This has got to be one of the most insightful articles on female sexuality I’ve ever read. It discusses some new scientific findings about female arousal with profound implications — and some very controversial interpretations.
Every man should read this to understand better the inner workings of the female psyche; every woman should read this to better understand herself. Two of the thought-provoking findings: women are aroused by a much broader array of stimuli than men are. And although men’s subjective reports of arousal pretty much match their objective physiological arousal, the women’s subjective reports had massive disjunction from the objective arousal, almost as if it were two different people reporting.
I encourage you to read the whole article. In the meantime, here are two passages which I found particularly thought-provoking:
“Meana spoke about two elements that contribute to her thinking: first, a great deal of data showing that, as measured by the frequency of fantasy, masturbation and sexual activity, women have a lower sex drive than men, and second, research suggesting that within long-term relationships, women are more likely than men to lose interest in sex. Meana posits that it takes a greater jolt, a more significant stimulus, to switch on a woman’s libido than a man’s. “If I don’t love cake as much as you,” she told me, “my cake better be kick-butt to get me excited to eat it.” And within a committed relationship, the crucial stimulus of being desired decreases considerably, not only because the woman’s partner loses a degree of interest but also, more important, because the woman feels that her partner is trapped, that a choice — the choosing of her — is no longer being carried out.”
That’s big. To me, it says that one of the reasons that marriage dampens sexual interest is the lock-down. Where there’s no choice, there’s no mystery. So the desire for commitment actually works at cross purposes with desire itself. For the men out there, this means that the little bit of uncertainty that you maintain — not committing 100%, not being ‘all the way there’ with her — actually contributes to her desire for you, and by extension, keeping your baby around.
This next passage was particularly revelatory:
“Yet while Meana minimized the role of relationships in stoking desire, she didn’t dispense with the sexual relevance, for women, of being cared for and protected. “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. “Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man.”
This is precisely the archetype of the Good Guy (as I call him in The Tao of Dating for Women). He is strong, yet trustworthy. Decisive yet calm. Passionate yet mindful of his partner’s needs and comfort. According to this passage, the ultimate turn-on for a woman is for a man to be the human equivalent of a roller coaster. A roller-coaster is exciting, physically arousing, unpredictable with a whiff of danger about it.
Yet when you get on a roller coaster, you know that this ride has been thoroughly tested, and thousands of people have ridden it without incident. So deep down, you feel safe. This allows you to let go and fully enjoy the experience of danger in the context of safety. So guys: if you want to be ultimately seductive, be the roller coaster. Be the Denzel.
Here’s the link to the New York Times Magazine article by Daniel Bergner, author of the upcoming The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys Into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing.