Are Women Culturally Monogamous?

We know that women aren’t destined to be monogamous by nature. Culture affects our sexual psyches.

Polygamist inclinations vary from person to person, but today’s Western women are much more monogamous than our Tahitian or American Indian sisters were before European contact. We are now also much more monogamous in our inclinations than men. 

In surveys, men say they would prefer to have 14 partners over a lifetime. Over that same lifetime, women prefer to have only one or two.

A friend suggested that women were lying because they feared seeing themselves as sluts. Yet women admit to five real-life partners. (Here they are certainly underestimating. The real number is likely 8 or 9 for both men and women, given men’s estimate of 12.) But if they’re so worried, why not say they’ve had only 1 or 2 partners?

I was surprised by the low number of “one or two” as the preference, but I doubt women feel the need to go that low just to feel socially acceptable.

Younger women’s preferences may be higher. During the first year of college many willingly experiment with sex – and freely admit to it. But they quickly tire of random sexual contacts. Most drop out of the casual sex scene by sophomore year.

Men, on the other hand, don’t tire of the casual hook up, and want to continue even after college.

When it comes to open marriage or swinging, men are usually more enthusiastic, and more often initiate the idea.

So women seem less interested in casual sex than men. Quite likely because they are more repressed.

I feel that women are more repressed than is healthy. But I’m not sure that limits are all bad, for women or men.

When I read women’s studies literature, women are often advised to have sex more the way men do: have fun without guilt.

Yet men’s studies, which comes from a feminist perspective, often advises men to have sex more the way women do it. Don’t follow the 4 F’s: Find ‘em, Feel ‘em, F- ‘em, and Forget ‘em. Do not use women as a means of gaining a notch on your belt. Have sex in a context of love and care.

What do you think? How would you describe women’s ways and men’s ways of having sex? What are the positives and negatives of each approach? Is one way better than the other? Is there an optimal in-between? Do men and women tend to have different views on this issue?

I’m interested in exploring the matter. I’d like to year your thoughts, too.

Georgia Platts

Sources: Brizendine, Louann. The Male Brain. Crown. 2010, Kimmel, Michael. Guyland. Harper. 2008

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on August 19, 2010, in feminism, gender, men, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Georgia,
    I think women are discouraged because they need more than the 5 minute roll in the hay men seem to be satisfied with. Sooner , rather than later women stop trying to find a compatable partner while men continue to bed and be satisfied to move on to the next conquest.
    Add to that the social stigma attached to them and women are likely to keep the number low or deny the actual number of sexual partners.

  2. I think its more than women being seen as sluts- its not just the stigmatization of women’s sexuality, but the lack of resources for women. You don’t watch TV shows or movies and see hot men serving women; the sex industry is targeted away from women; women’s magazines featuring tons of nude men are practically nonexistent; advertisements rarely feature hot men; pornography for women is disgustingly limited; strip clubs for straight women pretty much don’t exist. Even when women try to ignore the social hatred of women being sexual, its hard to, because there isn’t much to work from.

    And, of course, being a gay woman must be worse- your sexuality isn’t seen as dirty, but something for straight guys to fap to.

  3. I think society often decides for us what is right and wrong. As a woman I understand, the pressures of not having sex before marriage, or seeking one man to stay with. Society tells us that to have many “boyfriends” is wrong. We are giving ourselves the label that we have “been around the block”. I think we as individuals as woman we should have a say in the way we lead our lives. Whether we want to have multiple “boyfriends” or in fact just the one whom we remain faithful to, we should be given the opportunity to decide. If a man does it, well its “to be expected”. I know that many mothers out there tell their daughters that a man is only after one thing, that is all they want, so all you have to do is study and get a career. That’s fine and dandy but what if I want to lead my life differently? I should be able to do so without worrying what society or my mother will say. However this is purely a personal choice.

    I say know what you want and how you would like to get there. But be aware of your boundaries, and know that being with multiple men separately is wiser then all at the same time. Because women should realize that if we have the right then so do the men and vice versa. Take control of your body and your comfort zone. But please use your intelligence.

  4. Honestly, women need to be free to decide for themselves what to do with their own lives.

    For example to find and marry one man and never having known another – quite frankly does not allow a woman to know or have choices. Freedom of choice is very important.
    this is very different however than running around like a tart just for the hell of it and hooking up .
    Women should not try to act like men who behave like that for whatever reason .
    When a women is searching – she is searching for a sould mate who is also going to be a good lover. The two go hand in hand.

    You don’t want to have to be saddled with a man who demands you lie down with him and who uses you for sex like an a machine! You want a lover – a friend and amate for life- that takes a search!

  5. While I think that women are repressed in this society, I don’t feel that (so-called) men’s way of doing sex is better. I’m interested in exploring women’s repression, and considering what women can learn from men, but also what men can learn from women.

    (What I really mean are so-called men’s and women’s ways. Don’t mean to oversimplify)

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