SAMANTHA BRICK: Would YOU go on a sex strike to get a new kitchen? When all else fails, these women have a last-ditch ace up their sleeve to get what they want from DIY to a wedding ring – a recipe for disaster … or wickedly inspired?
Old-fashioned — or a perfectly valid tactic that merely employs a woman’s natural bargaining power? For centuries women have gone on sex strike to get their men to change. And now, one charity suggests sex strikes could be employed to solve a very modern problem.
The German branch of animal rights charity PETA recently told women to withhold sex to stop their partners eating meat.
Men’s carbon footprint is 40 per cent higher than women’s, said the activists, and it’s their red meat-eating habit that’s to blame.
As a political move, the charity’s plea recalls the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of two warring Greek cities withhold sexual privileges to get their men to negotiate peace — a tactic that proves most expedient in ending the war.
Yet 21st century women are using the tactic in far more personal ways, too, to get everything from home improvements to a foreign holiday.
Here, SAMANTHA BRICK talks to the wives and girlfriends who know just how to get their own way . . .
Mission accomplished: Claire and Ashley (left) and Emma and Kevin (right)
EMMA: LASTED THREE MONTHS
Charity sector volunteer Emma Reid, 55, is married to Kevin, 61, who is retired. They live in Cardiff. Emma has a daughter from a previous relationship, and five granddaughters. She says:
Kevin and I met 20 years ago on a blind date, and I knew immediately that he was the perfect man for me.
From the off we were sexually compatible; we were very much that couple who were always touching and kissing one another and, two decades later, our sex life is still pretty good.
My reason for implementing a sex ban might not strike you as very serious. But, believe me, it was an important issue to me.
I’d been waiting a decade for a new kitchen and I wanted him to share some of my frustration.
It wasn’t as though we didn’t have the money. We could easily get it by releasing a lump sum from Kevin’s pension — yet he kept putting it off.
For years he said that Badger, our springer spaniel, would destroy a new kitchen. When friends came over I was embarrassed by the state of the room. It was tiny and dark and the cupboard doors were put in place in the last century. Every other room was done except the heart of the home.
When poor Badger died, we grieved for a good few months. Then the following year, with Kevin still dragging his feet, I told him I was withholding sex until he’d booked an appointment for us at the kitchen showroom.
I suspect he thought I was bluffing, or that it wouldn’t last, but he should have remembered it wasn’t the first time I’d done it.
The first time was three years into our relationship. We were having fun dating but I wanted more commitment.
Thanks to a previous relationship, Kevin was scared about taking the plunge again, which was when I first instigated a sex ban to get him to propose and set a date for us to get hitched. Honestly, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
Three months after I’d informed him I was on strike, we were out in a restaurant one evening when he finally agreed to book the register office for our wedding.
Even though he had a panic attack when he proposed, I said yes and I was true to my word. We swiftly resumed relations in the bedroom.
It felt like a natural thing for me to do. As someone once said, women are sitting on a fortune in terms of sexual favours; it’s only now that I realise the value of those words.
This time, going weeks without sex was hard; both of us were snappy and on edge with one another. It was worse than giving up smoking.
At one point, fearful he wouldn’t give in, I started wearing sexy clothes around the house.
He lasted three weeks and I ended the strike the minute he booked the appointment at the kitchen showroom.
I’d told everyone in my family and social circle what I was up to and, nowadays, they come to me for tips on how to get what they want in their relationship.
I’d always advise other women to withhold sex to get stuff done. I’m an alpha woman, but I still know how a man’s mind works. And it was worth three weeks without sex to get my dream kitchen. A happy wife is a sexy wife.
Kevin says: Every morning when I walk downstairs to our wonderful kitchen, I can’t believe I waited so long. It was worth every penny and I do approve of it.
As for Emma’s tactics? I do fancy my wife, so it was hard to resist her during that period. But she has got a high sex drive, too; looking back I’m amazed we went three weeks without.
Claire Reilly and her partner Ashley from Rustington, West Sussex
CLAIRE: LASTED TWO MONTHS
Concert promoter Claire Reilly, 36 lives in Rustington, West Sussex, with her partner Ashley Marcos, 37, a production printer, and their two children. Claire says:
Ashley is my best friend’s brother, but we only got to know each other properly at her wedding in Spain in 2018, when we ended up kissing during the celebrations.
Back home, I was living in London while he was in Sussex, so we took it in turns to visit one another at weekends.
We had a great sex life from the start and actually made love on our first date in Brighton.
I’d suggested he book a hotel because I wanted to relax and, while it might be considered a bit forward, I knew we were going to have a good time.
For six months we did the two-hour commute to see one another, but then I got pregnant.
I’d always wanted to go back to my home village, where Ashley lived, so I moved in with him and put my flat on the market.
