Should you ever have sex when you don't feel like it?

I am enormously proud to tell you I’m responsible for the word “erection” being said for the first time on Sky News. It was during Mamamia Live last week (we weren’t on this week due to The Budget where tragically, they did not discuss erections of any kind) and I was discussing the female libido fairy with sex therapist and author Bettina Arndt, author and journo Caroline Overington and Minister for Childcare, Employment Participation and the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.

You have to watch Kate’s face as she wonders how the hell she can crawl under the desk and quietly die…..


The Sex Diaries by Bettina Arndt

When Bettina’s book, The Sex Diaries was released in 2009, one of the key (and least surprising) revelations was that men were not getting as much sex as they wanted. Did anybody not know this? In fact I wrote about the fragility of the Female Libido Fairy here just recently. But what was surprisingly poignant about the men Bettina interviewed and who kept diaries for her, was how upset it made them. They described feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, low self-esteem and rejection when their partners refused their requests for sex (also known as The-Hand-Under-The-Doona).

Which led to the controversial part. To try and bridge the gap between the male and female sex drive, Bettina suggested women sometimes just ‘throw the canoe in the water and start paddling’.

She wrote about it in the Canberra Times:


Wives willingly embrace far more tedious demonstrations of devotion like searching shopping centres for his favourite Y-fronts, to say nothing of bearing and raising his sprogs. But as for having a quick romp in the sack when they aren’t quite in the mood that’s beyond the pale.

These days unless women want sex it just doesn’t happen. Women’s right to say no has been enshrined in our cultural history since the 1960s when women’s sexual rights became a rallying cry. As terrible stories of marital rape and sexual violence claimed the public’s attention, women’s right to refuse sex became fundamental to decent relations between the genders.

The new rule was that sex must wait until women are well and truly in the mood. But that was where we went wrong. The assumption that women need to want sex to enjoy it has proved a really damaging sexual idea, one that has wrought havoc in relationships for the past 40 years.

She quotes research saying that women do not need to rely on desire to enjoy sex. [A quick aside: I am still learning to manage my big mouth on live TV and gag myself from saying wildly inappropriate things. When Bettina was talking about giving sex a whirl even if you don’t feel like it and said “You don’t have to have a bonk. You’ve got hands for goodness sake! You can do other things. Just try it and see!” I was THISCLOSE to replying “Just suck it and see”. Thankfully for all involved and my future TV career, I just said it in my head and then had to stop myself from giggling out loud.]

Many people freaked out about Bettina’s exhortation to women to have sex when they didn’t necessarily feel like it. All the freak-outers were women. It provoked passionate debate with some people outraged by the idea that they should have sex when they didn’t feel like it. I thought that was interesting. Don’t we  sometimes  expect men to do things for us that they probably don’t feel like? Like talk about their feelings? Buy flowers?

What was also interesting was that she clarified on the show how she wasn’t suggesting that women have sex when they’re not in the mood for men’s sake, rather for their OWN.

What do you think? Have you ever had sex when you don’t feel like it? I’m sure you have. Is it something you do often? Why and is it worthwhile?