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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Modern Marriage, Men’s Extramarital Sex, and HIV Risk in Southeastern Nigeria Daniel Jordan Smith, PhD, MPH

For women in Nigeria, as in many settings, simply being married can contribute to the risk of contracting HIV. I studied men’s extramarital sexual behavior in the context of modern marriage in southeastern Nigeria. The results indicate that the social organization of infidelity is shaped by economic inequality, aspirations for modern lifestyles, gender disparities, and contradictory moralities. It is men’s anxieties and ambivalence about masculinity, sexual morality, and social reputation in the context of seeking modern lifestyles—rather than immoral sexual behavior and traditional culture—that exacerbate the risks of HIV/AIDS.
Data from around the world, including Nigeria, suggest that married women’s greatest risk of contracting HIV is through sexual intercourse with their husbands.1 The implication is that men are acquiring HIV outside of marriage and infecting their wives. At first glance, modern marriage in Nigeria would seem to offer women greater autonomy and equality and perhaps protection from HIV. The growing prevalence of monogamy, declining fertility, a trend toward neolocal residence (establishing marital residence independent of kin) and nuclear household organization, women’s increasing education and participation in the formal workforce as more people migrate to cities, and the rise of love as an important rationale in the selection of a spouse all suggest the possibility of growing gender equality in marriage. But the findings presented in this study show that gender inequality persists in powerful ways, manifested perhaps most obviously—and certainly most dangerously with regard to the risk of HIV infection—in a pronounced double standard for extramarital sexuality. In contemporary Nigeria, married men are much more likely than married women to engage in extramarital sex, and it is more acceptable for them to do so.2
The prevalence of men’s participation in extramarital sex and the fact that women’s sexuality is, ironically, the target of popular discourse about sexual immorality attest to the persistence of gender inequality.3 Modern marriage in Nigeria, despite its appearance of greater equality, places many women in positions in which they cannot easily confront their husbands about infidelity or protect themselves from possible HIV infection. The findings presented here, however, go further than simply attributing the marital transmission of HIV to men’s behavior. Men’s extramarital sexual practices are situated in economic, social, and moral contexts. The social organization of extramarital sexuality is shaped by aspirations for modern amenities and middle-class consumption, the influence of urban fashions, and changing expectations of sexuality. My findings show that these goals and values are themselves shaped by economic inequality, gender disparities, and powerful and contradictory moralities. I argue against notions of African traditions, promiscuous women, and pervasive immorality as the causes of Nigeria’s and Africa’s AIDS epidemic.
The data demonstrate that married men’s risky sexual behavior and their wives’ inability to protect themselves can be understood and explained without resorting to the common fallacy of blaming the victims. It is people’s anxieties about sexual morality in the context of seeking modern lifestyles—rather than immoral sexual behavior somehow associated with traditional culture—that exacerbate risks produced by poverty and inequality. The focus here on how men navigate modernity, morality, and masculinity as they engage in extramarital relationships highlights the importance of intervening directly with men to address women’s risk of contracting HIV. Public health interventions focusing on men in Nigeria and similar settings where men’s extramarital sex is common and gender inequality is marked are urgently needed.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with more than 130 million people. With the current adult HIV seroprevalence estimated at 5%, some 3.5 million people are infected.4 Worst-case scenarios suggest that in the next decade infection rates could escalate to 20%, producing more than 10 million new cases.5 More moderate forecasts, such as the Nigerian government’s estimates, acknowledge that by 2015, some 8 million Nigerians will have died from AIDS-related causes.6 With the country’s testing and antiretroviral therapy programs still reaching only a fraction of the target population, effective prevention efforts remain a crucial strategy. But perhaps not surprisingly, in a context in which both popular and political discourse on the disease continue to emphasize sexual immorality as a primary risk factor, little appetite exists for focusing on the risks of marital transmission. Even as—and largely because—marriage remains the single most important social duty and marker of adulthood in Nigeria, both policymakers and ordinary citizens remain resistant to the idea that marriage must be understood as a risk factor for HIV infection.

