I'm reposting this because I was hoping it might get some more after-work eyes, and to draw attention to MISFITTOY's post about writing into Abby. As far as I can tell, since there's no comment section on her site, she will post letters from people when there's a large outcry against some of her advice. Maybe if we write in, something will get published!
A reader wrote in:
Can you be sexually harassed/abused by your spouse? My husband talks dirty to me and grabs at my breasts. I have repeatedly asked him to stop, but he doesn't listen and continues to do it. We have two small kids at home, and by the time they go to bed, I could care less about being intimate.
His behavior disgusts me, and to be honest, I don't want to have sex with him. I have female problems and have told him it hurts, but it makes no difference to him. He touches me in front of the kids, and I have to slap his hand away.
I can't leave him because I don't have a car or income for myself, nor do I have family or friends close by. I can't go to his family because they see him in a different light. What would you suggest, and is it harassment — and could I press charges?
This sounds awful, to me. Her husband is grabbing her breasts, despite her explicit wishes otherwise, in front of her children. And when she tells him it hurts to have sex, instead of getting her to a doctor, he just keeps trying to have sex with her. This seems like a pretty clear cut case of abuse to me. The biggest red flag, as far as I can see, is grabbing her breasts in front of their children. Obviously parents will kiss in front of their kids, some times to a chorus of "eeeeeeewwwws", but it's done as a sign of affection or love. Breast-grabbing really only could serve two purposes that I can see. He's either asserting his dominance, which is abusive, whether it happens in front of the kids or not, or it's foreplay, in which case it definitely should not be happening in front of the kids.
Having stated my opinion, lets look at what Abby has to say. In her first paragraph:
You have mentioned so many problems in your short letter that it's hard to know where to begin. While your husband's attempts at foreplay are beyond clumsy and ineffective, I can't help but feel some sympathy for him because it appears you have him on a starvation diet.
She then goes on to suggest marriage counseling, seeing a doctor, and calling her family to come help her if neither work, only throwing in as an afterthought in her last line.
Unwanted sexual advances could be considered harassment, and sex without consent is rape.
Yeah Abby, they are. And when your hands are being slapped away, and you're being repeatedly told to stop, then I'm pretty sure you don't have a leg to stand on if you claim that you don't realize that your sexual advances are unwanted.
I'm sure this husband is suffering due to a lack of sex. I truly believe that it is necessary to have constant communication about what each person desires, and needs in a married relationship. But groping your wife in front of your kids, ignoring her when she tells you to stop, and ignoring the fact that having sex causes her pain is not the kind of communication that's going to result in consensual, fun sex for everyone involved.
I just can't believe that the very first thing Abby has to say, after reading all that, is to express sympathy for the husband. Man, I wish that every advice-seeking person would just write into Carolyn Hax.