Why does passion fade? Why do men grope? How do we keep the spark alive in long-term relationships? Bettina Arndt, Australian sex therapist and author of The Sex Diaries and What Men Want in Bed, answered these questions at a recent Australian Women in New York event at Interface in Chelsea.
The key problem in relationships, Arndt argues, is mismatched desire. She tells the story about three married men on a golf course. The first one says, “You had no idea what I had to do to be allowed to come out to play today: I had to paint the whole house!” The second one says, “And I had to remodel our kitchen!” The third says, “I set my alarm for 5 a.m., woke up my wife, and said, ‘Intercourse or the golf course?’ She said, ‘Don’t forget your sweater.’”
There are what Arndt calls ‘Juicy Tomatoes’, i.e., women who have a high sexual desire. One couple that was involved in Arndt’s research instituted a ‘UP’, which stands for Underwear Parade. The wife had a drawer full of bustiers and g-strings. She would put on her sexy lingerie and stilettos and spend the evening in them. The UP wasn’t to please the husband. The wife said that she felt like a slob in ‘tracky dacks’ and did it to make herself feel sexy.
However, the overwhelming majority of men that participated in Arndt’s research were angry, upset, and heartbroken when they found themselves in long-term relationships without sex. All too often, creeping hands and infrequent sex dolled out like dog treats come to characterize physical marital encounters.
Bettina Arndt (L) and Skye Cleary
Steve Martin said, “You know that look that women get when they want to have sex? Me neither.” Arndt proposes that one of the key reasons for the fading female libido is that men have up to 20 times more testosterone than women. The male flame never fades, but it’s much more rare for a woman’s flame to keep burning at the same rate. A female version of Viagra might help, but Arndt suggests that we would do better to focus on what’s going on between our ears instead of between the sheets.
As for the solution, Arndt has suggestions for both men and women. For women, she suggests ‘jumping in the canoe’, meaning that women should try having sex more often because sometimes desire kicks in once they start. With recommendations like this, it’s perhaps no wonder that Arndt has been referred to as “the patron saint of Australian men”. She has also been criticized for launching a “tirade against society’s maltreatment of the rampant and practically sacred male sex drive”.
Arndt’s message is not that women should always say yes and pander to men’s every sexual whim. Rather, she suggests that if women were to say yes a little more often, they might actually enjoy it. She points out that women often spend hours preparing meals, cleaning, or doing other tedious tasks to please their husbands. Yet, a “ten-minute bonk” would be quicker, more appreciated, and probably more satisfying for both.
What’s the difference between a golf ball and a g-spot? Men will spend 20 minutes looking for a golf ball. Arndt’s second suggestion is that if men were to try harder and longer to please a woman, and women helped men to understand how to please them, then conjugal sex could be a lot more fulfilling.
These days Arndt is an online dating coach and helps people to write great profiles. She spent seven years online dating before finding her current partner, and shared her top five tips as follows:
- Avoid shopping list-style profiles;
- Describe what you can contribute to someone else’s life;
- Remember that most people just want someone nice and with whom they can laugh;
- Set realistic expectations for the sort of person whom you can attract; and
- Go on lots and lots of dates.
To learn more about Bettina Arndt, check out her website: www.bettinaarndt.com.au
Skye C. Cleary PhD is an Australian philosopher living in New York City, the author of ‘Existentialism and Romantic Love’, and occasionally teaches.
Photo credit: Anna McCrea and Joanna Hishon