Virgin Marriage

While debating with my sister about the necessity of sex in a marriage, the idea that a marriage can only be successful with a healthy dose of sex came up. I figure that it is “possible” in the most basic sense of the word; but a long term, monogamous, loving relationship doesn’t seem like it would be right without sex. It’s just human nature. So I guess this debate all boils down to the naturally philosophical question: “Is a marriage without sex really a marriage at all?”

Some things to consider are the common stereotype that once a marriage is well on its way and kids are popping out all over the place, sex seems to forget its place in a relationship. Also to consider is how many failed marriages that find themselves that way because of adultery. Perhaps a healthy sexual relationship could have prevented the wandering of body parts.

Btw, I’ve prowled this site for about 3-4 years now (since age 15) and I’m just now deciding to register an account and post something. Here’s to hoping for a warm welcome onto the SDMB.

Sex is just one aspect of a relationship that should be compatible for the relationship to work out. If neither party is terribly interested in sex, then a marriage without sex will work just fine. If one or both parties are interested in sex, then the marriage has to be sexual for both parties to be happy.

Often, when marriages fail, sex is merely a symptom of what’s really wrong. Those marriages aren’t going to be fixed by more sex, they’re fixed by finding the root cause of the relationship problem.

“is a marriage without sex really a marriage at all?”

Legally, sure. I don’t believe there is any test for consummation of the marriage in American law at this time. (I welcome any correction.)

Emotionally? I’ll be damned if I know. As far as I am concerned, what two adults do or don’t do with each other is no business of mine. If it works for them, it works. There is more to communication and pair-bonding than sex (although, in the interest of full disclosure, I must state that sex is an important part of my relationship with my wife).

I try to keep quiet around this forum, but I feel it best if I pop in this thread early.

Some individuals hastily generalize from their own experiences. They conclude that sex is an utter need – that because they could not be happy without sex no one could be happy without it, and if those in a relationship or marriage are not having sex then someone is (at best) either mentally ill or (more likely) cheating/using the partner as a beard/etc. But although a mostly sexless relationship is probably rare, there isn’t anything contradictory about it; some people just aren’t that interested in sex. Such persons are not necessarily moralistic prudes, emotionally stunted, closet child molesters, whatever. I understand you weren’t saying that, AlmostPerfect, but it’s the sort of opinion I’ve seen expressed both on these boards and elsewhere.

I suppose I’m just agreeing with Cheesesteak’s comment – the most important facet of a successful relationship is broad agreement. But this is a kind of a sore point for me, and when you (AlmostPerfect) say a “loving relationship doesn’t seem like it would be right without sex. It’s just human nature”, you’re implying that something is wrong – contrary to nature – not human about such relationships, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Welcome to the boards, AlmostPerfect! A few years here and we’ll get you all the to Perfect :smiley:

Interesting question-

I think a marriage entails what the two parties want it to be. However, not consummating a marriage is a reason for annulment by the Catholic Church, so that would tend to argue that in some eyes, sex is a requirement. Of course, going by what he Catholic Churches recommendations is not going to be everyone’s best plan! In the past, withholding affection would be a reason for divorce, in states where you couldn’t get a no-fault. So it seams, at least to the mainstream, sex is a requirement for a marriage.

But interest in sex can wax and wane in a marriage, even between two committed and loving partners. Affection and desire can be expressed other ways, even if sex is not often possible or wanted due to medical or lifestyle issues. But the bottom line is that marriage is what one makes of it in partnership with their spouse, and any broad generalizations fall apart at the individual level.

I know of one successful long-term marriage (more than two decades, ended with one partner dying not through divorce) where no sex occurred as life-saving medical treatment had rendered the man permanently impotent. The woman in the marriage had a low sex drive and did not want to have any more sex (the drunken abusive asshole that had been her first husband might have been a factor there). The two married for companionship, shared a bed, and were in every way man and wife except they didn’t have sex.

