Monthly Archives: May 2011
Researchers at Indiana University have completed the most comprehensive sex survey since 1994. It yielded some surprising results:
- Young women were more likely than young men to report having had sex in the last year
- Young women are increasingly likely to report masturbating
- 85% of men report that their partner had an orgasm the last time they had sex; but only 64% of women said they had reached orgasm. Hmmmmm
- Men were more likely to reach orgasm if they were in a relationship than with a casual sex partner
Other things were unchanged and not so surprising.
- Men were more likely to find sex extremely pleasurable
- Men were more likely to reach orgasm
What does all this mean?
We see both sexual progress for women, but also repression’s lingering effects.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the data.
We often hear that women are less likely to admit having sex than men. Yet 80% of women aged 20 to 24 said they’d had intercourse in the last year, while only 62% of men said the same thing. I guess many women are having sex with older guys. But the fact that women are increasingly likely to admit sexual behavior suggests times are changing. No data here on how many partners they’re admitting to.
Women are also more likely to report masturbating than in the past, possibly reflecting a change in parental and societal attitudes. For instance, vibrators are less off-limits than they used to be. Still, there are sizable differences at younger ages with 75% of 16-17 year old boys masturbating while only 45% of girls do. This may reflect differences in anatomy with the male body making its workings more obvious. But by their late 20s men and women are nearly equally likely to masturbate: 84% of men versus 72% of women. Yet from their 30s on up women are less likely than men to continue.
So women seem to be more sexually liberated. At the same time:
While 91% of men had an orgasm the last time they had sex only 64% of women did. These numbers roughly reflect the percentage of men and women who say they enjoyed sex “extremely” or “quite a bit”: 66% of women and 83% of men. Still, 66% is up from the 59% of women saying they enjoyed sex a great deal in a 2004 ABC News poll. Younger women are less likely to report an orgasm with 58% of women in their 20s saying they had had one the last time they had sex.
While 85% of men believed that their partner had an orgasm, only 64% of women reported having had one. Still, many men think their partners never fake it with them, despite the evidence. As one New York Daily News reader put it, “I have met plenty of women who like sex and taught their men how to please them. Guess what, they all reached orgasm.” Maybe they did, but as Sally (“When Harry Met Sally”) can tell you, you can’t always tell.
Men seem to take it personally when women don’t reach orgasm. Sometimes they should, as when they don’t listen to their partners and try to please them. At the same time, we live in a society where women’s sexuality has been repressed. As the researchers put it, “women are less easily orgasmic for both anatomical and psychosocial reasons.”
Things have changed, but there is still plenty to dampen women’s sexual interest. Here are a couple of comments on the topic of the IU sex survey from the feminist blog Jezebel:
[On not masturbating when younger] It wasn’t that I didn’t have sexual feelings, or thought it was wrong (even though I was worried I would be sinning for a little while, before I pretty much became an atheist), I just wasn’t comfortable enough yet to explore myself in that way.
Ditto. I didn’t really start exploring until I was half-way through college. I imagine it was a combination of issues: discomfort with my body, ignorance about my body, not having had a long-term partner (and therefore, for me, a reason to explore), lack of camaraderie (in high school, my girlfriends weren’t talking about it). Being a girl can be very complicated! It took me time to realize how to be a sexual being.
One said she didn’t think masterbation was wrong, even though she saw it as sinning at one point. Both women had felt uncomfortable exploring their bodies early on. Not surprising, really. They both — along with everyone else in this culture — have been bombarded with notions that sexuality, for women especially, is dirty and sinful. Notions which are not easily overcome. Meanwhile, women in nonrepressive cultures, like ancient Tahitians, had greatly enjoyed sex and were highly orgasmic.
Or, as a reader from the New York Daily News put it:
Women are not encouraged to masturbate, openly express desire, we are told not to want to have a stable of available lovers. With all the guilt and pressure put upon women you don’t have to wonder why some women don’t have orgasms.
This article was originally posted on BroadBlogs on October 6, 2010.
Women: Climax Less Likely in Relationship Sex (Indiana U. sex survey)
Men: Climax More Likely in Relationship Sex (Indiana U. sex survey)
“Cock” vs “Down There”
Sex Lessons from Mom and Dad
DO Women Like Sex Less Than Men?
When I ask my students if they can think of anything good about being a sex object they think there must be something positive, since so many women put a great deal of effort into being sexy, with some aspiring to “sex symbolness.” Here’s what they say:
Sexy women get attention. They feel attractive and admired, so it’s a source of self-esteem.
It’s nice to feel wanted and desired. It’s easier to attract mates or just get sex.
It can be fun to feel sexy.
Sex is a historic source of power for women. Sexiness can gain women resources, whether through marriage or getting men to do favors. It puts women in control over men.
Then I ask if there’s a downside. More comments:
It can be uncomfortable being gawked at. You can feel like you’re only a sex object – and that’s all, like you’re not worth a lot.
You can feel disrespected. Guys want only one thing. You get used.
When women are seen as all about sex, and they don’t want to put out, they’re seen as bitches.
You aren’t seen as intelligent. You aren’t taken seriously.
Your personality disappears.
It can feel inauthentic, feeling pressured from friends or society to look sexy.
Sexual objectification leads to sex trafficking. Treating young women and girls like they are nothing but objects that exist to pleasure men. They have no lives. They’re all about sex and nothing else. And they’re not given an opportunity to be anything else.
