How “Hard Up” Feels

I know most of the women here have a strong, healthy sex drive, and more than a few would like more sex than their husband is willing to provide. Based on discussions Lori and I have had with such women, I suspect most of them think they know what it feels like for a man to be “hard up”. With all due respect, I don’t think these women have any idea. 

Male and female sexuality is radically different. You ladies feel things men don’t, and we feel things you don’t. Even where it seems similar, there are different things going on.

Rejected and dejected © TonyRecena |

He Feels it More:

The part of the brain devoted to sexual pursuit is more than twice as large in men as in women. A major review of studies on sex drive1 concluded men have stronger drives by every possible measurement. The summary of the study said, “No contrary findings (indicating stronger sexual motivation among women) were found.” There are individual women who have stronger sex drives than individual men, but as a whole men have significantly stronger drives, and there’s not a single well done study saying otherwise. 

Another study2 found men and women have the same level of sexual self-control. Men are more likely to give in to sexual impulses not because they lack self-control, but because their sexual impulses are much stronger. This study did some clever things to sort out drive vs. self-control and it seems men are just as able to control themselves, but choose to do so less often because they want sex more.

For men a lack of sex is felt on many levels.

  • Physically it’s an annoying pressure. Some men describe it as being similar to but less defined than needing to urinate. It’s always there, even when we push it to the back of our minds, and the only way to end it is to climax. 
  • Mentally it’s also constant. We can distract ourselves, but it’s still there just under the surface. It affects how we function. It also affects how we process what we see; any hints of sexuality are picked up more strongly. This is beyond our control; it’s like being more aware of food when you’re hungry. Of course we can and should make wise decisions, but we can’t avoid being more aware of and influenced by sexual stimuli when we are “overdue” for sex. 
  • If we’re feeling sexually hungry because of our own choices, that’s one thing. If we’re sex hungry because our wife has said no, that’s another thing all together. It’s like being hungry because you choose not to eat (to lose weight or because you are going to a food-filled gathering) versus someone keeping you from eating. It’s natural to feel antagonistic about someone keeping you from satisfying your hunger, be the hunger for food or sex. The reason he gets grumpy and nasty is because he is upset at you controlling something he wants and needs.
  • Occasionally being sexually hungry because your wife is unavailable or unwilling is no fun, but most of us are mature enough to deal with it. When it becomes chronic the situation changes. It feels personal, and it feels cruel. Most men decide their wife is intentionally trying to hurt them. They assume she understands the effect of her choices, and based on that she must have malicious intent. This cuts at the heart of a marriage because a woman who loves her husband would not choose to hurt him in this way. I know it’s not an obvious line of reasoning for you, but regular sexual refusal tells a man his wife doesn’t love him, and her words to the contrary feel like empty lies. This is why sexual refusal is so devastating to men and to marriages; it destroys the emotional foundation of the relationship. Unfortunately, we men aren’t into talking about feelings, so we tend to talk about sexual refusal on the physical level.
  • A lack of sex can also be spiritually difficult for a man. He prays for his wife to be more understanding of his needs, and nothing changes. He prays for his drive to lessen (I’ve talked to many, many men who have done this), and nothing changes. He struggles with lust, or porn, or worse. Even if he never gives in, the temptation remains and prayer seems to be of no help. This can cause a man to start doubting God. Or he might keep believing but get mad at God.

Why am I harping on this? Because I want you to understand. I’m convinced most women have no clue – and how could they? They assume he feels what they feel when there’s not enough sex, or maybe the same things just more so. Neither of these is the case.

If you get it, you can help. What that looks like will depend on a number of things and will vary from couple to couple. However, once you understand you can help.

For more on this, I suggest Understanding Your Husband’s Sexual Needs, an excellent series of posts by Juli Slattery on the Focus on the Family site.

If He’s “Low Drive”:

I’ve found most “lower drive men” are not really low drive. Porn use (with masturbation) is the most common issue, but there are others. Men suppress their natural drive for a variety of reasons. They want it, but they won’t do it nearly as much as they want. Some are masturbating instead, but many are just holding back across the board.

I know some will argue “however you are is fine” but in my experience men who “just have a low sex drive” without any medical, mental, emotional, or relational issues are rather rare – and most of them don’t seek out marriage. I’m not saying something else is going on or something is wrong if he wants very little sex, but I think the odds are good it’s not that simple.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I have no idea what it’s like to birth a baby or have menstrual cramps.


1 Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive? Theoretical Views, Conceptual Distinctions, and a Review of Relevant Evidence Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen R. Catanese, and Kathleen D. Vohs Personality and Social Psychology Review 2001, Vol. 5, No. 3, 242–273

2 Sex Differences in Succumbing to Sexual Temptations: A Function of Impulse or Control? Natasha D. Tidwell Texas A&M University Paul W. Eastwick The University of Texas at Austin

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22 Comments on “How “Hard Up” Feels

  1. I am the female anomally as I relate strongly to everything you’ve described–and the few times I’ve shared my feelings with women, they’ve looked at me like I have gone mad…

  2. Um, I am a woman and I have felt all these things, even and especially the physical “pee-like need” and pressure. The need is so strong and so constant it is agonizing. Even something as simple as the seam of my jeans is agonizingly arousing to the point of having stomach aches and menstrual like cramps if I don’t get release.

    Mentally, it preys on my mind constantly, like a continual drip urging and sexual temptation is amplified to the nth degree.

    Emotionally, I become short tempered and irritable because my mind is so plugged up with the need that everything outside of it is a stressful log on the fire. I can’t even hug my kids because my whole body is screaming sex and arousal and not mommy.

