What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire By Daniel Bergner

A book review disguised as a scene at a publishing house

Scene: Conference room at a publishing house, 4 people in varying hipster style attire including one college age male in dorky sweater vest; Starbucks cups, Odwalla Juice containers and iPads/iPhones/MacBooks strewn on the table.

Editor: We’ve got a book by New York Times Magazine writer Daniel Bergner about the current science behind female sexuality and desire, and there are personal anecdotes interspersed with interviews and discussions with scientists. There isn’t anything shocking in here for anyone who reads these kinds of tomes with any regularity, but there is a solid base of information, well thought out interviews, both historical and current perspectives, plus enough edginess to draw people in. What we need is a catchy name.

Assistant one: I think we might want to indicate that there is some significant questioning about the assumptions people make about women’s sexuality. I mean, a lot of the book is intended to show that the evolutionary assumptions that have been made to sound like facts are actually hypotheses. I, personally, always thought that they’d proven the “man needs to spread his seed” explanation for male sexuality.

Assistant two: You’re an idiot. Have you ignored all other anthropological theories? Or maybe your misogyny runs so deep that there was no consideration of the role of female desire?

Assistant one: Easy there, Ms. Always-Bash-the-Patriarchy.

Editor: (Rolls eyes at immature employees) There is some discussion about the difference between what has been proven and what has been assumed. I thought that a little more focus on the cultural impacts of our assumptions BEYOND just how they have impacted and even prevented the deepening of studies into female sexuality would have been good.

Assistant two: I think there are a lot of people (sideways glance) that clearly need the basics first.

Assistant one: I don’t appreciate the microaggressions. Or are those macro?

Editor: If only either of you could come up with something clever AND on topic, that would be swell.

Assistant one: Ha! Swell! Get it?

Assistant two: OK, points for that one. But maybe we should just call it Swell?

Editor: Um, keep thinking. (Turns to intern, realizes he doesn’t remember his name) Could you please make a list on the whiteboard?

Intern: What color marker should I use?

Assistant two: It doesn’t matter. Just write down Swell. And how about “Hoping Against Hope”? Since there were so many women in the book who talked about how they just keep praying that science comes up with a cure for the reduction in their desire as they age but wish to stay in their monogamous relationship.

Editor: We can write it down, but that sounds depressing. How about “Science and Sexuality: a Match Made in Heaven”? Start throwing things out…

Assistant one: “Uncharted Depths of Desire.” “Women Want to Want It.”

Assistant two: “Hide and Seek: The Search for the Secrets of Sexuality.” Or “Of Mice and Women: Scientists Seek Sex Secrets.”

Editor: Excessive alliteration. And those aren’t going to make people want to buy the book. Maybe there’s something about the intersection between how people feel about their sexuality and what the science has shown?

Assistant one: A lot of the scientists emphasized that their work is really all new, that they are explorers in a new and previously denigrated field. It is really an adventure for them.

Assistant two: “Female Sexuality: Science to the Rescue.”

Assistant one: That’s pretty good. Maybe with the tagline: “Science finally tells us what women want.”

Intern: (partially to himself) What do women want?

(Silence. All turn to look at him. Editor nods and smiles.)

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