Help! I Regret Having Drunken Sex With My Husband.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 19 2012 5:45 AM

Hands-Off Relationship

My husband had sex with me while I was in a drunken state. Should I divorce him?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My husband is kind, supportive, funny, generous, smart, and loving. However, I feel like I must divorce him. Six years ago, when we were in our early 20s and had just fallen in love, after a night of partying and drinking, he woke me up in the middle of the night and started to have sex with me. I was dozing and still drunk and, yes, I took my panties off myself. But when I realized that it was not OK for him to make advances on me in my state, I pushed him away and ran out. He later felt so bad he wanted to turn himself in for rape. I was very confused and thought at times that I was overreacting and at others that I was raped. We painfully worked through this, but the incident made my husband very reluctant about having sex. This led to an agreement that he shouldn't be afraid of coming close to me in similar situations as long as he asked my consent. This made us feel better and I felt secure again. However, we just found ourselves in a very similar situation. After coming back from a friend’s wine tasting we went to bed and he started to kiss me. I liked it and went along, only to wake up in the morning and remember only half of it. Now I am in the same painful spot I was before and I can’t fathom how he could have ignored our agreement. Should I just drop it or am I right about feeling abused?

—Confused

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Dear Confused,
I understand the need for colleges to have unambiguous codes of sexual conduct for their young, horny, possibly plastered students. These often require getting explicit permission for every escalating advance. However, if two adults are in love and have frequently made love then each can assume implicit consent to throw such legalistic caution—as well as panties—to the wind. Certainly spouses are entitled to say, “Not tonight” or “Not there,” and have such a request respected. But even a married couple who have had sex hundreds of times can enjoy that alcohol might ignite a delightful, spontaneous encounter. Your approach, however, seems to be to treat your sex life as if it is subject to regulatory review by the Department of Health and Human Services. Your prim, punctilious, punitive style has me admiring your put-upon husband’s ability to even get it up, given the possibility he’ll be accused of rape—or turn himself in for it!—if one of you fails a breathalyzer test. Living in terror that expressing one’s perfectly normal sexual desire could end one’s marriage, and freedom, is itself a form of abuse. Stop acting like a parody of a gender-studies course catalog and start acting like a loving wife. If you can’t, then give the poor sap a divorce.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Sexy Version of "Rear Window"

Dear Prudence,
My wife is the manager at an outdoor public swimming pool. She oversees 25 lifeguards who are between 18 and 22 years old. As you can imagine, these kids are very physically fit and wear bathing suits all day. Recently there has been a male patron at the pool who the female lifeguards believe is taking pictures of them, especially when they are climbing up or down from the lifeguard chair ladders. My wife is angry and wants to confront the man, make him show her his camera, and kick him out of the pool depending on what she finds on it. We've both seen legal opinions stating there is no expectation of privacy when you're in public, but this seems like harassment of people trying to do their job. What should my wife do?

—Snapped

Dear Snapped,
I spoke to attorney Carolyn E. Wright, who specializes in photography law, and she agreed that this patron sounds like a creep, but the issue is not his camera but his demeanor. She says that in general it is not a crime to photograph people in public, even if the photographer finds the pictures arousing. There are certain exceptions: The federal Video Voyerism Prevention Act makes it illegal to record people’s private parts without their permission in situations where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, even while in public—thus outlawing “upskirt and downblouse” photography. But if someone’s work outfit is a bikini, then she has to accept she might be photographed in it. What’s wrong here is not that this patron has a photography hobby, but that he’s harassing females at the pool. This would be the case even if he had no camera (or if someone threw it in the drink) and instead simply planted himself by the lifeguard chair, leering at the view. Surely there must be something in the pool rules (“No splashing. No running. No staring at the crotches of the lifeguards.”) that your wife could use to get him tossed out. She does not have to confiscate his camera. She should simply watch this guy, and the next time he snaps she should pull him aside for a talk. She can explain his behavior is all wet, and if he doesn’t stop, his pool privileges will be revoked.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was caught early and I only required one relatively minor surgical procedure and a course of radiation. I am a private person, and if I did not have to change my schedule for several weeks to accommodate the radiation, I don't think I would have told anyone at work. Since then, I have been added to a "survivor's list." My organization holds several events each year to raise funds and awareness for cancer issues, and I am always invited to these. They want me to wear a special shirt, stand in a special place, and be recognized as a survivor. I am appreciative of the group’s efforts and do make financial contributions, but I do not want to participate in any ceremonies, so I usually say I’m not available. But the pressure is increasing. I heard from a friend who is active in the group that the coordinator of the events says I hurt the cause by not being there. I don't want a confrontation, but what should I do?

—Healed

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