What women want: Adventures in female desire

2013-11-10 10:00

‘Men go for quantity, women go for quality.”

That’s how a biology teacher summed up sex between the sexes during a class in high school.

It’s this notion that makes us forgive cheating men, while holding women to higher moral sexual standards.

It’s the reason Zwelinzima Vavi seems stupefied by the outcome of his sex-in-the-office antics – “Hawu, these people, I said I’m sorry, mos. Don’t they know I’m only a man?”

It’s also the kind of theory that American author Daniel Bergner is debunking in his book What Do Women Want: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire.

In a nutshell, the book, which was released here this month, rubbishes the notion that women are more prone to monogamy, while men are compelled by nature to sow their seed.

On the contrary, the book says, the “inherent range and innate power [of female sexuality] is an underestimated and constrained force”.

In simpler terms, in this book, which for a text about sex sometimes reads more dry than a?… (I’ll leave you to use your imagination), we like to do it as much as men do. It’s just that no one likes to hear it much – least of all women themselves.

Bergner goes to great lengths to prove this and he crams the book full of facts. He hangs out in labs watching rats have sex, videos of monkeys going at it and women masturbating while they are being monitored for arousal.

And he finds that not only is it untrue that “female desire thrives on emotional connection”, it is actually dulled by monogamy.

Not only that women love to watch porn as much as men, but unlike men, who tend to react to pornographic images of sex that reflect their own tastes (gay sex if they are gay and heterosexual sex if straight), women will get off on anything (men with women, women with women, men with men, monkey with monkey).

If you are interested in female sexuality, you will know that these are not entirely new findings.

And your own experiences will tell you, as they did me in adulthood, that a woman’s sexual appetite is much broader and deeper than your teacher taught you.

Much more interesting is what’s revealed about what is raging in the minds of women, and that’s why you will want to read this sometimes-laborious book.

The rich, kinky and sometimes-scary fantasies wives and girlfriends depend on to bring themselves to orgasm.

Thoughts she finds hard admitting even to herself that make men’s sexual thoughts sound vanilla.

The same reasons 50 Shades of Grey was such a hit and why research is finding that women are also ferocious watchers of internet porn.

On my very first nerve-wracking night hosting a show on Talk Radio 702 this year, an elderly woman called in sounding as nervous as I did.

She desperately wanted advice from the listeners.

She lived in an old age home and had a vibrator that she enjoyed very much, she said.

Were there men at the home, I wondered?

Yes, but she was not interested in that, she said dismissively.

She was calling to ask whether it was okay for her to have a vibrator because she was haunted by the idea that her children might find it in her drawer when she died.

What would they think?

You will be dead, I said, what does it matter? But she would not have it.

She wanted to know if what she was doing was okay by the public’s standards.

This was a part of her life that she never wanted revealed – that at her age she might have sexual desires that went against the norm of wanting a man in her bed.

It’s also not a new theory that something about society is repelled by the idea of a woman’s open sexuality.

It’s made uncomfortable by any kind of woman running politically, socially and sexually “rampant”, or against the norm.

I mean, who will take care of the children if we let women do what they will?

It depresses me further that in this society specifically, we only talk about women and sex in relation to rape and HIV – our susceptibility to both, because it’s such a huge problem. Or in magazines, how we can use it to ensnare and keep a man.

Female sexuality hardly ever stands firmly on its own and even women find it more comfortable to subdue their own fires.

As Bergner says at the end, none of the research he’s brought forth in the book is a definitive stamp on female sexuality.

The subject is more complicated than that.

But it’s nice to talk about women enjoying sex, for a change. to occasionally have it out in the open.

»?Follow me on Twitter @joonji

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