Friday, February 17, 2012

An exchange with a woman about female sexuality


I had an interesting exchange on my blog with a woman who wants to counter my hypothesis that women are asexual. The exchange is here in this post:
Okay, let's start all over again

She sent this response:
Hi Donkey,

I'm fascinated by your blog, and thank you for very interesting information and thoughts... but I'm worried about where you're heading.

Have you ever thought of counseling? I know that this is not as common in Europe as it is here in the USA, but "checking in" on your thoughts and feelings with a non-judgmental, neutral counselor is very valuable... our thought have a tendency of reinforcing themselves if left on our own.

I take exception with what you say about woman's sexuality. I'm a woman, and I *love* sex! In its sweaty, breathless, hot version, not just for cuddling. None of my female friends are asexual either. In fact, about half complain that their partners can't keep up with them :-). It's hard to believe that my entire world is a complete statistical fluke.

The 1/3 statistic doesn't sound right - if this were true, why are vibrators the most sold sex toy? While I've run into studies stating that a large number of women can't orgasm from penetrative sex *alone* and require clitoral stimulation, I've never heard of the "one third don't like/need sex" study.

Remember, a lot of what is reported is based on social conditioning. Women are "supposed" not to like sex, or they're sluts - they consistently underreport sexual matters - at least in the Western World. I'm originally from Eastern Europe, where woman's sexuality is not considered "evil". I've never even heard the idea that women like sex less then men until I moved to the US! (In fact, even the old folk tales often talk about the ingenious ways women found to cheat on their husbands - not for the lack of love, but for the simple desire of hot, good sex.)

Hope you continue exploring, and don't give into the dark thoughts.
I respond:

What a nice and friendly mail!

But, what I mean is that women don't become horny. I explain a lot here:
Women don't like sex any more than young boys do

It's all about the testosterone! Women's testerone levels are no higher than 10-year-old kids!!!!

That study about that 1/3 of women being asexual is here:
Sexual Dysfunction in the United States ― Prevalence and Predictors by Edward O. Laumann, PhD; Anthony Paik, MA; Raymond C. Rosen, PhD JAMA. 1999;281:537-544.

Here's the free text

And here is a table with that number:
Table 1. Prevalence of Dysfunction Items by Demographic Characteristics (Women)

It turns out that also many women feel pain during sex (about 15-20%) and for many women sex is not pleasurable (about 20%).

I can imagine that women like the kissing, cuddling, fondling caressing, stroking the hair and such. Women like to be close to the persons whom they are in love with. Perhaps they even like the thought that the man they love has their penis inside them. Perhaps for women this is almost a holy moment, having the person that they love inside of them, feeling their lover's hot semen inside of them.

But I believe there is no horniness in women. I believe women have sex in a non-horny way. They don't become sexually aroused like men do. Women's bodies become aroused, but that has no relationship with what's happening in their minds. You can read a very interesting article here:
What Do Women Want? (By DANIEL BERGNER, New York Times, January 22 2009)

Meredith Chivers is interviewed here and she studied female sexual behaviour. It turns out that women's bodily responses don't correlate with what goes on inside their head. She tells about the idea that women's sexual response is merely to avoid physical harm; a penis entering a vagina without lubrication can cause injury, so the vagina starts to lubricate to prevent that from happening.

She responds:
Hello again, Donkey

Thanks for the response. But, whatever the studies you posted say, you're wrong. Women (I and others) *do* get horny. The best way to figure out how much women really like sex for sex sake is to see masturbation stats** - this removes any bad partner/bad experience biases. And we *do* masturbate a lot.

Kinsey reports:
"About 80 percent of adolescent girls and 90 percent of adolescent boys masturbate with frequencies ranging from once a week to about daily (Hass and Hass 1993, 151, 285)."

