Think women aren't as sexual as men? Guess again, expert says

(Photographee.eu/Fotolia)

(Photographee.eu/Fotolia)

Simone Paget, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

For centuries we’ve been spoon-fed the belief that women simply aren’t as sexual as men. It’s long been thought that male sexuality is driven by a need to procreate and be with as many different partners as possible, whereas, women have been painted as more desiring of monogamy and emotional intimacy. However, a new book by American author Daniel Bergner, blows this misconception wide open.

In his book What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, Bergner argues that the idea that women are “biologically programmed” to be monogamous is a “myth” that has been perpetuated for too long. Bergner brings together various studies about female sexuality, revealing that when it comes to sex, women can be just as animalistic as their male counterparts and that their desires are actually a lot more “wild” and unpredictable.

Bergner highlights a study carried out by Dr. Meredith Chivers - a leading investigator in sexuality research at Queen’s University, which was designed to determine what really turns women on. Chivers wired up a plethysmograph, a miniature bulb and light sensor, to women’s genitals and then showed them a series of images to monitor that made them become aroused. As Bergner explains, “The results reveal that women get turned on by all sorts of videos. Straight women get turned on by naked women exercising; lesbian women get turned on by gay male porn; the sight of apes having sex is a turn on.” Whereas, when men underwent the same process, the images they responded to were much more predictable.

However, although women were aroused by more unpredictable stimuli, they are also more likely to be in denial about what turned them on. Bergner links this to the widespread stigma that still surrounds female sexuality. As a single, 30-something woman who often explains her raging hormones as, “I want to have sex with everyone and no one all at the same time,” I admit that who and what I’m attracted to can vary a lot. However, when I was in my twenties, I was much less forthcoming about my sexuality out of fear that if I revealed what kind and how much sex I really wanted to have, someone would deem it “too much.”

As Bergner puts it, “Though we live in a culture that is, in many ways, sexually unrestrained, we are still uneasy, even fearful, about women's desire. This goes back eons…. It is somehow overwhelming to confront the realities of female sexuality.” As he goes on to explain, “Sexuality is a potentially anarchic force and it is comforting to believe that - innately - half the population, the female half, is at least comparatively civilised when it comes to sex.” Throughout history, this way of thinking has also provided a convenient justification for the ongoing repression of female sexuality as a way of maintaining the male-dominated status quo.

Although Bergner readily admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, his research draws attention to the fact that human sexuality is way more diverse than most of us give it credit for and that we could all benefit from an altering of perspective.

 

What drives women

Bergner said Chivers' study also busts the myth that women’s sexualities are driven by the desire for emotional intimacy. In fact, the study found that the plethysmograph “flat-lined” when the women were shown images of their long-term lovers. Seeing someone familiar was a “lust-killer'however images of an attractive stranger were a turn on.


Videos

Photos