Maureen Matthews.

Maureen Matthews. Photo: Simon Schluter

Ruth has always had "yobbo" tendencies, but now her entire life is football and golf. I enjoy sport, but there are other things: music, preparing food, creating a mood, and having great sex. Her idea of sexy is not wearing a tracksuit. I resent that she thinks it's OK to fart anywhere, any time, when we're alone, even in the shower before coming to bed and expecting me to be frisky. She's never dressed up for me, or done anything seductive. She believes women who do so are abused. Do some women enjoy being seductive and wearing lingerie for a man, or is this a male chauvinist fantasy?

Both women and men enjoy a wide range of hobbies, clothing styles and kinds of intimacy. Some women adore getting dressed up and exploring sexy lingerie and role play. Others are more sporty and athletic, and are not particularly drawn to traditionally feminine pursuits. There is no right way to dress, to behave or to play, and every couple needs to learn about each other's tastes, and negotiate how their intimacy will be.

You sound disappointed and cross about your relationship, but you need to avoid a way of thinking that makes you right, and your partner wrong, as this will do nothing to bring about change, or greater closeness

The idea that some women enjoy playing sexy dress-ups and being actively seductive is not a "male chauvinist fantasy", but the language that you use when you discuss your dilemma is sexist. You talk about women dressing up, wearing lingerie and being seductive for a man. If a woman does a man's laundry, it is not because she finds it intrinsically pleasurable, but because she is doing him a favour and enjoys spoiling him.

Mutually enjoyable sexual encounters, however, occur when both partners are doing what brings them pleasure. Dressing up in sexy lingerie should be fun, and exciting in and off itself, not a chore. The other person's response is icing on the cake.

When you see it as a favour she should do for you, it is not surprising if Ruth rebels. Even if you managed to "guilt trip" her into donning a suspender belt and stockings, it would not result in you having hot sex. She could experience it as abusive, if it was something she felt pressured to do to please you.

On the other hand, it is not necessary for a couple to lose all inhibitions, and stop being considerate of their partner's feelings. Familiarity may breed contempt, but couples in a long-term relationship can still observe good taste, consideration, and a sense of personal dignity. Loudly belching, breaking wind, and being gross are unnecessary, whatever your gender. While occasional outbursts of schoolboy humour can be hilarious, constant immodesty is just rude.

Unfortunately, some women seem to think that being equal to men means being "one of the boys", including drinking, swearing, making animal noises and being crude. The television series From Ladette to Lady explored this phenomenon, and, when taken to the extreme, it can be offputting. While I am not suggesting we all need to be prim and proper, I do think learning to "keep yourself nice" is part of growing up, regardless of gender. Drawing a veil over one's grosser bodily functions when in company is a mark of respect, not hypocrisy.

Neither of you are in the wrong, but it does sound as though your relationship has become strained. Her overtly "unsexy" behaviour could even be a passive-aggressive way of letting you know she is unhappy, or angry.

Take a step back from the sexual issue, and from needing to be in the right, and have a conversation with Ruth. Explain how you feel, without blaming, and listen to what she is thinking and feeling. A good starting point is to agree on something you would enjoy doing together. You need to start having fun again. Be prepared to negotiate, and to give and take. She might agree to get dressed up from time to time, but there might be something she would like you to do that does not come naturally. If you find that you have drifted a long way apart, you might benefit from relationship counselling to help you to get on to the same path.  

Send questions for Maureen to abtlastnight@gmail.com.