HomeSexual PoliticsSexual desireUnderstanding female sexual desire

Understanding female sexual desire

One of the misconceptions of the sexual revolution was the proposal that, for men and women to be equal, they had to be the same. But testosterone is the sex hormone. Men’s bodies are full of it but women have much lower levels of testosterone.

Attributes traditionally considered feminine (e.g. being passive or accommodating) were thought to be signs of weakness or inferiority. Whereas traditionally masculine attributes (e.g. being assertive or dominant) were thought to be signs of strength or superiority.

This is a very natural male view of the world but many young and independent women also identified with the masculine perspective. So it was implied that all women, whatever their aspirations or experience, should aspire to these more masculine characteristics and goals.

Sex is fundamentally about male sex drive. A man’s erect penis is the symbol of this hormonal drive to thrust until ejaculation. If women have a reproductive drive at all then it is an emotional drive to raise their children. They certainly do not have the same biological drive to reach orgasm during sex that men experience.

Boys learn during puberty to enjoy their own sexual arousal and orgasm through masturbation. A girl also finds a new interest in the opposite sex but this interest revolves around a self-consciousness about how desirable she might be to men. Consequently, we frequently confuse women’s sexual desire with a woman’s ability to provoke a sexual response in a man.

Women’s sexual fantasies often include an element of domination. It is fashionable to interpret such negative images as indicative of guilt or inhibition. I see it differently. When a sexual partner takes control we have the pleasure of feeling that we are the object of their desire. Many men would not object if their woman took a more assertive role by indicating her sexual desires.

I am told that women ‘enjoy’ sex or even ‘love’ sex (and why not for heaven’s sake?) but then they talk of affection. It is not clear much of the time whether women understand that true sexual arousal has to stem from some ‘naughty’ thought or act.

One female sex expert explained her belief that ‘good sex’ relies on emotional and sensual (rather than directly erotic) criteria: “…What I know about how people get turned on and have great sex together that includes orgasm is their connection, their emotions, and sensual experiences whether it’s visual looking at each other, enjoying various physical sensual activities.”

True sexual desire involves our motivation to enjoy our sexual arousal and orgasm by appreciating aspects of eroticism, by discovering masturbation alone and by initiating sexual activity with a partner. Women have lower sexual desire (sex drive) and experience much lower levels of sexual arousal than men which is why many women dislike eroticism and never masturbate.

The vast majority of women find almost any form of eroticism objectionable. Equally a woman has much more conscious control over whether she indulges in the erotic thoughts that might lead to enjoying her own sexual arousal and orgasm.

Initially, a young man is so driven by his own need to bring his state of sexual arousal to orgasm that he has little bandwidth for concerns about his partner’s arousal. The truth is that men often assume that their partner experiences orgasm: either they rely on their partner’s say-so or they assume that women’s minds and bodies respond to sexual stimuli much as men’s do.

More experienced men come to appreciate that having an engaged sexual partner who is able to enjoy her own sexual desire through fantasies and sexual arousal can be the most arousing aspect of sex over the longer term.

My appreciation of eroticism has encouraged me to explore my own sexual arousal both alone and with a partner. Women who object to eroticism often comment that sex scenes potentially violate women or defile their bodies. Such women must have very different reactions to a woman who is more at ease with eroticism. There is no judgment here – simply a desire to differentiate.

Excerpt from Ways Women Orgasm (ISBN 978-0956-894700)