STUDY SETTING AND RESEARCH DESIGN

The study was undertaken in 2 communities in Igbo-speaking southeastern Nigeria, where I have worked and conducted research since 1989. The project areas included the semirural community of Ubakala in Abia State and the city of Owerri in Imo State. Ubakala is made up of 11 villages and has a total resident population of approximately 24 000 people. Most households rely economically on a combination of farming, trading, employment, and remittances from migrants. The community is about 6 miles from the town of Umuahia, and everyday life is increasingly affected by the close proximity of an urban center. Further, the vast majority of adults in Ubakala have lived a year or more in one of Nigeria’s many cities, and at any given time, more than half the people who consider Ubakala their home are living outside the community, mostly in Nigeria’s far-flung cities and towns. With very few exceptions, the entire population of Ubakala is Christian, and most people are regular participants in the activities of 1 of the many churches present in the area. A majority of men and women younger than 50 years have completed at least primary school and are literate, and nearly all parents aspire to have their children attend secondary school and a university. Despite significant changes over the past several decades that have placed strains on traditional systems of social organization, ties of kinship and community remain powerful among both Ubakala residents and their migrant brethren.
Owerri is the capital of Imo State and has a population of approximately 350 000 people. Many of the city’s residents work as civil servants for the state government, but there are also large commercial and service sectors. The bulk of the population is made up of migrants from rural areas, most of whom retain close ties to their places of origin. As in Ubakala and in the entire southeastern region, Christianity is nearly ubiquitous. In addition, Owerri is the home of 4 colleges and universities and has a student population of close to 100 000. Partly because of the presence of colleges and universities, which concentrate a large population of educated young women, married men’s favored partners for extramarital affairs, the city has a reputation throughout southern Nigeria as a hub for extramarital sexual relationships. Owerri was selected as a second site to explore rural–urban differences in perceptions and practices in modern marriage and in men’s extramarital sexual behavior and because of its supposed status as a breeding ground for infidelity.
I spent June to December 2004 in Nigeria, living in a household in Ubakala that included a married woman, several children, and a migrant husband, and in a household in Owerri with a young newlywed couple. Four local research assistants were hired to assist with marital case-study interviews in both sites. Two female research assistants conducted the marital case study interviews with women in Ubakala; I conducted the interviews with men. In Owerri, male and female assistants conducted the marital case study interviews with men and women, respectively. I conducted participant observation in both settings and was responsible for key informant interviews in each venue. Table 1 [triangle] provides a summary of key participant observation venues and activities. Key informants included community leaders, religious leaders, government and nongovernment medical and public health officials, commercial sex workers, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Popular cultural and archival materials related to marriage, sexuality, and Nigeria’s HIV epidemic were also collected.
TABLE 1
Participant Observation Settings: Southeastern Nigeria, June–December 2004
Marital case studies were conducted with 20 couples, 14 residing in Ubakala and 6 residing in Owerri. The couples were selected opportunistically with the objective of sampling marriages of different generations and duration, couples with a range of socioeconomic and educational profiles, and marriages in both rural and urban settings. People in Owerri and Ubakala were better off economically than were residents of some other regions of Nigeria. Although the sample in the marital case studies is skewed to what might be described as an aspiring middle class (most couples were not actually middle class), because of rising education levels and increasing urban exposure that are common in southeastern Nigeria, most Igbo people share characteristics and aspirations evident in the sample. For individual couples, men were almost always older than their wives (typically by 5–10 years) and tended to have higher incomes. However, educational disparities between husbands and wives, although skewed in favor of men, were relatively small, reflecting both the overall increase in access to education and people’s preference to marry partners of similar accomplishment. A breakdown of the marital case study sample is provided in Table 2 [triangle].
TABLE 2
Sample Characteristics of the Couples (N = 20) in the Marital Case Study Sample: Southeastern Nigeria, June–December 2004
Interviews were conducted in 3 parts, generally in 3 sessions, each approximately 1 to 1.5 hours in duration. Husbands and wives were interviewed separately. All respondents agreed to participation after being presented with protocols for informed consent approved by institutional review boards in both the United States and Nigeria. The first interview concentrated primarily on pre-marital experiences, courtship, and the early stages of marriage. The second interview examined in greater depth the overall experience of marriage, including issues such as marital communication, decisionmaking, child rearing, resolution of disputes, relations with family, and changes in the marital relationship over time. The final interview focused on marital sexuality, extramarital sexual relationships, and understandings and experiences regarding HIV/AIDS. All interviews were tape recorded and transcribed, and the interviews were coded using ATLAS.ti (ATLAS.ti GmbH, Berlin, Germany) ethnographic software.

MODERN MARRIAGE IN SOUTHEASTERN NIGERIA

Scholars of West African society have long recognized the pronounced social importance of marriage and fertility in the region.7 Over the past several decades, African societies changed dramatically, and with these changes the institution of marriage was also transformed. Modern marriages were becoming increasingly common in urban centers in West Africa more than 50 years ago, and in some places these changes have even earlier roots.8 In Igbo-speaking southeastern Nigeria, urban elites have practiced what might be called modern marriage since the 1950s, but only in the past 2 or 3 decades have new forms of marriage become common among ordinary people, including in rural areas.9
Perhaps the most concise way to contrast modern Igbo marriages with the past is to note that young couples see their marriages as a life project in which they as a couple are the primary actors, whereas their parents’ marriages were more obviously embedded in the structures of the extended family. The differences are most pronounced in narratives about courtship, in the way husbands and wives describe how they resolve marital quarrels and in the way they make decisions about and contribute to their children’s education. In each of these arenas, people in more modern marriages tend to emphasize the primacy of the individual couple, often in conscious opposition to the constraints imposed by ties to kinship and community. Table 3 [triangle] summarizes the predominant characteristics of modern marriage in southeastern Nigeria.
TABLE 3
Characteristics of Modern Marriage in Southeastern Nigeria: 2004
It is important not to exaggerate these trends. Even in the most modern marriages, ties to kin and community remain strong, and marriage and child rearing continue to be strongly embedded in the values and social networks of the extended-family system. Indeed, the continued importance of ties to family and community and ongoing concerns about the collective expectations of wider social networks permeate people’s stories of modern courtship, the resolution of marital disputes, and decisions about child rearing. The choice of a spouse based on love is, in almost all cases, still subjected to the advice and consent of families. The fact that modern marriage in southeastern Nigeria remains a resolutely social endeavor creates contradictions for younger couples, who must navigate not only their individual relationships but also the outward representation of their marriages to kin and community. Most couples seek to portray their marriages to themselves and to others as being modern but also moral, and this is crucial to explaining the dynamics of men’s extramarital sexual relationships, married women’s responses to men’s infidelity, and the risk of HIV infection in marriage.

