas are not heard. She may be told that it is her duty or she may be accused of being frigid. Her husband may threaten to “look elsewhere” if she doesn’t perform his wishes.
A woman may be forced (or manipulated) to wear outfits that make her feel like a prostitute, or be made to watch pornography with her partner, whether she wants to or not. She may be asked to have sex in risky situations such as a public place or where people are nearby. She may even be asked to accept a third person in the bedroom, either male or female.
Why are some men sexually abusive? Where does this come from?
I don’t have any solid answers but I would guess that a man who is sexually abusive has a combination of traits that lead him to expect things from his wife that she is not prepared to give.
Childhood Abuse: It is a well known fact that when children are sexually abused, they may be more prone to repeat the abusive behavior. Some men who were victims as children may not abuse children but they may feel that it is acceptable to be abusive with their wife.
Narcissism: One trait that I have found to be common in men who are sexually abusive is narcissism. Whether it is a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder or simply narcissistic traits, their basic personality and mindset leads them to view those around them as commodities that are to be used for their personal benefit, and the wife is no exception. In a marriage with a narcissist, there is no equality or partnership although it may appear to be a perfect marriage on the outside. In this type of marriage the wife’s sole purpose for being there is to fulfill the husband’s wishes. Usually her opinions and feelings are never heard and she has very few rights in the marriage. She often feels invisible until her husband needs something.
Pornography and sexual addiction: Another factor that plays into a sexually abusive marriage is the influence of pornography. When men view a great deal of pornography, they begin to believe that what is portrayed in films is what sex is supposed to be like. The women portrayed in pornography are never tired, never have an opinion, never mind the pain, and are always willing to do anything, no matter how degrading. They have perfect bodies and don’t have any other function than to please the men around them. Men who regularly view pornography may expect their wife to live “up to” (or “down to”) the women in films. Anything less is disappointing and he may begin to suspect that something is wrong with his wife.
Unrealistic expectations and distorted views of sex, coupled with an attitude that a wife is supposed to serve her husband no matter what she feels is a combination that very often leads to sexual abuse.
Consequences of Sexual Abuse in Marriage:
The first and obvious consequence is physical pain. Many women have internal injuries and back problems due to extreme force or high frequency of sexual relations. Sciatic nerve pain is common as is lower back pain. The injuries that are harder to deal with are the internal scars that plague the woman’s self-worth. She may feel inadequate, never measuring up and never satisfying her husband’s insatiable sexual appetite. Her opinions and feelings are never taken into account, which lead her to feel that she is not worthy of being heard. She may develop a distrust of men in general, or she may decide that her only real role in life is sexual. This may lead her to promiscuity with other men, as she seeks the attention and affirmation that she so much desires, but that she only knows how to gain through sex.
Most women try to speak up and voice their feelings, at least initially, but usually to no avail, falling on deaf ears. I suspect that many women give up and continue to endure the abuse, which is partially why we don’t hear about sexual abuse in marriage much. Is this just a burden to bear? Is it alright to be forced to do what we don’t want to do? Is a marriage really a marriage if one person doesn’t have a voice?
Couples counseling can help if the husband is willing to go to counseling, but this is not the most likely outcome. Usually an abuser does not want to be confronted with his “sins” and will stay far away from anyone who might indicate that he needs to make some changes. When an abusive husband does agree to go to counseling, the wife may be able to express herself for the first time and those feelings can be heard and worked through. New “rules” can be agreed upon and the couple can learn to negotiate what is acceptable and positive for both partners.
Some women find the strength they need to leave the abusive relationship and a strong support system is essential to gaining the necessary strength to leave and start a new life. Having good friends who will listen and offer unconditional support is one of those wonderful gifts that can help see them through. Seeing a professional counselor can help put things in perspective and help in the decision making process. Having a plan of escape is essential and finances, housing and transportation all have to be thought through carefully.
When both partners’ feelings are heard and honored, sex can be amazing and beyond description! Real intimacy is not about props, outfits, and domination. Feeling respected, connected and understood by the person you love is what great sex is all about.