**Unfortunately, masturbation statistics are self-reported, and masturbation, especially female, is considered shameful in most cultures. By self-report, only 3% or so of women in Puerto Rico masturbate, while in the US it's 80+%... not very likely, we're not different species - you have to take ALL self-reported sexuality stats with a good dose of suspicion. In fact, *all* sexual statistics vary wildly between different countries. A comparison of collected sex stats by country at is very enlightening. In short, people often lie about sex. Men slant lies towards more sexual activity (to be "manly"), women towards less (to avoid being "sluts").

Studies of lesbian sexuality also seem to indicate that women are very sexual, orgasmic and arousable when left completely to themselves, thank you :-). Orgasm is indicative of hot, sweaty, horny sex, *not* cuddling. If we didn't like sex, wouldn't we just forget about it "with our own kind", eh?
(By the way, the old "Lesbian Bed Death" study that created the idea that lesbians have little sex has been long discredited, by lesbian scientists and various others.)

The amount of testosterone needed to get horny is NOT high. More testosterone over the *needed* amount results in increased aggression, NOT increased sexual drive, and besides, female sexual drive depends on a number of other hormones besides it - ask any woman and she'll tell you that her horniness changes a lot during her monthly cycle. As testosterone doesn't fluctuate, but estrogen & progesterone do, this is a clear and simple proof that a woman's sexuality is linked to more than just the amount of male hormones in her system.

Even the abstract from the first link you posted supports what I say:

"There is no direct linear relationship between testosterone levels and sex drive. A high testosterone level doesn't mean that a person is automatically horny. It also depends on other psychological factors, for instance: being tired or depressed. And also, it doesn't matter for your sex drive if you have a testosterone level above a certain value."

The second study you linked also claims:

"Moreover, sexual dysfunction is highly associated with negative experiences in sexual relationships and overall well-being."

"... it appears that sexual dysfunctions are highly prevalent in both sexes, ranging from 10% to 52% of men and 25% to 63% of women."

"Controlling for other demographic characteristics, women who have graduated from college are roughly half as likely to experience low sexual desire, problems achieving orgasm, sexual pain, and sexual anxiety as women who have not graduated from high school. Male college graduates are only two thirds as likely to report climaxing too early and half as likely to report nonpleasurable sex and sexual anxiety than men who do not have high school diplomas."

and the table you've linked to also shows significantly different answers for different education levels (true for men too).

You know what this tells me? There's a good number of *BOTH* men (up to 50%!) and women experience sexual dysfunction at some time during their lives.
From the numbers, it seems that a good amount of their problems comes from lack of education and options. Sexual pleasure is *learned* - if you're a thinking person with an ability to observe what feels good during sex and experiment (an astonishingly small number in the US - remember that the US is the most religiously fundamentalist developed country in the world), you will learn how to have sex that you enjoy, man or woman.

Anecdotal evidence: It took me two years to convince one of my partners, a "fallen Catholic", to keep the lights on during sex, and he refused to talk about sex at all for all the first five years we've been together... not surprisingly, sex was rarely pleasurable for either of us; and he's far from uncommon in the US. We're good friends and life partners, but there's little sexual desire on my part in that relationship, as "the return on investment" is, honestly, usually not worth it. I much prefer to simply snuggle with him and talk about safe subjects, like math and family. I'm polyamorous, and at the same time with another partner, for pretty much the same amount of time. He's an amazing, imaginative and very compatible lover who loves giving pleasure, and we can talk about everything sexual under the sun. No hangups at all. After 8 years, we're still hanging off the chandeliers at the tune of 5+ times per week, with me usually having multiple orgasms.

