Men Have Higher Sex Drive. Why?
Posted by BroadBlogs
While some women have stronger sex drives than some men, generally the pattern goes the other way.
Why is the male sex drive usually stronger?
Researchers at Indiana University say,
Women had a wider range of response, with some loving sex, and others feeling uninterested. Generally, women have more difficulty with arousal for both anatomical and psychological reasons.
Difficulty with arousal won’t likely lead to a strong sex drive. Biology and psychology both seem to play a role. Let’s start with biology.
According to Louann Brizendine, author of the books, The Female Brain and The Male Brain, the area governing sexuality takes up twice as much space in the male. And the part that controls desire to pursue is 2½ times greater, and more quickly activated. (This is exaggerated and stereotyped in the accompanying photo.)
Brizendine tells us that when the male brain is sexually activated pretty much everything but thoughts of sex shut down. Women certainly can stay focused, but they are more likely than men to be distracted with concerns about the kids’ lunches, a scheduled business meeting, or whether they’ll be labeled a “slut” the next day.
But Dr. Brizendine’s book has met criticism. Dr. Cordelia Fine is a University of Melbourne professor who specializes in social psychology and neuroscientific research. She points out that 1) neuroscience is in its infancy, 2) you cannot determine whether any particular brain is male or female at the individual level, and 3) brain structure is affected by experience. If a woman’s sexuality is punished and repressed, the parts of her brain associated with sexuality will be affected. If a man’s sexuality is celebrated, his brain will also be affected.
But anatomy could have an effect. A penis must ejaculate on a regular basis to create fresh sperm. A penis is also larger than a clitoris. Both of these things might make its workings more obvious so that boys are more likely to masturbate, and girls are less likely to get to know their bodies and what arouses them. An erect penis also gives men a lot of feedback, while women’s genitals seem to provide less: Men looking at a naked body are much more likely to feel aroused than women doing the same thing. But women’s bodies are also much more sexualized by our culture — that may play a role. And the repression of women’s sexuality in our society may also affect genital feedback to the brain.
Of course, men do have much more testosterone, crucial to sex drive. Even when women and men are both treated with testosterone for low libido, the hormone is less effective in women, according to Dr. Glenn Braunstein of Cedars Sinai Medical Center. But women are more sensitive to the testosterone that they do have.
But in women’s favor, they seem to be more capable of multiple orgasm. Some think women’s sex drive could be innately stronger than men’s for that reason. Who knows?
Because psychology affects biology, I’ve already mentioned that women’s sexuality is more punished and repressed in our culture. Men who have sex have been variously praised as players, studs, Casanovas, Don Juans, and lady killers. They are “high-fived” for “scoring.” But women are called sluts, hoes, whores, skanks… Men sport a cocky cock, while a vagina is called “down there.” Or, women get screwed, rammed, nailed, cut, boned, banged, smacked, beaten, and f’d, in street parlance.
Sexual violence doesn’t help, either, and it’s something that more egalitarian, sex-positive societies lack.
Meanwhile, because women’s bodies are so much more sexualized and sexually revealed, men get far more provocation on a daily basis.
In societies where women’s sexuality is not repressed and not objectified, they greatly enjoy sex and behave in ways that are similar to men.
But in our repressive world, women experience more sexual problems. In fact, nearly half of American women report having experienced some form of sexual dysfunction. University of Texas, Austin researchers reported in Why Women Have Sex that one-third of women, aged 18-23, felt little sexual interest in the prior year. But only 14% of men did. Meanwhile, 30-40% of women reported difficulty climaxing. Among those in a relationship, 75% of men said they always had an orgasm, but only 26% of women did. This difference likely affects how much each gender desires sex, since one is more consistently rewarded.
Interest and enjoyment needn’t be such a problem for women. And culture, more than biology, seems to be the culprit. The University of Texas researchers note that women are easily orgasmic in cultures where women are expected to enjoy sexuality. But they aren’t in places where they are repressed.
While women are taught that they are bad if they like sex too much, men are taught the opposite. The male role casts men as being ever-desirous, which could propel them to live up to expectations.
Meanwhile, both men and women learn to see women as the sexier sex. So men can be with someone who’s very physically alluring. But women aren’t taught to see men in the same way. Men can focus on a breast fetish. What are women supposed to pay attention to? No fetish is attached to the male. No wonder we’re less interested.
Sex also provides one of the few vehicles for men to experience emotional closeness. Men need that intimacy, yet the male role leaves them repressing their emotions. Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, feels that “For men, sex is the connection. Sex is the language men use to express their tender loving vulnerable side.”
So how do women and men come together? Large cultural changes would help. Seeing women primarily as the sexy half of the species doesn’t aid women’s sex drive. It would help women to live in a less sexually repressive culture, while men would gain from a less emotionally repressive society. But given that this is our reality, perhaps both women and men could use some counseling or therapy. Communication and acting from a place of love to accomodate each other would surely help, too.
Sure, some women really take pleasure in sexuality, but the heightened and more widespread enjoyment of our sisters who come out of non-shaming cultures tell us that women could be loving sex a whole lot more.
About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social 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. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on January 31, 2011, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged biology, breast fetish, culture, feminism, gender, high sex drive, low sex drive, men, men's health, objectification, orgasm, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sex drive, sexism, sexual objectification, sexual repression, sexuality, social psychology, society, violence against women, women. Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.