Commentary on “The Conjugal Clock”

By far, the most commonly reported sexual dysfunction is a mismatch of libidos. Occasionally women have the higher libidos – over the years I’ve had two different women complain to me that their male lovers didn’t want sex nearly as often as they did – but usually it’s men who want sex much more frequently than women.

It’s not surprising, then, that the most common question that people ask about sex is some form of: “How often should we do it?” Men usually hope that the answer is a high number and women a low one.

Radical feminists in the sixties argued that women had the exclusive right to set the sexual agenda in a relationship. They decided that if a woman did not feel as horny as hell but had sex with her partner anyway, she was being raped. Most men, not being rapists and being told that asking their wives for sex was a despicable act, went along with the program.

Since the fifties, the frequency of sexual intercourse in marriages seems to have dropped, the birth rate has definitely dropped, and the divorce rate has soared. Today, a large majority of marriages end in divorce. “Til death do us part” rarely happens in reality. The faithful men leave their wives to find a more accommodating partner. The unfaithful men have affairs and their wives leave them. In all cases, the wives are surprised and shocked that they were betrayed by the husbands that they had been depriving of sexual satisfaction for years.

“The Conjugal Clock”, published in June, 2008, presents an imaginary solution to this real problem. The frequency of sexual intercourse for a newly-married couple, Veronica and Cary, is determined by a mechanical clock that runs for about forty hours. The wife has the sole responsibility for ensuring that she seduces her husband before the time runs out. The husband has responsibility for resetting the clock every time he has sex with his wife. Obedience to the clock is enforced by the administration of severe punishments to the wife by the other wives in the husband’s extended family. The frequency of intercourse required to avoid punishment is much higher than the rate at which most real couples have sex, especially after their first year of marriage.

The clock in this story automatically makes Cary and Veronica’s sexual relationship kinky compared to most marriages. They are required to have sex whether they want to or not. Cary’s relatives are aware of their sex life. Veronica is occasionally required to engage in mildly non-standard sexual practices to hold her husband’s attention. And she is beaten if she fails. Even if it was the husband who refused to have sex with her.

Whether or not this story should be considered pornographic is an important question because pornography is a fantasy and this story strives for a certain degree of reality. It could be argued that it is not pornographic because the sex in this story is relatively normal compared to the frequency and variety of sexual acts found in other pornography. However, readers seem to be willing to consider it pornographic because the sex is abnormally frequent and varied compared to what they experience in their real marriages.

I think that my attempt to make the story sound believable is what makes it erotic for most married male readers. They wish that they had a conjugal clock in their own bedroom. And that they had female relatives who would force their wives to adhere to the schedule. It is a sad commentary on the state of marriage in modern society that regular, normal, affectionate sex is only a pornographic fantasy for so many husbands.

To try to make the story realistic, it had to be long – at 37,000 words, it is about half the length of a novel – with far more discussion and exposition than is appropriate for a porn story. Detailed descriptions of three beatings – two whippings and a caning – and two kinky sex sessions – fellatio while wearing a corset and handcuffs, and anal sex following a role-playing pickup in a bar – help justify classifying this as pornography. But the ratio of words describing sex to discussion about sex is awfully low compared to the usual standard for the genre.

That is a misdemeanor that I have committed in more than one of my stories.

For the sake of realism, all is not sugar and honey. At one point, another wife is brutalized by a sadistic mother-in-law and the women have to scramble to jury-rig some kind of psychological patch on the damage that was done. At another point, Cary betrays Veronica by indulging his curiosity about pornography, bringing harsh consequences for her. In both cases, their marriages are saved by strong women and husbands that love and understand them deeply. But not all of the damage is repairable. The family traditions are not perfect.

I am well aware of the irony of making reading pornography a punishable offense in a story that is being published as pornography. In fact, I revel in that irony. To emphasize it, I deliberately had Cary read my own story, “A Wife of No Small Promise”, and Veronica re-enact that situation with considerably more realism than in the original. I found referencing one of my stories in another amusing. It feels post-modern to me, but the trick is really quite old. A similar game was played, and much better, by Cervantes in the second volume of Don Quixote four hundred years ago so it can’t be all that post-modern.

This provides an opportunity for another little moral lesson: pornography is fantasies. Real life is more difficult. It also provides another perspective on the question about whether “The Conjugal Clock” should be considered pornography or not. The answer to that question lies in the judgment of the reader, not me. I simply raise the question and will be happy with either answer.

In this story, I made Cary’s family of German descent. All of his relatives have traditional German names and there are references to traveling back to visit relatives in Germany. I am using and abusing the stereotype of Germans being more rule-bound than most nationalities. But I’m also tapping into the Black Forest tradition of clock-making so my selection of the nationality isn’t pure racism.

Personally, I don’t think that I depicted German people all that badly but, if anyone is offended, I would be happy to listen to your concerns and give you my apologies. I will point out, though, that I’m only describing one unusual family, not generalizing to all Germans.

I also think that it’s important to note that all events in this story are consensual. Within the constrains of the clock, the women, not the men decide on the time and form of sexual activity, And every woman who has merited punishment is required to consent to it. It’s not entirely voluntary because her only alternative is to leave her husband, but she will not be touched unless she gives her verbal agreement and physical cooperation. No woman in this story is ever forcibly raped or beaten.

It is important to notice that it is the women in the family who devised the clock originally and who maintain the tradition. I firmly believe that, in most marriages, the wives drive the sexual agenda so they should take responsibility for keeping their husbands happy.

