Mon | Oct 15, 2018

When did sex become a need?

Published:Tuesday | December 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Patria-Kaye Aarons, Columnist

I had a captivating conversation with an elderly woman last week. In our talk, she explained away her husband's infidelity with a two-and-a-half year distance between them. According to her, he had needs and she was not at the time available to satisfy them. So in her mind, it was OK that he found someone else to do what she couldn't.

Since that conversation, I have grappled with the question, "When did sex become a need?"

It's an adage that has been drilled into our very psyche, "a man has needs". Our sexual desires and the urge to fulfil them are right next to air and food, and we can't live without them. From as early as 1943, Abraham Maslow included sex in the grouping of man's primal physiological needs in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation. According to this holy grail of psychology, one of man's most fundamental requirements for survival is sex.

I have a strong suspicion this is where things began to go wrong. Maslow makes reference to sex twice in his theory. First in the grouping of man's basic, must-have needs, coupled with the need to use the bathroom and the need to eat. I take this reference to mean, if man doesn't have sex, he can't procreate. So in that sense, sex is a basic need. Maslow's second reference to sex encapsulated man's desire for intimacy and a need to feel loved and to belong. It is here that sex for pleasure lies.

From the conversation with the cheated-upon wife and other conversations with those who have accepted infidelity as part and parcel of every relationship, sex has been debased to a basic human need ... in Maslow's immediate, must-have grouping. I don't buy it one bit. Produce the man who died from sexual inactivity. He had needs is not an excuse, and women should stop sheltering cheating partners behind it. What ever happened to good old self-control?

Chastity vows

There are members of the clergy who commit themselves to sexless lives. Men who take a vow of chastity and, who until their dying day, never satisfy their sexual needs, and I personally know some who have lived to a ripe old age. Where did their need disappear to? And if the "need" is optional, surely it can't then truly be a need. Clergymen vow to never have sex. They can't commit to lifelong hunger strikes or no air days, because food and water are REAL needs.

Don't tell me sexual desires are natural, so there is no point in fighting them. Hair growth is natural, but I shave my armpits, don't I? He needed sex isn't an excuse. In fact, it's a misnomer. He WANTS sex, just not from you. That's a harsh reality that many women are hard-pressed to face up to. The man who cheats doesn't need to, he wants to. He makes a conscious decision to seek pleasure from another woman. It's high time women stop absolving men of culpability. Sure he has needs, but cheating isn't one. And when men satisfy their wants to cheat, there should be consequences.

The lady with whom I spoke eventually became a career mistress; dedicating 40 years of her life to satisfying another woman's husband's need. In her mind, women need to understand the role they play. They need to accept and acknowledge that they can't be all things to their man and that he will and should be allowed to find women who satisfy the unfulfilled "needs".

I refuse to accept that.

The process of selecting a partner, particularly a lifelong partner, requires that you find a mate who checks most of your boxes. And the ones they don't check, you do without. As 2015 draws near and I embrace a new relationship, I declare I do want a needy man, but one who only "needs" me.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.