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All Women Are Prudes

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The book that some men are certain every woman reads.

"Some young women actually anticipate the wedding night ordeal with curiosity and pleasure! Beware such an attitude! A selfish and sensual husband can easily take advantage of such a bride. One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: GIVE LITTLE, GIVE SELDOM, AND ABOVE ALL, GIVE GRUDGINGLY."
— From this wedding night guide; it's a joke, although even Snopes doesn't know where it originated.

In some parts of Fictionland, sex is something women just give to men to shut them up for a while. But women don't enjoy sex, and they definitely don't desire it. The only reason a fictional woman should ever want sex is if she wants to get pregnant, either out of genuine desire to have a child or to trap a man into marrying her. Similarly, if the story involves a teenager who resists having sex and prefers to wait until marriage, or just decides that now isn't the right time, you can bet money that the character will be female and that her decision to say no will be seen as a moral victory rather than a personal choice. And many times, it is clearly implied that a desirable woman shouldn't want sex in any way, shape or form if she wants to be respected. Whatever the genre and context, if a female character has sex in her story, she would be expected to see it as a temptation she's giving into, whereas a male character in the exact same circumstances would be expected to see it as a reward.

A related stereotype arising from such a belief is that whereas a man's attraction towards women is mostly physical, a woman's attraction towards men is always strictly romantic; the emotional fulfillment and intimacy that comes with a relationship appeal to the latter more than its sexual aspects, thus making them more attuned to genuine, wholesome love than the former. This was also thought to be the case with lesbians in the past, and may still appear as an undercurrent in fictional portrayals of them even thought it is nowadays discredited, often in the form of the assertion than relationships between two women are more "pure" and fulfilling due to the lack of problematic lustful urges that occur in heterosexual relationships (coming exclusively from the man, of course).

Many modern folk believe this to be Older Than Feudalism. However, it's actually a Cyclic Trope. The humor in Lysistrata in its own time, for example, came from the trope that All Women Are Lustful and therefore would be incapable of withholding sex from men. The common belief that a woman needs to have an orgasm to get pregnant (putting "pleasing your wife" high on the list of a man's priorities) also precedes this trope. Both this trope and its inversion, All Women Are Lustful, can be invoked to support claims for Mars and Venus Gender Contrast. This is also part of the reasoning behind A Man Is Always Eager, even in life-or-death situations.

The corollary to this trope is that All Men Are Perverts: see also Handsome Lech, and I'm a Man; I Can't Help It.

Contrast All Women Are Lustful, the other side of the cycle that is slowly becoming more prominent in fiction despite both polarities being equally far away from truth in reality. When a woman internalizes this trope and looks down upon other women who don't, see Sour Prudes.

Compare and contrast with My Girl Is a Slut, Be a Whore to Get Your Man, and Good Bad Girl, all of which address women's sexuality on the opposite of the spectrum. Also compare & contrast Virgin-Shaming.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • A very common topic in comedy, to the point where a comedian or comedienne who denies it will usually be working blue.
  • In a stand-up routine, Bill Engvall says that women can go without sex "like a camel", much to the frustration of their lovers. Of course, he also says that they don't necessarily like to do that, and could just as easily be referring to a Lysistrata Gambit.
  • Chris Rock's stand-up routine claims that women can easily turn down sex because they've been offered it by pretty much every male in their life, implicitly or explicitly, since they were thirteen, on a constant basis.
    Chris: It's easy for you to say no! You know why? Every woman in here, ever since you was THIRTEEN, every guy you ever met's been trying to fuck ya! "Can I get that door for you? How about some dick? Do ya need some dick?" Nobody offers us shit! We have to fend for ourselves! We can't believe it when we get an offer! We're like, "Damn! It's my lucky day!"
  • Louis C.K. in Live at the Beacon Theater says that the reason for both this trope and All Men Are Perverts is because women are great at sex while men are terrible at it.
    Louis: "Why don't they just want to fuck all the time? I do!" Of course you do! Because when you fuck, you get to fuck a woman! When she fucks, she has to fuck a guy!
  • An oft-repeated urban legend (that made it into Watchmen) holds that Neil Armstrong said "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!" while on the Moon, the explanation being that as a boy he'd gone into the Gorskys' yard to get back a baseball, and heard Mrs. Gorsky shout "Oral sex?! You want oral sex?! You'll get it the day the neighbor's kid walks on the Moon!".
  • Comedian Amy Schumer made fun of the trope in one of her standup specials, describing the standard sitcom plot as a perpetually horny husband begging his wife for sex, only for her to respond, "Oh, honey, I hate your penis. Laundry laundry laundry." She pointed out that just about every woman she knew really enjoyed sex. She acknowledged there was one exception in her group of friends, but "we think something happened to her."

