“Sexpert” Bettina Arndt knows what men and women want in bed, and she’s ready to let us in on all the secrets. On May 22, Bettina shared her wisdom over dinner at The Blue Duck in Cottesloe.
What do tell audiences about?
My talks are based on research I’ve done over the last few years, on what men and women want in the bedroom. For years, I had couples write diaries for me about their sex lives and the results are fascinating.
Can you give us an example?
One man said he got so sick and tired of having to initiate sex, he told his wife “that’s it, you’re initiating it next time.” That was eight years ago; they haven’t had sex since. I’m very lucky, men will really open up to me. They often tell me stuff they’ve never told another soul, and it’s often to do with how frustrated they are that their partner doesn’t want to have sex with them any more. Women can go for years not being interested in sex.
Critics often accuse you of being too “pro-men,” especially because you often advise women who don’t feel like sex to just do it anyway. What’s your response to that?
It’s not the case. I love women, I’m a woman! And I have wonderful women taking part in my research and totally sympathise with what they have to say. But I also listen to men and feel it is important they have a chance to talk about how they feel. I spend half my life with men complaining about having to spend their lives groveling for sex, while women talk dreading the hand coming creeping towards them in the middle of the night. The gap between men and women, and how much they want sex, is a major issue, and tough on both sides.
One man I talked to during my research, went for 20 years without sex. He sent his wife beautiful love letters, outlining so passionately how much he loved and desired her and longed to touch her. But after their second child was born, she simply never let him near her. Eventually he left the marriage because he couldn’t bear the idea of never holding a woman in his arms again.
What’s the reaction like when you give your talks?
It’s interesting. You can see a lot about a relationship just by observing the audience. One woman came up to me after a talk and said she was stunned to see her husband in tears at one point while I was speaking. Something must have resonated with him!
Some people are very critical of you. Is that water off a duck’s back, or is hurtful at times?
It can be upsetting. People can be so abusive. There was a huge debate about an article I wrote about cleavage recently, and I received a torrent of abuse. I got emails saying things like “put your head in the oven you old bag.” That’s partly why I’m writing fewer articles these days and doing a lot more speaking. When people hear me in person, they tend to better understand my position. In Perth, on this visit, I’ll be talking at The Blue Duck and also at a private function at Royal Karrinyup Golf Club.
Is there still much to learn about sex?
Gosh ye, although it has been amazing how much we’ve learned in the last 30 years. Take erections, for example. We didn’t have a clue about how erections worked three decades ago let alone why they sometimes stop happening. Now we know all about this wondrous mechanism, and how to fix it when things go wrong. And we have a fantastic array of new treatments.
What are researchers working on now?
We don’t yet have a good treatment for women who have low desire. Although some women see no need for this type of treatment – and that’s fine – others would love to pop a little pink pill, if we had one, that could make them feel sexy again.
The stats show 55 per cent of women have low desire. Many women want to feel sexy again, they want to want sex again. The thrust in research is now on what’s going on between the ears, rather than between the legs. The assumption is now that turning women on requires a brain mechanism, some means of adjusting the “off” switch in their brains.
How many men have erectile dysfunction?
One in two men over 50 has some problem with erections. This goes up to 60 per cent of 60 year-olds, and 70 per cent of 70 year olds. The penis is the first thing to show up changes in blood flow that can later lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. That’s why it’s important that men get checked out if they notice changes in their erectile functioning.