Thursday, April 2, 2009

Miranda Devine, Bettina Arndt, The Sex Diaries (again), women's fragility and Woody Allen said it already, enough

(Above: la dee da, la dee da, fiddle de dee, and lordy lordy).

There's nothing so fun to see as women bashing and blaming women for the woes of poor men, and Miranda the Devine, in her puff piece designed to sell more copies of Bettina Arndt's 'controversial' new book The Sex Diaries, provide a fine example of the art.

Wifely duties spark a firestorm is the feeble header for a piece which comes some time after Arndt's first surge into the marketplace, suggesting Devine must have been short of column fodder this wee, and grabbed the first thing off the shelf (or maybe Arndt's book has been out for three weeks, and maybe sales are slipping? Who knows).

Still the header does perfectly capture the flavor of the piece - women do your wifely duty, just lie there and take it, or do it, or whatever, just get him off somehow, roll over and go to sleep.

I guess the furious response of feminists is the reason the Devine just has to be an Arndt cheerleader, on the principle that anything a feminist has to say is wrong.

You see, it's all about the fair sharing of housework. Women do twice as much, and then use it as an excuse (along with organizing the kids) for not having sex. But even doing more housework won't necessarily get a man laid more often. Sob, it's so unfair.

In other words, with the passion gone, it all becomes a negotiation, and because of those damn pesky feminists women think they have the right to say no. Or to use it as blackmail. Or simply not, my dear,  give a damn or a fuck. And what can a sensitive, helpless, hapless man do, confronted with an iron woman, who just happens to be very fragile, who doesn't give a fuck.

This is just so unfair to poor hapless, helpless men, who only want to get their rocks off in a regular, reliable fashion, as part of the marital deal. Now in Victorian days ... ah those were the times when men were men and women would allow them to exercise their beastly desires in the dark for two minutes, and have done with it. (Unless they went to one of the hundred thousand child prostitutes working the streets in London).

Anyhow, cue Arndt, who pretends her work is based on a meaningful sample, as opposed to a book-selling bias, complete with opportunity to display her long held and well known prejudices about men v women, and the Devine for a bit more of the same.

You see it's all to do with female resentment about the housework, and resentment is a passion killer. Why there's this poor man who once had sex every day and now is down to once every five or six months, and is expected to live like a monk.

Of course there's a feminist caveat:

Arndt is not suggesting women have sex against their will ...

Just have sex they don't like and don't want? Or just discover that they really like sex, but maybe not with the person they're currently living with? Or get out and have an affair to really teach him about the housework, and to show how much they really like sex with someone who's not a lame,  predictable fuck? Yeah that's what you get when you marry a loser who can't afford a maid, a cook, a driver, and French champagne and the style to which you'd like to become accustomed.

Somehow Arndt thinks that we're all heading towards marriages lasting forty years. Clearly the word about divorce in Australia hasn't caught up with her yet. There's a delusion at work here, that over forty years, you can go on eating vanilla icecream and it will taste exactly the same exciting, passionate way as it first did when you tucked into it forty years before. We should all be so lucky, or perhaps hypnotized into a permanently delusional state.

Relationships, and the psychology and sociology of relationships are much more interesting, complex and dynamic than the special pleading offered up by Arndt and Devine.

But it's an easy riff, with Arndt claiming she's been inundated by messages from frustrated men, and a friend telling her that after a promotional appearance for her book, every woman in her tuckshop group had sex with her husbands.

Funny, I would have thought a wank would have been the best reaction to the kind of guff preached by Arndt and Devine, but what would I know. 

It's the oldest form of publishing, to take a look at sex, put the actual word in the title and then watch it sell. Sex! Did I mention sex? Sex!!! Lordy, the hits on this blog are going to multiply a hundred fold.

My guess is you'd be better off re-reading Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden (and its sequels), and reviving your fantasy life than trawl through Arndt's exercise in guilt, 'female fragility', the natural order of 'lower female sex drive', and the ideal solution of women not liking it, but doing it for their man, god, queen or country (strike out which one doesn't apply at any particular time).

