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I think 'owing sex' is such an important topic, there are so many points of view, and a lot of confusion about who is right and if we can decide right and wrong for others. Please play the video until the very end and dialogue with me in the comments if you have questions or concerns about my sexplanation. I don't for one moment want people to think that they are owed sex but I do want people to have agency over their own bodies and morals to owe sex if they want to. That's a tricky delineation which I hope to communicate.


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I've tried to do this episode about owing someone sex multiple times.

I want to make sure I'm speaking fairly to the diverse range of sexual experiences and not say anything that could be misunderstood. So if you're going to watch this video, all I ask is that you watch it all the way through and dialogue with me in the comments if there's something that's still unclear. [WHIP CRACKING, COUGH].

I received a message from someone saying that she had started going to a therapist because she wasn't okay with sex and the therapist told her that she quote “owes” her husband sex anyway. My initial response was pretty strong: of course you don't owe your husband sex, you don't owe anyone sex. I even thought about making an episode about it where I ask, “Do you ever owe someone sex?”, say “no” firmly, then cut to the endscreen.

Simple, no explanation needed. After all there are rafts of stories where someone is told “you owe me sex” because “I was nice,” “I paid for dinner” “I gave you attention” “I have needs” and that's problematic.... There's the 2014 tragedy where 6 women were killed and another 7 injured because the perpetrator felt like he was owed sex.

He reasoned, “College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure, but in those years I've had to rot in loneliness, it's not fair… I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.” To that I want to shout a hard no to owing sex -- sex and fun and pleasure aren't human rights! It doesn't have to be fair. But like I do with every episode of Sexplanations I researched and I tried to find other viewpoints for a more comprehensive response.

A 2010 study of heterosexual dating scenarios published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found: “When the man paid for an expensive date, men agreed more than did women that both characters should have expected sexual intercourse. Conversely, when the costs of an inexpensive date were split...women agreed more than men that no sexual expectations were warranted.” These are their beliefs but does thinking someone owes sex, mean that they do? To owe someone something means to be under moral obligation to give someone something.

I asked my friends and colleagues, people I respect, of diverse educations, life experiences, and sexualities, “What are your thoughts on owing someone sex?” I've never felt like I owed anyone sex or that they have owed me. I feel like it should be given freely. But I know that men have thought otherwise when I've gone out with them.

In fact it has been stated, “Well that's just what comes next. Why wouldn't we fuck now?” After a night out. It's the ultimate turn off.

I don't need a side of guilt with your orgasm. Absolutely fucking never ever even if you paid for it. The only thing that comes to mind is when someone's not in the mood and they say, “I owe you one,” but it kind of makes me laugh because there is nothing less romantic or sexy than debt.

Fuuuuuuck I don't know I'm sure [owing sex] seems fine and fun when you're in a relationship and everyone is feeling playful, but I think this can lead to guilt, resentment, and at the far end abuse. And people stop feeling playful at different points and for different reasons so probably shouldn't do it. I have more and more responses, similar hard nos, or why would you want owed sex.

They argue that one's body shouldn't be part of a transaction. What if I want to owe someone sex though? What if I negotiate a trade?

What if my partner goes down on me all night and I choose to reciprocate later with a “thank you, I owe you one tomorrow”? It's my own morals obligating me to owe the other person sex. My sense of moral obligation.

Isn't that okay? I switched to some quantitative data, a poll I posted on Twitter for 24 hours: Is sex ever owed to someone, if yes, when? Out of 1,960 votes 88% said no, 5% yes, and 7% replied, I don't know.

That's a solid majority of nos but the 98 people who said yes had strong arguments:. I feel like it can be owed if the person owing it wants it, and is giving a rain check. It shouldn't be coerced or forced, but if I say I owe someone sex then I can owe it to them.

With total and complete consent between all partners... Just because it's owed doesn't mean it can be demanded. I thought back to the horror stories of people at the end of dates feeling expected to put out and people in relationships whose partners feel entitled to their bodies.

I realized owing someone sex isn't immoral. It should be a sexual freedom to trade sex if we choose to for money, dinner, a back massage, putting the kids to bed, whatever. What's immoral is bullying someone into giving something to them that isn't theirs to have, or outright stealing it, which in the case of sex is called rape.

Owing someone something means a trade has been offered, negotiated, and all parties consent. That's awesome! That's healthy sexuality.

Using moral language like “you owe me” to justify sexual abuse and coercion is wrong. It's harassment about a debt that wasn't agree to. And it gives a bad reputation to owing sex.

Sex can be owed if everyone has informed consent and the ability to freely change their minds, to propose an alternate trade or refund. So to the woman who sent me the message, I don't think your therapist decides whether or not you owe your husband sex. You do! hopefully in honest conversations with your husband.

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