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted and lampshaded in the RWBY fic OTP Addiction. Jaune hesitantly tells Pyrrha that her outfit shows cleavage, apparently expecting her to be upset. He's shocked when Pyrrha asks if he enjoyed the view.
  • Part of the premise of Pokémon fanfic Olivine Romance — Jasmine abhors all notions of sexuality and romance, actively condemning all males as nothing more than lust-crazed animals. Her sexually-progressive friends get fed up with her attitude and devise ways to break her of her prudishness. It's only later in the plot when they think to ask the important question as to why Jasmine is this way.
  • Played with in the Lost Girl/Merlin crossover Lost in Camelot, as Bo and Kenzi are fairly casual about their sex appeal after being sent back in time to Camelot, but standards of the time prompt Morgana in particular to be more reticent. Over the course of the story, Morgana and Gwen are shocked to see Bo wearing her 'underwear' (which from Bo's perspective covers more than her usual clothes), Freya is highly uncomfortable at the idea of wearing some of Kenzi’s clothing, and Morgana is slightly awkward when she goes along with Bo's plan that they both dress seductively for Merlin's birthday.
  • Teru thinks this about Mob in the Mob Psycho 100 genderswap fanfic Playing Games and can't seem to let go of this idea no matter how enthusiastically Mob consents.
  • In The Zero Context Series, Callista exemplifies this by always dressing conservatively, actively shunning marriage, romance and sex due to an incident in her past, and wearing a modified set of sunglasses that censor out anything she deems indecent. When she attends a wedding that she knows will end disastrously, she even takes steps to avert the outcome of Clothing Damage, warping reality to hide the fact that she's wearing an extra set of clothes beneath her dress in case the latter gets destroyed.
  • The New Retcons: This is John’s justification for cheating on Elly with sex workers and Kortney. She was rather frigid, especially as they grew older.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sets off the plot of the film Extract, then inverted when the wife was entirely willing to have a great deal of sex with the pool boy. Lack of sex in the marriage was really the symptom of deeper problems.
  • Played With in, of all things, Hobgoblins with the hero's girlfriend, seemingly a living example of this trope until the wish-granting beasties of the title reveal that his girl is an aspiring slut..
    Crow: So, Mike, I learned from today's movie that Daphne was a slut, and Amy wasn't fun until she became a slut.
    Mike: Well, that's the fun message of today's movie.
  • In I Think I Love My Wife, this trope is a problem in Richard and Brenda's marriage. Richard complains of Brenda not wanting to have sex with him unless it's for having a baby.
  • Mississippi Masala: Anil's new wife seems to feel this way, as she refuses to sleep with him even after they get married. This may partly explain why, when he catches Demetrius and Mina together, Anil attacks Demetrius, as he's jealous not of Demetrius, but of the intimacy he's been denied (though this is only part of the reason).
  • Played Straight in the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), where a married couple finds out their marriage is invalid, and so the former wife is astonished that her husband thinks they still can have sex.
  • The 1961 film Splendor in the Grass (set in 1928), is a Deconstruction of this trope. When teenager Deanie asks her mother if she ever felt "that way" about her husband, she explains that no nice girl has sexual desires, and she never enjoyed sex with her him: "I just gave in because a wife has to. A woman doesn't enjoy those things the way a man does. She just lets her husband come near her in order to have children." The rest of the movie deals with sexual liberation, and ends on quite a bittersweet note.
  • In Young Lady Chatterley II, an unhappy marriage has left Judith extremely uptight and sexually repressed. She not only denies her own sexuality, but she pushes her brother and her son into joining the priesthood to keep them away from the evils of sex.

