One Sunday night in the early ’80s, Bettina caught a taxi into the city. The cab driver was a chatty bloke and asked her where she was going. She explained she was off to give an after-dinner speech. “Oh, really,” he replied. “What do you talk about?” She explained that she was a sex therapist and was planning to tell them about some of the adventures she had experienced in her line of work. “I suppose you’re a bit of a Bettina Arndt,” he responded.
Not just a bit, but the real thing. It came as a great surprise to Bettina that after ten years working in the media talking about sex, she’d become generic, a brand of her own – rather like soap powder.
“Banned for two years from live television and radio”
It had been an amazing decade. The highlights of her career in sex included not just having her own talk-back radio show and being banned for two years from live television and radio but becoming the person that everyone came to for advice about sex. Like the nurse who called from a spinal unit in a major Sydney hospital asking what to do about the ward full of young men who kept asking her if they would ever get an erection again. And the mother of the intellectually impaired boy who’d been caught masturbating at his school.
As a twenty three year old, such issues were daunting but Bettina quickly learnt that people came to her because they had nowhere else to go. She travelled regularly overseas to meet sex researchers in the US and Europe who were just beginning to find answers to some of these puzzles. She taught medical students, doctors and other professionals and talked endlessly about this fascinating subject to audiences all over Australia and overseas.
By the 1980s she’d had enough of a good thing. She gave up sex -professionally speaking – and moved onto writing and talking about broader social issues and particularly the changing relationships between men and women. As a respected social commentator she was invited onto government advisory committees covering issues from family law to childcare and ageing.
But after nearly twenty years writing and talking about social issues, she returned to her first love and wrote an internationally best-selling book about sex. The Sex Diaries looks at how couples manage their sex supply, dealing with their ups and downs in sexual desire. Ninety-eight couples kept diaries for her, writing about their daily negotiations over sex. Bettina followed this up with an exciting diary project on why sex means so much to men leading to her latest book, What Men Want.
Bettina now spends most of her time on the speaking circuit, travelling across the county keeping audiences enthralled with her stories. She writes for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines and appears regularly on television and radio. She’s also involved in an exciting new venture – she’s working as a dating coach, giving advice to men and women on online dating, helping with writing their profiles and increasing their chances of meeting the right match.