I want to thank one of the readers of this blog for drawing my attention to an article on the NYTimes.com website by Daniel Bergner “What do Women Want? – Discovering What Ignites Female Desire”.
This article features various pieces of research being carried out into women’s sexuality. As is sometimes the case with research the “evidence” and conclusions reached by the various scientists are often contradictory. I will summarise my understanding of the key findings from this article:
Meredith Chivers is a professor at Queen’s university in Kingston, Ontario. Her research involved volunteers being connected to plethysmographs – for men this is a device that fits over the penis and measures swelling and for women it is a small plastic probe that is fitted into the vagina and measures genital blood flow. Chivers showed a short movie to women and men (homosexual and heterosexual) of bonobos (a species of ape) mating and short clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiselled man walking naked on the beach and a naked woman doing calisthenics. Volunteers also rated their level of arousal on a keypad.
Chivers found that makes who identified themselves as straight responded “genitally” in “category specific” ways. Men who identified themselves as straight swelled when looking at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while watching the masturbating and exercising women. Gay men were aroused by the opposite categorical pattern.
The results were different for women. No matter what their self declared sexual orientation was women showed a “strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men”. With the women readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad did not tally.
My understanding of this (I may be totally wrong of course) is that women’s sexuality is more diverse than that of men. The other conclusion one can draw is that women are reluctant to accept/admit what turns them on…
I found the research by Barry Komisaruk a neuroscientist at Rutgers University very interesting. There I was thinking there were two types of orgasms – vaginal and clitoral (referred to in a previous post) and he has indentified four!!!
An orgasm attained by touching the clitoris
An orgasm attained by stimulating the anterior wall of the vagina (aka the G spot)
An orgasm attained by stimulating the cervix
An orgasm attained by thinking (Yes, thinking!!!)
Komisaruk in 1992 collaborated with Rutgers sexologist Beverley Whipple (who is credited with establishing the existence of the G spot) in a study which proved that some rare women can think themselves to climax! I am definitely jealous of this ability.
Lisa Diamond, sexologist and associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah also has some interesting theories on women’s desires. Diamond’s research has led her to conclude that “female desire may be dictated…by intimacy, by emotional connection.”
Diamond’s study tracked 1000 young women who at the start of her work defined themselves as lesbian, bisexual or refused a label. Her research indicated women making many shifts in their sexual identities. Diamond’s argument is that for her
“…participants, and quite possibly for women on the whole, desire is malleable, that it cannot be captured by asking women to categorize their attractions at any single point, that to do so is to apply a male paradigm of more fixed sexual orientation.”
So with women who identified themselves as lesbians for example, only one-third reported being solely attracted to women as the research unfolded. The remaining two thirds also felt a genuine desire for men.
So what are your thoughts on these various pieces of research? What does your own experience tell you?