  • Subverted in Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts. Several of the girls (most notably Minami, Shouko and Akira) appear to dislike any sexual attitude from the guys, but actually they're rather perverted themselves and just very very jealous and possessive of their guys.
  • Averted in A Brother's Price: Women talk openly about sex, and many women are seen chasing after men they desire. Both sexes are expected to remain chaste until marriage, because of STD risk, but it's clear that most people like sex very much. (And others are just not interested in it.)
  • In Dragon Bones the culture is a patriarchal one that implicitly expects women to be prudes, but the female protagonists do not live up to this expectation. Ward recalls having been unexpectedly popular with the ladies, despite his Obfuscating Stupidity, and he's very certain that their purpose was not marriage, but that they desired his body. Women who don't enjoy sex with their husbands are unhappily married rather than prudish.
  • Kazohinia: Inverted, where the protagonist approaches a Hin woman expecting this and trying to act all sensitive. The woman's reaction? Asking him if he's "interested in providing her with sexual service". She even remarks that women from the protagonist's homeland must be very unfortunate if all they get is 'romance' when they ask a man to satisfy them. The protagonist even takes note of how indecent Hin women can sometimes act.
  • In The Guardians, this is the opinion of 18th century Henry Grey, Alice's first husband. When Alice expressed dissatisfaction with their love life, he scolded her and blamed her parents for letting her learn ideas beneath her station.
  • In Stephen King's The Tommyknockers, Becka Paulson is actually relieved when her husband starts an affair and doesn't have sex with her anymore. To her, sex was "just as her mother had told her it would be, nasty, brutish, sometimes painful, always humiliating".
  • Played with in How Few Remain, the first book in the Timeline-191 series by Harry Turtledove. During the much maligned Samuel Clemens sex scene, he reflects to himself that his wife seems to genuinely enjoy sex, despite everything he's been told to the contrary. He doesn't go so far as to actually ask her opinion of sex, however.
  • This trope is invoked by the Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Goldstein's book specifies that the Party ideal is that sex should only be carried out for purposes of procreation and that in the course of the act there should be no pleasure on the part of the woman. They would ideally prefer if men didn't enjoy it either (O'Brien at one point proclaims that the Party's neurosurgeons are currently working on abolishing the orgasm), but at that point, an ejaculation is a necessity for procreation.
  • Discworld
    • Played straight with Granny Weatherwax. When told that "everyone is naked under their underwear", she replies that she is not, she wears a second layer of underwear. She doesn't just act like it, Granny is able to tame unicorns ("Granny" is an honorary title - she is not actually anyone's grandmother). She is also scandalized when Magrat wears trousers: "You can see her legs!" Despite her disapproval of nakedness and sex in general, she is not prone to punishing other women for it; as a witch, she has to act as midwife, and will not let women die in childbirth. It is also implied that she does know a lot about how sex works in theory - she knows about herbal aphrodisiacs and the like. The only instances where she scolds other women for acting indecently are with her fellow witches Nanny and Magrat.
    • Subverted in Men at Arms and other books following the Watch; Angua likes sex, engages in sex early in a relationship or sometimes in outright casual sex (being a werewolf, relationships rarely last more than a month for her), and at the same time doesn't use sex to string men along or manipulate them. The women of the Disc in general are hardly prudish; Nanny Ogg is a prominent example.
  • Allen Sherman (yes, the "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" guy) wrote a book called The Rape of the A*P*E* in which he claims that women are less obsessed with sex than men because any woman, no matter how ugly she is, knows that if she wants to she can have sex tonight. Men, in contrast, wake up in the morning thinking "I don't know if I can have sex tonight. In fact, I don't know if I will have sex this week, my God, I may never have sex again!".
  • V. C. Andrews' heroines are made of this trope. Somewhat justified in that they're usually the victims of rather horrendous rape and incest, and even normal sex is usually punished in some terrible way.
  • The protagonist's female friend Honey in Lurlene McDaniel's Prey comes off as this, chastising their attractive female teacher for not covering herself more, and tells the protagonist she doesn't approve of him having sex with anyone. Part of this may come from Honey having feelings for Ryan and being upset that he doesn't return them.
  • Somewhere In France: The book is set at the beginning of the 20th century. Lily comes from an upper-class English family, where women are expected to get married well and give birth to another generation of their families. Her two older sisters generally dislike their marital duties and speak of them in hushed tones as something disgusting and unpleasant. Subverted with Lily herself, who falls in love below her station, gets disinherited, and goes on to enjoy sex very much.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Scrubs: Multiple:
