I’m 30 and have been married for five years. I do all the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. My wife does a few things around the house, but not many. We do not have any sex at all; she doesn’t have the drive any more. The last time we did it was two years ago. My wife has even told me to find someone else and to stop wasting time on her. I just don’t know what to do.
As much as I don’t feel like playing Quincy (the wrinkles!), I might be willing to declare your marriage dead for you, except for one thing: I think your wife is probably depressed, which means she can probably be treated. And if she can be treated, maybe your marriage can be helped too.
I had to check twice to make sure you’d really written "30," and not the 50 or 60 your sad, resigned little note put me more in mind of. If you’re really 30 and didn’t marry your gramma’s longtime mahjongg partner, then your wife, too, is presumably young and was, presumably, not like this when you married her. So something has happened in a mere five years to transform her from whatever vibrant young thing you married to this limp, tired, and rather bitter-sounding dishrag. Would you please sit down with her and talk about seeing someone? And listen: just leave the no-sex part out of it for starters. "I’m not getting laid and that means you’re broken" is not a recommended opening move.
I’m in my early 30s, single, and have never been with a professional sex worker. I have traveled to all kinds of poor third world countries, so I’ve had infinite opportunities, but I’ve never wanted to do it. I’m a relationships kind of guy.
However, my work has taken me to a new location where I am basically of no value in the dating market. I’m interesting, not bad looking, fit, tall, and have lots of other good qualities, but the women here are looking for a cool local guy with lots of free time on his hands. Dating is flat-out impossible for me while I’m here.
In my period of involuntary celibacy, I have learned something: men (and probably women too, but I can only speak as a man) are not designed for celibacy. It’s not just sex that I miss. It’s some indefinable part of the experience of being with a woman. The smile, the pheromones, the cuddling, the long hair …
I know that a pro’s smile is not the same thing as the smile of a woman who really likes me which can never be bought and I don’t like fake things. Should I suspend my disbelief for a few hours and just enjoy it? Would I feel rotten afterward? And, even more important, is this an ethical thing to do? Is there anything else I can do in my situation? I wish I could go somewhere where a woman would occasionally return my smile, but I am stuck here for now.
Lonely (without) Abroad
You sent this letter quite some time ago, so let’s hope you’re out of No-Love-Land by now. Since you asked, though, I have no ethical qualms about people paying for sex as long as the person doing the selling is as fully empowered to not be a prostitute as she is to be one. Whether or not you believe that this condition can ever be met, especially for women, depends on your broader sexual-political viewpoint. I am rather a middle-of-the-roadish feminist these days and neither believe that all sex with men is prostitution (or rape) nor that prostitution is an especially empowering form of goddess-worship. I do believe that many women really are in a position to freely choose the sex trades and to leave them when they wish. Those are, of course, the lucky ones, though the college girl stripper/hooker/performance artists, not the streetwalkers and we haven’t even looked overseas, where poor young women may have fewer choices.
Is it ever ethical to pay such a "professional"? Many would say of course not. Others, including myself in some moods, would choose the practical over the ideal and point out that while such transactions may be distasteful, if nobody pays her she will starve, or be beaten, or both. This is one of those situations that has no perfect answer, the world in which it occurs being too imperfect to yield one.
I don’t think hiring a street prostitute in a poor country is really your cup of weak yak-butter tea anyway. A better idea, in your position, would be to cultivate a few pseudo-intimate online relationships and save your money for the occasional trip abroad to visit one of those (provided you’ve netted an actual woman) or, failing that, to pay a fancy freelancer a lot of euros.
Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.
Andrea is also teaching two classes: "You’ve Really Got Your Hands Full" a realistic look at having twins at Birthways in Berkeley.