GENDER AND THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF EXTRAMARITAL SEX

The prevalence of married men’s participation in extramarital sex in Nigeria is well documented.10 However, conventional scholarly understandings and explanations for the phenomenon are not persuasive. Because they tend to reproduce common stereotypes, they often ignore the diversity and complexity of these relationships and overlook men’s ambivalence that sometimes accompanies this behavior. As in many societies, people in southeastern Nigeria commonly attribute men’s more frequent participation in extramarital sexual relationships to some sort of innate male predisposition, and this perspective is well represented in the literature.11 Some men and women interviewed in the marital case studies articulated this view. In response to a question about why married men seek extramarital lovers, a 54-year-old civil engineer in Owerri repeated a pidgin English phrase heard frequently among Nigerian men: “Man no be wood. It’s something men need, especially African men. You know we have a polygamous culture. This practice of marrying only one wife is the influence of Christianity. But men still have that desire for more than one woman.” Only a piece of wood, he implies, lacks an outward-looking sexual appetite.
Although it is important to note that many Nigerian men and women share a conception of men’s sexual desire that includes a notion that men naturally need or want multiple sexual partners, not everyone sees it this way. Further, explaining men’s extramarital sexual behavior in these terms is insufficient because sexual desires do not emerge or operate in a social and cultural vacuum. Rather, interviewing men about their extramarital relationships, listening to men’s conversations among themselves pertaining to these relationships, and observing men interacting with their extramarital partners in various public or semi-public settings revealed several patterns in the social organization of extramarital sex. Three sociological factors are particularly important for explaining the opportunity structures that facilitate men’s participation in extramarital sexual relationships: work-related migration, socioeconomic status, and involvement in predominately male peer groups that encourage or reward extramarital sexual relations. Table 4 [triangle] summarizes the explanations of how each of these factors functions.
TABLE 4
Primary Factors Influencing Men’s Extramarital Sexual Behavior: Southeastern Nigeria, June–December 2004

Mobility and Migration

Of the 20 men interviewed in the marital case studies, 14 reported having extramarital sex at some point during their marriages, and of the 6 who said they had not engaged in extramarital sex, 4 had been married less than 5 years. Approximately half of all the cases of extramarital relationships described in the interviews occurred in situations in which work-related mobility was a factor.12 In contemporary southeastern Nigeria, both short-term and long-term absences caused by work-related mobility and migration are exceedingly common. For men and women who work for the government, by far Nigeria’s largest formal employer, frequent transfers often separate families. Further, the country’s insecure economy and the prevalence of participation by Igbo people in commercial activities of every scale require frequent mobility and migration, often resulting in periods of spousal separation.
Men whose work takes them away from their wives and families are more likely to have extramarital relationships, and they frequently attribute their behavior to the opportunities and hardships produced by these absences. A 47-year-old civil servant whose postings frequently took him away from his family explained a relatively long-term relationship with a woman in 1 of the places he was transferred: “I stayed a long time without my wife. But eventually this woman befriended me. She was a widow and a very nice woman. She cooked for me and provided companionship. Later, I was transferred back home, and it was over. It was like that.” Although men’s representations of hardship as a justification for extramarital sex contradict the realities of male privilege in Nigeria’s gender-unequal social order, they nevertheless reflect many Nigerians’ sense that work-related migration creates not only opportunities but also pressures to become involved in extramarital relationships.
Further, extramarital relationships in the context of economically driven migration can be more easily hidden from wives, family, and neighbors. Every man in the sample who admitted to having extramarital sex expressed the importance of keeping such relationships secret not only from his wife but also from his extended family and local community. Men’s motivations for keeping extramarital relationships hidden included not only a desire to maintain peace and uphold the appearance of fidelity for their wives but also a clear concern over their own social reputation. The civil servant who described his away-from-home relationship with a widow also said, “I am a matured man with responsibilities in my community—in the church, in various associations. I hold offices in these organizations. I can’t be seen to be running here and there chasing after women. My own son is almost a man now. How can I advise him if I am known for doing this and that?” To the degree that male infidelity is socially acceptable, it is even more strongly expected that outside affairs should not threaten a marriage, and this mandates discretion. Many men were ambivalent about their extramarital sexual behavior, but in most cases they viewed it as acceptable, given an appropriate degree of prudence so as not to disgrace their spouses, themselves, and their families.

Masculinity and Socioeconomic Status

For the vast majority of male interviewees, issues of socioeconomic status, specifically the intersection of economic and gender inequality, featured in accounts of their extramarital relationships. Most often, a man’s relationship to his female lover included an expectation that the man provide certain kinds of economic support. Men frequently view extramarital relationships as arenas for the expression of economic and masculine status. Indeed, it is necessary to understand the intertwining of masculinity and wealth, and gender and economics more generally, to make sense of the most common forms of extramarital sexual relationships in southeastern Nigeria.
In popular discourse, the most common form of economically driven extramarital relationships is said to be so-called “sugar daddy” relationships, wherein married men of means engage in sexual relationships with much younger women with the expectation that the men will provide various forms of economic support in exchange for sex. Although many Nigerians, including many of the participants in these relationships, view sugar daddy relationships in fairly stark economic terms—exemplified by a common expression among secondary school girls and university women that there is “no romance without finance”—a closer look at these relationships suggests that they are much more complicated than portrayed in the stereotypical image of rich men exchanging money for sex with impoverished young women.13 Young women frequently have motives other than the alleviation of poverty. Indeed, typical female participants in these sugar daddy relationships are not the truly poor but rather young women who are in urban secondary schools or universities and who seek and represent a kind of modern femininity. They are frequently relatively educated, they are almost always highly fashionable, and although their motivations for having a sugar daddy may be largely economic, they are usually looking for more than money to feed themselves.
For married men, the pretty, urban, educated young women who are the most desirable girlfriends provide not only sex but also the opportunity, or at least the fantasy, of having more exciting, stylish, and modern sex than what they have with their wives. At a sports club in Owerri where I spent many evenings during fieldwork and where men frequently discussed their extramarital experiences, a 52-year-old businessman described a recent encounter with a young university student to the delight of his mates: “Sometimes you think you are going to teach these girls something, but, hey, this girl was teaching me.” Married men who have younger girl-friends assert a brand of masculinity wherein sexual prowess, economic capability, and modern sensibility are intertwined.