Seemed like a legitimate marriage to me. Seems to me you can love someone even if you aren’t physically capable of intercourse.

There have also been marriages of convenience over the centuries - marriages for financial security, for political reasons, etc. - that were long term and seen as legitimate marriages, although not everyone would regards the circumstances as happy ones.

So I’d say “yes”, such a marriage is possible although probably not common in today’s world.

All of these situations seem so interesting, and to be honest I don’t think any of them came up in our debate. Our debate was more centered around a marriage wherein suppose the couple did not engage in sex before being married and afterward perhaps it just did not happen. Or did not happen enough for the man’s (or maybe the woman’s) taste.

This was heavily inspired by this thread And I proposed the fact that sex is almost a duty to perform in a marriage. I said to her (my sister) that withholding sex in a marriage is just as destructive as forcing sex in a marriage or as getting outside sex during a marriage. To me it seems the same without the double standard, sexist, sigma of the words ‘rape’ and ‘adultery’. And I mean that in the sense that if a married man were to use his size to force sex onto his wife everyone would call rape immediately (in some societies). While if a female would do the same it would get laughed off immediately. Correct me if I’m wrong. But I digress, the question that I asked in the OP left a lot of room for exceptions and sounded like a very general question. And perhaps this one will too, but what I reallyyy meant was “is it a duty to satisfy your husband’s/wife’s sexual needs, if you are capable physically, mentally, etc.” To my sister I insisted that a wife (from a man’s perspective) who wants to stay a virgin during a marriage really wouldn’t be a suitable wife for the greater majority of men. She severely disagreed.

If a man is asking for his wife to perform, is he asking for too much? Lets say she can do it, who knows why she won’t. A man has need’s right? Lets assume so for the sake of argument. And his wife is there to satisfy them? I thought so but maybe I’m wrong, and sexist, and a little shallow. And I’m all down for switching the roles around for the husband and wife, if needed.

If either partner has needs that aren’t being met in marriage, they can (1) try counseling, (2) meet their needs elsewhere or (3) end the marriage.


I’m sure this thread will generate lots of good food for thought. For some reason, I find it intriguing that you and your sister are debating this in kind of an academic sense, and I think what you’re touching upon are part and parcel of bigger discussions.

With that, I’d like to recommend Savage Love for supplementary reading/listening. If you’re not familiar with him, Dan Savage is a love/sex/relationship columnist and probably most famous for the recent “It Gets Better” phenomenon.


To answer your question though, I don’t think it’s an issue of “sex” or “no sex” in a marriage; but rather, the sex drives and interests of the people involved need to compatible with one another."

(I just noticed my prior post was in response to your original question and that your followup clarification brought a new angle to the matter).

Yes. Although I wouldn’t use the word “duty,” an intimate partner DOES have a reasonable expectation to sex. The only exception would be a case where they’ve discussed a lack of sexual interest beforehand and they’re both okay with it. I honestly don’t understand that if one’s partner is interested in sex, and their partner is physically, mentally, and emotionally able; why wouldn’t they want to have sex with them?! Presumably they care about what makes them happy right?

A personal anecdote is to say that both of my sisters have mentioned that they didn’t care for sex in their first marriages. But they both were married to jerks and eventually got divorced. I’m happy to say that they both found good men and their viewpoints on the enjoyability of sex have done a full 180°. I think it has to sexual compatibility and chemistry.

If your sister truly believes that a woman who wanted to remain abstinent throughout a marriage would be a suitable wife for the great — and by great, I mean ≥98% — of men, I have to suspect she is either very young, socially sheltered, or both. (Again, I need to plug Savage Love again, for her more than for you.)

May I ask… is your sister exceptionally religious?

She is not. But over the last few years she is beginning to call herself a feminist, but not to the extremes that are generally associated with the word. I think she was just trying to emphasize the fact that women do not have to have any expectations when it comes to their own bodies, and that society shouldn’t be trying to force one on them. But I try to tell her that if we play in society’s game (marriage) then we need to play by society’s rules. :wink:

I must thank you for the link to Savage Love, that was almost like an eye opener to the wider range sex lives that I have only seen on tv or in film. Me being 18 and my sister being 23, I suppose we don’t have much experience in this without referencing to an outside source.

