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Bettina Arndt and Emily Maguire join Lateline -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: I'm joined now in the studio by the author of 'The Sex Diaries', Bettina
Arndt, and also by Emily Maguire, who wrote 'Princesses and Porn Stars', in which she criticises
the idea that women should be defined by their gender or sexuality.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Bettina Arndt, first to you. You begin your book with the observation that it was the men's stories
that really set you back on your heels. You talk about thousands of pages of immensely sad diary
material. Now what do you think is going on here?

BETTINA ARNDT, AUTHOR: Well, I think men don't usually talk about this, and when I gave them the
opportunity to do so, it all just poured out of them; their frustration, their anger, their
depression about the fact that their needs are being so totally ignored, and it was intriguing to
see how willing they were to really talk at length about this when you actually gave them a chance
to do so.

TONY JONES: Yes, here's what you write, "Men aren't happy, many feel duped, disappointed, in
despair at finding themselves begging for sex from their beloved partners."

BETTINA ARNDT: And it's something that consumes their life, and that's one of the points that many
of them make, that sex tends to take over your life if you're not getting any. You think about it
all the time, you know, "dare I have a fight with her about what television show to watch tonight
if it means I won't have, you know, she'll be in a bad mood and I haven't a hope of any tonight."
That sort of calculation is there all the time. And men talked about the chasm in the bed, that six
inches in the bed between them becomes 1,000 miles. One man joked that it's his own Gulf War. I
mean, just this sense of this tension and distance between them that is created by this fact that
they are wanting to make love to their partner and they're constantly being rejected.

TONY JONES: Are you sure it's not just self pity without self examination?

BETTINA ARNDT: Well, I don't think it's self pity to be in a loving relationship and want to be
wanted by that woman, want that woman to, you know, to be your lover, you want to put your arms
around her, you want to have that physical intimacy, which we assume is a natural part of a
long-term relationship. And they're left with that chasm, that six inches in the bed.

TONY JONES: Emily Maguire, listening to input in that context, do you have sympathy for the men who
are the diarists in this book?

EMILY MAGUIRE: Look, I found a lot of their stories really sad. I think it is obviously a terrible
thing to be continually rejected. It feels awful. What I found really frustrating was the lack of
context, I suppose. 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. And a lot of them, as well as sounding
really sad, sounded really angry, and there was a real sense that a lot of these marriages or
partnerships were, in their entirety, adversarial, they weren't really friendships, there weren't
really people who particularly liked each other.

BETTINA ARNDT: I think that's unfair, because, I mean, a lot of them in fact said, "we get on very
well, we have this loving relationship, we, you know, we are very intimate in all sorts of ways
but," and this is the big "but".

EMILY MAGUIRE: And the big "but" - the descriptions of that, you know, put lie to that. They
weren't description of loving behaviour, the chasm in the bed, for example, so without the context
of the actions that were happening that are loving, it's kind of hard to just look at that part of
it on its own. And also there was a lot of people who didn't seem to be really talking about it.
And I think that's what comes through as the solution in the book, time and again, and even from
writing the diaries themselves, people would say even this act of writing it out has started up
discussion, and that was often the thing that fixed it.

TONY JONES: It's a good point. Do you think Bettina Arndt has uncovered something here, what she
calls "the unexamined lives of men"?

EMILY MAGUIRE: Well, I think for a lot of the male diarists, it's uncovered and it's secret and
it's something they obviously haven't spoken about and desperately needed to, to start finding a
solution. I think on a larger, sort of cultural level, it's no secret that, you know, young women
will tell you they feel like they're getting the message all the time that men love sex, men want
more sex. Even the women's magazine has tips on how to get your libido up so it matches a man and
how, you know, what - 50 ways to make sure that you're keeping them satisfied and things like that.
So the larger culture that this is important to men, is no secret. But certainly in these men's
private lives it seems that they're unable to talk about it with their life partner, the person
who's closest to them.

