Sex As A Bartering Tool? Hell Yes!

by Rita Templeton
lolostock/Getty Images

Throughout the course of a long-term relationship, you’ll have all kinds of sex. There’s “so turned on you drop everything” sex (remember, like before the kids were born?). There’s “okay, but let’s just make it quick ’cause I’m tired” sex and “I’m sorry” make-up sex and “I’m ovulating” baby-making sex and “the kids are at Grandma’s, woohoo!” sex … with the door left boldly open because you can.

But there’s another kind of sex that most people encounter within a marriage: sexual favors. A sex act – your partner’s favorite – in exchange for something. It’s like bartering, really, a practice that has been used for centuries throughout the world. It goes down (no pun intended) like this: It’s a freezing cold night, but I’m PMSing and have a serious need for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I know my husband likes blow jobs just as much as I like ice cream, so I turn to him with a proposal. “Hey, if you run out and get me some Ben & Jerry’s, I’ll give you a blow job when you get home.” I nudge him with an elbow. “BJ for BJ, eh?” Wink wink.

He doesn’t immediately take the bait, though – after all, it is cold outside and we’re warm on the couch – so I up the ante. “Okay, one tonight and one tomorrow.” Before I know it, he’s bundled up and out the door, having accepted my offer. He’s getting off (twice!!) and I’m getting ice cream, so we both win.

Using sexual favors as currency can be a fun and useful tool for mutual satisfaction. It’s a win-win, really. It can even lead into new discoveries … a little light bondage in exchange for a week of not having to scoop the litter box might actually prove to be something you didn’t even know you were into. Of course, there must be ground rules that you both have to follow; it’s all about negotiation, not manipulation.

First and foremost, both partners need to agree to it. It’s all about consent, remember. It has to be a deal that both partners are completely comfortable making.

You can’t pout if you don’t get your way. If my husband had said that no blow job in the world would be worth braving the cold for a pint of ice cream, I’d have been like, “Aw, bummer,” and continued watching TV – or gone out to get it my damn self, if I wanted it that badly. I wouldn’t have sulked, or whined and complained until he relented. It has to be a mutual agreement, something that’s beneficial to both parties, not something that one party feels obligated to do simply because the other party is whining about it. And similarly …

You can’t use it in the opposite manner. Meaning, you can offer a sexual favor in exchange for something, but you can’t withhold it. Saying, “If you give me ice cream, I’ll give you a BJ” is a lot different than saying, “You’re not getting any sex from me if you don’t get me some ice cream.” Because then it becomes manipulation, and that’s never healthy. NEVER.

You can’t use it for things you’d normally do. In a household, everybody has their standard duties – it’s just part of keeping things running smoothly. So to start cajoling for sex in return for your normal, reasonable workload is a load of crap. Sexual favors should be used for extras, not stuff that you’d be doing anyway.

It can’t replace regular sex. While using sex as currency is useful once in a while, it shouldn’t become so much of a habit that all your sexual activity is a payoff for something. Sex is, first and foremost, a pleasurable way to be close to your partner and show your love and all that mushy stuff, and that’s what it should still primarily be … even if there are a few “transactions” thrown in on the side.

You have to make good on your promises. Bartering with sexual favors is like using a credit card: you may not have to pay up front, but you still have to pay. If you consistently negotiate and then don’t hold up your end of the bargain, it’s not going to work, and your partner will feel used and resentful, to boot. This isn’t saying that your partner can demand repayment on their terms alone – if my husband came to me in the middle of something important and said he was ready to “cash in” on his Ben & Jerry’s run, I’d tell him to piss off and wait until I wasn’t busy. But I’d never completely default on my promise, because that was part of the deal.

Remember: both partners need to be into it, without any emotional strings attached, but if you can follow the basic rules (which are really more like basic common decency and sexual consent 101), sexual favors can be a great way for everyone to get what they want … and a lot of fun in the process.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to check on the going rate for some yard work.