Unresolved bedroom battles.

Found this on an inactive website.  Tried to search for and contact the writer but couldnt find anyone.  I hope they dont mind me pinching it for this blog.  I particularly like the bullet points below.  Have a read and see what you think?


This is a Review of book “The Sex Diaries” by Bettina Arndt.

Therapist, media commentator and author Bettina Arndt advertised for couples to diarise their sexual lives for up to a year. Ninety-eight couples and individuals in relationships corresponded about the daily negotiations, power plays, battles and rare triumphs with their desire and satisfaction levels.

Allowing diarists to effectively own the book’s contents has inevitably placed focus on repetitive, time-worn problems in long-term relationships. Arndt’s suggested solutions to resolve desire and libido incompatibilities are simple but never easy and her subjects read predominantly as frustrated and confused men and bitter and angry women. The few women whose libidos out-grunt their partners’ and the couples who share satisfying sex lives are displayed proudly like endangered parrots – admired by those who appreciate their beauty but are targets to be shot down by a resentful adult population based on diarists’ convictions of the desire chasm between men and women.

Media commentary has honed in on Arndt’s suggestion that partners with the lowest sex drive — almost always intending women — ‘gift’ sex to their more highly-driven partners more often and, by having more sex, will realise it’s not so bad after all and garner enthusiasm. Exploration of consent issues and a discussion of rape versus obligation are sadly ignored. Why would – or should — a woman lie back and think of tomorrow’s schedule while her partner gets his fill in a half-hearted, barely-better-than-nothing way? ‘Should’ instead of ‘want’ advances neither gender’s sexual progress.

Arndt complements correspondents’ diary notes with interesting research into human sexuality, useful anatomy primers and extensive quotes from other works of a similar sphere. While the book at its onset takes a male-centric view of sexual frustration, Arndt is brave enough to call the bluffs of some women who blame busy lives and housework for low libidos but who admit they’d avoid sex if the house was sparkling. She also takes task with men who don’t learn that if one behaviour doesn’t work then trying it more frequently is self defeating, and shows that while monogamy is a societal expectation, affairs can have the side effect of invigorating desire.

I recommend the book to be read as a compilation of common relationship problems, and explored in conjunction with Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity for its analysis of human desire and heartening and occasionally radical exploration of maintaining satisfying relationships.

Then again, a million books can suggest change but nothing will occur unless everyone takes a stand against gender and sexual inequity in society. We have unprecedented permission to blossom and engage in fulfilling sexual lives but are defeated from the outset in myriad other ways. Women don’t hit their supposed sexual peaks in their late 30s-early 40s for physical reasons; it’s often because they’ve finally learned enough about their sexuality to know what works and the pending invisibility of middle age creeps up and accelerates the urge to screw without caring what others think.

  • Remove every piece of advertising that objectifies women sexually and portrays men as simple dolts who don’t do housework.
  • Kill off the alive-and-well double standard that sexually active and skilled men have experience but their female equivalents are sluts.
  • Bin the women’s magazines that feature unusually beautiful women on the covers and that prey on and encourage physical insecurity within their pages. 
  • Throw out the adult movies with grossly unrepresentative and passive women and use the web for home-made videos with real people enjoying themselves.
  • Continue teaching young people about sex education, health and pregnancy but allow them to learn about the lifelong pleasures of their bodies. 
  • Stop treating lesbian sex as less authentic as gay or heterosexual sex and drop the “she just hasn’t met the right man” ethos.
  • Do something nice for a partner every day and engender the relationship triad of love, lust and like. 
  • Acknowledge and encourage the awesome power of a woman in sexual flight.
  • Many men do not understand the female anatomy and pathways to orgasm and many women remain equally ignorant of their own bodies; women cannot expect men to find their way around if they do not themselves have the knowledge, confidence and freedom from judgement to know and say what they want.
  • Be open to considering non-traditional arrangements such as polyamory to inject new interest and sexual charge to long-term relationships.

Then, and only then, will a book start making a difference.

And a comment from Bettina Arndt

Hi there lt, I enjoyed your thoughtful review of my book. But I do want to point out that I didn’t invent the ‘just do it’ idea.

The proposal and the use of the Nike slogan comes from a well known American sex therapist, Michele Weiner Davis, who writes very sensibly about the problem of mismatched desire.  She argues desire is a decision—you can’t just wait for it to come, you have to make it happen.

So Weiner Davis poses the revolutionary idea that there’s no point worrying about the reasons why women aren’t interested in sex—there’ll always be plenty of them: squalling infants, stress, tiredness, irritation that he won’t help with the housework.  ‘Knowing why you are not so interested in sex won’t boost your desire one bit.  Doing something about it will’, she says.

Critical to this argument is recent research by Professor Rosemary Basson from British Columbia which has shown that many women do experience arousal and orgasm if they have sex without any prior desire.

Basson has found that women in long-term relationships may rarely think of sex or experience a spontaneous hunger for sexual activity.  So when they do have sex, they are seeking emotional closeness or intimacy with their partners or responding to his overtures, rather than being prompted by their own desire.  But even though they may not be ‘in the mood’ to start off with, once they start making love, these women often feel sexual sensations building, desire may start to click in and then they’ll want to continue.  The result is that they experience sexual pleasure and perhaps orgasm. Provided there’s a ‘willingness to be receptive’, the rest follows, Basson advises.

While newspaper columnists and bloggists complain about this idea, I’ve been swamped with mail from men and women who understand what I am trying to say and agree with it.

“Thank you for lifting the lid on this unspoken, sad fact of life that diminishes many of our marriages. I am a 30 year old wife and mother …It is with great sadness that my husband and I have watched as a trench has grown between us on account of the lack of sex in our relationship…We have finally got to a point where we realise we have been leading parallel lives and that things have to change. In my own bumbling way, I have come to understand that the onus is on me to instigate change in our relationship.

My husband will never demand sex from me yet I have the choice to just do it and to take the steps that I know will reap huge benefits for our relationship and our marriage.”
“I just want to thank you for your new book about men and women’s differing libidos! My husband and I have had mismatched libidos for years and it was a relief to know that we are not alone with this. Funnily enough, just before reading about your book in the paper I had come to the agreement with my husband (completely voluntarily) that I was going to make a greater effort, to break the horrible dynamic of pursuit/resistance we had got stuck in. After reading about your book, I really knew that we were on the right track. Our relationship has improved by a great quantum leap and our home is now a much more relaxed environment.”

I was never suggesting women should suffer through unwanted sex – simply that in a loving relationship it is important not to leave partner feeling constantly unwanted and undesirable.  And that applies to men too – I have plenty of female diarists complaining about male rejection.  This applies particularly to older men who often retreat from sex when they become nervous about getting erections.  I argue they too should ‘just do it’ .. make love to their partners with or without an erection.

Your readers might like to see the forum on my website – http://www.bettinaarndt.com.au – where there is a lively discussion of all these issues. Cheers, Bettina (Arndt)

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