TONY JONES: Bettina, this is not the Kenzie report, it's 90 odd diarists, so we can't make that
claim. But do you think you have uncovered something which has laid dormant in the public
discussion?

BETTINA ARNDT: Yes, to some extent. I mean, it's well known in sex therapy circles, this is the
problem that's filling the waiting rooms of sex therapists not only across Australia but in many
western countries. And, I mean, the problem of women being less interested than men in long-term
relationships is very well understood. But - I mean, I was - what I was interested in was to be the
fly on the wall and see what it's actually like to be part of that negotiation. What he's thinking,
what she's thinking. And it was the most extraordinary thing. I used to leap out of bed every day
and go look at my emails and people would have sent an email at two o'clock in the morning. You
wouldn't believe they were talking about the same event sometimes. You'd get the his and her
version and it was quite extraordinary.

TONY JONES: It's typical in a way for many of the women diarists to suggest things - like one of
them did - that getting pestered for sex is the biggest turn-off for her. You understand that,
don't you?

BETTINA ARNDT: Oh, absolutely.

TONY JONES: That would be a turn-off. Is the problem here that men simply aren't going about this
the right way?

BETTINA ARNDT: Yes, and obviously some men are not approaching things in the right way. I actually
had some lovely men who know exactly how to do it, and wrote pages for me about the art of
seduction. I mean, one gorgeous man who talked about the fact that no man has a right to undress a
woman unless he dresses her first, and so he would pop into a little boutique in Paris, and buy the
outfit. She'd dress up and then he'd take it off. I mean, I think that's just delicious, really.

TONY JONES: What do you think about that, Emily?

EMILY MAGUIRE: Well, it's a perfect example of the fact that different things work for different
couples, which is why it's so important for people to communicate with their own partner instead of
trying to go to something of what all women want, because a lot of women would find that very
off-putting, but obviously for them it's absolutely perfect and it works wonderfully.

TONY JONES: Now, Bettina Arndt, it's probably unfair to sort of boil this debate down to the phrase
"just do it", but in the end that's where the really intense debate is, that you've provoked here.
Have you deliberately set out to challenge feminist orthodoxy about sex in marriage?

BETTINA ARNDT: No, but you actually run into this road block if you start to address how do we
resolve this problem. And the road block is the ideological assumptions around women's right to say
"no" in their relationships, which was a really important step. I mean, back in the '60s when we
started talking about marital rape and started talking about sexual violence, there was very good
reason why we said women have a right to say "no".

But built into that was also this assumption that you had to have desire in order to feel aroused,
and therefore if you don't have desire, you can't proceed. And I'm arguing if the put the canoe in
the water and start paddling, everything will be alright, provided the woman is receptive to that,
provided the woman can get her head into the right place and be willing to put the canoe in the
water. And that willingness, her initiative in that is extremely important. I have - I must say, I
have one good friend of mine who says she uses Lateline as the means of getting her head in the
right place. Watching you for half an hour is enough for her to "just do it", Tony.

TONY JONES: Let's not go there, it's too disturbing to even contemplate. Emily Maguire, what do you
think about the idea of putting the canoe in the water, at least. Even if you don't have desire,
you should consider having sex with your partner to make them happy.

EMILY MAGUIRE: Well, I think in some cases that's good advice, those are the cases where a couple
already has a basically good sex life, generally good sex life. There's a lot of trust in the
relationship, and a lot of respect and love, but maybe, you know, a gap in how often, you know, one
partner wants to do it. And in that case, where that trust is already there, you know, it makes
sense to sort of say, "Well, let's just see how we go", as long as you feel that you can say, "No,
this just isn't working, it means we'll try again another night."

And people, lots of couples already do that. I think it was the Women's Weekly survey, was it, and
it was like 70-something per cent of women said that that's something they already do. So I think
that's fairly common sense in those relationships that are already very good.

I think the danger comes when you have a much more dysfunctional relationship with communication
problems, and also where, often, the women haven't up to this point been able to express what they
like, which might be one reason they've gone off sex in the first place. It's kind of giving them
another message - you know what, it doesn't matter so much what you like, and that you're just
being reactive to male desire, and I don't think that's going to fix any long-term problems there.