Male Peer Groups

Masculinity is created and expressed both in men’s relationships to women and in their relationships with other men.14 In male-dominated social settings such as social clubs, sports clubs, sections of the marketplace, and particular bars and eateries, Igbo men commonly talk about their girlfriends and sometimes show them off. Male peer groups are a significant factor in many men’s motivations for and behaviors in extramarital relationships.
Although it is not uncommon to hear men boast about their sexual exploits to their peers—frequently alluding to styles and practices that are considered simultaneously wild and modern, another strand of discourse emerges when men explain their motivations. Many men reported that they enjoyed the feeling of taking care of another woman, of being able to provide her with material and social comforts and luxuries. In a candid discussion over beers with several men about men’s motives for extramarital lovers, a 46-year-old man known among his peers as One Man Show for his penchant for keeping multiple young women, explained, “It’s not only about the sex. I like to buy them things, take them to nice places, give them good meals, and make them feel they are being taken care of. I like the feeling of satisfaction that comes from taking care of women, providing for them.” Masculinity proved by provisioning a girlfriend parallels the way men talk about taking care of their wives and families. It foregrounds the connections between masculinity and money and between gender and economics more generally.
It is clear that men with money have easier access to and, it seems, more frequent extramarital sex. But poorer men engage in extramarital sex as well, and their relationships with female partners also typically include some form of transaction, whether it is paying a sex worker or giving gifts to a girlfriend, albeit at a lower financial level than that of more elite men. Although there is no doubt that the desire to forge and present a modern masculine identity combines issues of economics and gender, not all men’s extramarital relationships can be easily explained in these terms. Nearly all men noted the importance of keeping affairs secret from their wives, but in the marital case-study interviews, many men emphasized discretion much more broadly. They hide their extramarital relationships not only from their wives but from virtually everyone. In such cases it is not easy to attribute men’s motives to their desire to appear masculine and economically potent to their fellow men, although men’s more private relationships may still be internalized expressions of masculinity and status.
Some men had occasional extramarital sexual liaisons that appeared to be about little more than sex. In a few cases men seemed genuinely unhappy in their marriages, and in rare instances men fell in love with their extramarital partners. But by and large, men tended to see their extramarital relationships as independent of the quality of their marriages, and in their minds, extramarital relationships posed no threat to a marriage so long as they were kept secret from wives and so long as men did not waste so many resources on girlfriends that they neglected their obligations to their wives and families.

SEX, SECRECY, AND THE RISK OF HIV

Unraveling the issue of secrecy in relation to men’s extramarital sex is crucial for understanding some of the contradictory dynamics that contribute directly to the ways that men’s extramarital sexual relationships translate into married women’s risk of contracting HIV from their husbands. On the one hand, nearly all men want to keep their extramarital relationships secret from their wives, although on rare occasions a man in a troubled marital relationship in which there is no longer much pretense of harmony will openly flaunt his infidelity. On the other hand, for a significant proportion of men—in this sample about half of all men who admitted having extramarital sex—it is apparent that there would be much less benefit to having extramarital affairs without the opportunity to display masculine sexual and economic prowess to peers. But even among men who like to show off their girlfriends to their male peers, there is a general tendency to try to hide these relationships not only from their wives but also from their extended families and their communities, especially in the village setting. In part, this is a means of protecting their wives and children from harmful gossip, but it is also a means to protect their own reputations. In their church congregations, their village associations, and their extended families, men live up to very different expectations than in some of their more urban-influenced peer groups.
The correlation between concerns about social reputation and secrecy regarding extramarital sex also strongly influences the approach of most women to their husbands’ infidelity. In effect, women have multiple reasons to remain silent about suspicions or evidence of their husbands’ extramarital affairs. In more modern marriages, in which couples conceive of their marriage as their own choice, romantic love is frequently an important reason for marrying, and the conjugal unit is viewed as the primary locus of family decisionmaking, women risk undermining whatever leverage they have, because their influence is directly tied to the presumption of an intimate and trusting relationship, by openly confronting infidelity. Further, in modern marriages, women are less willing to call on their kin and in-laws for support in such cases, not only because these marriages are more independent from extended families but also because of the ideology that in such marriages a man’s happiness (and thus his proclivity to seek outside women) is directly related to the capacity of his wife to please him.
What this means for many Igbo wives is that they risk not only losing their husbands’ support if they confront his cheating but also possibly bearing the blame in the eyes of their community (including their female peers) for allowing (or even pushing) their husbands to stray. Most women in the marital interviews were more comfortable talking about other people’s experiences with husbands’ infidelity than about their own, but many women described a common dilemma. A 38-year-old married mother of 4 living in Ubakala said, “In this our society, when a man cheats on his wife, it is often the wife who will be blamed. People will say it is because she did not feed him well, she refused him in bed, or she is quarrelsome. And it is often our fellow women who are most likely to blame the wife.” As a result, although almost all women acknowledged that many men cheat, very few would say openly that they think their own husbands cheat.15

