Crikey Quick Quiz.

What is “lesbian bed-death”?

1. A slasher movie
2. A deadly strain of influenza from Greece
3. A state in which two gay women “would much rather eat chocolate” than have sex.

If you answered 3, then you must have been at The Sydney Institute with me last night, listening to Bettina Arndt talking about her latest book, The Sex Diaries.

In fact, Bettina said that lesbians “tend to have less sex” or “what we would think of as being sex.” She’s clearly been reading British journalist, Matthew Parris, who last year wrote that gay men “find it hard to see why anything that did not involve a man should be called sex at all. Only lesbians and heteros would call (two women) on a tiger-skin rug ‘sex’. Gay men would call it novelty wrestling.”

But I digress. Bettina’s book, The Sex Diaries, is based on the journals compiled by 98 couples who wrote to her for six to nine months about their daily negotiations over sex. From this, she concludes that, overall, men have stronger libidos than women.

The men reported “waves of despair, frustration and anger at having to grovel for sexual favours,” she said. Most men are “keeping their eternal flame going” while many women are “damp wood” – Costello and the Libs? However, the good news is that there are some horny women around who are “juicy tomatoes”, (possibly wine-ripened).

Bettina is a fine performer, and seems to have that vital prerequisite of a sex researcher – a sense of humour. She told a good Jenny Lecoat joke about a man asking his partner during sex, “are you nearly there?”

“It’s hard to say,” she says.

He plunges on. “If you imagine it as a journey between here and China, where would you be?” She considers. “The kitchen.”

Later, she mentioned that one of her couples made love every Sunday morning at exactly 9.15am, which, a rather horrified Gerard Henderson pointed out, is “right in the middle of Insiders”.

For those people who want to write to Bettina in excruciating detail about their sex lives – and isn’t that all of us? – the great news is that you can. Go straight to her website and read the entry on “Sex Diary Advice Service.”

“In response to the many people seeking help from her, Bettina is exploring the possibility of launching a new advice service, based on the sex diary program. Bettina will respond to these emails (or letters) with comments, advice, reading materials. Weekly telephone calls with Bettina will be part of the service.” Couples can sign up now and “pay an introductory service fee of $500 for the first month of the diary program. Individuals participating on their own pay $350 for this first month. After this, an assessment will be made on the required future level of commitment, with a possible adjustment of fees depending on required telephone calls and the frequency of the diary exchange,” she writes.

But will those communications be turned into another book? It’s unclear at this stage, but she did say last night she was writing a sequel, called “The Male Sex Diaries”.

“I wanted to do it all about erections, but my publisher said it needed to be a bit broader, so it’s all about men.” In it, she wants to “examine the issues most important to men, including the complex relationship between a man, his penis and his partner.“ (I have not made that up.)

All of which means that Bettina could get paid for the advice, nab a fat advance from Melbourne University Press (disclosure: publisher of my own (very chaste) book, The Battle for Bennelong), write up the book and then earn buckets of royalties. Well, isn’t that better than s-x?

Actually, the advice line could be a good thing. Naming no names, but a friend of mine has a husband who goes to bed at 8.45 EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT because he goes bike-racing Sunday mornings. Bettina, help her. What should she do?

Peter Fray

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