So, to summarize:
Men and women *do* have a different sexual response and needs. As a very broad stereotype, men are more willing to go for *any* sex. Women are more likely to wait for *good* sex. As women's response is slower (but hey, we get multiple orgasms in trade, so why complain!), this is understandable. As the studies put the average length of intercourse to around 8 minutes (US-considerably longer in few other countries), it's pretty clear why many women the (US) studies you refer to don't enjoy sex - most of it sucks!
And finally, contrary to popular lore, intimacy and closeness enhance sex for *both* men and women, especially past the first adolescent hormone rush, and in long term relationships. Good, hot sex and closeness are not mutually exclusive, *if* the partners communicate openly and honestly about their desires and needs (what is intimacy, after all, then knowing your partner deeply, after all?). It takes a long time to learn your partner's body well enough to be able to hit all the right buttons in the right order... While stranger sex can be awesome and exciting because the partner is new, generally second, third and so on encounter gives us opportunity to learn what works... if people are emotionally healthy enough not to be afraid of getting close to one another. Having unrushed, imaginative sex with a partner who knows what your every sigh and twitch mean, and knows exactly how to bring you the most pleasure at every moment is great - for men too. There are many men who become "regulars" of their favorite prostitutes, and come see the same person for years (or even decades) exactly for this reason. Many prostitutes (at least the independent ones who don't have to watch the clock and don't offer 1/2 hour encounters) also report that at least some men they see choose to cuddle and talk only.

We, men and women, have more similarities than differences, Donkey. The individual variation between the members of the same sex can be much bigger than the one between the genders. You're worried that you hurt and disrespect women every time you have a sexual thought, but don't you disrespect us more by claiming that you know what we feel, want and do better than we do, and claiming that anything we say (like, that we enjoy sex) that disagrees with your belief is a lie? (Please don't take that as my personal feelings. I really enjoy our discussion, and appreciate you responding to my comment.)
I respond:

What a long response! I enjoyed the read. I will make a blog post out of your response.

You say that women masturbate, and so this must prove that women have sexual feelings too. However, I doubt if there is a sexual motivation behind rubbing your clitoris. Perhaps it gives a woman a good feeling, without anything sexual behind it. Many children like to suck their thumbs. It gives them a good feeling, I think because the lips are very sensitive organs. But is that sexual?

I have read an article (EOS – Maandblad over wetenschap, nr.1 Januari 2012, ‘Seks onder de scanner’). It is about female sexuality. The article confirmed all my suspicions. Female sexuality, or if you may call it sexuality at all, is totally different from male sexuality. It is so totally different, that I wonder if I may call it sexuality at all. They mention two researchers (John Bancroft and Cynthia Graham) who say that men and women have different basic sexual patterns. For men the basic pattern is the fact that he has a penis, which becomes erect during sexual arousal, and he tries to gain access to a female partner. Sexual pleasure is central. A woman has a different basic pattern. She feels good when a man indicates that he finds her sexually attractive. If she judges him a suitable partner, then bit by bit she allows physical contact. By the time that sexual intercourse follows, her vagina is wet enough for painless penetration. As long as she can say 'stop' at any moment, she will enjoy the intimacy. For the woman, being desired and emotional intimacy are central. And they always want to have control over the situation. The researchers do admit that there is a certain variety among people, and that some men look more like women in their sexual behaviour, and that some women look more like a men in their sexual behaviour. The article explains that only men almost always long for sexual activity. According to Marta Meana women long for being desired. She says that for women the orgasm consists of being desired.

So what the sexuality for women? Being desired? Intimacy? That is no sexuality. Sexuality for me is: seeing a woman, seeing her breasts, seeing her butt-naked ass, seeing her bending over, wanting to push my peewee into her vagina. Sex for me is transgression, doing something naughty. Seeing a woman in her butt-naked ass is unusual, especially if she has her shirt and her sport shoes still on.

I have developed a fascinating theory about sexuality. Men have been studied who were castrated. It turns out that after a while they lose their sex drives, except for a minority who still are able to have sex after intense stimulation. Some castrated men don't lose their sex drives at all. That leads me to an astonishing hypothesis. I believe that male and female brains are identical (I have read a book written by Cordelia Fine who confirms this). If most men become asexual when their testosterone levels are low, the same must be true for women. Because women have low testosterone levels, most must be totally asexual, just like the castrated men. But because some castrated men don't lose their sex drives, there must also be a small group of women who have a sex drive too, just like most men. That's my explanation why there are some women who are porn addicts, and who visit male prostitutes. But they are just a strange exception. Just like the castrated men who have a high sex drive anyway.

