Just do it: sex therapist's advice to wives
Psychologist Bettina Arndt is whipping up huge waves with her new book, The Sex Diaries, which says that women might actually have had more satisfying sex lives in those bad old days before the patriarchal system broke up and women gained the same rights not to have sex that men always had.entertainment Updated: Mar 24, 2009 10:44 IST
Here's an incendiary question: Before women's liberation, when it was mostly sex on demand for husbands, was the marital bed such a wasteland for wives?
Psychologist Bettina Arndt, author of a book whipping up huge waves in Australia, answers that women might actually have had more satisfying sex lives in those bad old days before the patriarchal system broke up and women gained the same rights not to have sex that men always had.
"Was it that all horrible, sex, or did some women enjoy it, did some women start to enjoy it once they got going?" Arndt said.
What has given her the courage to question the notion that women should consent to sex only when they want it are the entries in diaries that 98 couples agreed to keep for use in compiling her book "The Sex Diaries".
Arndt argues that women ought to recognise that a "very fragile, easily distracted libido" isn't necessarily an impediment to having sex.
"I'm saying: if you know that you can do this, and he's a loving man and knows how to press the right buttons, you will be OK. We shouldn't have this idea that 'I don't feel desire now, therefore we can't have sex'."
Arndt has been accused of wanting to push the clock back and return sexual congress to a chore on a woman's to-do list. To this, she responds that the lack of sex within many marriages is creating tension, unhappiness and anger.
"I'm not saying, you know, just do it for him - I'm saying do it for you," she said.
Emily Maguire, a novelist who has written on women's issues, worries that Arndt is too focussed on what men want and insufficiently considerate of the lack of sex being a symptom of a marriage gone bad.
"We were only really hearing about them not getting the sex they wanted and not the bigger picture of what was happening in their lives," she said of "The Sex Diaries".
Arndt sees the regulation of sex supply as bound up with the liberation of women. Sex itself can become a casualty in the battle of the sexes.
"It's a tough time to be a male - and males are really floundering in their relationships, trying to work out what women want and failing rather dismally," she said.
So dismally, in fact, that the diaries kept by some made for very depressing reading.
"Mismatched desire is the burning issue," she said. "It's what's filling the waiting rooms of sex therapists all over the world. I've spent half my life hearing from sex-starved men and the women saying 'Oh, do I have to?'"