Apparently Everything We Know About Women & Sex Is Wrong

Women and Sexual Desire

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Bergner's shocking new theories about the female libido.

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. 

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