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What has changed in women’s sexual lives since the ‘burning of the bra’?. Dr Margaret Redelman Medical Sex Therapist Bondi Junction, Sydney 5 th SDC, Queenstown 29.4.2012. My thoughts on some of the events shaping women’s sexuality over the last 50-60 years Western societies

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What has changed in women s sexual lives since the burning of the bra
What has changed in women’s sexual lives since the ‘burning of the bra’?

Dr Margaret Redelman

Medical Sex Therapist

Bondi Junction, Sydney

5th SDC, Queenstown


The paradox of declining female happiness
The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness sexuality over the last 50-60 years

  • By most objective measures the lives of Western women have improved. Most believe that having more choices makes for more opportunity to be happier.

  • Women’s happiness has declined absolutely & relative to men in the USA over last 35 + yrs

  • In the 1970s women reported higher subjective well-being than did men. This is now reversed.

  • This shift has occurred in much of the industrialised world

B. Stevenson & J. Wolfers. Am Econ J: Economic Policy 2009, 1:2;190-225

One opinion is that men have actually benefited from women s liberation
One opinion is that men have actually benefited from ‘women’s liberation’

↑ in the total amount of work women do


Women continue to maintain the emotional responsibility for home and family & have taken on traditional male work roles


A man ‘helps’ around the house


“babysits” the children

Hochschild and A. Machung 1989. The Second Shift. New York. Viking

More autonomy over options
More autonomy over options ‘women’s liberation’


marriage, children out of wedlock, birth control, TOPs, divorce


Men may in fact have benefited by being able to ↑ pressure for sex in the face of ↓ sanctions and ↓consequences

? More sex, more varied sex

? More partners

? Younger age

In happiness across spectrum of women
↓ in happiness ‘women’s liberation’across spectrum of women

  • Women’s lives have become more complex than any previous generation of women

  • Women also now have a larger reference group for comparison

  • Pressure to excel in every aspect of life – ‘superwoman’ concept

Monitoring the future study looks at 15 000 12 th graders in the usa annually since 1976
‘Monitoring the Future Study’ ‘women’s liberation’looks at 15,000 12th graders in the USA (annually since 1976)

  • Shows bigger decline in girls’ happiness relative to boys than seen in adults

  • Girls reported being under time pressure, with absolute and relative decline in reported satisfaction with ‘ time for doing the things you want” and satisfaction with “friends and people you spend time with”

  • The girls reported importance with “ being successful”, “steady work", "making a contribution to society” & “being a leader”

Marital satisfaction
Marital satisfaction ‘women’s liberation’

  • On average women were less happy with their marriage than men

  • Women became less happy with their marriage over time

  • Marital happiness is more closely linked to happiness for women then for men.

    However, this is lower for women who work than stay-at-home women & the correlation has fallen over time.

Possible reasons why women happy
Possible reasons why women ‘women’s liberation’↓happy

  • ↓ social cohesion

  • ↑ anxiety & neuroticism

  • ↑ household risk

  • People in hedonistically good circumstances require more to declare themselves happy

  • Women are now more comfortable with being honest about their true happiness

  • The increased opportunities available mean women require more to declare themselves happy (female suicide rates ↓)

(1) Changes in ideas re female sexual responses ‘women’s liberation’

(2) Changes in social mores, freedoms, expectations and entitlements

(3) Pharmaceutical options

(4) Technological advances

(5) Changes for young and older/old womeninternet/cougar culture/entitlement

(6) 3 influential women

1 changes in ideas re female sexual responses
(1) ‘women’s liberation’Changes in ideas re female sexual responses

How women’s sexuality is seen

Orgasm ‘women’s liberation’

Sexual Excitement/ Tension




Patterns of Sexual ResponseMaster’s and Johnson’s linear modelexcitement/arousal → plateau → orgasm → resolution


Masters EH, et al. Human Sexual Response. Boston, Mass: Little Brown & Co.; 1966.

Lief I. Inhibited sexual desire. Med aspects Hum Sex 1977;7:94-5

Kaplan HS. Disorders of Sexual Desire and Other New Concepts and Techniques in Sex Therapy. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel Publications; 1979.

Patterns of sexual response
Patterns of Sexual Response ‘women’s liberation’

Rosemary Bassoon’s circular model

Basson R. Biopsychosocial models of women’s sexual response: applications to management of ‘desire disorders’. Sexual & Relationship Therapy 2003;18(1):107-115

  • Willingness

  • Interest

  • Arousal

  • Persistence

  • Orgasm

  • Resolution

  • Meaningfulness

Willingness culturally/norm determined

Benefits to women
BENEFITS to women ‘women’s liberation’

  • Societal openness re sexuality

  • ↑scientific research re sexuality

  • ↑ knowledge re sexual function/dysfunction

  • ↑ sexual information

2 changes in social mores freedom expectations and entitlements
(2) Changes in: ‘women’s liberation’ social mores freedom expectations and entitlements

Social changes ‘women’s liberation’

  • Shy inexperienced virgin → entitled, orgasmic (?multi), knowledgeable, experienced

