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Bettina Arndt: The truly lucky man is blessed with a woman who believes in taking one for the team.”

Bettina Arndt
Bettina Arndt

By ZOE KRUPKA

Bettina Arndt is at it again. In an opinion piece she wrote this week, she returns to her position on the secret to heterosexual married bliss.

Apparently “The truly lucky man is blessed with a sexually generous woman, one who believes in taking one for the team.”

I won’t even go there with the unfortunate associations that little analogy calls up.

Spruiking the new female Viagra, fetchingly labelled Lybrido or Lybridos, Arndt is urging us once again to throw our undies in the ring and do what we can in the bedroom to keep our men from suffering sexual frustration. Even if it means taking a little pink pill to up our sexual ante. Even if it means completely ignoring some of the reasons we may have lost interest in the first place.

According to Arndt, “For every woman keen for a solution to her lost libido, there are others who wouldn’t dream of popping a little pink pill to enhance sexual desire. There are plenty of women happy to shut up shop, simply refusing to have sex – and expecting their husbands to just suck it up.”

Again with the unfortunate language she’s letting us know that not wanting sex is just not okay.

I think we need to feel our hackles rise whenever a pleasurable activity becomes compulsory. Despite what Fred Nile would like us to believe, sex is meant to be fun. When we have sex, it should never be a chore, an offering or a sacrifice.

From my vantage point as a counsellor, I don’t see much good coming from women offering sex when they don’t feel like it, and I don’t see men who feel great when their partners offer them a mercy shag. The fact is we all want to be wanted and we all suffer in some way when sex becomes some kind of relationship duty. But Arndt assures us with her characteristic pragmatism that “It’s not as if making love is such a big ask – it’s not like cleaning an oven.” If that doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what will.

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Zoe
Zoe

But I think I understand where Arndt is coming from. Sex is such a battleground in relationships, and if you read her books and columns, you can hear how much she wants to fix things. Don’t we all? But the problem with a quick fix – and Arndt’s suck-it-and-see solution is a real quickie- is that it not only misses the point of the exercise – in this case enjoying sex – but when you don’t really understand the heart of the matter, your quick fix risks long-term consequences, like re-traumatizing survivors of sexual assault and diminishing emotional intimacy.

There are lots of reasons why women lose interest in sex, some of them harmless and some of them sad and poignant. Some of them are hormonal and many of them are about a lack of intimacy and support women can feel in long-term relationships. Sometimes, god forbid, women are just not interested.

By telling women to just get on with it, telling them to ‘take one for the team’, Bettina Arndt is not just advocating a kind of potentially abusive sexual submission, she’s also glossing over the issues.

It’s unethical counselling practice and it’s shoddy research reporting.

Sex is complicated. Women are complicated. Men are complicated. Relationships are complicated. Before Bettina Arndt can earn the right to tell women what to do she needs to do a better job of listening to what we’re telling her. Isn’t that what it really means to be a team player?

ZOË KRUPKA, B.A(Hons. Anthropology), MCounselling & Human Services, is a psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice in Melbourne, Australia. She has worked as a case manager, researcher, advocate, counsellor, group facilitator and supervisor since 1992. Zoë currently lectures and supervises research at the Cairnmillar Institute and writes the Therapy for News Junkies column for newmatilda.com. You can find her blog at theintentionalrabbit.wordpress.com.

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