Apparently Everything We Know About Women & Sex Is Wrong

Women and Sexual Desire

A wife is just as likely to cheat as her husband. Women want sex, lots of sex, with strangers. Women want fresh meat, beefcake, hunky young things, and they want the exotic—they want sex by the boudoir-ful (two, three or more), and they want it in every conceivable private and public location.

Surprised? Most in the mainstream were. And that’s why Daniel Bergner’s new book, What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire (Ecco, 2013), is being dissected on every late-night talk show, is the topic of a New York Times Magazine cover story, and has been excerpted in Vogue. Because it turns on its head everything we’ve ever believed—everything society has taught us to believe — about female sexuality.

How did we get it all wrong for so long? Bergner says that throughout history our culture (men and women) has been too uncomfortable with the notion of sexually unconstrained women to allow them to be anything but scorned (remember The Scarlet Letter?). But, as it turns out, women may be no better suited to monogamy—the biggest sexual buzz kill of them all, according to Bergner—than men.

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Bergner backs up these juicy new findings with plenty of scientific data from sexologists and behavioral experts, and even includes examples from the animal kingdom (orgasmic rats! humping monkeys!), but the crux of the book are the revelations from real women who say they know what they want and are hell-bent on getting it. We talked to Daniel Bergner about his provocative revelations, his subjects’ quest for desire and how men had better sit up and take notice.

YourTango: What do you see as the barriers against women achieving sexual satisfaction?
Daniel Bergner: We've long been taught that while men are programmed by evolution to spread their seed, to be promiscuous, women are, relatively speaking, driven to seek out one good man. So women are supposed to be more naturally monogamous. What a comforting theory for men! The evidence behind this theory is flimsy, yet, it is part of how we tell women that their desire, their sexuality, is somehow less essential than sexuality is for men.

This is a fundamental barrier to female satisfaction. The science I write about is a kind of wake-up call. As one researcher, Meredith Chivers, says about her work, “I’m shaking the foundations of the way we think about women’s sexuality.” She’s not being egotistical. She’s right. She is. And through her work, through the work of other scientists, and through stories of everyday women, what I do in my book is turn our misguided assumptions upside down.   

YT: In the light of your findings about women’s sex drives being as strong as men’s, how do you recommend women change their approach to dating and mating?
DB: We men are going to have to get comfortable listening to women talk candidly about what they want. If we can’t listen, even when the listening gets a little threatening, we’re going to miss out on some great sex. And women, you’re going to have to take chances in going after what you want, whether it’s an object of desire or something specific in bed. 

More juicy content from YourTango:

YT: Do you believe that women are less connected to the sensations of their bodies than men?
DB: There’s some evidence to support this, yes. The question still remains whether this degree of disconnection is hardwired or whether it’s the result of society teaching women a certain discomfort with, or denial of, their physical selves.

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YT: How do you think women can benefit from being sexually unconstrained?
DB: Just the fact that you’re asking this question says something about the different ways we treat female and male sexuality. Would you ask this about men? Women could benefit this same way men could—they might have better sex.

YT: Do you believe that distance rather than intimacy between partners is the key to great sex?
DB: Let me talk about uncertainty rather than distance. Lots of us think we want unconditional love from our partners, that we want certainty, one hundred percent security. But in pursuing this, one thing you will almost surely lose is eros. Our partners are not our parents. Don’t treat them as parents. Don’t expect them to love you no matter what. Earn their love—and their lust—every day. You’ll have a lot better sex—and in the end feel a lot closer—if you think this way.

YT: If more and more women begin to behave like men, i.e., to seek out casual sex, rather than focus on relationship building, do you think eventually society will embrace the notion and stop branding sexually aggressive women as sluts?
DB: I hope so. The fact that my kids still refer to the reality of slut-shaming and that there’s no male equivalent, no stud-shaming, is a stark reminder that girls and boys are raised very differently when it comes to sex. This has all kinds of stifling consequences, even in our society, which can appear so sexually unrestrained. I hope that my book pulls back a societal veil. I hope that the stories I tell of individual women, like Isabel, who’s trying to decide whether to marry the handsome, adoring boyfriend she’s lost her lust for, will lead women and men into a more honest conversation about how desire works in all of us.

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