    Spiritually, it feels like God isn’t there, isn’t answering. I can’t focus on prayers, bible reading, or anything because the need/urge is so loud.

    So, um, yeah, I think I understand pretty darn well what men go through. And that is one of the reasons I try to talk with women about sexual refusal. I was refused and felt all I described above and more. Thankfully, now that I am no longer refused, I seem to have settled into a more feminine role and hormonal level sexually. And I try to make sure hubby never feels that pressure, or if he does, he gets immediate release from me. I just wish he gave me the same regard.

    • Yeah. I think this one gets how it feels when a guy gets hard up.

    • A woman’s sexual organs (external and internal) fill with blood (as a part of normal arousal), but with no release it can take several hours to get back to normal. It can seriously ache and if you stay aroused (because of sexual thoughts) you may not quite get back to normal for longer periods of time.

      I don’t know how similar it is to what guys go through (their physiology and chemistry is different) but certainly you have a handle on the frustration and distraction of being refused.
      Lori Byerly recently posted…Double SighMy Profile

    • Exactly saying you don’t understand tears down not builds up. Us women who are or have been “hard up” have the best chance of talking to your wives and helping them see your pain. We have the best chance of tearing down the feeling of this being about the battle of the sexes and helping them see the truth. Please encourage us as your partners in this fight for marriages not alienate us.

  3. I showed this one to my husband and he said, “I guess it is kind of like that, but it’s hard for me to know.” I offered to leave him alone long enough to find out, but he took a pass on that idea.

  4. “This is why sexual refusal is so devastating to men and to marriages; it destroys the emotional foundation of the relationship”

    Bet you’ll never hear that mentioned from the pulpit, even when 1 Cor 7:1-5 is preached.

  5. Ladies, when you’ve refused your man sexually, in his mind you’ve refused him. Of course, there are the (to men) obvious physical and temptation issues; but there are, also, the emotional ones. With repeated rejection, he is going to see refusal as deliberate, insensitive, and even malicious. It is impossible to separate sex from all of the rest of a man. With all normal men it is front and center physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

    • From my own experience and that of the women I’ve talked to it cuts thru to the very core of us as well. We also have the added part of society telling us that our men will want us all the time and take it as even a bigger rejection because we are lead to believe he wants it, but not with us.

      • @me – I agree that aspect of it is far worse for women.
        I’m not suggesting it’s a minor issue or unimportant when women are refused. It’s wrong and hurtful either way. I do think it’s somewhat different for men and women, and that is what I was trying to communicate here. My primary goal on this blog is to explain men to women.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…It’s Not You, Beyond MarriageMy Profile

  6. I am done reading your posts! I am just like the woman in the above comment! I am sick of women who are sexually refused being marginalized!

    • @KT I guess you have not read much of what I have to say as I have mentioned the reality of sexually refused women here many times. I’ve also talked to the men about it over on TGH. No one should be refused.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Getting Away from Your MarriageMy Profile

  7. I agree. Eary in our marriage my husband stopped wanting sex. I was hurt and confused. I cought him watching porn one morning, early in our marriage. But I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until years later. We even went to counselling at our church, I never brought up the porn and masturbation to the consellor, because I didn’t know the extent of his obsession to porn. My husband is a (high stimulation) sex drive. 15 years into our marriage now, I am and always have been a high sex drive. Now my husband is addicted to porn and masturbation. I live in a sexless marriage. It took years to get to this point, sadly my husband won’t admit to the addiction.
    A very frustrated wife who still loves her husband, Sherrie

    • @Sherrie Heim – So sorry for your pain.
      I think “do you masturbate” should be a question to ask any man who is saying no to sex. It’s not always the case, but it’s common enough it should be asked. Of course, plenty of men will lie about it, or how often they do it, but at least the question forces them to think about it.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Pastor AppreciationMy Profile

      • And if the answer is no but he used to like sex, you might want to look into low T.

        • This was also the case for me and my husband. We went through years of me thinking he didn’t love me anymore or didn’t find me sexy, but in the end, it turned out that his testosterone was low.

          Once he got that fixed, we got back the intimacy we had enjoyed in the beginning. I just wish it hadn’t taken us so long to find the truth. There were a lot of dark years of tears, fights, prayers and angst.

          Kudos to XY Code for tackling the tough marriage issues!
          Rebecca Watson recently posted…Why He Still Doesn’t Buy You LingerieMy Profile

  8. Pingback: Waiting, Watching, Working: pt. 5 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  9. Ummm. I don’t know about all this. What I do is that during a routine visit to my urologist, my wife asked him about whether sex was a ‘need’ or a ‘desire’. He explained the physical aspect of a man’s ‘hard up’ as you put it as being akin to menstrual cramps, and mild ones at that. He went to explain that if a man doesn’t have release, then the man might be uncomfortable for a few days but that after the 7-9 day mark, even the comfortableness goes away. Little did he know that my wife suffers from endrometriosis and has horrific cramping for two to three weeks solid followed by a two week period.
    For women who have anything more than a few very mild cramps, their husbands aren’t going to get any sympathy from them. I guess both sexes have their own ‘battles’ to fight, lol.

    • @Dan – It seems there is a wide array of experience on this, and just as many explanations. I’ ve read scholarly papers proposing causes for the discomfort.
      As to need vs desire, anyone who is only concerned for their spouses needs is a bad spouse. This is true of men and women and applies to all aspects of marriage, not just sex.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Male Sexuality Isn’t One-Size-Fits-AllMy Profile

  10. Pingback: Can a Woman Be ‘Hard Up’?

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