OTOH sometimes getting the physical connection back up and running (even if it was merely a symptom) will help the couple reconnect on other levels as well.

You have to remember “Fuck it, I’m not gonna get laid anyways” is a great reason for a guy not to put any effort into the relationship.
“Fuck it, I’m not going to sleep with him if he’s not going to put any effort into this relationship” is a great reason for a woman not to put any effort into the physical part of the relationship.

Sometimes regular sex will help to break the cycle.

I suspect that the disconnect here is between the specific and the general. A woman never has a “duty” or an obligation to have sex at any specific point in time: she oughtn’t be obligated because it’s Friday, or he had a really bad day, or she looks really hot in that, or he just really, really wants it. It’s always ok–for either partner–to turn down sex at any particular point in time. Trying to suggest that a woman has a specific obligation to have sex at a specific time would be . . .offensive. It certainly would add a weird pressure to a relationship that would not bode well for the future.

More generally, however, both partners are responsible for the health of the relationship, and that means making sure that they are both getting their fundamental needs met. Sex is one of these needs, but so is affection, attention, food, shelter, alone time . . it’s a long list. This is why marriage is a lot of work: you’re both looking out for each other’s total happiness.

The real problem is when someone tries to fix a general problem with a specific solution: “You haven’t been meeting my sexual needs (in general) so you should have sex with me right now”. That is a huge turn off, which then exacerbates the general problem. Even if sex happens, the bigger issue has not been addressed, and the issue will come back up (as it were) in the near future.

I agree that one shouldn’t be constrained by society’s expectations of our sexuality (within limits) but it is a huge mistake for her to overlook or diminish her partner’s expectations.

For my money, there is no better resource than Dan. Sometimes the content that he covers might be a bit much for more sensitive tastes, but his advice and insight is rock-solid. My girlfriend make it a point to listen to his podcast every week together (which sounds totally :rolleyes: but whatever, we love the show.)

Asexual folks deserve love and marriage too. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the end of it.

Yes, the vast VAST majority of coupled relationships are descriptively sexual. That doesn’t make it a prescriptive requirement.

That does not mean the RCC considers penis-in-vagina sex a requirement (nor do I think you were saying so, I’m just clarifying): they do celebrate weddings between partners who will not be able to have PiV sex (due to age or illness), and there is no requirement to have sex of any kind so long as both parties agree. The RCC’s take is similar to Cheesesteak’s and Paranoid Randroid’s: if one party wants to have sex and the other one does not/can not and they can’t solve the situation, then there is a Big Problem.

The RCC uses the Holy Family as how a family should be…since the church seems to be able to annul a mariage when there is no sex, then it is hard to understand why having sex,or not having it ,should matter. It teaches that Mary never had sex and always remained a virgin.

Although Sex may not be the only reason for a marriage, it can be sign there are other problems in a marrige. It depends on the individual couple.

Asexual folks don’t “deserve” love and marriage, any more than anyone else does. If they want to get married they should find another asexual to marry, and everyone will be happy. The asexuals will be happy with each other, they won’t be inflicting themselves on people who expect a sexual relationship, and the sexual people won’t be inflicting unwanted sexual expectations on the asexuals.

Of course, as Manda Jo says, nobody has an obligation or duty to have sex at any time. Neither does anybody have an obligation to stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t meet their sexual needs.

Another vote for compatibility making a marriage rather than any specific thing. It might be sleeping in the same bed, or eating dinner together, or going on vacations together. After all, people stay married at 90, and are just as married as they are at 20.


is not true in my experience. It becomes a bit more difficult during the years when kids are awake late, but they do eventually leave.

My point is that they don’t deserve it any less than anyone else does.