Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What do women want?

The sexy blogosphere is dogpiling on this NYT article so I figure I'll join the party.

This article is about scientists. (Well, psychologists...) Being less scientific, or possibly just poor and lazy, I only use study groups of one. So I can tell you that what women want is to drive an ambulance at top speed on an off-roading track with lights and siren going and "Livin' On A Prayer" blasting. OHHH, WE'RE HALFWAY THERE! WAAAA-OHHHHH, LIVIN' ON A PRAYER!

Oh, what do women want sexually? I want to do that naked.

But according to the researcher Marta Meana in this article, what women want is to be desired. She believes that our sexual desire is triggered by being desired.
“Really,” she said, “women’s desire is not relational, it’s narcissistic” — it is dominated by the yearnings of “self-love,” by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need.
I feel that this is utter stinkin' bullshit. I propose an alternate hypothesis: that women get horny the same way human beings do.

Most of the evidence Meana uses to support this theory seems to consist of generalizations with a heapin' helping of forced interpretation.

Porn and other "sexy" art displays more women than men? This must mean that women are turned on by thinking of themselves as the sexy naked woman!
Alternate possibility: Porn is made by straight men for straight men.

Women fantasize about receiving pleasure more than giving pleasure? This must mean that women are sexually narcissistic!
Alternate possibility: Receiving pleasure kicks ass. (Also, we do? I fantasize about giving pleasure lots!)

Women fantasize about rape? This must mean that we imagine the rapist is overcome with lust for us!
Alternate possibility: We want it to be rough and painful and wrong because we are dirty, dirty girls. (Also, this sort of goes completely against the previous point there.)

Women don't get as aroused after a long time in a relationship? This must mean that they don't feel their partner is actively choosing them each time!
Alternate possibility: He makes the same weird snuffly noise every damn time.

But what really offends me is this portion, and the suspicion I have that deep down she really believes this:
“What women want is a real dilemma,” she said. Earlier, she showed me, as a joke, a photograph of two control panels, one representing the workings of male desire, the second, female, the first with only a simple on-off switch, the second with countless knobs.

Goddamnit, this "Woman is a mystery" bullshit has got to cut the fuck out. Woman is human. Oh, and male desire isn't "hurr show 'im half a tit and 'es off to the races" either; ask any woman who's been married twenty years, not to mention countless younger people going through all sorts of sexual ups and downs and hangups. The idea that men are literally up for sex at any opportunity is a hoary joke, not something a sexual researcher should take literally. We're all complicated and neurotic and contradictory, man and woman alike. Fuck "what women want"; the real unanswered question is what the hell anybody wants.

Anyway, I can tell you what I want, other than the ambulance thing:

I want nerdy boys, I want pretty boys, I want boys with muscles and I want boys with spiky hair. I want gawky teenagers (eighteen! eighteen!) and I want Silver Foxes. I want boys with tattoos and I want boys with glasses. I want kinky boys and I want shy boys and I want romantic boys and more than anything I want horny boys.

And yes, I do want them to want me, but only so I can fuck the shit out of them.


  1. I cannot agree more with this post.

    I feel like too many people make female sexuality far more complicated than it is. Show me boobs. I get turned on. Show me a penis. I get turned on. Show me a guy or a girl with a nice body. I get turned on. So yeah, none of those complicated knobs for me. I've got the male-sterotypical on/off switch. And I've DEFINATELY got a vagina. Is this abnormal? I don't think so but people tell me it is. And studies like this just perpetuate that BS.

  2. while you (not you, personally, Holly) can make some generalizations about women, men, and their respective sexuality, what you're doing is just that - generalizing.

    There is still this weird notion women, like men, are *people*

    who'd'a thunk it!

    Everyone has their own kink, and that's a "Good Thing" (tm) It would be awfully boring if there were a simple formula for everyone - something that the PUA's try to do.

  3. I wasn't too terribly impressed with Meana either. Way too much of the just-so in her approach.

    I found the article in general interesting just because the research is interesting, but the journalism is terrible as usual, especially so in the headline.

  4. The problem with these studies is that you can't separate the subjects from their conditioning, so unless you're working with "Nell" the results are always going to reflect societal norms in some way. The study says that female "sexual desire is triggered by being desired." I think everyone is turned on by being desired, it's just that women are taught that that's really important, and men are taught that that's not manly. The complication comes from all the miseducation, not from our genders or biology.

  5. I'm with Ms. Page. Being desired is a huge turn-on for me despite my dangly bits, and if our culture inculcates fucked-up sexuality in women, most women are going to have fucked-up sexuality.

  6. And then there's those of us gals who read a cheesy line like “being desired is the orgasm” and think well, YEAH. I feel frustrated with my own desire sometimes because it feels like there's nothing at the solid at the core of it.

    The article still made me want to tear my hair out.

  7. Hi Holly,

    I want to apologize for not dropping by and saying how much I think you're just the bee's knees of sex blogging.

    Also the queen of Cosmocking. Holy cow this was a great takedown! Slow pitch the stupid assertion; follow up with the pragmatic alternative. Sounds easier than it is and you're just an ace at it.

    "I only use study groups of one..." Bwahahaha! What cracks me up is your margin of error really isn't that much larger than the sample sizes "real" researchers sometimes use to get their results... *and* you manage to be more plausible.


  8. Holly-
    I really like the ambulance idea. Have you considered writing up a grant proposal? You'd have to have quantifiable results; perhaps you could be using a bio-feedback buttplug while you drive the ambulance. (NYT article: Women Like Going Over Bumps) Then again, I'm sure Bon Jovi would probably want royalties.

    I read the original NYT article, and immediately smelled bullshit. That type of experiment, trying to quantify human sexuality, always seems fishy to me. Like the right honorable Johnny Cash said, 'put the screws on me, I'm gonna screw right out from under you, that's what'. Please don't put me in a box. Unless, umm... you know, it gets you off.

    I really truly believe that underneath our skin, and despite the differences in plumbing, people are more similar than we are different. And that people are basically horny. The details vary -you may like being tied up and slapped around, and I may like it up the butt from a hot chica with a strap-on- but the idea is the same. Of course nothing is ever simple, and there's a ton of social conditioning slathered on top of our sexuality like icing on a pound cake. The idea that there is a big fat 'what men want' and 'what women want' seems inherently false to me. And kind of insulting too.

    On the other hand, if you get off on watching bonobo porn with a plethysmograph up your coochie, more power to you!

  9. LabRat - "Just-so story," that's exactly the phrase I was looking for. She certainly seems to be molding her evidence to her thesis rather than vice versa.

    Anonymous - I've gotta admit, I don't know what you're saying. "Nothing solid at the core" is a little too metaphorical for me--why is your desire less real than anyone else's?

  10. All your points are valid, but I'd like to add one thing:
    Women can have the on/off sexuality "just like men," but men also get turned on by desire "just like women."

    A lot of these broad pronouncements seem to come from people trying to explain what "everybody knows" about this or that. This one sounds like an attempt to explain the mysterious phenomenon of women who don't want to have sex with men they say they want--because they "don't feel sexy" themselves. It's probably more complicated than that.

  11. Is woman human? I 'm very disappointed, I despise this hateful, genocidal, war mongering species.

  12. ArisMUC - You're free to leave the human race if you don't like it, buddy. Me, I'd rather see some hope and try to be a good person, but you have fun there being better than everyone else, must be a kick.