Poor Bettina Arndt! After all those years of promoting s-x to women, we stubbornly sometimes don’t want to know. She blames it all on the concept of women’s liberation, in particular the vital bit of liberation that told women they had a right to say no to unwanted s-x! This astounding claim comes from her analysis of the responses to some s-x diaries that people volunteered to fill in.

Let’s leave out questions of methodology, such as how typical are the s-x lives of men and women who were prepared to keep such diaries. Or maybe how many men would ever tell a female researcher that they didn’t want more s-x than they were getting versus women who thought they may be getting a sisterly ear. There are, however, some basics of research analysis that need to be thought through. Correlation is not cause. Just because there has been a second wave feminist movement for nearly five decades, does that affect s-x lives and frequency? Were men really getting much more in the 50s? And is it feminism that causes women to say NO!

I have another option to put up to explain this somewhat dodgy data. There have been changes over this time including an increased number of
wives/mothers combining paid work with other more traditional duties. What comes through in most time use surveys is that household chores are not spread evenly between most household partners. Women still do most of it. A 2006 survey (ABS 4153.0) on How Australians Use Their Time shows clearly that women still do much more housework, care and other chores than men. After an evening of organising kids, dinner, the shopping, the washing, the homework, etc, maybe they are too tired to want s-x.

For all the complaints we have about paid work, it is generally easier to contain and leave behind when you head home than getting a break from the never-ending chores. Men do spend more time with their children, but this is rarely doing the grotty bits of care work, and related household chores, like finding and mending the sports uniform for tomorrow. Bed is therefore often refuge from constant demands and not the place to deal with further demands. And maybe under it all is also resentment that the man didn’t take on his share of the boring bits of households.

Therefore, I propose an experiment for all partnered men who feel their needs for s-x are not being met. Spend the next year taking on a genuine 50% of all household tasks, which are randomly allocated to ensure both partners get the grotty bits. Then some sociologist could get a
representative sample to fill in a diary. I suspect that the men would be more tired and want less s-x after the household chores are done. On the other hand, their female partners may feel s-xier because they too had some time with their feet up before going to bed.

Maybe equal shares of domestic responsibilities may have more to do with libido changes than feminism per se. Or maybe Arndt is suggesting that women should withdraw from the paid workforce and therefore buy their financial support by meeting male needs! Happy International Women’s Day!

Peter Fray

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