Sex Re: Women: We Have No Sexual Orientation
posted by April 10 at 12:23 PMon
One reason the NYT’s piece on sexuality is, as Jen pointed out, so muddled and confusing, is that scientists are just beginning to study female sexuality. They really don’t know much about it yet. Thus we get paragraphs like the following:
What was the feminine equivalent of an erection anyway? Was it vaginal swelling and lubrication, or something else entirely? Women are generally smaller and less muscular than men. What might the feeling of being physically threatened do to enhance or hamper a woman’s sexual appetite?
Elsewhere, the story says researchers were confused by women’s failure to adhere to culturally approved norms—the widespread belief, for example, that women can’t get turned on when they’re sad, or that women shy away from images of genitals (and thus don’t like porn), or that women don’t care what men look like.
Conventional wisdom has it that a woman’s libido is stifled by unhappiness, anxiety or anger, but the survey showed that about 25 percent of women used sex to lift them out of a bad mood or to resolve a marital spat.
Women also differed in the importance they accorded a man’s physical appearance, with many expressing a comparatively greater likelihood of being aroused by evidence of talent or intelligence — say, while watching a man deliver a great speech.
Well, what of it? The Times observes these behaviors, but fails to reach any conclusions. These are not minor points—female arousal, for example, is currently assessed based on vaginal swelling and lubrication (a byproduct of male sex research that assesses arousal based on whether a man gets an erection). If it’s “something else entirely,” perhaps the Times’s other conclusions—such as the assumption that men simply have “higher sex drives”—might also prove untrue. (And don’t even get me started on the “women-just-don’t-want-sex” myth, which asserts that women lack sexual desire while ignoring the many cultural factors that might make it so.*)
The same thing goes for all the researchers’ other “surprising” conclusions. Maybe the fact that women are turned on by different things than men doesn’t speak to our mysterious. Sphinxlike complexity and otherness, but the fact that researchers are asking the wrong questions. Perhaps the real story here is that researchers are finally getting around to studying women’s sexuality—and the surprise isn’t that what turns women on is “different,” but that no one’s ever bothered asking us.
* I think this also speaks to the researchers Jen mentions who say men are “stubborn” about the type of sex they want to pursue, while women are more “flexible.” When you go through your entire life being told your sexual desires don’t matter, and that you need to be flexible and easygoing in all things, including but not limited to sex, it might follow that you’d be more pliant in the sack as well. Then again, maybe us girls are all just bi.