That’s the story I keep hearing from women, despite the cultural narrative to the contrary
Let me start off by saying that, despite the title, I am well aware that not much can be really painted with such a broad brush. All kinds of people want all kinds of things, sometimes more than one thing at a time. This is called being a human being. However, I keep hearing from women who are looking for good sex, and men who are looking for emotional connection — something that is in direct contravention of the expected norms based on the stories that we tell about them in our American culture.
One woman told me recently, “We’re polyamorous, but I’m primarily interested in sex. My husband wants to have relationships.” I hear versions of this same thing all the time.
There is a very old and widespread story that men are primarily interested in sex and women are primarily interested in relationships. Men “allow themselves to become domesticated” in order to get regular sex and women consent to sex in order to have the benefits of being in a stable relationship. But is that really true beyond my anecdotal evidence to the contrary?
When sex researcher, Dr. Meredith Chivers measured sexual responses to various visual stimuli in men and women, straight men responded most strongly to male/female sexual images as well as female/female ones. Straight women, however, responded to anything and everything, including images of bonobos getting it on.
It seems obvious that men, women, and non-binary people all want and benefit from both companionship as well as sexual expression. Humans are a highly social species and we all want inter-relatedness, emotional bonding and unless asexual, sexual connection. However, recent research indicates that contrary to the old stories, women are just as sexual as men, and depending on how you interpret Dr. Chiver’s findings, perhaps even a little bit more so.
This is amusing to me, since up until a couple of hundred years ago, it was a given that women were the much more carnal gender and men were warned to beware of their licentiousness. Science writer, Natalie Angier talks about “the multiple sheaths of compromise and constraint” that cloak and contort female sexuality with societal expectations. We’ve bought into the relatively recent propaganda so thoroughly that it keeps many women strangers to ourselves and our own libidos
Some of this research on the true nature of female sexuality has focused on women who have sex outside of already established relationships, such as extra-marital affairs. Despite a strong negative view of infidelity culture-wide, female infidelity rates in the US are on par with those of men. Of the women who were studied, primarily they were looking to keep their existing emotional attachment, but also looking for better sexual fulfillment.
“The women I studied went on the [Ashley Madison] site. Created a profile. Checked back in for responses. Vetted candidates. And then met them in person. Then they ‘auditioned’ them. This was a very intentional process,” said researcher, Alicia Walker. They undertook it, they told Walker, because they wanted to find partners. For sex. If the men became too emotionally attached, they broke it off with them and found somebody else.
This is consistent with what I’ve heard from other women on Medium in the past couple of years, women both writing stories to that effect and commenting on those that others have written. Of course, I’ve heard from plenty of women who want both good sex and good relationships as well, but with the exception of a few polyamorous women, those who already have a relationship aren’t looking for another one. If they are looking for something beyond what they have, they are looking for sex.
An increase in polyamory over the last decade is also largely being driven by women, with two-thirds of open marriages being initiated by them. Most women desire being desired and crave the feeling of being sexually adored. They want chemistry and sexual excitement — something that isn’t always easy to maintain in a long-term monogamous relationship.
When women seem to lose interest in sex a few years into an established relationship, it’s most often because they are bored with the same old routine sex. “Overfamiliarisation with a partner and desexualisation kills women’s libido. We used to think it’s only men who became sexually bored after marriage; turns out that’s not true. It’s when women get married that it’s detrimental to their libido.”
The cultural narrative that women primarily want emotional connection and aren’t interested in good sex just doesn’t hold up, just as the one that says that men don’t care nearly as much about relationships doesn’t hold up either. It’s time to stop telling this stories about how we’re “supposed to be” and to let gender binaries be replaced with wherever individuals fall on the sexual and relationship continuum.
© Copyright, Elle Beau 2020
Elle Beau writes on Medium about sex, life, relationships, society, anthropology, spirituality, and love. If this story appears anywhere but Medium.com it has been stolen.
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