Is it really wrong to not want sex?

Sex therapist Bettina Arndt discusses whether it’s really wrong to not want sex.

no sex

The American comedian Steve Martin has a gag about wives not wanting sex: “You know that look women get when they want sex? Me neither.”

It’s a classic married man joke but few husbands find it very funny.

It’s real life, for a lot of them. Most women go off sex in long-term relationships. I was recently looking at a graph from Florida University plotting couples’ sexual desire over the first four years of a marriage. At the start there was already a gap between the two partners but while the men’s levels remained pretty steady, women’s desire just dropped through the floor.

Here we have our own Sex in Australia survey of over 20,000 people which found 55 per cent of women experience low desire. All the evidence suggests there’s a biological issue at the heart of the problem. Men have up to 20 times the level of testosterone than women do and that’s a big part of the gap in desire. Just one of life’s dirty tricks. 

So, it is not wrong for women to not want sex once the marriage settles in – it’s incredibly common. But does that really mean it is fine for wives to just shut up shop?  That’s what’s happening in a lot of marriages today – that if the woman doesn’t want sex it just doesn’t happen. To me that’s what’s wrong.

I’ve recently put out a YouTube video spelling out what it’s like for sex-starved husbands to spend their lives being constantly rejected. Women think it’s just about men getting their rocks off, seeking sexual relief. “Oh, for goodness sake – go have a cold shower or run around the oval,” women tell their men. But that’s nonsense. All men know they can masturbate to relieve sexual frustration.

Being in a sexless marriage means never feeling wanted and often not feeling loved. It means that the one thing that really matters to you is being totally ignored, while endlessly hearing about your partner’s wants and needs. Sex is a really big want for most men, the thing that is top of the list of what’s missing from their marriages.

Physical intimacy gives men that deep sense of connection with their partners. It really is about making love and without that special bond they might as well be living with a roommate or a sister.  And that makes for a pretty lousy marriage.

When the boot is on the other foot most of the sex-starved wives really hate it. It’s actually far less common – most research studies find the incidence of men with low libido as less than 15 per cent. Sex therapists will tell you they are seeing plenty of these couples but that’s probably because wives who are constantly rejected are more likely to drag their husbands in for counselling.

Sexually rejected women will often berate themselves for their partner’s lack of interest – doesn’t he find her attractive anymore, is he having an affair? There’s actually a huge range of reasons why a man may not want sex, including health issues like depression, medications, relationship problems, fatigue and stress. And older men sometimes avoid sex rather than risk failure when their equipment lets them down.

So there are many good reasons many women and some men might not want sex. But the bottom line is the ‘low-desire’ person needs to consider the impact of constant rejection on their partner and on their marriage.

For a start that means being willing to talk about it – rather than pretending it is just not happening. You go to bed together every night and this is a mighty big elephant taking up far too much space in your bedroom.

But also you need to do something about it. There’s a heap of good self-help books to help negotiate this tricky issue. Even if you don’t feel like sex yourself there are plenty of ways of giving sexual pleasure – and that also applies to older men with capricious penises. With new research showing many women can experience sexual pleasure without prior desire it’s worth exploring whether desire might kick in when you get going, providing you can get your head in the right place to anticipate pleasure.

It’s crazy how hard some women work to please their husbands. They cook three course meals, spend hours in a shopping centre looking for his favourite underpants when a ten-minute bonk every now and then would make that man a lot happier than a lot of the things she does for him.

Starting out as a clinical psychologist, Bettina Arndt was one of Australia’s first sex therapists. Bettina then became a social commentator writing mainly on men’s issues, the subject of her new vlogs on YouTube. She’s also working as an online dating coach.

