Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, DHL, LCSW-R
While conventional wisdom holds that men suffer from sexual deprivation more than women, the Talmudic perspective is more nuanced. The Gemara on Amud Beis tells us:
אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַבִּי חִיָּיא בַּר יוֹסֵף לִשְׁמוּאֵל: מָה בֵּין מוֹרֵד לְמוֹרֶדֶת? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: צֵא וּלְמַד מִשּׁוּק שֶׁל זוֹנוֹת, מִי שׂוֹכֵר אֶת מִי? דָּבָר אַחֵר: זֶה יִצְרוֹ מִבַּחוּץ, וְזוֹ יִצְרָהּ מִבִּפְנִים.
On the same issue, Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Yosef said to Shmuel: What is the reason for the difference in halakha between a man who refuses his conjugal obligations and a woman who refuses? According to all opinions, a wife’s fine is greater than that of a husband. He said to him: Go and learn from the market of prostitutes. Who hires whose services? Clearly, a man suffers more from lack of sexual intercourse, and therefore the penalty for a rebellious wife is greater. Alternatively, when he desires sexual relations, his inclination is noticeable on the outside, and therefore he feels shame as well as pain. But for her, her inclination is on the inside, and is not obvious.
The pashut peshat in the Gemara is, as Rashi says, a man’s tendency to become aroused is actually physically noticeable, leading to additional embarrassment.
I will offer a metaphoric peshat. The woman only appears to be suffering less, because she suffers quietly in silent desperation for her husband’s affection. Below is a quote from the Steipler’s famous letter on marital holiness, which says it all:
The obligation for conjugal relations at appropriate intervals is a mitzvah deoraysa no less sacred and important than eating matzah Seder night. To hold back during pregnancy, (a time when there is no direct procreative purpose so one might think it is less obligatory,) is a transgression. Unless the woman with a full heart released him from the obligation, he is an utter sinner.
This is a transgression between a man and his friend bein odom lechaveiro, which even Yom Kippur and death does not atone for. He is a thief, who stole from his wife what is owed to her. It is actually a form of psychological murder, as it a woman’s deepest hope in her world is that she will have a husband who loves her. When she sees that it is not the case as a result of her husband’s neglect, it is close to a life and death matter, due to her grief and sorrow.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation
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