  • Monogamy → sexual freedom with open relationships, greater tolerance of infidelity/affairs, polyamory, group sex, swinging

  • Financial freedom with equal (?) pay, equal education opportunities, pensions

  • Divorce law changes with ‘no blame’ divorces, ability to leave marriages, children

Social changes ‘women’s liberation’

  • ↑female labour force participation → some accommodation to women’s needs/maternity leave, part-time work

  • Acceptability of being a single woman

  • Sex education in schools, availability of information

  • Changes in co-habitation acceptance and laws

Social changes
Social changes ‘women’s liberation’

  • Single parenthood, adoption

  • Abortion legislation

  • Gay liberation – open gay relationships, gay marriage, adoption, reproductive surrogacy

Changes in expectations of relationships
Changes in expectations of relationships ‘women’s liberation’

With the liberation of women from ‘bondage’ in marriage or attachment to a male for validation, the rationale for relationships changed

Western marriages: sexual pleasure and emotional intimacy, personal goals.

Non-western marriages: social, financial, companionship, caring, common family goals & children

Why women have sex rationale for having sex
Why Women have Sex? ‘women’s liberation’Rationale for having sex

Interviewed 1006 women, worldwide about sexual motivation and identified 237 reasons why women have sex.

Women use sex at every stage of the relationship, from luring him into it & “mate poaching”to keeping him “mate guarding”,manipulating him (sex economics), punishing him and making him leave.

Genetic benefits vs resource benefits

Meston, C.M. and Buss, D.M., "Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge". Times Books, 2009

Darwin s view
Darwin’s view ‘women’s liberation’

  • Nature’s economic take on efficient reproduction

    Genetic vs resources sex

  • Dr Christopher Ryan: ‘Sex at Dawn’

    Sex = way to manage complex social networks

    Paternal certainty

    Control of female sexuality

Concept of fidelity
Concept of fidelity ‘women’s liberation’

36 yr old newly married male recently told me

“ I know I’m not going to be faithful. I like

passionate varied sex. I’ve already hooked

up with a secretary at work. “


Informed consent

Role modelling

3 pharmaceutical options
(3) Pharmaceutical options ‘women’s liberation’

  • Oral contraceptive pill

  • HRT

  • PDE5s

OC ‘women’s liberation’

Oral contraceptive pill in the 60’s liberated women from the major horror of pre-marital pregnancy, forced marriage or social calamity, sex and uncontrolled fertility with large families and bodies that had no pelvic structure

Song: If you can’t be with the one you love

Love the one you’re with

Hrt testosterone
HRT/testosterone ‘women’s liberation’

  • Hot flashes 

  • Night sweats 

  • Vaginal dryness, shrinkage

  • A tendency to develop hair on the face

  • A loss of muscle tone in the bladder and urethra 

  • Pelvic floor weakness

  • Skin changes, ↑ or ↓ sensitivity

  • Hair becomes dry and nails more brittle.

  • Sleep disruption

  • Mood swings

  • Sense of smell and taste

PDE5s ‘women’s liberation’

  • Paradigm shift for men – ED

  • What did it do for women

    • Continuing intercourse and sexual intimacy for those who desired it

    • Pressure for sex for those who did not desire it


Trafficking sex industry
‘women’s liberation’Trafficking/sex industry

  • Globalisation

  • Sex tourism

  • Traditionally large % of men who use sex workers are married men & single older men

  • Bought brides

  • Can a man ‘use/commodify’ one woman and yet ‘respect’ another?

While the economy struggles, the sex industry is booming, writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

She had expected a job in a hotel. But when Valentina arrived in Spain two months ago from Romania, the man who helped her get here - a man she had considered her boyfriend - made it clear that the job was on the side of the road.

He threatened to beat her and to kill her children if she did not comply. And so she stood near a roundabout recently, her hair in a greasy ponytail, charging $US40 ($38.80) for intercourse, $US27 for oral sex.

''For me, life is finished,'' she said later that evening, tears running down her face. ''I will never forget that I have done this.''

La Jonquera was once a quiet border town where truckers rested and the French came looking for a deal on hand-painted pottery and leather goods. But these days, prostitution is big business here, as it is elsewhere in Spain, where it is essentially legal.

While the rest of Spain's economy may be struggling, experts say prostitution - almost all of it involving the ruthless trafficking of foreign women - is booming, exploding into public view in small towns and big cities. The police recently rescued a 19-year-old Romanian woman from traffickers who had tattooed on her wrist a bar code and the amount she still owed them: more than $US2500.

In the past, most customers were middle-aged men. But the boom here, experts say, is powered in large part by the desires of young men - many of them travelling in packs for the weekend. ''The young used to go to discos,'' said Francina Vila i Valls, Barcelona's counsellor for women and civil rights. ''But now they go to brothels. It's just another form of entertainment to them.''

There is little reliable data on the subject. The United States State Department's 2010 report on trafficking said 200,000 to 400,000 women worked in prostitution in Spain - 90 per cent were trafficked.

But police officials and advocates say whatever the number of victims, it is growing. Thousands of women are forced to work - often for even lower pay now, because of the economic downturn - everywhere from fancy clubs and private apartments to industrial complexes and lonely country roads. ……….

