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What women want

What women want


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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