CONDOMS AND PERCEPTIONS OF SEXUAL MORALITY

For women whose husbands cheat, protecting themselves through condom use is difficult, if not impossible. Further, they cannot expect that their husbands will have used condoms in their extramarital relationships. Before public awareness about HIV was widespread in Nigeria, many factors contributed to relatively low use of condoms. Levels of awareness, availability, and affordability remain issues for the poorest and least-educated segments of the population. The impediments to condom use are heightened by popular misperceptions about HIV/AIDS. Even among people who know about condoms, widely circulating rumors suggest they are sometimes ineffective and potentially threatening to health. Further, a common perception exists that condoms symbolize impersonal or promiscuous sex.16 Together, such factors inhibit condom use in many premarital and extramarital relationships, despite the fact that usually neither party wants a pregnancy. In addition, in many extramarital relationships, economic, gender, and generational inequalities make it difficult for women to negotiate condom use with their typically older and wealthier male partners.17 Ironically, the HIV epidemic has further complicated possibilities for condom use because, in a context in which the risk of HIV is popularly associated with sexual immorality, suggesting a condom is tantamount to asserting that one’s partner is risky and hence guilty of sexual impropriety.
For women who suspect their husbands of infidelity, suggesting condom use for marital sex poses multiple problems. Asking for a condom may imply she does not want to become pregnant, which itself can create tension because reproduction is so highly valued. Perhaps worse, her request may be interpreted as indicating that she suspects not only that her husband is cheating but that the type of extramarital sex he is having is risky and, by implication, debauched. What is more, the meaning of her request may be inverted by her spouse and turned against her with an accusation that it is she who is being unfaithful. Responding to a question about whether his wife had ever asked him to use a condom, a 34-year-old father of 3 exclaimed, “How can she? Is she crazy? A woman asking her husband to use a condom is putting herself in the position of a whore. What does she need a condom with her man for, unless she is flirting around outside the married house?” All of these possibilities have become more highly charged in the era of HIV/AIDS, when sexual immorality is associated with a deadly disease.
The ultimate irony is that for women in the most modern marriages, in which the conjugal relationship is primary and romantic love is often an explicit foundation of the relationship, confronting a man about infidelity or insisting on condom use may be even more difficult. In such marriages, a woman challenging her husband’s extramarital behavior or asking for a condom may be undermining the very basis for the marriage and threatening whatever leverage she has with her husband by implying that the relationship itself has been broken. In southeastern Nigeria, where it remains socially imperative to be married, women cannot easily confront, challenge, or control their husbands’ extramarital sexual behavior. The secrets and silences that result from these relationship dynamics can exacerbate married women’s risk of HIV infection.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Economy of Sex

Guys, tell me this has never happened to you.
You’re home with your wife - and The Mood strikes. Things are progressing, but then something happens and The Mood is gone.
You fight to bring it back but your wife is not interested. Nothing you say or do will bring the magic back. For tonight, for now, the prospect of having sex is gone.
Why does this happen? Because sex is powerful and women have the power.
 Let me explain.
It may seem a bit caveman-ish but human sexuality, like many things between people, is a matter of economics: how humans create fair exchange.
Universally, a man approaches the woman and it’s the woman’s decision to give the red, yellow or green light. Women are the ones who determine the cost of a sexual encounter - to get the green light, men must give up something in return the woman deems valuable.
Whether the payment honors a woman through security and love, or does not honor her through money or power, sex always comes at a cost.
That is what concerns me the most when it comes to Miley Cyrus performance at the MTV Music Awards. The price set for sex was slashed like a store going out of business. Not only was it slashed, but it was slashed in the spotlight of national TV.
The consequences of a low price for sex perpetuates the cycle of injustice against women. When the price is low, men win. We get what we want at a price that doesn’t cause us to make any sacrifices. We get sex without commitment, without honor, and without love. Of course, that’s what women get too: sex without commitment, honor and love.
Men need to fight for a high price to pay for sex.
When the price of sex is high - when the price costs men something - everyone wins. Women win a man who is motivated to work and lead. They get a better man. Men win a woman who is confident and secure. They get a better woman.
My friend Glenn Stanton recently said in a lecture series to employees at Focus on the Family, “Men who take sex by physical power are seen as the same in all cultures. In no culture are they idealized by either male or female. They are socially deplored and punished.”
Very little attention has been given to Robin Thicke and his role in Miley’s performance. As a man, shouldn’t he be held just as responsible for lowering (or maybe taking the low) price for sex? A man just doesn’t do those kinds of things even when a woman seems okay with it.
Stanton continues, “In every culture, sex is either granted by the woman, or taken by the male. This is humankind’s most important and consequential negotiation.”
When men value women, sexuality, and marriage, everyone wins.
That's something to get twerked up about.


Sam Hoover
(@sam_hoover) is a contributor for Dad Matters and a Digital Communications Strategist for Focus on the Family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Poor sex life? Blame your mobile phone

NEW YORK: Do you eat, sleep and drink your mobile phone, literally? Limit your WhatsApp or Facebook urge as men using mobile phones for over four hours a day are at a greater risk of impotency than those who use it for less than two hours, an alarming research has indicated.

Two new studies in Austria and Egypt have linked daily mobile phone use to erectile dysfunction (ED).

The researchers believe the damage could be caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by handsets or the heat they generate.

For the study, the researchers recruited 20 men with erectile dysfunction and another group of 10 healthy men with no complaints of ED.

There was no difference between either group regarding age, weight, height, smoking, total testosterone or exposure to other known sources of radiation.

Scientists found that men who had erectile dysfunction carried switched-on cell phones for an average of 4.4 hours daily, whereas the men without erectile dysfunction averaged 1.8 hours.

"Men who use mobile phones could be risking their fertility," said the researchers in a report published in the latest newsletter of Environmental Health Trust (EHT).

A non-profit organisation, EHT focuses on raising awareness on the negative impacts of unsafe mobile phone use and performing cutting-edge research on cell phone radiation.

However, neither study found sperm count was affected.

"Our study showed the total time of exposure to the mobile phone is much more important than the relatively short duration of intense exposure during phone calls," the researchers noted.

Since the preliminary study was small-scale, the researchers concluded that the results indicated a need for larger-scaled studies.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Renewing Affections between Husband and Wife Paul J. Bucknell

How do you recover lost affections for your loved one?

Many things can hurt a marriage, but here we want to focus recovering the lack or loss of affection. This loss of affection for the other partner can lessen love, intimacy and lead to marriage erosion. Perhaps you yourself have faced this problem in your own marriage. We need to learn how to properly deal with this problem.