    • Dr. Kelso's wife only lets him have sex with her once a year, which makes him so happy that he turns from a heartless Jerkass into a Benevolent Boss for a single day. Except this is all a ruse on Kelso's part so that everybody waits until that one day to ask him for things instead of bothering him all year long. We have no idea how often his wife actually lets him have sex with her. A later episode revealed that this was an invoked trope, Kelso has been slipping his wife anti-depressants for the express purpose of killing her sex drive.
    • Carla points out that one of the advantages of getting married is that she won't have to have sex anymore unless she wants to. The implication being, of course, that women use sex to get a man to marry her and buy her things. Carla will also take any excuse to deny Turk sex, to the point that Elliot can deny him sex whenever she wants just because she's friends with Carla.
    • Inverted in one episode with Jordan's visiting friend, who gets shaky if she doesn't have sex every few days. And averted with Jordan herself.
  • Frequently used on the American version of Men Behaving Badly to drive various plotlines.
  • Frasier:
    • Frasier's famous line, "How can [men] possibly use sex to get what we want? Sex is what we want!" ...implying that it isn't what women want. Or perhaps that women can want many things, which may or may not include sex, but sex is the only thing men want.
    • In another episode Niles mentions that his wife Maris is a "sexual camel" who can go for months without sex. She uses this fact against Niles by withholding sex in order to get him to do things she wants.
  • Averted in the BBC show Chef! (1993) where Janice is very interested in sex and the fact that Gareth is usually too tired is a sore point in their marriage.
  • Married... with Children:
    • Inverted. Peg wants to have sex a whole lot more than Al does, while Straw Feminist Marcy is shown to have a definite and ongoing interest in it as well.
    • Subverted in the episode "Raingirl", where Peggy gives this speech to Kelly:
      Peggy: Kelly, maybe it's time we had a little talk. You're getting to be a big girl now, and there's something I've been putting off telling you for a while. But time is slipping by quickly, and I don't want you to learn about it on the street. Honey, there is a thing out there that men will want you to do. In fact, they'll expect it. Now, no woman really enjoys it, but we do it, get them to marry us, and then never have to do it again. That horrible thing is called "work".
  • Seinfeld:
    • The main characters engage in a bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating. While Jerry, George, and Kramer each bet $100, they insist that Elaine put down $200 (though she argues them down to $150), since, as a woman, the odds are in her favor. She ends up being the second one eliminated.
      Jerry: It's easier for a woman not to do it than a man. Men, we have to do it. It's part of our lifestyle. It's like... shaving.
      Elaine: Oh, that is such baloney. I shave my legs.
      Kramer: Not every day!
    • Played straight by Marla the Virgin, who broke up with Jerry after he told her about the contest. That is, until she met John F. Kennedy, Jr.
    • Taken even further in another episode where she makes another bet with Jerry that she could break up with Puddy. Cue the montage of her paying Jerry over and over again after making up with Puddy. And by make up I mean 'make up sex'. That's the reason she couldn't stay away, the sex was too good.
    • Then there was another episode where Jerry tried to perform the "roommate switch" (dumping the girl he was with and dating her roommate). The entire plan hinged on the girl he was dating getting disgusted at the idea of a "ménage-à-trois", while the roommate is flattered by her proposed inclusion and decides to go out with him. Instead, both girls are into the idea and Jerry decided not to do it because he's "not an orgy guy".
    • The proposal of a "ménage-à-trois" returns in a later episode. George is uncomfortable with his new girlfriend having a male roommate (that looks a lot like him to boot) and gets his girlfriend to make him move out. When it turns out that all of the apartment's velvet furniture that George loved belonged to the roommate, he attempts to get out of the relationship by proposing a three-way, hoping to disgust her. Not only are the girl and the roommate both into the idea, they had already been discussing it beforehand!
  • Debra's disinterest in sex with Ray is such a Running Gag in Everybody Loves Raymond, it's a wonder the two ever had kids at all. How adverse is she? Her biggest turn-on in the show was when Ray said he didn't want to have sex. This seems to be the most common variation, where women will only use sex to get a man to marry her and then later have kids.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Averted in a funny way, the men are in a tailor's when Marshall urges Ted not to attempt a Long-Distance Relationship with Victoria, saying "long-distance was invented by women. All talking and no sex? Kill me now". In a scene that is shown later but took place around the same time, Lily (Marshall's fiance) urges Victoria not to attempt a long-distance relationship with Ted, saying "all talking and no sex? Kill me now". Lily has also been shown in other episodes to have a fairly high sex drive.
    • And then it and the Double Standard counterpart A Man Is Always Eager are played straight when Stella, justifying her five-year streak of celibacy, says seriously "Men regret the women they don't sleep with. Women regret the men they do." Granted, she may have been referring to the fact that her last sexual partner left her with a daughter, which clearly affects her life a lot more than it affected his.
