April 2005, Australian Women’s Weekly

The sex life of the modern forty-something woman is one of the world’s great practical jokes. She finally knows what gives her sexual pleasure and has the confidence to ask for it only to find that she’s too tired and busy to bother. No wonder we like watching television shows like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City. They’re like those home renovation shows where you get to watch someone do all the things you’d love to get around to. Only, instead of watching someone make a quilt or stencil the walls in the sun room, you’re watching women who have managed to put on lip stick, brush their hair and actually have sex!

“Oh that looks nice honey, we must get around to that one day. Would you like a cup of tea?” Am I overstating it to say that the sexually fulfilled forty- something woman is going the way of the Hairy Nosed Wombat - once plentiful, but now only existing in small colonies in remote parts of Australia? Maybe not.

Just last month ( February ) the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward said that Australia must have a national debate to arrest an epidemic of broken relationships and a plummeting birth rate . The problem? Research shows that women are doing 90 per cent of child-care tasks and 70 per cent of all family work. Many are doing “triple shifts” as they juggle paid employment, children and – the big one for the forty-somethings – ageing parents. And what’s one of the first “luxuries” to be sacrificed? Sex.

If you’re like me (one of those women who is in her forties with young children), your libido can probably be expressed with the complex equation : Free time + energy + privacy - kilos = desire. And, I’ll admit, I’m one of the lucky ones with no major money worries and a stay at home husband who I reckon is the sexiest bloke in the world! It’s just that by the time I get to bed I’m thinking : Have I got enough bread for the lunches in the morning? I must pay that power bill. Does my black suit need dry cleaning? Does his black suit need dry cleaning? We’ve got to reply to that party invitation. Oh, the rates, I have to pay the rates. I should do more exercise. What have I eaten today? The rego’s due on my car.Look at that cobweb on the ceiling.What will I make for dinner tomorrow night? I should defrost that chicken.I must ring Mum.I’ve got to send back that permission form for the school excursion.Have I got any fruit for the lunches in the morning?

In the meantime I know my husband’s thinking: Jeez I could go a bit of sex right now. But I don’t want to bother her. I know she’s very tired. Maybe on the weekend. And when the magic does finally happen I also know what our kids are thinking: What’s that sound? Mummy and Daddy are giggling. I’ll bet they’re watching cartoons.I might just go and see what’s going on. Wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun! No wonder it gets easier and easier to watch sex on TV or pick up an erotic book and retreat into a private fantasy world of fast, no obligation, hard bodied sexual encounter. But in no time at all the sexual conversation between a couple can stop and you become as awkward as two room mates trying to negotiate sex for the first time.

It’s pretty well documented that a woman’s libido is quite a different animal from a man’s. We like the slow burn that comes from shared intimacies throughout the day. The suggestive whisper, the sly hand up the back of the skirt, the nuzzle of the neck and murmured appreciations. We’re still puzzled that a man can seem to show no interest in sex until he gets into bed and says “how about it?”And, for reasons we don’t even fully understand ourselves, we can be turned on by a man stacking the dishwasher or folding the clothes. His expression of care for us evokes tender feelings of love which lead to erotic thoughts.

The same just can’t be said of blokes .The sight of a wardrobe full of freshly laundered and ironed shirts or a waxed floor doesn’t turn him on at all. In fact research shows that in the majority of cases where divorce is instigated by women , it’s housework which is the sticking point. A woman will take her resentment over wet towels left on the bathroom floor with her into bed. So, what’s the solution? Given the restraints of time and energy, should we start thinking more like men, or should they start thinking more like us?

In truth it’s a bit of both . If there’s a message we would like to send to our blokes it’s that sharing the housework not only gives us more time and energy, it shows that you respect us, and we think that’s really sexy. And it’s simple - if you want more time in the bedroom, fill out that permission form for the school excursion yourself. And we’d also like you to know that in the midst of all this ceaseless activity we lose sight of our own attractiveness and our confidence. We need you to keep reminding us that we are gorgeous, desirable women. For our own part, we gals have to listen to what our men are telling us. When they say: “Come and sit with me on the couch and leave the dishes until later.” Leave ‘em. When they say: “ I love your round tummy and saggy boobs.” Believe ‘em.

We’re told that men think about sex a lot. We have to start leaving more room to think about it too . If we can set our minds to achieve anything we want these days, why not put “more sex” on the top of the list rather than at the bottom? Let’s face it girls, we know how to get more sex if we really want to. We’re in our forties now. We’re good at this stuff. Why not start by reclaiming the “trollop within”? For my own part I wrote a sexy book which my husband read over my shoulder. There’s nothing like asking your man to road test your latest chapter to see if the erotic bits actually work. I’m pleased to say they did. I’m now working on a sequel!