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DOES A SPOUSE HAVE A CIVIL SUIT FOR DAMAGES FOR DENIAL OF SEXUAL RELATIONS?

Here is a link to an article describing a successful suit by a French wife against her ex-husband for failure to perform sexually during the marriage. She was awarded the equivalent of $15,000 US.

At first blush, this action seems preposterous. However, a look at the law in Mississippi provokes some thought as to whether or not there may, indeed, be an action for damages by one spouse against the other for denial of sex.

It is not widely known that one of the grounds for divorce in Mississippi is “Natural Impotency.” There is little known about the terms of this ground. There is only one reported case which found that a wife’s refusal to have sex because it was painful was not sufficient basis for divorce on this ground.

There is case law which suggests that extreme, prolonged denial of sexual relations may be sufficient to award a divorce on the ground of "habitual cruel and inhuman treatment." Culver v. Culver, 383 So. 2d 817 (Miss. 1980) (where sex was denied for eight years). We also know that Mississippi and other states allow a spouse to sue a third party for “loss of consortium” which includes the spouse's sexual duty to the other.

So, the elements for a civil suit may be there. There is a recognized duty on the part of a spouse to have sex. As a matter of fact, sex is required to “consummate” the marriage. If there is a duty, then it would follow that there would be neglect of the duty and possibly damages as a result. Maybe the French Judge is on to something!