What you say about a testosterone threshold above which it doesn't matter if you add extra testosterone (that's not a quote from the article by the way, but an explanation by me), that is still a high threshold even for women. When men fall below that level they mostly lose their sex drive. But all women are below that level. So they have no libido, except for a few strange exceptions.

So the end conclusion is: women long for intimacy and being desired. Her bodily sexual response is merely a response to physical or visual stimulation, which happens mostly outside her consciousness.

But I would like to say that there is nothing bad about intimacy and being desired. It is a much friendlier form of sexuality than the brute male sexuality with all its perversions. I wish that men would become that way. I also want to be an asexual, longing for intimacy, just like women. I haven't masturbated for three weeks, so I hope it will work.

She responds:
Sigh, Donkey. I'm pretty sure that nothing I say will change your belief, because it seems you *need* to believe women have no true sexual interest, and read any study you find in a very selective way, to reinforce that opinion.

You choose to devalue women's sexuality and orgasm, and realistically, if all the studies that prove that our brains light up in the same way and our genitals react in the same way (yes, using somewhat different stimulus) to excitement and orgasm, a few words from an actual, live woman will not change your mind. Nor the fact that majority of women masturbate and huge number watch porn -

"Theresa Flynt, vice president of marketing for Hustler video, says that women account for 56 percent of business at her company's video stores. "And the female audience is increasing," she adds. "Women are buying more porn." (They're creating more of it, too: Female director Candida Royalle's hard-core erotic videos, made expressly for women viewers, sell at the rate of approximately 10,000 copies a month.)"

Both of these activities have *nothing* to do with intimacy, but everything to do with getting off.

Your opinion is nothing new - throughout much of Northern European history, men believed that women would never have such base feelings like a need for sex. Only in the 20th century we finally managed to convince them otherwise... and until then, doctors hilariously (and sadly) used fingers and early vibrators to treat "hysteria" by providing "release" on a regular basis to "ailing" women - ie. giving them orgasms because they were going out of their heads with unsatisfied sexual needs. Orgasm by any other name is still orgasm.

... Anyway; if you're willing to challenge your belief system and see if it holds up, why don't you ask a real, live sex therapist? Most counselors have a pretty good knowledge of human sexuality. Book a session and ask. I dare you :-).

I respond:

In my opinion it would be highly unfortunate if women would have sexual feelings. I would have hoped that half the world population would be free of these feelings of sadism and self-debasement. I have watched a lot of pornography, and it all seems very vile and demeaning, especially towards women. I think it would be very shameful if it were true that most buyers of pornography are women. Why would they enjoy seeing their sisters being debased?
From what I know it is nonsense that many women watch pornography. Less than 1% of women frequently watch pornography.

You can read it here in this report (albeit in Dutch, see table 6.3, page 42):
this link
It is called: De opwinding voorbij - Aard, ernst en omvang van gebruik en problematisch gebruik van online pornografie in Nederland (IVO, 2011)

It turns out that (at least in the Netherlands) more than 80% of the women never watch pornography (that is: pictures or videos of sexuality). The same is true for about 45% of men. 13% of men watch pornography more than once a week. This is true for less than 1% of the women. There is a group of women who do watch pornography, but not often (see figure 6.5). I wonder if these women look at it to get sexually aroused. I believe they have other reasons to watch it. I think about sensationalism.

Many women do seem to masturbate (see figure 6.4, page 38), only not so frequently. More women than men don't masturbate, 40% versus 25%. There are many frequent female masturbators, let’s say 26% of women does if more than 2 times a month, versus 48% of men. I find that peculiar. I don’t believe it cannot be because of sexual reasons. Like I’ve said before, women’s testosterone levels are far too low to have a meaningful sex drive. I believe it’s because women find the physical stimulation pleasurable, without a sexual connotation. However, there are also a group of male castrates who still have a high sex drive. So I believe it's possible. Perhaps is also true that women masturbate to sexually arouse their boyfriends or husbands who watch their girlfriends/wives masturbating themselves. These women don't do it for their own pleasure, only indirectly perhaps, they are happy if their boyfriends are happy.

