Note to Bettina Arndt

But built into that was also this assumption that you had to have desire in order to feel aroused, and therefore if you don’t have desire, you can’t proceed. And I’m arguing if the put the canoe in the water and start paddling, everything will be alright, provided the woman is receptive to that, provided the woman can get her head into the right place and be willing to put the canoe in the water.

Stop recycling your crap advice.  No really.  Just stop.  After reading your article in the SMH I was all set to write a long critique of your distorted views about marital relationships, but I found I didn’t have to.  It turns out that you have been peddling this particular piece for nearly two years.  Bluemilk’s already picked it apart with a heartful critique of your twisted logic.

You started the ball rolling in July 28 2007, when you were seeking participants in your ‘research’.  I don’t know that I can call what you’ve produced research, as you knew what you wanted to see before you even read the diaries entries which purportedly showed you the current bedroom crisis.  But it didn’t really did it?  Your mind was already made up with your sample size of one, and the things you said in 2007 and the example you used were exactly the same as your recent post-research sound bites.


Even on days he didn’t approach her, Amy says she was nervous. “He’d be snoring loudly and I’d still lie there worrying that the hand was going to come creeping over.”It’s now almost 30 years since Amy lay rigid in bed, dreading the creeping hand.

She’d got it all wrong, Amy now realises. As we all have had it wrong. The assumption that women need to want sex to enjoy it has been a really damaging idea that has wreaked havoc in relationships for the past 40 years.


A woman, 54, from Hobart spent the first 10 years of her marriage fighting about sex, always nervous about an unwanted advance. “He’d be snoring loudly and I’d still lie there worrying that the hand was going to come creeping over.”

“The notion that women have to want sex to enjoy it has been a really misguided idea that has caused havoc in relationships over the last 40 years.”

With the right approach from a loving partner, if women were willing to be receptive “and allow themselves to relax … they would enjoy it”, she said.

Anyway read Bluemilk’s critique and also read Helen’s Pringle’s take in Newmatilda.

Pringle calls Arndt out on some of the ridiculous comments she made on Lateline on Monday night.  (Arndt had been endorsing Jugde Bonner’s 1993 comments about ‘rougher than usual handling’ in regards to a martial rape and assault case).

For the rightly-criticised Justice Bollen in 1993, it was legitimate for a man to press his “needs” aggressively against a woman who says no. Bettina Arndt in 2009 actually goes further. For Arndt, it is a “wifely duty” for a woman to yield to her husband’s “needs”.

Also (besides the whole ‘yield to your man’ philosophy based on really dodgy research) I hate it when people seize on a legitmate human relationship problem, in this case mismatched libidos, and turn it into a battle of the genders.  Not everything in this world is men versus women, and stop blaming the big bad bogey that is feminism for every marital problem in the western world.

Update (March 7th 2009): fuckpoliteness has put together a page where you can find links to several excellent take downs of Arndt’s drivel.  These critiques are great and restored my faith in humanity after Arndt dinted it so.


12 comments on “Note to Bettina Arndt

  1. oldtimer says:

    Just like so many of these surveys, a little bit of truth here and there overshadowed by some poor conclusions leading to, as you so delicately put it, ‘crap advice’. Spot on with your summing up in your last paragraph. Maybe Bettina would rather the ‘yield to your man philosophy’ as carried out in Afghanistan et al.

  2. rayedish says:

    Hi oldtimer, nice to hear from you again. I think that Bettina has a teeny point buried in some really badly expressed metaphors. Her advice boils down to women being told that they must make an effort and push through their fatigue or whatever it is that is holding them back in bed for the long term sake of their relationship. That may be helpful for some couples, but that advice goes to other way too, both parties in a relationship have got to make an effort for each other. But I object to her projecting all of the blame for this type of problem onto women, with no exploration of the wider factors; potential communication/relationship issues, fatigue, stress etc that could be addressed. Her advice boils down to exhorting women to ‘get the canoe in the water and start paddling'(whatever that’s supposed to mean). I’m also annoyed that she is presenting this a the result of her diary experiment, reading the sex diaries of 90 couples, when she was saying the exact some stuff two years ago while recruiting for the diary study, so I’m seeing a cherry picked sample to support her already firm conclusions.

  3. oldtimer says:

    Totally agree, rayedish. But still, some men will love her ‘advice’ (and some women may accept it as well), and it’s this I find disturbing.

  4. rayedish says:

    Yep, I find that pretty disturbing as well.

  5. I agree with what you say here.

    I’m not pushing the blame away from Arndt, but I have to put the blame on some of the people who will mistake this one opinion as the feminist doctrine or something. But the thing is, like I just said, it’s a friggin’ opinion. It doesn’t represent what EVERY feminist is saying.

    Sometimes I think that maybe it’s not these “feminists” like Arndt that are the problem, but rather the people who cannot be open-minded about concepts that are foreign to them. If everybody stopped and thought for a minute about this opinion, then maybe people like Arndt and Coulter would disappear into oblivion. Now wouldn’t that be one helluva world?

  6. “It doesn’t represent what EVERY feminist is saying.”

    Oh, and not that I’m saying Arndt is a feminist, either. She’s far from it.

  7. rayedish says:

    “It doesn’t represent what EVERY feminist is saying.” I know I hate it when feminism is represented as this monolithic entity that is easily disagreed with.

    “If everybody stopped and thought for a minute about this opinion, then maybe people like Arndt and Coulter would disappear into oblivion. Now wouldn’t that be one helluva world?” That there would improve a lot of things, especially if Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine disappeared as well!

    I think that Arndt used to be a feminist but now she’s just an anti-feminist mouthpiece.

  8. blue milk says:

    Thanks for the link love.

  9. […] Rayedish has a Note To Bettina Arndt up at The Radical Radish in which she notes that Bettina’s examples of a ‘frigid and unsatisfying wife’ hasn’t changed from 2007 (before research) to now despite her ‘research’. It’s almost like there aren’t that many women out there that back up her whackjob ‘thesis’ isn’t it?? […]

  10. Wil says:

    Just listen to yourself. We all do things we may want to in a relationship. Maybe that’s why we have more relationship breakups.. no one is willing to compromise. I suppose none of the ladies if your men seek solace elsewhere. Is that more preferable?

  11. rayedish says:

    I don’t have a problem with people being realistic and compromising within a relationship. As long as compromise is a two way street. What I have a problem with is ‘so called’ experts directing their advice at ONLY the women, and only expecting women to compromise. No explorations of what other factors may be affecting the situation. Nup, according the Bettina Ardnt’s of this world, your sex life is a barometer of your relationship and unless the men is getting the exact amount he wants, the relationship is doomed to fail and its all teh womenz fault. That I have a problem with, and equally if her argument was reversed and men were told to do what ever it took to please their women, without any considerations of the man’s feelings/needs I’d be equally dismissive of the argument.

  12. Ian says:

    The lack of sex in a marriage is a, if not the major reason they fail. Men unfortunately cannot control their sex drive and often go looking elsewhere. Numerous girlfriends of my wife in their forties are seeing their marriages fall apart, seperations and divorces are very common. Most have 2-3 kids and I bet London to a brick that in most cases a major factor is the lack of sex. Not saying where the fault lies it’s just a fact. Men become resentful, cranky sods when IT is not happening. Lack of sex is cancer to any marriage. So probably is the husband not doing his share of the housework…..

    Anyway IMO Bettina has it right, stick the paddle in for half an hour every few days and you will most likely save your marriage. He’ll probably do a bit more of the house work too.

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