Husbands and wives are designed differently and react differently to this problem. We later will look at this problem from both the husband and wife's perspective, but first let's deal with some common issues.

Vision of Unity
A couple will always feel uncomfortable dealing with problems if there is not an agreed upon common goal. The goal helps the couple realize they are not competing but running together and need each other's help. God has given us the life vision of oneness or intimacy. We are declared one but now must work it through so that it is true of our lives together.

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31).
Paul calls this oneness a great mystery in Ephesians 5:32. This teaching has great implications in our marriage goals as well as how we as husbands or wives use our bodies for the benefit of the other. Can you not agree with your spouse that your common marriage goal is to grow toward deepening intimacy? You will serve the Lord and each other to obtain that goal even when your affection for each other is dwindling.

Marriage is not based on feelings but on covenant.
The Foundation of Marriage is NOT Feelings
We need to remember that marriages are not based on feelings but commitment. This is critical in any discussions about the lack of feelings for each other. Because the couple is married, divorce is not an option. They are one. Once one, they cannot be made two except by death. The wedding might be dependent upon feelings but not the marriage. The marriage is an oath made before God and man and must go on.

We all need to remember that marriage is different from other relationships because it is built on covenant rather than preference. We must not question the validity of our marriages. This is the foundation upon which we deal with all the fuzzy feelings and difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.

This does not mean that we just tolerate a distance between each other. Who wants a stale marriage?! The couple has a greater goal of deepening intimacy. This is just one more area that needs to be worked through. If the feelings are not honestly dealt with, then the intimacy will suffer as frustration and misunderstandings grow. Marriages can always be renewed by God's grace because one is building upon the truth that they are one even if there are other differences.
Fears and Honesty (More on material on fears can be found on Overcoming Anxiety: Finding Peace, Discovering God)
Fear holds many couples from being honest with each other. While they are being caught in silence, their marriages disintegrate before their eyes. When one begins to lack affection for his or her spouse, he or she begins to fear that their marriage is falling apart too. They have heard lots of such stories. The evil one instigates all sorts of anxieties and fears here. But this is simply not true. Marriages are not based on our fears or feelings but on our promises. As one questions his own feelings, they also begin to fear what his or her partner might say. But no matter what, darkness proceeds in the darkness. We need to bring the truth to light (Ephesians 5:7-11). We need to value our marriages enough that we will take those brave steps to cause our marriages to grow. Allowing our fears to grow just make things much worse. Fears cause distorted judgments. In order to throw off fear, we might address our partner positively, "I want our marriage to grow closer. Will you pray for me during this difficult time." As your spouse asks what the problem is, then share the problem along with your hope for deeper intimacy.
"And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)

Feelings Awry
Heart affections are closely meshed with our feelings. Other physical and circumstantial situations affect these feelings such as emotional traumas like death in the family or simple fatigue. We should not gauge the validity or depth of our relationship on our feelings. This is more difficult for the wives whose feelings are more deeply integrated with her whole person. Their special integrated design can lead to belief that feelings are the same thing as reality. Her subjectiveness can lead her to wrong conclusions. Men, too, can also be affected by feelings. Fears and anxieties play havoc on all who entertain them! Our feelings about our marriage does not make it true. Our marriages are established by covenant.

Fantasy Partners and Adultery
One of the major times couples face lost affection for their partners occurs when a partner has started putting their affections on another person. A spirit of rejection sets in which leads to further distance and loss of hope. An honest and calm discussion about whether ones heart is cast upon another is needed. Adultery is a potential problem for both husbands and wives. The more the wife works outside the home, the more this becomes a possibility. But neighbors too can be a potential site. Men have problems where they regularly meet women.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

