Rethinking “marital duties”

There’s a bit of a warning that goes off in my mind when I see, printed on the “page” from the old textbook that this is, in fact, an excerpt from a textbook from the 60’s – which is why it pictures a woman from the 1800’s :), but for the sake of discussion, I’m choosing to ignore it.  So let’s break down all of the lies that are contained in such a short segment.

1.  Women are expected to only couple with men, and then it must be within the “sanctity” of marriage.  False.  Women, you should be with whomever fulfills you emotionally, mentally, and sexually; man or woman make no difference.  And get married if it’s what you like, and don’t if it isn’t.

2.  “If you need to apply face-cream or hair-rollers wait until he is asleep as this can be shocking to a man last thing at night.”  No my dears, you apply that face cream and (if you still wear them) hair-rollers and you let your partner see it!  If you live together, you ought to be able to be comfortable in your own home – makeup free and lounging in sweat pants if you so choose.

3.  “When it comes to the possibility of intimate relations with your husband it is important to remember your marriage vows and in particular your commitment to obey them.”  Absolutely and utterly false!  If your partner (man, woman, married or no) wants to have sex and you don’t – don’t.  Sexual assault can and does occur within intimate and married relationships.  You should never have to engage in “intimate relations” because you vowed to “obey”.  You should only engage in intimate relations when you are actively and positively consenting.

4.  “A man’s satisfaction is more important than a woman’s.”  FALSE!  This is absolutely untrue.  Women, you need some satisfaction.  My suggestion: figure out what gives you pleasure and then share the good news!  Your partner should be just as intent on your pleasure as they are on their own and vice-versa.

5.  “Should your husband suggest any more of the unusual practices be obedient and uncomplaining but register any reluctance by remaining silent.”  Again, this is false.  If a particular position or act makes you uncomfortable, the last thing you should do is remain silent.  Silence is not consent for your partner to continue, but saying “No” makes it clear that you are not giving consent.  Husband or wife or partner, if one person isn’t into it, you cannot do it.  And if you begin a new “practice” and decide, midway through you don’t like it, you absolutely have the right to say stop and your partner absolutely has the responsibility to do that.

6. “Arise shortly before…to make his tea.”  He knows where the tea is and he can turn on the stove.  🙂 Your sleep is just as important as your partners.

Though this “extract” is silly, the information contained within it is dangerous.  It perpetuates very real expectations of a marital relationship and promotes marital rape, which is as illegal as rape by a stranger.  You should never have to fear your most intimate partner, and if you do there are people who want to help.  If you have any questions about what constitutes sexual assault within a marriage or in general, please contact:

ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support)
515-292-5378 (515-29ALERT)


Margaret Sloss Women’s Center


About Margaret Sloss Women's Center - ISU

The Margaret Sloss Women's Center promotes equity on the Iowa State University campus. Through a feminist lens, the center advocates for individuals and groups; provides support, referrals, community and programming; and maintains a safe space in the Sloss House.

Posted on April 6, 2011, in End Violence Now, Sex, Sexism, Sexual Assault Awareness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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