So women's brains and bodies are not aroused by the same things. But what does that mean? And do these differences arise from innate or cultural causes? In an upcoming paper quoted in the Times, Chivers gives an evolutionary explanation:
To reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring.
The other two sexologists have different takes. Lisa Diamond believes that women's sexuality is much more flexible than is generally understood, and that women are more turned on by emotional intimacy. Marta Meana works on the theory that female lust hinges on narcissism—that is, being desired.
The piece offers a fascinating glimpse into research on female arousal, but ultimately doesn’t offer answers. In the final paragraphs the author wonders,
How many [studies] could be done by all the sexologists in the world who focus on female desire, whether they were wiring women with plethysmographs or mapping the activity of their brains in fM.R.I. scanners or fitting them with goggles or giving them questionnaires or following their erotic lives for years?... Could any conclusion encompass the erotic drives of even one woman?
We don't know the answer, but it certainly makes for good reading. Click here for the full story at the New York Times.