Hathor has posted a letter written (by a woman) in response to the "Husband on Strike is Wrong" petition. This is the guy I blogged about a few days ago who was publicly protesting the amount of time his wife spent with their toddler and infant, the fact that the infant slept with her at night, the diapers in the bedroom, and other things, apparently unconcerned about having sexually assaulted someone and hence, being a registered sex offender, or the way that might diminish his credibility, or how that might figure in to his expectation that others exist to sexually service him. The letter Hathor posted reads in part:
"I knew there would be a few nutty people out there who'd take the wife's side of insisting to have the kids in the bedroom 24/7… It is not healthy for children to be in the bedroom and he has every right to complain. She's lucky he didn't leave yet. I'm a woman and I know I would have left before now if my husband was trying to pull this stunt. She is doing those kids a disservice, they will never grow up normal and have a sense of independence if they don't experience it now. She's teaching them to depend on her for security and that's not good for anyone…I noticed that the great majority of your signatures are from women. Kids aren't shields! Perhaps they are using the excuse of needing to hold a child all night long in place of their spouse just to keep the husband away b/c they aren't feeling amorous. Why build such a barrier, make the husband resent the wife and the kids when communication would probably fix the issue and they could at least have an adult space to relax and sleep in? It has nothing to do with sex really. How is an adult who is exhausted from having a child in bed all night supposed to find the strength to cuddle and kiss them all day long? They don't. Then kids end up abused b/c the parents are too tired to think straight. And we wonder why America is in such a mess…we're raising a race of coddled, whiney, insecure, spoiled brats who wear their parents to the breaking point so they snap. Thanks for doing your part to further the deterioration of marriages everywhere. Do us all a favor and stop spreading the maddness or stop breeding!
The truth is, the writer has touched on an important, but unacknowledged, reason for co-sleeping: Children sleeping in their mothers' arms are, in fact, a shield for women married to men who would violate them, force sex on them, if the children were not there. It's clear that the writer of this letter believes what most men in our culture, and I would say most women, too, believe: that a woman owes her husband sex and that she is wrong to make or conceive of "excuses" not to service him. The truth is that so much of what passes for "sex" in marriage is actually rape. Not long ago I was horrified when I happened across an internet site where women were sharing tips on how to endure unwanted sex with their husbands. Many of them got drunk, and in fact, could only endure sex with their husbands if they were drunk. One woman said she cried every time her husband "had sex" with her, and in response, another woman suggested she lay on her stomach and put her face in a pillow– that way at least she would be spared the indignity of her husband seeing her tears and having his way with her anyway. Women described their husbands violating them in their sleep, waking up with their husbands on top of them, as though this were par for the course in marriage and the wife's job was to figure out how to keep her sanity in the face of nightly rapes. These were just everyday women, married to everyday men, not sexual offenders like Husband on Strike, or at least, not men who our culture would view as sexual offenders. I have known so many such women. I think family bed is much better for women than drinking every night, or crying every night, because, in fact, you are married to someone who rapes you.
I also think, as I suggested in my earlier post, that family bed is a protection for the most vulnerable children. I've long believed that children alone in their "own bedrooms", as is considered "ideal" in American culture, is dangerous for children, in that it makes it much easier for men to assault them in secrecy.
The writer of the letter says that having children in the bed will result in parents who are tired and who may then be abusive. I'd have to say that a woman sleeping with a child in her arms is going to get the best possible sleep, uninterrupted by demands for sex, uninterrupted by anxiety and fear that sex will be forced on her. What boggles the mind is this woman's reasoning that denying a husband sex, or making oneself unavailable for sex, makes a wife responsible for this entire laundry list of ills: abusive husbands, unaffectionate fathers, coddled, spoiled and whiny children, children who will never be "normal" or have a "sense of independence", men who abandon their families.
The truth is that lots and lots of babies and children — many more than anybody knows; women often don't talk about it for fear that they will be accused of all of the things this woman accuses them of and many more — sleep with their mothers at night. Aside from the many benefits of co-sleeping, a practice common to human beings from the earliest civilizations, the presence of children in their mothers arms does indeed shield their mothers from their fathers' unwanted sexual attention. It also shields children from sexual abuse. Having children in your bed with you doesn't increase the likelihood that they will be sexually assaulted or incested– it greatly decreases the likelihood. It is children alone in their "own rooms" who are far more likely to be assaulted, not only by their fathers and stepfathers but by other men and boys. Taking children into your arms at night and sleeping with them also communicates that beds might just be for sleeping all night, not sex, that they should expect that when they grow up, that's exactly what their bed will be for — sleeping — unless they decide otherwise. This is something their mothers are modeling for them, communicating to them. Children sleeping in their parents' bed will not be listening to their mother crying during sex, to their parents arguing about sex, will not be watching their mothers drink in order to endure sex.
I think it's the best thing in the world for mothers and their children to protect one another in this way. So often their husbands won't.