  • An episode of Yes, Dear had the woman who was supposed to babysit the kids on Valentine's Day cancel because she had a date. Kim is on the phone asking her to reconsider, saying that "Guys are only after one thing, and as soon as he finds out you're not going to give it to him, he'll move on." Combines with Contractual Purity when the babysitter admits to having already given it to him. Kim immediately hangs up and says she doesn't want her around their children anymore.
  • Played for Laughs in the House episode "Open and Shut".
    Thirteen: [offended] A woman who likes sex must be sick?
    House: Just because everybody in this room*note  wishes that all women were horny all the time, doesn't make it so.
  • An interesting inversion in The Big Bang Theory: Amy seems deeply interested in sex, but is dating Sheldon, who is himself an inversion of the opposite trope. Amy did play it straight when she first appeared on the show, however.
  • A split-screen conversation between Eric/Hyde and Donna/Jackie in That '70s Show, after Eric and Donna cut each other off from sex to see who can go without it the longest:
    Hyde: [to Eric] Secretly, I think women love sex just as much as we do.
    Eric: Yeah, right!
    Jackie: [to Donna] If men find out we love sex just as much as they do, we'll never get jewelry again!
At the end of the episode, Eric and Donna are making out, and Donna says that all women have the ability to just switch off their horniness at will, so Eric can't possibly hope to win the contest. Eric then breaks down and admits defeat, to which Donna says "Thank God, I was bluffing." and jumps him.
  • Liz Lemon of 30 Rock started off as disinterested in sex and this was later Flanderized into a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality. Subverted, in that her attitude is portrayed as being unusual and part of her geekiness. The season-five episode "Reaganing" provides a Freudian Excuse for her fear of sex.
  • Discussed in the All in the Family episode "The Joys of Sex". Edith tells Archie that before they got married, her mother told her that there'll be one thing about marriage she won't like, but it's the wife's duty. Edith assumed it was doing the laundry. Later, she figured out her mother meant sex, which Edith actually enjoyed, but couldn't admit this to her mother.
  • Similarly on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. After Mike and Sully have married, she and the other women are attending their weekly quilting circle. Mike mentions that her own mother had given her the "wifely duty" talk and that even though she initially felt the same, she now finds marriage very "agreeable". At which point, all the other women cheerfully concur, thus averting this trope, despite their apparently prudish appearances.
    • In that same episode, even though it's now been well established that she enjoys sex, Mike is still very shy, almost to the point of embarrassment about making advances to Sully—"I was always taught that a woman shouldn't ask." Sully assures her that he doesn't think less of her for it.
    • The quilting circle women also say that men would probably be disturbed to find out just how "agreeable" the women find it, which is why they don't tell them.
    • Amusingly, Mike did display this trope when Sully began undressing her the second they were alone in their honeymoon suite, squealing, "It's not even dark yet!" (though this could also be because she's a virgin and incredibly nervous).
  • On Margaret Cho's short-lived sitcom All-American Girl, her teenage character was written to always turn down sex from her love interests, even though the show is based on Cho's real life and she has stated that she personally would have said yes in many of the scenes where her character said no. This was one of her biggest gripes with the producers since she is a proud Ethical Slut who has always advocated for healthy sexual practices and reproductive choice.
  • Little Mosque on the Prairie played a Lysistrata Gambit that averted this. Sarah banishes Yasir from the bedroom and they both become frustrated and distracted.

  • Averted in "Hold Me" by K.T. Oslin: "Don't kiss me like we're married. Kiss me like we're lovers".
  • Averted in Shania Twain's song "I'm Gonna Getcha Good", which is all about how the man she's pursuing has no chance of escape. "You're a fine piece of real estate, and I'm gonna get me some land!"

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Clay teaches this trope to Orel in "The Blessed Union" episode of Moral Orel after Clay catches him leaving the sex shop. Clay tells Orel that women don't need fancy bells and whistles like genital piercings in order to be happy. He continues by saying that Bloberta doesn't care one lick about the sex part of their relationship. Clay then tells Orel that the reason why women are smarter than men is that they found the simple way to be happy is by cooking, cleaning, and bearing children and not by having sex.
  • The Simpsons: While otherwise Happily Married, this trope is an ongoing tension in Apu and Manjula's marriage. Apu clearly enjoys sex much more than his wife, who only voluntarily does it when they're trying to get pregnant. The rest of the time, she's very reluctant, if not outright refuses. This becomes a major plot point in an episode where Apu's sexual frustration drives him to have an affair.
    Manjula: [upon learning the pregnancy test is negative] All that sex for nothing!
    Apu: [reluctantly] Y-yeaaah...