Woody Allen said it all, and in a much funnier way, in Annie Hall, way back in 1977. Why not save the money you'd spend on Arndt's book, and check it out?

In this scene, it's split screen, with Annie (Diane Keaton) and her psychiatrist on the left; Alvy (Woody Allen) and his shrink on the right.

How often do you sleep together?

Do you have sex often?

Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.

Constantly! I'd say three times a week.
Like the other night, Alvy wanted to have

She would not sleep with me the other
night, you know, it's ...

And ... I don't know ... I mean, six months
ago I-I woulda done it. I woulda done it,
just to please him.

I mean ... I tried everything, you know,
I-I-I put on soft music and my-my red light
bulb, and ...

But the thing is-I mean, since our
discussions here, I feel I have a right
to my own feelings. I think you woulda
been happy because ... uh, uh, I really
asserted myself.

The incredible thing about it is, I'm
paying for her analysis and she's making
progress and I'm getting screwed.

I don't know, though, I feel so guilty
because Alvy is paying for it, so, you
know, so I do feel guilty if I don't go
to bed with him. But if I do go to bed
with him, it's like I'm going against my
own feelings. I don't know I-I can't win.

(Simultaneously, with Annie)
You know ... it's getting expensive analyst ... for her analyst. She-
she's making progress and I'm not making
any progress. Her progress is defeating
my progress.

(Simultaneously, with Alvy)
Sometimes I think-sometimes I think I
should just live with a woman.

And for a better insight into relationships, and our need for them? Allen again, though if you watch the movie, this is a real spoiler, so avoid reading:

I-I thought of that old joke, you know, this-this-this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much how how I feet about relationships. You know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd and ... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us need the eggs.

But I guess Allen turned out to be a prevert, so what would he know?


lisa said...

I have never found it amusing to see women bashing women. Sadly women supporting women for the common good seems to have gone out of fashion.

When I read The Sex Dairies I was delighted to see the subject was being talked about. After nearly 30 years of marriage to a man I still love and desire, we have negotiated our way through the ups and downs of life, and the natural ups and downs in our desires sexually. We have a close and intimate relationship that neither of us would describe as sexually bland or a dull diet of just vanilla!

I was a teenager of the 70's, I had a mother who was most outspoken and progressive. I was not inexperienced sexually when I married a man I was totally in love and in lust with! I was university educated, well read and continued to stay informed of information with regard to sex and relationships. Sadly very little was said about the inevitable problems that come with having children, work and fitting in busy lives. In the 80s we were fed a diet of everyone being sexy and available, and never too tired! Luckily for us, we were forced to spend time apart for his work, this managed to keep up the desire during those more challenging years. Sadly sex was rarely discussed with women, for most once married, it was a no go zone. There was the odd jokey complaint of him wanting too much! And the men all joked that the sex always drops off after marriage. Nothing very constructive or supportive. We watched many partnerships break up, many more than stayed together. I am sure some were better off without each other, and it was not all about sex, but you sometimes wonder how many might have survived the hard times if they had had that shared intimacy?

So when I saw Bettina trying to bring these topics out in the open, I applauded. And yes I am sure there are many other stories out there not so saucy and not so sad, that have not been told. However, the ones that are told are great in that they give us a starting point to have the conversation that should have been had years ago. I have passed the book onto some young women (all would describe themselves as feminists, well educated, traveled and professional) in their 30's, some recently married. To my surprise they were delighted with the book, found it interesting and informative! It had enabled them to talk to each other about sex in a way that they had not before. I am sure it will open up some conversations with partners also. My son's friends in their 20's have been reading it and they tell me it has begun some very interesting discussions amongst them.

My husband suggested it to a work mate who is going through some problems maritally. He said it had been a great help in that " it had showed him the bad habit patterns they had got into and what he could do differently" Maybe it will start them talking, in a way they have not before!

