No, the term “sexual misery” means nothing (and should even disappear)

Like a warning cry. This week, on Twitter, the already well-known twitcher Maghla published a thread to denounce all the cyberbullying she suffered online. Examples abound: pornographic photomontages, insulting messages, masturbation videos… Anything goes. After its publication, the streamer received many supports and some videographers in turn wanted to testify.

On the other hand, other comments accused the streamers of being responsible for these behaviors. “The streamers who play on the sexual misery of men, but who dare to complain about receiving a lot of messages that talk about their bodies, it’s really an incredible nerve”, accuses a user. “I wonder if one day a streamer will break through normally and without using the sexual misery of men”, denounces another. A term catches our attention in these multiple abject publications: “sexual misery”. Does the concept have any reality? And what is behind it? 20 minutes returns to an expression that is often very sexist.


Let’s go without preliminaries: the term “sexual misery” means nothing. “It does not correspond to any notion in sexology”, explains the psycho-sexologist Sébastien Landry from the outset. “It’s like the idea of ​​sexual need, it doesn’t exist. Sexuality is not a need. We can stop our sexual activity, and we are in no way going to die of it”. There are even several biases in the use of this term, explains anthropologist and CNRS researcher Mélanie Gourarier. “That would assume that there is normal sexuality and normal practice. But who defines it? Doctors and sexologists can try to do it, but we can clearly see by looking at history that there are relationships with the sexual norm that differ, ”recalls the author. of the book the Alpha male.

Indeed, if the term “sexual misery” has not always existed, it has grown through the ages in a society where the power of men largely dominated. “The notion would mean that there would also be a right to sexuality, which would be mainly defined in favor of men. When we talk about “sexual misery”, we are only talking about men. This observation could have been invented to justify a practice that already exists, which is that of the monopolization of women’s bodies by men, ”says Mélanie Gourarier. Except that what this term forgets to say is that women can have as much (or even more) sexual appetite than men, argues Sébastien Landry. “But in the collective unconscious, we wanted to believe that men had a much greater sexual need than women,” compares the psycho-sexologist.

Historical behaviors

As we explained earlier, the imaginary of man’s sexual need has also been built over the ages. As time went by, the idea that women belonged to men and that they should therefore serve the men most in need became more and more entrenched in society.

Examples abound in history. “Research has already shown that there were rapes of servants or shepherdesses in the 18th century. These assaults were then considered less important than those that could be suffered by women from good families. This allowed families who had an honor to preserve it through the virginity of their daughter, ”sums up historian Maëlle Bernard. Throughout the ages, several observations have come back: “the objectification of women or even the difference in roles in sexuality where the man must be active and the woman passive”. The use of the term “sexual misery” is one of them.

The danger of legitimizing rape

The experts will also be unanimous on one point: the term “sexual misery” encourages violent sexual practices and participates in the culture of rape, even in the marital home. “We arrive with these theories at very catastrophic things, in particular marital rape. Many people say to themselves “we are in a relationship, we must have a sexuality”. This kind of creation has become an excuse to justify sexual assault behavior,” warns psycho-sexologist Sébastien Landry.

But the term “sexual misery” is not the only term serving rape culture. Talking about “blue testicles” to show that a man has not satisfied his needs for a long time responds to the same logic. “We imagine troubles to show that the concept exists”, points out the anthropologist Mélanie Gourarier. “The same is true when we talk about ‘testicles like tea bags’. This reflects the lack of knowledge of the field,” regrets Sébastien Landry.

Deconstruct the sexual need and its imagination

So should this term be deleted or replaced? No, answer the experts, according to whom it would not help much. “For me, it’s not a scientific concept. Suffering, lack, addiction are addressed in sexology, but not sexual misery. There is a term for what it justifies, it is sexual assault”, slice Sébastien Landry, before adding: “From the moment we really create concepts and that they are scientifically tolerated, that means that we must accept that it is a disorder that will require therapy”.

For anthropologist Mélanie Gourarier, removing the term “sexual misery” would amount to creating another one immediately afterwards. “It probably exists in other languages, and we’ll make another term out of it.” To undo its use, the researcher recommends “undoing a differential relationship to the sexuality of women and men”. Before concluding: “It would already be a first step not to consider that men and women have different needs”.

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