You fall into bed after a long day, feeling frazzled rather than frisky — only for your husband to make a move. Do you let him down gently, admitting exhaustion? Or smile sweetly and consent to his advances?
You might imagine a liberated woman takes the first option, while the second has been consigned to the history books. Not according to model Caprice Bourret, 49, who this week provoked frenzied debate when she warned women not to say no to sex with their husband.
‘You can’t say “I’m tired” or “I have a headache” — no! Take one for the team, because it’s five to ten minutes of your life,’ the married mother-of-two insisted, adding: ‘If the sex goes in the relationship, it’s done and dusted’ — the insinuation being, surely, that frigidity feeds infidelity.
Sage advice or anachronistic claptrap? Here, seven writers give their verdicts . . .
Caprice Bourret, 49, (pictured) sparked a heated debate after warning women not to say no to sex with their husband
THIS IS SEXIST, IGNORANT GUFF
By Bel Mooney
Excuse me while I reach for the sick bag. This has got to be the dumbest, most reactionary ‘advice’ to women I’ve read in a very long time.
Apparently, like an obedient Victorian wife you just lie back and think of Caprice’s sexpertise if you want to keep your man happy.
Listen up, working women, breastfeeders, exhausted mothers and menopausal sisters, hot-to-trot Caprice is instructing, ‘You can’t say “I’m tired” or “I have a headache” — no!’
It’s positively medieval, which is the same thing, this notion of the subservient woman doing her duty by the all-powerful He- Who-Must-Be-Pleased — whether she feels like it or not.
It wouldn’t matter but, unfortunately, a lot of people read this shallow, boastful guff online and think there’s something wrong with their lives. It feeds the insecurity of women and the entitlement of men — and I’m afraid I find it faintly obscene.
Not to mention sexist, ignorant and lacking in any understanding of real, complex relationships.
Bel Mooney (pictured) said it’s love, not sex, that keeps relationships alive and kicking, as she considers the scenarios that could make sex impossible
There’s gorgeous Caprice photographed with her extremely smug-looking husband (he would be, wouldn’t he?), and dropping this precious pearl: ‘If the sex goes in the relationship, it’s done and dusted.’
Oh, rubbish! What happens when somebody has a terrible accident or a progressive medical condition, making sex impossible? Kick them out! What happens when a couple become older and still share the deepest tenderness, even if they choose separate beds these days? Losers! What about those who think cuddles are just as important as copulation? Frigid fools!
Understand this, Caprice: it is love, not sex, that keeps relationships alive and kicking — yes, right up to the end of life.
EVERYONE HAS TIME FOR A QUICKIE!
By Julie Burchill
Julie Burchill (pictured), who has been with her third husband for a quarter of a century, said if you have time to have boozy lunches with your girlfriend, you’ve got time for a quickie
Does a married woman have a right to say no to sex with her husband — and vice versa? Of course she does, just as she has the right not to converse with him.
But when you find yourself swerving any sort of intercourse with your spouse, be it social or sexual, it’s probably time to give Relate a call.
I’ve been with my third husband for a quarter of a century now. I’m a sexagenarian, he’s not far behind, and without drawing you a diagram, it would be folly to expect to be ‘at it’ as much as one was at the beginning. But still, there is something chummy about having sex with someone you know very well and still like anyway. And you’ll notice that Caprice timed conjugal engagements at between five and ten minutes.
Women who say they don’t have time for sex probably think that sex should be about communicating, sharing, scented candles, two-hour massages, three-hour role-play, kissing, cuddling and then . . . that other thing, if you must. Whereas men, the rotters, seem to think that sex is about having sex.
There are perfectly good marriages that have dwindled into a sibling-style set-up, and if that works for you, then you’re laughing — literally, because in my experience nothing keeps a marriage together like a shared Good Sense Of Humour.
But if one side wants sex and the other side doesn’t, I can’t think of anything more likely to curdle the domestic atmosphere.
If you have time to have long, boozy lunches with your girlfriends and spend hours browsing on social media, surely you’ve got time for a quickie?
WE’VE FOUGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO SAY NO
By Kate Spicer
Kate Spicer (pictured) argues against taking away a woman’s right to say no because it skates too close to the fuzzy domestic borders of rape
Any kind of command to a woman around how to serve sex to a partner skates way too close to the fuzzy domestic borders of rape. Sex is one of the fundamental pleasures in life. It can be fantastic, but it is also one of the most abusive and complex ways in which women are subjugated, and to take ownership of who, when, where, what, why and how is one of the ways women take their power back in a world that revolves around men, their money and their sexual urges.
I know that sounds unsexy, hairy and angry, but telling women not to say no if their husband wants sex sounds like a conservative reading of some ancient religious text. And to say that, ‘If the sex goes in the relationship, it’s done and dusted,’ well, that sounds like a threat. It’s not great when sex goes, but it can be salvaged.
Caprice is a woman who has heavily traded on what economists call Erotic Capital. The power and money you can leverage when men would like to have sex with you. Billions of women, even very clever and successful ones, leverage this but, hopefully, they enjoy sex in a wholesome, happy way too. And yet, in some ways, her advice is sound. We all know there are those times when you become bored — even mildly repelled — by your beloved. Sometimes you need to force yourself to get back on the horse or, more pointedly, let the horse get back on you.
Because once you do, it’s a physical and emotional relief for you both. Relationships tend to thrive with mutually satisfactory sex, so once the honeymoon period is over, it should ideally leave one with the habits to usher in two-way pleasure, even if the fireworks aren’t exactly the Fourth of July.
