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Withholding Sex

empowerment lgbtqia+ queer queer tantra relationships Jun 22, 2023

Important note:

The conversation that follows must be had and understood within a context of consent. Each of us has the right to give or withdraw consent at ANY time under ANY circumstances. You can withdraw consent at any anytime without reason AND for any reason. Saying no is a human right. One of the fundamental teachings of queer tantra is consent. Nothing in this article should be construed as it being wrong or shameful to say no to engaging in a sexual act with anyone at anytime. No is a complete sentence. 

In a peaceful environment, one of the cruelest things we can do to another human being is to ask them to be in a committed relationship with us and then withhold sex over a long period of time.

To withhold something is to hold it back and refuse to give it. Withholding sex is a common phenomenon within lesbian/queer relationships where sex is withheld for months and even years. It is often the source of lesbian/queer bed death  

Withholding is distinct from being a no in the moment to engaging in sex (or not being an enthusiastic hell yes to engaging in a sexual act). I’m not talking about those one off moments in a relationship when you’re a no to being sexual with anyone.

Withholding is not the same as being a no or not being a hell yes. It's the deliberate holding onto something that lasts over time - not because you are freely choosing no. It's when we refuse to give ourselves as a punishment against someone else.

And it’s something that can happen subconsciously and creep into a relationship over time.

Most of us are not deeply cruel in nature and are not withholding sex in our intimate relationship/s consciously.

There are many reasons that people can feel sexually disconnected. SSRI medication, psychiatric medications and HRT can have side effects on your libido and even your ability to orgasm. You might have a physical condition such as vaginismus or erectile dysfunction. For those of us who deal with physical pain or fatigue, this can impact our capacity to be available sexually. All of these experiences are valid. Withholding is not about any of those circumstances. Withholding is often based on emotional pain or long-term resentment and disappointment in a partnership. 

Where sex is being 'withheld' from one person by another, there was a moment in time when everything was fine, and then in the next moment, it was not. This can extend into long periods of time.

Withholding sex in a relationship is one of the best ways to punish our partners for a perceived crime they committed. It could be anything from looking at you the wrong way, not responding the way you expected, or how they interacted with someone else. Perhaps they did something that crossed a boundary with you. Whatever it was, there was a moment in time when you went from being giving to being withholding.

Most of the time we miss this moment and it slides right by us, blending into a series of seemingly innocuous mundane moments in life.

What happens next is that we justify how we are feeling and why we don’t feel like having sex repeatedly and it becomes a habit. I’m too tired, I have a headache, I’m too sick, I don’t feel like it, I don’t like my body, I’ve got too much on my mind…

What we miss is that we have asked the person that we love to be with us - regardless of whether the agreement is monogamous or open. We have agreed to be sexual partners, and then we stop having sex. This situation becomes a broken agreement in our relationship.

Relationships are made up of agreements. It’s what has them work. The agreement to be sexual partners is one that requires honouring. This starts with being willing - if you are. Consider that it’s your job to show up as a sexual partner and to find the yes, to find the pleasure and to get on board with regularly having sex, even if that means warming up to it when you initially can’t be bothered or don’t feel like it. So how do we do this, if we are willing? 

Having the courage to openly discuss what is emotionally bothering you, and responsibly dealing with past hurts or resentments will make a difference. Working on open communication skills instead of allowing the rift to fester within a relationship and cause months or years long stop to sexual intimacy is an important step in responsible and healthy relationships. 

Expecting your partner to stay in a committed relationship while not having sex with them devolves the relationship into companions, best friends, housemates or simply a warm body in a bed. These aspects of a relationship are still important, but without learning how to show up when you’re not in the mood, or how to re-open when you are shut down, you risk holding your partner hostage in a contract that you are not fulfilling.

Thinking through the benefits of polyamory if you have a significantly impacted libido (or are asexual) is sometimes an option, especially if monogamy isn't fulfilling the intimacy needs of all involved in the relationship.

Another important skill is being responsible to take action for your own physical or mental healthcare for assistance with how to address any physical conditions or emotional traumas that make sex difficult or again seeing if polyamory may relieve pressure in the relationship while this process is ongoing.

It is completely possible to shift from withholding sex in a relationship to giving yourself again. And it usually takes work. Sometimes it’s an inside job. Sometimes it requires being in respectful and responsible communication with your partner.

It is always important to recognise that pressuring someone to have sex when they do not want to, or not giving room for enthusiastic affirmative consent in your sexual relationships is an act of violence and is never okay.

In restoring the agreement to be sexual partners, you will always know yourself as a bigger person for yourself. In being a giver versus a withholder, you will find yourself being a more generous human being in all your relationships. 

Your friend-who-will-always-tell-it-like-it-is,


Danica Lani

P.S. If you like this conversation, you’ll love the #1 problem that keeps queer, lesbian and non-binary couples from having a fulfilling sex life. Click here to get your free gift.

Danica Lani has been teaching queer tantra since 2014 and used the principles of tantra to disappear lesbian bed death in a long-term committed relationship. As a survivor of sexual assaults and someone who lives with chronic pain, she continues to use tantra principles in living a fulfilling life. Her clients are often dealing with queer/lesbian bed death, sexual disconnection and she helps them reconnect using tantra teachings and practices.

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