Sometimes all we need to do is find out that others struggle with the same problems, this in itself can help us with our own.

It may seem sensible to say that when the initial excitement of a relationship wears off, it is past it's use by date and we should move on! However, life is more complicated than that, we have children, homes and lives we share with the person we once lusted for. So if it is at all possible to revive the lust, for the one you still love and like, maybe even your best friend in life, wouldn't that be great?

As I prepare for a lusty week away with the one I found so desirable 30 years ago, I know we are lucky. I just wonder how many more could be a little luckier if they too were able to talk about sex more honestly along the way!

Anything that gets us thinking and talking is a good thing, don't you think?

dorothy parker said...

Well yes, but Bettina Arndt blames women and make it sound like it's their fragile sex drive and their inherent weaker sex nature that's all the problem.

I don't go as far as Wendy Frew's "If men want more sex, they could try improving their appearance",
which is just a cheap shot the other way, and I'm pleased Arndt worked for you and your friends, but I'd rather read some sensible research than a few sex diaries - below the level of statistical relevance - flung around to back up anecdotally Arndt's deep rooted set of prejudices. Which I'm afraid usually revolve around a woman bashing women into thinking they're the cause of all the problems, and the solution is to lie down and take it even if you don't like it. In any sensible negotiation, the blame game is the first strategy to be avoided.

Anyhoo, enjoy the weekend, and take along Nancy Friday. She empowers female sexuality, female fantasies, and the right of women to enjoy a fuck (though it's true she's been through a couple of husbands in the process).

Sam said...

I note the heading for this page announces "now with bonus carping columnists".

Carping is a good word for this piece.

It is a difficult rant to follow, but I think that the author suggested that having a good wank was a natural reaction to Bettina's book.

Which might tell us much about the author.

I am very happily married, so the problems raised in Bettina's book don't impact much on me. Nevertheless, I'd prefer to see the subject dragged into the open and discussed to the option offered by our bitter columnist.

The real puzzle is why such a vicious attach was made on Bettina's book and Miranda's column in the first place. I am left wondering whether the columnist has an axe to grind or perhaps is simply frustrated.

Ahhh…that’s where the comment about wanking came from!


dorothy parker said...

Bitter, moi? Beulah, peel me another grape.

lisa said...

I will be looking for Nancy Friday, because I do enjoy a good Fuck! And The Sex Dairies did not really change my thinking, they just confirmed what I had found out for myself over the years. And at times it amused me greatly.

I wonder if you have actually read the book or just the hype surrounding it. As with all books and movies the highlights are often misleading! I did not think that it gave any easy answers, or one off solutions.I agree blame never helps, and I really do not think there is any attempt to blame on Arndt's behalf. Maybe some of the people who wrote the dairies felt that some blame could be leveled.. but that was just as much the women as the men. I am sure reading it is not going to fix damaged relationships, but it may start them talking in general.Or talk before the damage starts?

I like you am all for research, but not sure it is an area you can really find out much about by just asking people anonymous questions or people have sex in scanning machines, cramped.. there is a lot more going on inside the head usually.

We all carry a lot of baggage! Understanding our own is a start!

Taipan said...

Michael duffy, it appears you must fall into the celery stick category that Bettina talks about in her book.

When any sex is almost too much. If thats your thing fine, but this issue has been simmering under the surface for years and it is a big issue for a large % of the male population.

It is an issue that feminists would love to promptly squash, because just as in your house, they wear the pants.

Have you been told to check your balls at the door by your feminists friends, before they instructed what to do and say along feminists lines.

See its not only the feminists who can get very upset about this. I believe one of the good things about this book is a lot more men will recognise their situation and speak up.

When feminism emerged women wanted respect as individuals and the right to say yes or no, but that isnt where it stops.

Men too need respect, for who we are and how nature has created us.

I as a male do not blame females for fragile libido's. It explains so many things. But similarly women need to understand that a large % of men have the libido's of young 20 year olds.

They should not be rediculed, because you and your feminist friends find it amusing. Maybe its what you and they fear most.