www.bettinaarndt.com.au

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    COMMENTS

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    Nan Norma
    23rd Aug 2017
    11:09am
    Well a women might be doing all these things to please her husband, but what is he doing to please her? For a women foreplay starts at breakfast, not when she climbs into bed. A women can't be expected to be suddenly ''turned on' when he's been in a foul mood all day
    Rosret
    23rd Aug 2017
    12:38pm
    Exactly Nan!
    This article is quite true. Sadly many a marriage breaks up because of the imbalance of sexual desire.
    It always fails to make sense why we need to share a bedroom or bed to sleep.
    When we were children we got a lovely bed and bedroom all to our selves and all of a sudden you have to share it with a snoring, farting oversize heffer. Why? This might be the male or female.
    Surely a person with 8 hours sleep is going to be so much more likely to desire the other partner?
    maelcolium
    23rd Aug 2017
    12:49pm
    And therein lies the problem Nan.
    If the woman talked to her partner about whatever it is she needs at breakfast to be receptive at night time then half of the problem is resolved. Men need to be coached in a woman's needs. If the woman doesn't tell the man she can't expect him to read her mind.
    This is the point of the article. Maybe your straw woman would rather be single. If so she could divorce the man who may find someone who can talk about her needs.
    Marriage is about talking and affection. Sex is part of the deal. If the woman or man doesn't want that she/he needs to get out of the relationship otherwise they both end up being in unhappy.
    Tib
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:21pm
    Typical female answer , a women is turned on when a man does all the house work for her, gives her more money in fact all he has to do for sex is be her little slave.
    Stuff that ! It's time for a grlfriend. She's easily replaced.
    niemakawa
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:40pm
    Do your duty!!
    Nan Norma
    23rd Aug 2017
    8:10pm
    maelcolium. I had a friend whose husband was abusive. When she left him he asked her if he bought her a fur coat would she come back. Some men just don't get it.
    Tib
    23rd Aug 2017
    10:31pm
    Nan we are talking about sex here not abusive fur coats. I think you will find many men find women who use sex to manipulate or refuse sex to be vindictive as abusive. Certainly I believe is a good reason to divorce or at least to start finding sex outside the marriage.
    Rod63
    23rd Aug 2017
    11:20am
    Great article.
    Kaz
    23rd Aug 2017
    12:50pm
    Bettina is often sorry for men and berates the women, which stops me from even looking at what she has to say. A more balanced view might help out more.
    Rod63
    23rd Aug 2017
    12:55pm
    This article is pretty balanced.
    Tib
    24th Aug 2017
    7:25pm
    Seems balanced to me as well. Not the usual what women want story. Must be a shock for some.
    Not Senile Yet!
    23rd Aug 2017
    1:04pm
    This woman know her stuff!
    But deep behind all of what she states is one core Issue that affects all human beings with regards to sex...getting it and getting enough!
    The human has a simple built in switch off button!
    Yes we all have one!
    And it is connected to....
    Familiarity breeds Contempt!
    It's not Me! It's my partner!
    I call it the Blame Attitude!
    once your infected...everything turns to SHIT!
    But we fail to acknowledge we are the other 50% of any or all Relationships!
    Yep we humans Crack it like little kids and then our sexual attraction ...like our positive POV.....go out the window!
    We become our own worst enemies and start to behave in a self destructive manner!
    When you experience this....no one can point out your mistakes....no one can help you...you first have to change your POV!
    Same applies to ur sex partner!
    Quite simply one or both quit...or just give up...in sheer frustration...lol
    know that the complication is not just state of mind....it is 2 peoples state of mind.
    one you can control...but the other you cannot.!
    Kathleen
    23rd Aug 2017
    1:40pm
    Ha ha 10 minute bonk! Age comes into it. If a young couple are not coupling then it is a huge worry. Stress also plays a part. Health is another aspect. It is really a personal issue and not a general one that one size fits all. 20 year olds have more desire than 80 year olds. Old people might be happy to hold hands. So long it is agreed it is fine! Communication would solve most situations if people just talked it out. A bit of romance might be required. Men are from Mars women are from Venus.
    Hasbeen
    23rd Aug 2017
    2:05pm
    I think you have just highlighted the problem GrandmaKathleen22.