Ashley’s home was a terrace on a busy road with a courtyard and no garden. Our baby arrived in May 2020, and I was pregnant again nine months later. By now, I knew that we’d need to move to a bigger house — but Ashley wanted to stay where we were and save up for a new house for two years.
As I told him, I would be the one stuck at home with two small babies, no garden and nowhere to walk to locally.
I gave Ashley the ultimatum in May 2021: I told him I wasn’t having sex again until he agreed to us moving house.
He thought it was a joke at first, but when he tried that night I just told him no.
It was a good two months before he caved in.
At the beginning, he attempted to sway me almost every night but, after a couple of weeks, he knew I was being serious.
And yes, we argued quite a few times, as Ashley needed to release some tension.
He started to feel ‘rejected’ —which we all know isn’t nice — so the atmosphere was frosty on occasion. But I kept repeating my reasoning — I found it funny after a while. He counteracted a couple of times, saying he’d take me out for dinner. I argued that he should be doing that anyway!
But I could tell it was a struggle. I missed the intimacy, too, but I was determined to hold firm.
Fortunately, after my flat in London sold, Ashley gave in and agreed it would be a good thing to do now we were having another baby and needed the space.
He was gracious about it, but I still held out until the estate agent came round to value the house. Then we had sex that night.
Let’s just say it was really great for both of us.
We moved into our new home in February, when our youngest was two months old. We’ve gone from a small terrace to a detached four-bedroom property, with a pretty garden, a driveway and a nice safe environment for the kids. Having said that, it’s not my forever home — so maybe there’ll have to be another sex ban in the future.
Ashley says: I thought she was joking at first! Once I found out she wasn’t, I was really frustrated. Now I’m glad she did it because moving to our new house is the best thing we’ve ever done.
We now live in a beautiful quiet house in a lovely part of the country, and it wouldn’t have happened without her implementing that sex ban.
Perfect strategy: Julie Cook and her husband Cornel
JULIE: LASTED FOUR DAYS
Author Julie Cook, 45, is married to Cornel 42, a pianist and interpreter. They live in Southampton with their two children Alexander, 13, and Adriana, nine. Julie says:
I MET Cornel in 2005 when I was on a weekend break in Venice. He was a pianist, playing in St Mark’s Square, and it was love at first sight. I moved to Venice a year later.
Our sex life in the beginning was beautiful. We were a gorgeous, loved-up young couple, our sex drives were equally matched and that meant having passionate sex at least once a day. Outside of the bedroom, we’ve always been equally simpatico.
We’ve got the same sense of humour and if I’m giggling at something, then I know Cornel will be laughing at it, too.
Each time I’ve given birth, sex has been off the cards for a year and then back to a normal routine. For us as parents, that means two to three times a week.
I still fancy him rotten and even though I’m a lights-off girl nowadays, sex is important to us.
The idea of going on a sex strike came about thanks to a girlfriend boasting one evening (over a glass or two) about how she’d successfully withheld sex to persuade her husband to fork out for a fancy five-figure exotic holiday one year.
Amazed, I filed her tactics away for future use.
Then I realised the strategy was perfect for a DIY problem I was finding more and more frustrating. For months, my husband had put off wallpapering the living room. Yes, I could have tried to do it myself, but he’s good at wallpapering and he’d promised to do it. The children and I had been falling over the rolls of paper in the hallway for weeks.
Now, I still fancy my husband today as much as I did when we first met, but I know sex is more important to him than it is to me.
I suspect feminists would shoot me down in flames for using sex as a means of bribery, but in a fit of pique I told him that sex was off the cards until the wallpapering was done.
And I’m aware it’s manipulative and controlling. But if it gets the job done, why not?
Cornel started the job the following day, but I held out until he’d finished three days later.
I couldn’t believe it was that easy. In less than a week, the whole living room, stairs and landing was done.
Afterwards, we did laugh about it. I think I said something along the lines of: ‘Look what happens when you do as you’re told.’
Other friends have warned me I’m jinxing my marriage by using sex as a weapon. One said it was completely degrading. Cornel and I both giggled about that. My friend’s reaction assumes that it’s only men who like sex. I’m sure a man could go on a sex strike, too, with just as much effectiveness.
Besides, when I look around our living room and take in the soothing hues of the wallpaper, I know I made the right decision.
I don’t think women should feel guilty about using a sex strike to get what we want. Of course, it feels somewhat old-fashioned, but who cares if it works?
Cornel says: We’ve been together for almost two decades and are pretty solid. It’s lucky I have a sense of humour, because Julie has told everyone what she had to do to get the wallpapering finished.
The funny thing is, it was the next item on my to-do list, so while Julie thinks she got the upper-hand, the papering would have been done pretty soon anyway.
Deep down, I know Julie enjoys sex as much as I do. I have no doubt that she would have caved within the week!
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