BETTINA ARNDT: I'm not saying, you know, just do it for him, I'm saying do it for you. Because the
whole point is you can have - you put the canoe in and you have pleasure, he doesn't just get all
the pleasure, you will get aroused.

TONY JONES: Theoretically.

EMILY MAGUIRE: If you're lucky.

BETTINA ARNDT: Well, that's what' I'm arguing. I'm not arguing about lying back and thinking of
England and suffering through it. 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." That doesn't work when women are stuck with
what I see as essentially a very fragile, easily distracted libido, and it means the couple's sex
life is dependent on that, and that doesn't work, that's what creates this chasm, this tension,
this anger.

TONY JONES: Where I thought you perhaps went a little too far, for me to contemplate, was at one
point you actually raised the famous marital rape case in which the South Australian Judge Boland
said there's nothing wrong with a husband using rougher than usual handling if his wife refuses to
have sex. Now, why did you take the risk of even linking in any way your thesis to what that judge
said?

BETTINA ARNDT: Well, I made the point that rougher - I'm not talking about forcing people to have
sex, and I think that's abhorrent. But I'm saying that even if he had left out that unfortunate
phrase and talked about persuading people to have sex, I think in that climate, in the 1960s, he'd
have got into trouble. Because totally shut down the notion that...

TONY JONES: That was the 1990s, I think, actually.

BETTINA ARNDT: 1990s, sorry, whenever it was, I mean, just this idea that we've got to the point
where you "no" always means "no", where we actually don't discuss the nuances of this negotiation
that goes on between couples.

TONY JONES: It was risky, then, making the juxtaposition between an old duffer of a judge and a
point that you are trying to make about good marriages.

BETTINA ARNDT: Yes, but if you read his whole judgment, he actually had some quite sensible things
to say there, and that particular phrase, of course, meant that everything else was coloured by
that.

TONY JONES: As you would expect. Emily Maguire, first of all, we want to get some thoughts on that
subject.

EMILY MAGUIRE: I mean, obviously that saying, "rougher than usual handling", it's appalling. I
mean, it's abuse is what you are talking about.

TONY JONES: I should be fair, Bettina didn't say that.

EMILY MAGUIRE: No, I know, I'm just saying that that statement, I'm making clear that that's
appalling, but I think even if you do take that off, people would still have been upset, that's
true, and part of the reason is that it's a judge ruling in a rape case, it's not blokes down the
pub talking, you know, casually about things. It's actually, you know, an official ruling on a rape
case. And to raise the fact that maybe this wasn't really rape, that this doesn't constitute rape,
I think people would have been upset even about that phrase.

TONY JONES: Let's go a bit further into the sort of deeper argument that Bettina Arndt is making
here - that there's been a dramatic reversal of power in male/female relations, a seismic shift
away from patriarchal authority. Do you agree with that, first of all, and has that caused immense
problems for a lot of men?

EMILY MAGUIRE: I think there's certainly been a change in power contribution, I don't think there's
been a reversal. I think that some people see it as a 0-sum game. If women have more rights and
that means they've been snatched away from somewhere else - people talk about, you know, women
having more rights and therefore men have fewer rights. When, in fact, I mean, when we're talking
about sex, women have exactly the same rights that men have always had, which is to not to have sex
with someone they don't want to.

TONY JONES: I think, Bettina Arndt, you sort of make the point - it's somewhere in the book - that
maybe those people in more repressive days, in inverted commas, back in the 1950s, when there was a
sort of patriarchal system much more clearly in place, probably had more sex.

BETTINA ARNDT: No doubt. When there was a notion of wifely duty, women saw it as part of the
obligation of marriage. And there's an interesting question, was it that all horrible sex or did
some women enjoy it, did some women start to enjoy it once they got going. I mean, we don't know,
really, how it compares to now. But I think that what I'm saying is we've created this obstacle
with this basic assumption - "if I'm not in the mood, well, we can't have sex". And because that
actually is not right for many women.