But there are problems when you don’t meet sex-object standards, too:
You feel like you’re constantly being judged, and not coming out well.
You may starve. Or get implants and die (that does happen). You have false hope, and when you don’t meet the standard you lose self-esteem.
So much contradiction. Is there any way to get some of the positive upside without all the downside? I’ll admit to feeling the world would be a bit dull without any spice of sexiness.
How about distinguishing between sexy and sex object. And broadening our notion of what “sexy” means?
Objects are treated as little more than a means to others’ pleasure. They are not people with lives, goals, thoughts or emotions. It’s one-dimensional. A limited box. And who cares how you treat an object?
So if a woman does have – and is seen as having – a life, goals, emotions and intelligence, and sexiness is one part of all that, then she can be a full person – who is also sexy.
But still, can we move outside the narrow notions? Who’s sexy to me? Women and men who are classy, smart, talented, confident, and who make a difference in the world.
I nominate Nancy Pelosi, Thandie Newton, French politician Marie-Ségolène Royal, Helen Mirren, Angelina Jolie, Jackie O, Jennifer Lopez, Toni Morrison, Queen Rania of Jordan, Barbara Walters, Sandra Bullock, Zhang Ziyi, America Ferrera, Diane Sawyer, Jennifer Aniston, Queen Latifah, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, and Maria Shriver.
And men? My list includes Ezra Klein, Benico del Torro, Ed Harris, New York Times columnist, Princeton professor and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, CNN anchor T.J. Holmes, Tom Brokaw, Brad Pitt, Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Gabriel Byrne, Japan’s former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, JFK Jr., Antonio Banderas, Sidney Poitier, Javier Bardem, and White House corresspondent, Jake Tapper.
Yeah, sexiness can be fun and alluring, when moving outside narrow limits. But sex objects are just trapped.
The perfect Islamic state was Osama Bin Laden’s stated goal. The Taliban’s too.
In the name of Islam, women under the Taliban (who still control large parts of Afghanistan) are forced to cover themselves, head to toe, mesh hiding their eyes. Women may be punished even for laughing or walking too loudly and drawing attention to themselves. In the home, windows may be painted over to protect men from unwittingly catching sight of an unveiled woman.
All this to keep men pure.
And now we learn that Osama Bin Laden had a porn stash.
In like hypocrisy, a U.N. report says the Taliban has forced women into prostitution.
So is the concern really that women will trample all over men’s purity? Or do Bin Laden and the Taliban just want to control women? And feel empowered, themselves?
The so-called Islamic state the Taliban fashioned when fully in power didn’t seem to have much to do with Islam. The Quran gives women the right to work. Not the Taliban. The Quran gives women the right to consent to marriage. And yet young girls were (and still are) married off before they had even begun to menstruate.
Meanwhile, the Taliban forbade all sorts of things without any scriptural backing: educating girls, television, radio, movies, or even the keeping of birds, whose chirping is unduly musical.
Most people don’t know that the only thing the Quran tells women to cover are their bosoms. Something Bin Laden went out of his way to see uncovered. Perfect Islamic Bin Laden? I think not.
It had not occurred to me that that wasn’t a possibility. It’s what my culture said I was supposed to look like. What I needed to look like to be truly valued.
Full of contradictions, I began my supermodel project. But in a healthy sort of way, I told myself. Wasn’t going to starve. No anorexia or bulimia for me.
I later came to see that I did end up with an eating disorder.
I became obsessed with food. How much had I eaten that day? Constantly counting calories. My worth depended upon how well I had eaten.
At times I swung between overeating and starving. Very little starving – I wasn’t good at it.
I next developed an exercise obsession. You can’t get too much exercise, right? After developing a knee injury from jogging, I tried Nordic Track. Another knee injury. Next, I began walking three miles a day at a brisk pace. Yet another knee injury. Apparently, you can rub your cartilage too much from over-exercise and lack of rest. My physical therapist told me to start biking instead – and don’t overdo it! No more than four days a week, and no hills.
After all the food and exercise mania, I still looked nothing like a supermodel. One day standing in line at a grocery store I picked up People Magazine and read a story on how supermodels did it. I finally understood why I didn’t look like them, and never would.
Kim Alexis had tried every fad diet and at one point starved herself for four days straight.
Carol Alt went on a fruit-only diet. Later, she drank eight cups of coffee a day, and ate salad for dinner.
Andie Macdowell said many models took drugs to deal with the stress of starving.
What struck me most was when Kim Alexis said,
When I first started out, I was rooming in a New York City hotel with (supermodel) Kelly Emberg. One night I came home, and I was eating only a head of lettuce for dinner. Kelly walked in and said, “You’re eating a whole head of lettuce? How could you?” I cried and said, “But it’s all I’ve had all day. It’s not even 50 calories!”
To which I say, “Are you freaking kidding me?!” That big “cheat” would be insane dieting in my book. In anyone’s book, one would hope.
That’s when my hopes for supermodel slim were dashed.
Yes, I had been insane. But not that insane.
And it’s not just me. It’s society. What kind of crazy culture says women must feel guilty about eating nothing but a head of lettuce to “look good”?
So I determined to gain my mental and physical health back. I’ve had ups and downs, but so far so good.
Related Posts on BroadBlogs
How to Look Like a Victoria’s Secret Angel
Beautiful Women’s Hips Are Thinner Than Their Heads?
Spoon Fed Barbie