It’s not quite as startling as it looks.
Bettina Arndt simply says what the Church has always said. That successful marriages are based on mutual respect, and consideration of each other’s needs.
When it comes to sex, this means that each partner must be conscious of and caring about the needs and desires of the other.
As time goes by in any marriage, one partner’s sexual desire will begin to wane before the other’s. Most often, but not always, the woman begins to feel less desire for sex before the man.
One of the achievements of the women’s movement has been a clear understanding that women always have the right to say no. What this has often meant in practice is that sex only happens when the woman wants it.
Some women say that as time goes by other aspects of the relationship become more important to them.
But Bettina points out that if they disregard their husband’s need for physical intimacy, or even worse, if they humiliate their husband by making him grovel for sex, or use their right to say no as a way to gain power in the relationship, then this will undermine care and respect to the point where there is neither trust nor affection, nor any meaningful intimacy of any sort.
Like any other aspect of a successful, respectful and caring marriage, the sexual relationship cannot be based on the desires and moods of only one partner. This means that both husband and wife need to be generous, considerate, and loving.
Here is an excerpt from Betttina Arndt’s article in the Canberra Times, based on her book The Sex Diaries:
It is quite possible for women and indeed for men to enjoy sex without desire. Research by Professor Rosemary Basson from British Columbia has shown many people can experience arousal and orgasm without prior desire. She explains that provided there’s a willingness to be receptive, the rest follows.
Once the canoe is in the water, everyone starts happily paddling. For couples to experience regular, pleasurable sex and sustain loving relationships women must get over that ideological roadblock of assumptions about desire and ”just do it”. The result will be both men and women will enjoy more, better sex.
The alternative is the status quo namely that the low-drive partner, usually the woman, controls the couple’s sexual frequency and meters out sexual favours only when it suits her. This leaves the man in the degrading situation of having to beg for sex, keeping her happy in the vague hope of getting some. But is that so different from the much maligned husband who controls the family purse strings, doling out pocket money to the little woman if and when it suits him?
Mutual respect and care, real communication and real partnership – in sex and in every other aspect of married life. Pretty much what the Church has always said:
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5