Trafficking writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

  • Can a young man use a woman as a ‘toy’ and then treat his wife ‘well’

    • Bucks parties

  • What kind of boundaries can he set with his daughter/step daughter ?

  • Can one divide a coin so that one only gets one side?

  • Pde5s women
    PDE5s writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012→ ? women

    • Medicalization of female sexuality ?

    • Is low desire a medical problem? → NO

    • Is low desire a problem? → YES

    • Desire discrepancy has serious consequences

      • Cranky partner/loss of partner

      • Envy of other women

      • Grief over loss of something previously enjoyed

    (4) writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012Technological advances

    • Domestic appliances

      • Sexual vibrators

    • TV

      • Number 96

    • Internet → U-tube, Social networking

    • Mobile phones & apps

      • sexting

    Internet porn
    Internet/PORN writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

    Pornography has become both more mainstream and more hardcore

    Pornography now enjoys unprecedented legitimacy around the world

    Globally, it has an annual profit of US$24.9 billion

    In a 2006 study of 13–16 year olds in Australian schools, 93% of males and 62% of females had seen pornography online

    Fleming, Greentree, Cocotti-Muller, Elias & Morrison 2006

    Internet writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

    Widely accessible, anonymous and unregulated

    Sexual abuse and predation

    Addictive behaviours

    Educated white married man → fantasy

    “anal sex with a black woman with huge breasts”

    Girls young women
    Girls/young women writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

    • Girls sexualised at younger ages

    • Normalising of adult sexual behaviour

    • Normalising of ‘pornified’ adult sexual behaviour

    • Normalising of selling self through sex

    • Getting ‘fame’ through selling yourself sexually

    Texting writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

    • 29 year old female with good university degree from wealthy family from 30 year old barrister from top legal firm at 2am.

    • “Can’t stop thinking of fucking you up the arse again. Going to come over now.”

      Long term consequences of cyberspace stuff ??

    5 changes for older old women internet cougar culture entitlement
    (5) Changes for older/old women writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012internet/cougar culture/entitlement

    Age disparity in sexual relationships

    Whether these relationships are accepted?

    Accepted if man older in most cultures

    What counts as a significant difference in age has varied over time; andvaries over cultures,different legal systems,and different ethical systems.

    The Unequal Marriage by Vasili Pukirev1862


    80 yo with 23 yo Filipino lover

    Male escorts

    Cougar culture

    Exciting times
    Exciting times writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

    Women’s ability to have sex

    • Without societal punishment

    • The kind of sex we want

    • At times/situations of our choosing

    • Confident of our sexual knowledge and skills

    • Able to control the outcomes

    • Entitlement/expectation to good lovers

      What about the costs?

    Confused society
    Confused society writes Suzanne Daley. SMH 8.4.2012

    • Confusion about what is normal

    • Confusion about what is acceptable

    • Confusion about what is healthy

    • How to get the best for oneself sexually

    3 women influential in women s sexuality in australia
    3 women influential in women’s sexuality in Australia

    • Dr Rosie King

    • Bettina Arndt

    • Melinda Tankard Reist

    Dr rosie king
    Dr Rosie King in Australia

    Comes from a medical background and has self trained into sex therapist, educator and author with over 30 years of clinical experience.

    Has written 2 books specifically applicable to women

    Bettina arndt journalist
    Bettina Arndt: journalist in Australia

    One of Australia's first sex therapists, social commentator and educator

    • Forum Magazine, 1973 - 1981

    • Private Lives,1986

    • All About Us,1989

    • Taking Sides,1995

    • The Sex Diaries, 2009

      “Just do it”

    • What Men Want – in bed, 2010

    Melinda Tankard Reist in Australia- anti-porn crusader, pro-life feminist, anti sexualisation of girls, anti- raunch culture

    The pornification of culture

    strip clubs, sexting, role pornography plays in shaping the advice proffered by sex therapists, pornography that uses violence, abuse and exploitation, the ubiquity of porn on the net perverting our experience of sexuality.

    She argues that all porn is degrading because uses another person as an object for sexual gratification. That any depiction of women as service stations for men and boys is dangerous.

    She also believes that abortion is a form of

    ‘violence against women’.

    Reist’s brand of feminism has been described as “one that wants to protect women, whether it be from men, from sexuality, or something else”.


    Advertising in Australia

    Pussy drinks ? pornification


    On the net

    In my face without my permission – no choice

    Offensive value

    Every system in society suits some people
    Every system in society suits some people in Australia


    treated badly → be good to me → great sex partner


    fragile libido → accept reality → do it


    fragile → too much/too bad → protect

    Mills and boon romances
    Mills and Boon/romances in Australia

    Searching for romantic true love with “traditional” values

    Least romantic: declaring one’s affection /relationship status on facebook

    Most women still hope to meet their partner in traditional ways

    Don’t want sex to be expected on a date

    Harlequin Enterprises(Australia)P/L conducted 1200 internet interviews 27/1-4/2 2012 on women 18-55yrs.

    Thank you
    Thank you in Australia


    Margaret Redelman