Also, women also seem to have a slightly higher sexual satisfaction than men (see figure 6.3, page 38). But I wonder if women mean ‘sexual’ the way men do. I believe for women sexuality means tenderness. I believe women misinterpreted the question. I believe if all real sexual acts, acts like penetration and stimulation of the genital area are removed, then it wouldn't matter for women. But it does matter for men. Women like to be close to the ones they love, and that is very satisfactory for them.

Indeed, I hate the thought that women have sexual feelings. How could it be, that these beautiful beings, these godlike beings have such vile and dirty thoughts?


Anna said...

Hi Donkey,

I read this exchange with much interest. Again your struggle is admirable, but you are very wrong about women. Sexuality is not about tenderness and love for women any more than it is for men. It's just that being desired, tenderness, and love are aphrodisiacs for women, the same way that looking at naked women is for men. So all that is different is the means to arousal. You have a sexual fetish about women which requires that they do not desire sex, so that when you have sex with them you can feel you are forcing them. It is such a big fetish for you that you have written a whole blog about it, and you can only have sex with women when you can be sure they DO hate having sex with you (prostitutes). You are using Dworkin and Jeffreys in the wrong way. For them it was about resistance to patriarchal oppression; for you it is about stimulating your rape fetish, which in turn stimulates your guilt fetish. You need to see the world in this way because it makes life sexier for you. But in this way you are similar to a rapist. Your sexuality is contingent on stealing something from a woman, which is as I suspected. But I will repeat that I've known many men and I've only known two others like you in that respect. Both secretly hated women, both had a fetish of forcing themselves on women who didn't want them and could not get aroused when the woman was too willing, both hated their mothers with a murderous passion, and both visited prostitutes. It is your secret hate that drives your perversions, not just your being a man. Our sexuality does not exist in a vacuum. It is a reflection of who we are outside of sex. You have a battle against the world which you play out in your sexuality. And what hubris to clam that people who don't share your type of sexuality don't have "real" sexuality! On top of all this you are trying to normalize your perversions by saying that your sexuality is just "male" sexuality.

Donkey said...

You are right about me. I’m pessimistic about other men, but about me specifically you are right. But what should I do to properly channel my sexuality? Sex with women other than prostitutes is impossible for me. I am way too shy, and very socially awkward. The only thing left for me is masturbation and my imagination. Perhaps I should do something with my imagination. Put it on another track. But how? Try to get aroused by the birds and the bees? Another option is total abstinence. No more masturbation, no more fantasies. It worked for three months once.

Anna said...

What should you do? My advice would be to approach women and just talk to them, in cafes and so forth. Approach them with the thought that sex is not dirty, that you are not oppressing them, and that they may like you. Get interested in other people in general. Try to make friends and to be interested in their lives. Get involved with a group where you can meet people who have the same interests - maybe even a feminist group where you can talk in person about the things you talk about online. Or a philosophy group or anything else that interests you. See a therapist who can help you with your social problems. And read Alfred Adler's "Superiority and Social Interest." Once you become confident that people can like you, you will not be so angry and tortured.

Anna said...

I know I have said a lot of harsh things to you here, but I can see that there is a part of you that is humane and kind, that wants to solve your sexual problems in the best way possible way for you and for others. I contend and insist that the way to do this is to develop interest in a non-prostituted woman, and to try to channel your sexuality there. If you absolutely cannot do that, then you need to try to find a prostitute who does not work for any agency. But I think you will be much happier if you solve your life's problems instead of avoiding them, which is what you do when you go to a prostitute. I think a lot of your hatred for women and for yourself comes from the idea you have that women would not like you unless you were paying for them. So your goal should be to get a woman to like you without paying.