Once upon a time—say, the late nineties—its was taken for granted that men spent all their time thinking about sex and women did not, presumably filling this tremendous gap in their schedules with wedding planning and thinking of increasingly creative ways turn down sex with their boyfriends. The stereotypical man did all his thinking with his other head, and the stereotypical woman was chaste or frigid, depending on what a man wanted from her.
Of course, the idea that women aren’t into sex seems quaint in 2103, unless you’re in denial or are one of those moral crusaders who spends an awful lot of time being publicly outraged. Actually, the psychological and sociological science of female desire has evolved considerably in the past ten or fifteen years, and journalist Daniel Bergner makes much of it accessible in his new book What do Women Want?
The answer seems to be: sex, all the time. In all seriousness, some of the psychologists Bergner speaks to can conceivably make the case that women desire more sex than men, in terms of both frequency and number of partners. Not one to skimp on puncturing commonly-held stereotypes, Bergner has a number of other bombshells to lob at preconceived notions of female sexuality. Among them: women may be less monogamous than men, women’s sexuality in terms of their partner’s gender may be more fluid than men’s, intimacy may be much less important to women in terms of feeling lust than previously assumed, female fantasies of unconventional sex may be the norm instead of the exception, and given the chance, women may be less choosy and more likely to pursue sex than men.
Bergner isn’t outlining a comprehensive chronicle of female lust, though he is thorough. He is also not providing a definitive answer to his own question, “What do women want?”, since science generally doesn’t provide us with definitive answers. What this book does is raise an admirably contrarian spectre over our tired ideas of female lust and reminds men of that perennial lesson: you probably don’t know women as well as you think you do.