TONY JONES: You actually go a bit further than that, though. You suggest that some men have
actually been duped into getting married in the first place by women who give them sex in the
courtship period and deny it in marriage. That's quite a big jump, isn't it?

BETTINA ARNDT: Yes, but men feel as if they are duped and what I - how I explain is that women also
start off their, often start the relationships really hot for sex, they can't get enough of it,
they want him all the time. And they think of themselves as these very sexual creatures, and they
too are really disappointed two or three years later to find they've gone off it.

And I proposed this explanation which is that biologically what's happening in that early period is
you get the brain chemistry with being in love, with limmerance, as the psychologists call it. And
that's associated with all sorts of changes in brain chemistry, which bring on sexual desire. And
so she feels that she was this sexy person, where's it gone? You know, why aren't I like that
anymore? And he feels duped because he thought he had the perfect woman, and she's disappeared.
They're both disappointed by how the relationship has turned out.

TONY JONES: Emily Maguire.

EMILY MAGUIRE: Well, yes, but there's also plenty of couples to whom that doesn't happen, and some
of them are in the book. So, there's sort of no big generalisation that we can make here about what
happens when a woman does find her libido dropping through marriage, there's usually plenty of
reasons for it often they're very short term reasons. I mean, if you talked to any women who've
recently had children or still have small children in the house, than that's going to make a huge
difference. You know, there's all kinds of things, there's life stresses, there's lifestyle
factors, there's sometimes the fact that people, you know, go off each other a bit and need to make
more effort. There's lots and lots of things here...

TONY JONES: Or a lot in the case of some of the characters who have written these diaries.

EMILY MAGUIRE: And so what really perplexes me is if these people start off very much in love and
great friends and all the rest of it, is when they just let this happen and don't have a
conversation about it, and don't try and address any of the underlying causes. And I actually think
part of the reason that happens is that we all still tend to have a lot of gender roles,
stereotyping, in the back of our heads, and it's sort of repeated throughout the book. You're not a
real man if you're not up for sex all the time and you're not getting it all the time. And women
have a similar thing and I think - I mean, I work a lot and write a lot with younger women, and
it's amazing their vocabulary around sex, the things they know, the things they'll happily tell you
they can do for their boyfriends. But there's often a sense that they've got it down pat how to
perform sex, and they never spend time experimenting with their own bodies, or thinking about what
they like themselves. And so they can go into it all fiery, this sexy thing, and then once that
performance is getting a little bit tired, they've never actually had to think about or thought to
think about what they themselves might want. Their sexuality has always been reactive.

TONY JONES: Bettina Arndt, we don't have a lot of time to explore this, but you seem to be
suggesting, later in the book, that maybe the answer to unhappy partners on both sides is to
indulge in a bit of adultery.

BETTINA ARNDT: Not for one minute am I suggesting that. In fact, what I was really surprised about

TONY JONES: Well, you say that "... adultery always spells disaster for marriage, or so everyone
seems to believe." The implication is quite a lot of cases of the diarists who do go outside
marriage for sexual pleasure.

BETTINA ARNDT: No, no, I mean, I don't know what the figures were. But the vast majority of people
don't think about having, really going outside the marriage, people talk about, you know, "should I
do that," and most of them say emphatically no, "no, that's not what I want. I don't want to have
an affair, I want this woman to want me." And that's what really comes through, particularly from
the men, and it's striking how most of the them dismiss that possibility. But what I am saying is
surely in a monogamous relationship, there is some obligation to satisfy each other's sexual needs.
How can you expect fidelity when you are rationing or refusing sex. It's an extraordinary argument
to me and I'm surprised we talk so much about fidelity and we never discuss that issue.

TONY JONES: And I'm sorry that we can't discuss it much more now because we're out of time. I
certainly think this argument has a lot more to play in many other places apart from here. We thank
you both for coming in for this discussion tonight. Bettina Arndt and Emily Maguire, thanks to both
of you for joining us.