I was sorting through my books the other day. I confess to being one of those terrible people who has a collection of high brow books on display in my living room. I buy them because the covers look nice, the topic is intellectual or the author is well regarded. Sometimes, I even read them, but more often, I am ashamed to say, I do not.
Whilst sorting through my books I discovered the book ‘What do Women Want? : Adventures in the science of female desire’ by Daniel Bergner. Now, I am not lying when I say that I have actually read this book from cover to cover.
The main thrust (please excuse the pun) of Daniel Bergner’s argument is that women are in fact biologically and naturally the less monogamous sex. Women are ‘animals’. Women’s natural state is hidden and controlled by societal norms. According to Daniel Bergner, we women are conditioned to want monogamous, emotionally secure and stable relationships to enable us to bring up our offspring. We are conditioned to crave closeness and commitment.
Daniel Bergner describes experiments in which women are shown various images whilst hooked up to M.R.I scanners and have tubes inserted into their vaginas to measure vaginal blood flow. He is seeking to measure female arousal. What women really want.
My more squeamish readers might want to stop reading now…
The images include images of heterosexual sex, a naked man walking along a beach, two women kissing, a man mouthing another man’s penis, a man masturbating and a pair of bonobos (a type of non-human primate) copulating in a forest.
Bergner states that all of the women were turned on immediately, by all of it. Based on this research, he argues that women’s sexuality is an animalistic force, constrained by culture.
The complicating factor, the factor that Bergner seems to ignore, is that arousal does not always equal desire.
I met up with some friends the other night. Unsurprisingly, after a bottle or two of Prosecco between the four of us the conversation progressed to sex (not masturbation I’m afraid, this is, as I outlined in my previous blog post still very much a taboo subject).
One of my friends married quite recently having been single for a about eight years. Not to put to fine a point on it, but she slept with quite few men during that eight year time period. She confessed that her husband was not that great in bed. He certainly wouldn’t make the top third were she to rank a lifetime of sexual partners. But, she is happy. In fact I would say she is blissfully happy with her husband and their life together.
Another friend likened the satisfaction of having sex with her husband to the satisfaction of returning overdue library books. A damning indictment of a sex life if ever there were one, but she is also very happy. Trust me, I know, I have seen her sad.
So, it struck me that, contrary to Bergner’s argument, what women REALLY want, isn’t all about sex. Our desires and our turn-ons can be random…sometimes very random.
The list of things that my group of female heterosexual friends and I were turned-on by included:
A man with muscly and veiny forearms
This was me. I have a weird thing for veiny forearms. I can’t really explain why. It does mean that I really enjoy watching car adverts on television in which a man with a veiny forearm is driving a car and reaches out to change gear. These are confessions that you can only make on an anonymous blog!
A man in chinos
Chinos are my pet hate, but one of my friends loves a man in chinos. She said there was something about the slightly smarter than jeans, but still casual look that really appealed. I was a little baffled.
Now I really get this. I fancy arty and creative men and my image of a creative man is a man who wears quirky, thick rimmed glasses. My friend also quite liked it when a man in a pair of thick rimmed glasses peered at her over the top of his glasses frame.
A man who carries a pen knife
To my mind a pen knife is a potentially lethal weapon and a man who carries one is therefore potentially dangerous. My friend, however, felt that the corkscrew, the tin opener and the screw driver functions on a pen knife were incredibly useful and that any man carrying one was therefore incredibly sexy. Again, I was baffled, totally baffled.
So, Daniel Bergner, if you want to know what women REALLY want, I suggest that you analyse the above list of turn-ons produced by me and my friends.
Suffice to say Daniel Bergner’s What Do Women Want? has not made it to the book shelf in the sitting room but has rather been confined to the cardboard box in the wardrobe.