I imagine some poor woman, raised in a sex-phobic household, lying back and gritting her teeth while a selfish husband with no skills in bed ‘makes love’ to her, and all because she believes she should.
Sometimes it’s worth just going for it even if you aren’t in the mood because you will both enjoy it. But never say must. Never take away a woman’s right to say no. We’ve fought for this for millennia.
SEX ON DEMAND IS JUST NOT SEXY
By Monica Porter
Monica Porter (pictured) said husbands will appreciate the experience more if they’ve had to wait a while for it
A physical relationship is essential for marriage. Otherwise, the two of you are just good mates who live together. But the opposite position — not to say no to sex? That’s utterly ridiculous. If you’re really not up for it, physically or psychologically, the sex will be so perfunctory as to be meaningless. And the husband will notice, because there is no hiding that. So it’s preferable all round to wait a day or two until you are in the mood and can give the event some oomph. It should be about quality and not quantity, right?
After all, what’s wrong with delayed gratification? A mature adult can deal with that. He will understand that loving sex between man and wife, unlike a streaming service on the telly, isn’t available on demand.
What kind of husband would expect his conjugal rights to be served up like a same-day delivery on Amazon Prime? He’ll appreciate the experience all the more if he has to wait a while for it, knows that there was no pressure involved and his wife isn’t counting the ‘ten minutes’ until it’s over.
Besides, the idea that as long as a married couple are having sex they will stay together is simply a delusion. I’ll never forget when a good friend of mine told me how she’d had the best sex ever with her husband of 11 years the very night before he left her for another woman. ‘How could that happen?’ she sobbed. How indeed.
SOMETIMES IT IS SIMPLER TO BE KIND
Olivia Fane (pictured) said being rejected night after night takes its toll on men and in the end, something in the marriage dies
One of the more disorientating aspects of my mother’s dementia was that she began to tell her female friends exactly what she thought of them.
One day, we overheard her say: ‘You’re the one who kept saying no to your husband. No wonder he left you!’ Her most loyal friend left the sickroom in tears.
Well, her advice certainly resonated with me. I’ve been married twice, and I’ve never said no. A high temperature could possibly exonerate me from my marital duty, but not much else. Certainly not ‘a headache’ or ‘being too tired’.
What is the argument against letting the man you love enjoy your body — just for a few minutes — when he’s feeling stressed and strung out? That sex is for two, that the appetites have to be in perfect synchronicity? Whoever thinks that won’t be married for very long.
And there’s another thing. Sex is the greatest mood-changer I know: it lifts you from the domestic and the tedious within a few minutes, and you don’t have to be sent to heaven and back to have a good time. It’s an intimate, trusting thing that couples do together.
Again and again, I’m surprised at how sex wields its magic, even when I’ve been rather more keen to get back to the next episode of some gripping box-set.
Being rejected night after night takes its toll on men. It dents their confidence and, in the end, they stop asking and something in the marriage dies.
Why are we always so keen to keep sex thrilling? Sometimes, surely, it is simply better to be kind.
TEN MINUTES WORTH IT FOR AN EASIER LIFE
Helena Frith Powell
Helena Frith Powell (pictured) said ten minutes to make your husband happy and you life easier has got to be worth it
While my feminist side was momentarily appalled by Caprice’s assertion that you should not say no to sex with your husband, my practical, pragmatic side agreed with her. ‘It’s just ten minutes of your life,’ she advises, arguing that if the sex goes in a marriage, so does everything else.
A friend of mine, on her second marriage, agrees. Her first marriage collapsed because they stopped having sex. ‘With my second husband, I insist we have sex at least twice a week,’ she reveals.
Another friend has a different approach. She refuses to have sex for as long as possible, usually up to a couple of months, before succumbing because at that point ‘his bad mood is just unbearable’. This is all very well until he finds someone else to lighten his mood.
If you look back to the beginning of your relationship, when you could barely stand for the other person to leave the room (as opposed to gritting your teeth when they enter it), sex was probably a huge part of that connection. But for most women, as the years accumulate, the sex declines.
Suddenly, from having been up for it all the time, they mysteriously can’t find any time. And at the end of the day, they collapse into bed with a decisive yawn. Should the husband stray over to their side of the bed, a hand comes out to stop them like a roadblock.
This is clearly not much fun for the husbands, who are left wondering why their sex kittens have turned into Rottweilers.
Ten minutes to make your husband happy, your life easier and everyone’s world that bit jollier has got to be worth it.
WHY BE A DOORMAT FOR MAN’S DESIRES?
By Marion McGilvary
Marion McGilvary (pictured) said your partner should not have the power to make you do something you don’t feel like doing
Of course you must say no to sex if you don’t fancy it! Caprice, that well-known feminist, says it’s only ten minutes. Yep. Just think, ladies, only ten minutes of your precious body being used as friction, as a mere receptacle. And why? To keep someone else happy.
Is this how you live the rest of your life, being a doormat for other people’s desires? If so, you are making a mockery of the word consent. If your boss asks you to stay late, do you meekly agree? Perhaps you feel you must because the boss has the power to promote or fire you. But in a supposedly loving relationship, don’t these obligations cease?
Your partner should not have the power to make you do something you don’t feel like doing, especially sexually, because that constitutes abuse. In every successful relationship there should be compromises, but that doesn’t mean you are a slave to your partner’s libido. Nobody, male or female, has the right to demand or even expect sex. We don’t have to regress to the 1960s sitcom stereotype of ‘I have a headache’. ‘Not tonight, dear’ should always be sufficient.