Because it is the women who devised and maintain the tradition of the conjugal clock, this story is a kind of chick-buddy story. Veronica has good relationships with the other women in the story, even though they have taken control of her sex life and treat her cruelly when she strays.  I think that my women readers wish that they had the same kind of close relationships with women as does Veronica.

This story is not about the men so the husbands are little more than stage dressing. But reasonable stage dressing.

One important premise in this story is that reasonable men will do their best to keep their wives happy in return for a sexually satisfying relationship. They will do whatever they must to give their wives the best lives that they can. This includes giving them as much freedom of choice as possible.

The women in this story may allow their husbands to keep them in style but that is not required. They are equally free to pursue their own independent careers if they wish. I think of this story as responsible feminism rather than radical feminism.

Some readers have commented that the men in this story seem too naive about the traditions surrounding the clock.

Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they don’t talk about their marriages among themselves as much as the women do. Or maybe the women are really good at keeping secrets from their husbands. Or maybe the men know that it is in their best interest to pretend that they know less than they do.

This story makes it clear that the men have their own set of traditions about the clock but it does not describe them. I could not write about what the men knew because the story is told in the third person strictly from Veronica’s point of view. She doesn’t know what her husband does or does not know about the family traditions. All she knows is what she is told.

I chose her point of view because I was more interested in how the women handle their married lives than the men.

This is a didactic story that is intended to instruct women in managing their marriages and sexual lives. I did not stint on the lectures.

So, as long as I was lecturing my readers mercilessly, I couldn’t resist including a little editorial about the way that America is throwing away its dominance of the large appliance manufacturing by producing such shoddy products. I trust that my readers will forgive me for that, as well.

In the end, Veronica comes to believe that the clock is a good idea and it’s traditions should be maintained. I wrote this story because I believe that the principle of scheduling frequent sex is a good idea.  I hope that my female readers realize that they can implement that principle without a special clock, without a family tradition, and even without their husband’s consent.

I always warn my readers that I have not tried the kinky practices that I describe in my stories. This is an exception. In my own marriage, I have experimented with scheduling sexual activity for several years. Despite its unromantic sound, it has done wonders to improve our relationship.

I hope that I have convinced some of my readers to try it. Their marriages will be better for it.

Yours, Ashley


About Ashley Zacharias

I'm a post-modern woman who lives a vanilla life and dreams about kinky adventure. I write BDSM pornography but have no interest in acting out my fantasies in real life. Find my work on and
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4 Responses to Commentary on “The Conjugal Clock”

  1. Curtis Cook says:

    “Today, a large majority of marriages end in divorce. “Til death do us part” rarely happens in reality.” — To this I reply: “According to enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America:
    The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
    The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
    The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%”

    It’s very difficult to find accurate information about divorce rates. Very frequently 50% is quoted, but that number is nearly 20 years out of date now. Likewise, while researching for this comment, I ran across a notation that the length of an average American marriage was 8.8 years. Just a couple of weeks ago a different source had it at 15 years. That would be the mean. According to Wikipedia the median is 11 years. Wikipedia’s divorce rate statistics are from 2002 and earlier (all the way back to 1975).

    Calculating divorce rate based on number of divorces per 1000 population, the rate declined from its peak of 5.3 in 1981 to ‘only’ 3.6 in 2011, which is lower than it’s been since the late ’60s. One reason for this is that age of first marriage has been steadily increasing since 1960 for women and 1965 for men, and it has long been established that the older you are when you marry for the first time the less likely you are to divorce.

    In case you wish to look into this further (and I doubt you do, as it’s hardly crucial), here are two urls to check out:

    • Curtis Cook says:

      I apologize. I had no memory of having already discussed this in an e-mail with you (December 27, 2010). Still, this information is fresher than that was.

  2. Micky says:

    This story shows that it was written by a woman. Most men might say that they want a clock in their room but I would imagine most would begin to resent it. The fact that the women know so much about their sex life and that the ‘family’ dictates so much would force some men (like me) to chaff at the restrictions.

    Why does the husband not work outside the family companies to ensure financial independence? He is now vulnerable. I would imagine some of the women forming a counter force intent on corroding the control of the clock.

    The fact that Cory allowed his wife to be beaten and left marks in addition to having her house invaded should have affected him more. The marks she carried should not have been made and would have haunted him.

    I can’t help but think of the men being wimps and the women whores. Scheduled Sex is great but the continued pressure to perform on cue will get to a guy. What about the time he can’t perform on cue?

    What about the spouses keeping secrets from each other?

    This was a good story because unlike most it has made me think and it is haunting me. What I dislike most about it is the lack of control and most men are sensitive to this. They would like it at first but probably resent it.

    I would love you to do another story where the clock becomes like the tell-tale heart and causes trouble in the marriage and becomes ‘advisory’.

    • What? You mean men aren’t constantly horny? They aren’t always ready to jump on any available woman at a moment’s notice? I’m shocked to hear such a thing! 🙂

      I guess this story really is a fantasy after all.

      As far as the men being wimps. That’s not quite the way I look at it. I think of them as knowing that they have a good thing going and being wilfully blind and deaf to the reality of what their wives are suffering. When Cory saw that his wife had been abused, he did offer to take her away from the family and strike out on his own. He wasn’t bluffing about that; he really would have done it. But he had to be relieved when she vetoed that offer and kept enduring the family tradition. I realize that, to accept that, the reader does have to buy the underlying premise that men do want as much sex as they can get and won’t suffer performance anxiety when his wife is clearly desperate to seduce him.

      I appreciate that you continued to think about the premise of the story. It’s a thrill for a writer to hear that her story isn’t just a throwaway to be forgotten as soon as the book is closed.

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