    A lot of ladies would just prefer to hold hands, where as most men would prefer something else was held.
    niemakawa
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:23pm
    And never the twain will meet. Like apples and pears. If only women could really understand that.
    niemakawa
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:00pm
    That's why men use prostitutes or have affairs. Women who do not want to please their man should not complain, if their man has other outlets. instead they should thank their man for for being considerate.
    Charlie
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:03pm
    No good asking me about this, I have as much control over my mating habits as pee wee bird.
    Tib
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:17pm
    Many women use sex as a way to control their husbands. As far as I'm concerned I'm ok with my wife not wanting sex if she ok with me getting it somewhere else. After all she's not missing out , where's the problem. Getting a bit on the side is no problem.
    niemakawa
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:25pm
    Self flagallation has its rewards.
    Tib
    23rd Aug 2017
    3:47pm
    Well done Bettina Arndt.
    Jenny
    23rd Aug 2017
    6:29pm
    One remedy I tried when having problems with my lack of interest was reading female port, or running sexy scenarios in my mind. Both of these strategies sparked my interest every time, even when things between my husband and I were not good otherwise. I have always regarded Sex as a necessary part of marriage, and never refused unless there was good reason for doing so. And I don't regard myself as an unliberated female!
    Jenny
    23rd Aug 2017
    6:31pm
    Sorry, that should read "porn ". I think my computer did that.
    Tib
    23rd Aug 2017
    6:51pm
    You sound like a good women Jenny. It's nice to hear from someone who isn't as self centred as the average women these days. Your husband is lucky to have you.
    Anonymous
    24th Aug 2017
    12:27am
    So Jenny you're imagining having sex with someone else
    How romantic
    Anonymous
    24th Aug 2017
    12:28am
    Ps
    Instead of imagining , better to do it with someone else
    Tib
    24th Aug 2017
    7:47am
    Raphael Jenny is at least having sex with her husband instead of using sex in your typical female power play.
    Adrianus
    24th Aug 2017
    8:06am
    Raphael, give Jenny a break? Often sexual desire and satisfaction can be triggered and sustained by imagination. One thing I have noticed about women is that they look sexy when they are thinking about sex. Jenny is simply getting her creative juices flowing.
    Jenny
    24th Aug 2017
    12:21pm
    Raphael, nowhere do I suggest that I am thinking of someone else, although I don't see anything wrong in that anyway, especially if the person in your mind isn't anyone specific. I used to recall the numerous occasions during courtship when I would have loved to have surrendered but didn't! That probably tells you my age????. I wonder how many men would be thinking of someone else while doing the deed?
    Jenny
    24th Aug 2017
    12:25pm
    And yes to Frank, that is so right. Sexual desire does happen in the brain! That's why some clueless men have no idea how to arouse a woman! Don't get me started ????
    Hasbeen
    24th Aug 2017
    1:47pm
    If I have to arouse a lady, particularly starting at breakfast, I'd rather not bother.

    If she does not want to make love as often as I do, then I'll go elsewhere.

    She did want to when we were courting. Then when wanted to get pregnant she was very interested.

    If she now wants to be finished with all that stuff, there are nunneries she can go join.
    Tib
    24th Aug 2017
    2:35pm
    Jenny for men sexual desire starts in the brain as well. Men tend to be visual while women tend to read about it. But in the end it has the same effect.
    Nan Norma
    24th Aug 2017
    7:44pm
    Hasbeen. Its as simple as saying "Have a good day love." and a kiss on the cheek (or better still on the lips) as you leave for work. Is that so difficult?
    Sounds like you're a bit of a grouch in the morning.
    Tib
    24th Aug 2017
    7:54am
    Whatever you say about prostitutes it's an honest transaction money for sex. Not so honest is the wife who uses sex for control. Training their husband like a dog, sex being used like a treat when he's good and he does everything he's told. These passive aggressive dominating females need to told sex can be got elsewhere, or spend the rest of your days as a slave.
    Tib
    24th Aug 2017
    7:54am
    Whatever you say about prostitutes it's an honest transaction money for sex. Not so honest is the wife who uses sex for control. Training their husband like a dog, sex being used like a treat when he's good and he does everything he's told. These passive aggressive dominating females need to told sex can be got elsewhere, or spend the rest of your days as a slave.


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