12 Tips on Sex in Marriage for the Christian Wife

1. Don’t dichotomize your spiritual and sexual life. Sex in marriage is a wonderful gift to be nurtured and enjoyed. Growing sexually with your husband is a godly pursuit. Therefore get in the habit of praying about sex and praising God for this gift as much as you would (or more) for other areas of life and other godly pursuits; e.g. spiritual disciplines, evangelism, missions, serving others, etc. Remember, marriage comes before ministry.
2. Fill your mind with God’s perspective on sex. We grow up in a culture that abuses sex and we tend to be on our guard sexually. Then we get married and that same “on guard” attitude can linger. Therefore get a hold of several good Christian books on marital sex and read them regularly. You don’t read the Bible just once. Sex is very important to a marriage and you should fill your mind on a regular basis with knowledge and insights that will enhance your sex life. Read the Song of Solomon and I Corinthians 7:1-9 from time to time. Don’t limit your reading to Christian books. If a book promotes monogamy it probably has many insights that are worthwhile. (e.g. John Gray’s series on “Mars and Venus”).
3. Keep reminding yourself your husband views sex differently than you. Sex is paramount in your husband’s mind. That’s the way God made him and you shouldn’t judge him for it. He’s sight-oriented and focuses more on physical attraction and the sexual act. You are relationship-oriented and focus more on the whole relationship. The more you can demonstrate your sensitivity to your husband’s viewpoint, the more he will be willing and excited about developing your relationship, more non-sexual affection, and better communication.
4. Keep yourself beautiful to your husband. Its amazing how some women are meticulous about how they look when they are single and then don’t seem to care after they are married. Usually this is a gradual process. Remember your husband is sight-oriented. He has to work very hard to maintain self-control in a sea of sexual messages and sexy bodies in provocative clothing. Seeing his attractive wife looking her best on a regular basis is a tremendous encouragement to him. You don’t have to be dressed to the hilt all the time or go over the line provocatively. Find a balance. Learn what your husband likes about styles and make-up for public dress, as well as lingerie and sexy wear for private dress.
5. Evaluate to what level you are inhibited sexually. If you aren’t, then praise God. If you are to any degree, know God wants you to grow less inhibited. But don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re inhibited it’s probably because of a less than affirmative attitude about sex in your upbringing and/or part of your personality. If you were sexually active before marriage it could be some guilt-issues over that. Explore the roots of your inhibition and ask God to slowly heal you to be free to enjoy sex with increasingly more creativity and passion.
6. Train your husband to turn you on. Your husband should be reading about how to make sex as exciting as possible for you. A lot of this will be relationship and communication issues. Regularly communicate to him which of these are important to you and affirm him when he makes progress. Yet bedroom technique is still very important. He must become a student of what turns you on, so, over time, tell him in detail what excites you, where and how to kiss and touch you, how much pressure, etc, etc. Don’t expect him to know everything! Every woman is different. Use the positive-feedback approach when correcting his touch. “Hmmm, that’s nice, but like this is even better.”, rather than “Don’t do it like that…” Your goal is regular sexual satisfaction and frequent orgasms, not an orgasm every time. It’s normal and fine for a woman not to feel the need to come to orgasm every time. Yet your goal of sexual satisfaction and regular orgasms on your time terms will cement your relationsh! ip in a wonderful way.
7. Train yourself to turn him on. You must become a student of your husband’s sexual desires and turn-ons. He will probably be open to more creativity and variation than you. That’s OK. Learn what he likes and desires. If you have a problem with something, discuss it and agree to not do anything that either person is not comfortable with. (Anything a husband and wife do together is good as long as it doesn’t harm physically, emotionally or mentally). On the other hand, if you are uncomfortable with something, explore the reasons why and ask God to change you if necessary. You will go a long way if, on occasion, you take turns asking this question: “Now, tell me exactly how I can please you tonight.” Or “Is there anything you would like me to do I haven’t done in a while or that would be a completely new thing?” This practice will open up each of you to be free, open, and less inhibited.
8. Don’t let it get boring. Related to #7, if you don’t develop a creative, free and uninhibited sex life, it’s guaranteed that it’s only a matter of time that your husband will get bored sexually and temptations will enter in. Work hard to not let this happen. Again, let God in every area of your life and ask Him to help you since it’s usually (but not always) the woman who is more content to put up with a boring, predictable, same-old-thing sex life. The church has a lot of teaching against adultery (and rightly so). Unfortunately it often has too little teaching on the roots of adultery, one of which is a lack of attention on the most important matters to the man and woman—relationship/communication for the woman and good, clean, fun, and creative sex for the man!
9. Come to terms with questionable sexual practices. Where in scripture does it condemn oral sex? The answer is nowhere. Don’t take this writers word for it. The Christian books, Intimate Issues, by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus, and The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner, have good studies on this. The truth is oral sex is an incredibly exciting and wonderful sexual practice that most married couples enjoy including Christians. If you have an aversion to it, fine. Neither be hard on yourself nor look down on others who don’t. But don’t be passive about this either. Be proactive in learning about it and pray for God to change whatever is necessary in your mind (If your husband has an aversion to giving you oral sex, he should do the same thing). If you can develop the practice of giving your husband regular doses of skillful oral sex, he will be thrilled to the core. If you can train him to give you slow and deliberate oral sex when you are in the mood, you will be th! rilled to the core. In this writers’ opinion, only if both agree that they don’t want to pursue oral sex should it be shelved altogether, for in Philippians scripture says, “…don’t look only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Other questionable areas like certain positions, fulfilling sexual fantasies, and anal stimulation should be approached this same way.
10. Buy a book or booklet on marriage, sex and sexual technique on occasion. One way to show your husband you are focusing on the one thing that looms largest in his mind regarding marriage is to buy books on sex occasionally. Don’t let him be the one to always buy such things. Don’t be afraid to buy a sexual technique book that is not explicitly Christian as long as it encourages faithful, monogamous sex. If you feel your husband is not understanding your relationship/communication needs, buy one that deals with that and read it in his presence and ask him to check it out. If you start reading a book entitled, “How to drive your man crazy in bed” in his presence, as assuredly as the sun will rise tomorrow and it’s true that God so the loved the world that He sent Jesus, he will have your full attention at that moment. And if you tell him if he’s a good boy you’ll try a few of the suggestions, you could probably get him to eat out of your hand and wait on you hand and foot! Th! is is also true of lingerie. Don’t be afraid to ask him what kind of lingerie he’d like you to buy.
11. Make your marriage truly your number one priority, apart from your relationship to God. Christian couples often get lazy about developing their marriage relationship. Over time, other pursuits become more important, even godly ones. The truth is that if you put a disproportionate amount time into anything—including evangelism and missions or other ministry activity—over the time you put into your marriage, it is out of God’s will. Therefore you must be proactive in working at your marriage and sex life. Don’t say to yourself, “the man is the spiritual head, he should lead in this.” If he’s not leading, you take the lead. If he is leading, don’t wait for him to bring up an issue, do it yourself. Each person is responsible for loving their spouse and building their marriage regardless how active the other person is. For women this means preparing yourself mentally and physically for regular sexual union. “I’m too busy and always tired”, you say. That’s no excuse. Carve out t! ime to get ready for romance, to spend time together, to do mutually enjoyable activities together, and have sexual union. Drop activities and responsibilities, even spiritual ones, if necessary. For sex, this means allowing for three types of sex. (1) The long, luxurious sexual adventures (if you have children, nights at a hotel or weekends away), (2) The normal 20 –30 minute encounter, and (3) what some call “quickies.” Because men normally want more frequent sex than women, you must find a happy medium and be willing to minister to your husband through occaisional quick sex at times when things are too busy to get prepared and take the time, but he’s hungry nevertheless! Allowing for this will do wonders to encourage a man that his wife truly loves him enough to give him a few moments of passion even if she probably won’t be tuned in to having an orgasm herself.
12. Remember, you reap what you sow. If you sow a lazy attitude towards marriage and sex, you’ll reap a lousy marriage. If you sow a boring, predictable, same-old-thing sex life, you’ll reap a frustrated, inattentive husband. This works both ways. If your husband sows inattentive, unaffectionate, unhelpful and unromantic practices, he’ll reap a wife not interested in sex and his own frustrations. But what is your responsibility if your husband isn’t proactive? Isn’t it to love the husband unconditionally with the Lord’s help? In a perfect marriage, a husband and wife take equal steps toward each other to meet each others needs. What some wives don’t realize is how powerful good sex is in getting a man in touch with his relationship side. The more he feels loved sexually, the more he opens up to meet the affectionate, romantic, and communication needs of his wife. So if you sow an uninhibited, creative sex life, you’ll reap a more romantic husband. If you sow regular doses of ! what turns him on—often it’s oral sex the way he likes it—you’ll reap a more affectionate husband. If you sow sexual variety that’s restricted only by true biblical mandates, you’ll reap a more communicative mate. If you sow a commitment to put lots of time and mental energy into your marriage, with Spirit of God inside you to enable you, you’ll reap a wonderful marriage. If you are lucky enough that both of you make this commitment, you’ll reap a marriage made in heaven.
Author's Bio: 
Michael is a free-lance writer and graphic designer who writes on a variety of subjects and provides writing and designs services through his company, Promotional Designs (
http://members.home.net/promodesigns/Welcome.htm ). He has a vision to see Christian marriages flourish.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How to Deepen Your Relationship with Touch and Sex