Far easier to belittle men, about what is a defining part of their anatomy. (Ask women how they feel after masectomies as a female example.)

Im sorry the whole piece is rubbish, unless it is actual michelle duffy and not Michael Duffy writing it.

Lets put Bettina aside, and look at some studies.

[i]A woman's sex drive begins to plummet once she is in a secure relationship, according to research.

Researchers from Germany found that four years into a relationship, less than half of 30-year-old women wanted regular sex.

Conversely, the team found a man's libido remained the same regardless of how long he had been in a relationship.

Writing in the journal Human Nature, the scientists said the differences resulted from how humans had evolved.

The researchers from Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital interviewed 530 men and women about their relationships.

They found 60% of 30-year-old women wanted sex "often" at the beginning of a relationship, but within four years of the relationship this figure fell to under 50%, and after 20 years it dropped to about 20%.

In contrast, they found the proportion of men wanting regular sex remained at between 60-80%, regardless of how long they had been in a relationship

In other words Bettina is right, she is raising an extremely important issue for males and females.

It is an issue that some people in our society are affronted with. Well i for one applaud that this issue has been raised, because all she has done is spoken about the elephant in most households that grinds away and destroys marriages.

By raising this issue, it allows couples behind closed doors to sit down and discuss and understand what is and has happened. Only from that point can most couples move forwards.

heidi said...

I am a feminist. I don’t shave my legs or wear make up or care about fashion. I strongly advocate for women’s rights whenever I get the opportunity. In my younger days I went to NOWSA conferences & reclaim the streets marches. Eva Cox was one of my most inspiring teachers I even agree wholeheartedly with Shelia Jeffreys on certain issues.

But I am extremely grateful to Bettina for her book & have bought several copies for my friends.

What Bettina is talking about is changing our mindset. Being open in our heart & mind (as well as body!). Not just having sex because he wants to, that in my opinion only leads to resentment & bitterness.

I started to think about this issue about a year ago when a comment I posted on a blog, something about my husband should realise that I get to control sex cos I have the lower libido & that there's nothing either of us can do about, triggered a litany of abuse from many mostly male (tho also a few female) readers. There were female solidarity replies as well but it was the abuse that intrigued me. I thought - if they are so passionate about this, maybe my husband is right after all, maybe this really is a big deal.

So we started having more sex. Our overall relationship improved dramatically. This was completely unexpected & I was over the moon. We’ve been together for 13 years & although the early ones were jam-packed with sex & intense feelings of love, the ones since then until the last year were generally, apart from the joy of having chidren together, ho-hum.

Now our sex life is better than ever. Not as exciting as in the early years but in a way even better because it is more loving.

We are very affectionate, very kind to each other, & have a much stronger connection since we started having more sex.

It wasn’t just about having more sex. If I’d decided to have more sex with the wrong attitude (e.g. well i should do this because he wants it) it would never have worked. But my attitude was that I wanted to show him greater compassion & respect. If I had realised that it would also benefit me so much – greater intimacy & relationship satisfaction, a much more pleasurable life because of the frequent sex, & also, interestingly, I now have a much stronger libido & want to have sex several times a week instead of once a fortnight – then I would have done it much earlier!

I think what the book fails to explicitly mention (& i thought of this myself, but then i also later saw the same thing by a woman on another blog) is that women want sex to be great or we don’t want it at all. We’ve been brainwashed by Hollywood to think that sex should always be exciting, intensely satisfying & preferably involve those butterflies you only get when shagging someone relatively new.

What this experiment in my marriage has made me realise is that good sex doesn’t always have to earth- shattering. That it can be a tender, enjoyable, satisfying & emotionally connecting expression of love.

lisa said...

Well put Heidi! Your right, and luckily you to had Bettina to suggest it. I had to work it out the hard way! Hopefully young women will give it a go and reap the rewards as you have done. Best in all matters to keep an open mind and see what works!

It is sad what we miss on principal!