What does a new form of "female Viagra" have in common with the book Fifty Shades of Grey? Both may be able to prime your brain for toe-curling sex. That’s according to Daniel Bergner, whose new book, What Do Women Want? explores the current research about female sexuality and turns long-held notions about women's sex drive inside out. He reveals why women may be more promiscuous and more aggressive sexually while being less inclined than men toward monogamy.
Prevention: Why did you, as a man, choose the topic of female sexuality?
Daniel Bergner: I stumbled into the lab of a researcher, and I discovered a world of research — but it's a small world. It's amazing when we're talking about something so central to the psyche [as sex] that we're hesitant to explore it, to look at it. The reason I chose this subject is that I believe sexuality is at the core of who we are as human beings.
There are many reversals of conventional wisdom in your book. What did you find most surprising?
There's this elaborate fable we've been told about the major differences between male and female sexuality, that men are designed to spread their genetic material, while women are naturally inclined toward monogamy. And there's very little evidence to support it.
Most of us probably aren't ready to embrace some of the extreme measures couples took in the book, like swinging vacations. How can less adventurous women improve their sex lives?
I think there are two things couples can do. First, they need bravery and candor. Our reluctance to talk about our desires with our partners runs deep. We make ourselves very vulnerable to being hurt when we share our desires. Second, and therapists are willing to talk about this more and more, is the fact that emotional closeness may not spark desire. In fact, the opposite may be true. Instilling distance is probably better. That means recognizing that our love for one another is an everyday uncertainty. It's the mindset of distance that’s the most important.
The book touched on at least one monogamous couple who seemed able to sustain desire in spite of their years together. Can you speculate why?
There's a chapter in the book about one married couple that has kept their desire burning for years, and those 10 pages are really a model for monogamy. They maintained a sense of otherness, of distance. The woman revealed that leading up to and sometimes during sex, she fantasizes about men other than her husband. Keep reading...
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