We ask Bettina Arndt if the differences in what men and women want can ever be reconciled
Clinical psychologist, sex therapist and writer, Bettina Arndt has been a tireless campaigner for improving the sex lives of Australian men and women for nearly four decades. Most recently, her book What Men Want sheds light on the often misunderstood nature of male sexuality. We ask Bettina if the differences in what men and women want can ever be reconciled.
There are a lot of men who are unhappy about the gap between their sexual desires and their reality – particularly within a loving marriage. They are enduring a lifetime of grovelling for sex, or, having sex doled out to them like meaty bites to a dog, as one man put it.
I am not saying sex is essential for a happy relationship. There are couples where sex is not a priority. The problem only occurs when one person yearns for sexual intimacy and the other is not interested. Those who are yearning are mainly men, but sometimes it’s the women who are being rejected.
One of the major reasons men lose interest in sexual intimacy is the fear of failure. Many men are nervous about their sexual performance, so it becomes easier to avoid it than to risk failure. I hear this a lot with prostate cancer support groups, where I meet women in tears, who say they did not appreciate how much their sex lives meant until their husbands were unable to continue.
Our society is lacking information about sexual intimacy. There is never too much information on this subject. This is one of the reasons I wrote What Men Want. I wanted to explore what it’s like to live in the age of Viagra, and other erection treatments. There are very good new treatments, but what impact are they having on couples? There’s no good research on how men and women feel about the new treatments, what works for them and what doesn’t. Reactions can be highly individual; if you test 10 men they can all respond totally differently, just as 10 women will respond differently to the various contraceptive pills.
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