Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bettina Arndt on sex

It's interesting to see a secular article in a secular newspaper saying the same things about sex which some Christians (and, more importantly, God - thanks for the reminder, Carmelina!) have been saying for years. Here's what Bettina Arndt has to say:

[A] woman on a mothering website ... suggests that women put sex on the to-do list ... Hang on a moment. Isn't that suggesting that women just do it? That sometimes they have sex when they are not in the mood? The very suggestion runs into a massive ideological roadblock. Women's right to say "no" has been enshrined in our cultural history for nearly 50 years. It was one of the outstanding achievement of the women's movement to outlaw rape in marriage and teach women to resist unwanted advances. But it simply hasn't worked to have a couple's sex life hinge on the fragile, feeble female libido. The right to say "no" needs to give way to saying "yes" more often. ...

The case is best made by a letter I received ... "If sex is mutual, when both people want it, that's wonderful. If one partner wants sex and the other doesn't but offers it as a gift, that too is pretty darned good. But my first wife regularly refused, complaining about my unreasonable demands. Sometimes she begrudgingly complied, which made me feel like a thief, as if I had stolen something that was not rightfully mine. Sex was rarely mutual and never a gift. ...

"Rose, my second wife of seven years, has a demanding job as a manager. Nevertheless, she has never said 'no'. She has never used the headache defence, never been too tired. Always, she makes sex a gift if she is not in the mood herself. Often she find herself enjoying the moment. She does this because she cares about me, about my feelings and my needs. In my case, I'm sure you can guess the outcomes. If I notice Rose is run down and tired, seldom will I reach for her, other than to give her a cuddle. If she is not well, I look after her, tuck her into bed and either read or veg out in front of the TV ... I am far from the perfect husband, but I do love and care for her, not because I am a wonderful bloke, but because her so very obvious caring for me can lead to little else other than reciprocity."

Sam makes it sound simple. But it seems extraordinary that sex is treated so differently from all the other ways in which a loving couple cater to each other's needs and desires. We are willing to go out of our way to do other things to please each other - cooking his favourite meal, sitting through repeats of her beloved television show. Why, then, are we so ungenerous when it comes to "making love", the ultimate expression of that mutual caring?


You'll find the rest of the article, an excerpt from Bettina Arndt The Sex Diaries, in today's Good Weekend.

12 comments:

The Idle Introvert said...

I read that article too Jean, and thought exactly the same thing! I remembered your posts on 'loving your husband sexually' and smiled :)

Carmelina said...

Dear Jean,

isn't it interesting that a secualr writer has come back to the same kinds of thoughts expressed by a Jewish man in the first century (1 Corinthians 7 ie the apostle Paul)!

We recently had our second elders' wives dinner and guess what our topic was? Yep, sex! Bettina Arndt's article would have been very useful and I may copy it and hand it out to them. We looked at chapter 4 in the book Married For God by Christopher Ash (which I notice you have listed in your reading list). It was revelatory to most of us that having regular sex with our husbands (which strengthens our marriages) has benefits for others. Ash explains that a strong loving and intimate marriage leads to blessings outside the marriage - it enables a married couple to minister to others and be hospitable. In this sense, it mirror God's love of Israel, which led to blessings to the nations. WOW! Along with the other elders' wives, we realised that if we are too tired to have sex with our husbands because we've been doing "ministry" (or a lot of other things actually), then we need to re-assess what we're doing so that we have energy for our husbands. And doing this, will actually help us to better serve other people. Interesting thought don't you think?

Carmelina

Anja said...

Hi Jean, I'm a new reader, and would like to thank you for the work you put into this blog. I have been reading for about two months or so now, and enjoy it a lot. What I like about your blog is that you seem to put a lot of work into each post, because they are good, full treatments of many different topics - not just a short little thought about something (though I also sometimes benefit from people who post such posts) but articles about all kinds of interesting topics. I always learn something new. I also enjoy learning from what you have learned as an older Christian (not old, just older than me - I'm a college student :), wife and mother. That's really valuable to me too. Thanks for your example. From what I've read, I hope to be a Christian woman like you in the future.

Jean said...

Idle Introvert, it's funny we were reading the same magazine and thinking the same thing!!

Carmelina, thanks for reminding me it's not just "some Christians" (or me! ;) ) who've been saying this for years, but God, in 1 Corinthians 7 - oops! I think your observations about intimacy in marriage and how it helps us to serve in God's wider kingdom are just wonderful - you don't want to write a guest post, do you? ;)

Anja, my young friend ;), thank you for the encouragement. Writing isn't like a Bible study - you don't see the faces of those who read - so it's always encouraging to know what you're writing is helpful to people. Sometimes I wonder about those longer, more thorough posts! So I'm glad to know you enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

Would you believe I read that article this morning online over here in Chile and thought, 'Well, how about that!' Must make a copy of that for future reference! Wow Carmelina - what an amazing out there thought that maybe it blesses outside our own little sphere. You mean its not just about me? :-)
Jo

Gordon Cheng said...

However Paul Sheehan in today's SMH says:

When relationships become sexless, Arndt's attitude towards infidelity becomes elastic: "If the sex supply breaks down, then fidelity seems a totally unreasonable demand or expectation . . . But it is heresy to suggest such a thing . . . Adultery always spells disaster for a marriage, or so everybody seems to believe."

So there's a problem!

Jean said...

Yes, you certainly wouldn't want to agree with everything Arndt says - her attitude to infertility being one of them!

Rachach said...

Great post Jean!

Igroki said...

This article has some very important things to say. Being of secular nature myself, I am fascinated by the clear distinctions made between secular & Christian views. I hadn't considered the issue in these terms. If it is right to say that the Christian view is represented here - it is light years ahead of the secular view. Also, secular feminists dominate these kind of discussions & drag it into the mire on a regular basis.

(P.S. I'm from Australia, the Christian movement is of medium strength. Nowhere near the scale of the US. It is mainly priests, bishops etc who speak publicly on these issues - often from a sizeable distance. I would rather hear the views of (for a lack of a better word, excuse my ignorance) the congregation.)

Igroki said...

oops sorry Jean, I wrongly assumed you lived in the US. We are of the same town. My bad

Jean said...

No worries, Igroki, you gave me a bit of a giggle! :) I'm fascinated to hear what you have to say from a secular perspective. Would you call yourself a feminist or not? What do you find attractive about the views in this article?

Igroki said...

Hi Jean. No, I wouldn't describe myself as a feminist. I think the article is saying alot of common sense things. Bettina's words were over-interpreted in the main. I think a big prob with mainstream feminism is the way the issue of sex becomes so political. So much stuff that shouldn't be involved. The article was refreshing for being straightforward.