“Passion comes easily in the early days of a relationship. Almost every word, glance and touch vibrates with lust. It’s nature’s way of drawing us together. But after the captivating rush of desire, what is the place of sex in a relationship? Besides pulling us in, can sex also help to keep us together to build a lasting relationship? Emphatically, yes. In fact, good sex is a potent bonding experience. The passion of infatuation is just the hors d’oeuvre. Loving sex in a long-term relationship is the entree.” Dr. Sue Johnson in Hold Me Tight.
Much of what we hear in popular culture and from some self help gurus is that passion is a passing sensation, which fades as a relationship matures. The high intensity of sexual desire that characterizes the beginning of your relationship is thought to inevitably diminish with time. Unfortunately, too much emphasis has been placed on the mechanics of sex: positions, techniques, and toys to enhance physical bliss.
When couples feel secure in their relationship, then emotional connection creates great sex and great sex deepens the emotional connection. For emotionally accessible, responsive and engaged couples, sex becomes intimate play where sexual needs, deepest joys and vulnerabilities are shared. Sexually satisfied couples are truly ‘making love’.
Happy couples attribute only 15-20% of their happiness to a satisfying sex life. On the other hand, unhappy couples believe that 50-70% of their unhappiness is due to an unsatisfying sex life. (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2003). The reason sex is such a big issue with unhappy couples is because it is the first thing affected when a relationship begins to falter. It is not usually the real problem, but more of a symptom. It is a bit like the “canary in the mine” warning a couple of danger. It signals that the couple do not feel emotionally safe which each other. The security of our emotional connection defines our relationship in bed as well as out.
The most common physical sexual problems are low sex drive for women and premature ejaculation for men. This is not surprising. When women are unhappy in relationships they typically feel alone, emotionally disconnected. If they are seeking reassurance that they are valued for who they are as a person and do not receive it they shut down sexually. When men are unhappy, they often focus more on their sexual performance and their own release rather than focussing on pleasing her. When she senses this, it can make her feel more alone and sex becomes less pleasurable for her. This reinforces his sense of inadequacy, and the sexual issues continue, increase and then are seen as ‘the’ problem for a couple. Most often, when couples can create a secure emotional connection, their sex life improves automatically.
Deepening Your Connection through Touch and Sex
If you or your partner is not feeling emotionally secure and safe in your relationship, it will not be possible to have a constructive conversation about improving the quality of your sex life. I have written in previous articles about how to create a greater sense of security by learning how to stop destructive conversations and how to de-escalate conflict. Appreciating the vulnerabilities of your partner is also a prerequisite for deeper conversations. For those of you in more secure relationships, you must have the courage to reveal your own deeper desires and needs and have the courage to ask your partner for the love you need.
If you and your partner are feeling emotionally secure, then below are a few suggestions to deepen your connection through touch and sex. Some of these may be very hard to do. Perhaps more attention on touch than sex would be good place to start. Remember to stay open, responsive and engaged as you have these conversations. Try these and have some fun!
1. With your partner, recall a time in your relationship when sex was really satisfying. The person who tends to initiate sex less goes first. Share the story of this pleasant and happy experience with your partner in as much detail as possible. Talk about what you think made it so memorable. Then the other person shares a different story.
2. Have a conversation about “If I was perfect in bed.” One person begins by saying: “If I were perfect in bed, I could, I would______________, and then you would feel more______________.” Share at least three responses with each other.
3. Think of all the ways touch can show up in your relationship. For example, holding hands while out together, a spontaneous hug while making dinner together, giving a shoulder or back massage or brushing her hair. Take turns telling your partner your favourite nonsexual ways of being touched.
Touch can be enjoyable in and of itself as a way of connecting emotionally. It does not always have to lead to sex. Spontaneity, anticipation, surprise can create the right mood. Touch is a powerful expression of love. Sex can then be simply for fun, as way of getting close, a straight forward release, a way to deal with stress, a route to romance, a place of tender connection, or a burst of passion.