What women want

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 09 2005 11:00 PM ET

What’s the
secret of female sexual arousal? A couple of scientists took
a stab at answering this age-old question as part of a
study published in the October issue of the journal
Biological Psychology. According to the
research, women and men—by which they meant straight
women and men—have very different responses to
sexually explicit material. Both sexes were shown an
array of sexual images including gay, straight, and
lesbian sex films as well as videos of primates, like
bonobos. The men reported interest only in the women.
This matched their physiological responses, which were
being monitored (don’t ask). The women reported
attraction only to the men. But this wasn’t accurate.
In fact, the women’s bodies were physically
aroused by numerous stimuli—men, women, lesbian
erotica, and the mating bonobos.

Immediately I
wondered, Why are “heterosexual” women capable
of such sexual fluidity? How does this affect the
institution of marriage or heterosexuality? What
insight might this give us about the different social
pressures men and women face? The researchers, however, had
none of this (lesbian-feminist) curiosity. Instead,
they just wanted to know why women’s bodies are
ready for sex when their brains are not. Their answer:
It’s an evolutionary adaptation that protects females
from injury during rape! Oh, really? Last time I
checked, rape was an injury—a devastating one.
And as a former self-defense instructor, I can safely
affirm that the best way to avoid injury is to avoid getting
raped—by fighting back.

Had the
scientists not been blinded by bias, they might have asked
it this way: Why do (straight) women have sexual
feelings they are loath to report? My answer: Perhaps,
as girls, they learn to suppress their desires because
they experience so much sexual violence. Maybe we can
also blame the Christian right, which has rendered obsolete
any honest discussion about human sexuality in the
schools. The culprit could be heterosexual
relationships that typically require women to act
passively—so their desires, as a matter of course, go
underground. Even today, straight gals get a
“bad reputation” if they admit to wanting sex,
let alone sex with a woman or two. Lesbians, being women,
get brought up with many of the same messages. While
the guys seem to get right to it, I can’t tell
you the number of dykes who’ve admitted that
they’ve never asked anyone out.

Too bad the
researchers didn’t take a closer look at their own
bonobo films. We humans are as closely related to
bonobos as we are to chimps, but we rarely heard this
until more female scientists came along. Unlike the
world of chimps, bonobo society is not male-dominated,
though the males are larger. Bonobo females form
“sisterhoods” that are strengthened by
lesbian sex. If a male tries to attack a female (a rare
occurrence), her “sisters” jump him and
put an end to it.

Bonobos are also
pansexual. Females not only do it with other females,
they initiate sex with males. And the males have sex with
each other. Unlike with humans, there is apparently no
rape in the bonobo world; so much for evolutionary
adaptations. There is little aggression, period. When
a fruit tree is spotted, instead of duking it out for the
bounty, the bonobos start copulating in all manner of
combinations. A little while later, everyone is
happier and ready to share the food
peacefully—the perfect expression of the old adage
“make love, not war.” In these times of
Neanderthal violence, we could all benefit from aping
the bonobos. They are, after all, our ancestors.

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