Women, Objects of Desire (Even for Women?)

As women have become increasingly sexually objectified, even straight women were more aroused by a nude woman than by a nude man in one study, when measuring blood flow to the vagina, researchers found.

Is this true? A student of mine wondered. And do the rules of religion collide with sexuality? My student, named Laurelle, garnered a peek at both matters with a simple focus on threesomes.

Laurelle surveyed her friends, family, and coworkers, and had a friend post questions on his forum. Twenty-five women and twenty-five men of varying ages, races, and religious perspectives responded to these questions:

Would you like to do a threesome with two women? With two men? What religion do you belong to? What’s your sexual orientation?

It’s not a scientific study, but I found the results interesting, and with permission I’m sharing her findings.

Eight percent of the men and sixteen percent of the women were bisexual. The rest were straight. No gays or lesbians, which surprised her. (When I survey my students I sometimes receive far more “bi” responses than gay or lesbian, as well. Also surprises me.)

Now, on to the first survey question. Let’s start with men. Not because they are numero uno, but because the women’s answers are perhaps more surprising.

Does belonging to an anti-gay religion make men less inclined toward threesomes? No. While 72% of the men said they’d enjoy a ménage à trois with two women, the number rose to 78% of men belonging to a religion that disapproves of homosexuality. Are they ignoring their religious tenants? Or do they think lesbians don’t count? None of the men – even those who were bi – were interested in sex with two men. Interesting.

Laurelle found it refreshing that twenty eight percent of the guys just wanted one partner. (Better than the 90-plus percent she’d expected would crave threesomes.)

How about women? Those who belonged to an anti-gay religion were less likely than men to want threesomes. But then, women were less likely to want them, overall. Forty percent of the women were interested in trying a threesome involving two women, while only sixteen percent were interested in two men. Yet forty-eight percent of those belonging to a religion that disapproves homosexuality were up for such trysts.

Laurelle’s sample showed a higher interest in threesomes than a survey that I have yet to
post. Her sample comes from family, friends and coworkers, while mine comes from women’s psych and women’s studies students. Maybe she runs with a more experimental crowd.

Still, interesting that these straight women were more interested in sex with two women than two men. And that bi men felt the same way.

The results lend support to the notion that women are seen more sexually than men even among straight women and bi men (at least when they’re in the role of a sex-object casual hookup). Biology? More likely culture.

From the time girls are small they are bombarded with sexualized images of women, but encounter relatively few such images of men. Any wonder, then, that even hetero women can end up seeing women as sexier than men? Some call if female sexual alienation. When we live in a world that is more controlled by men than by women, on some level we all end up seeing the world through male eyes.

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About BroadBlogs

I 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 October 3, 2011, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. howard houston

    I think about having a 3some with my girlfriend all the time but i honestly would never ask her i feel like that would be so disrespectful and i would probably hate her forever if she came to me and asked if she can have a 3some with me and some other guy. it would be cool though but i will keep that to myself lol

  2. What surprise the most is this YOU wrote:

    “While 72% of the men said they’d enjoy a ménage à trois with two women, the number rose to 78% of men belonging to a religion that disapproves of homosexuality. Are they ignoring their religious tenants? Or do they think lesbians don’t count?”

    Why? Because you implied in FFM threesomes, women necessarily have to interact with each other.
    It does not surprise me men think that way because that’s the message porn sends them continuously (hey, even I have that Idea well ingrained in my brain).
    But you, a woman, thinking in such manner. Can you explain why?

    • What’s surprising is being against homosexuality for religious reasons yet being ok w/a threesome, which necessitates some level of homosexual behavior.

      Otherwise, I’m not sure what question you’re asking me.

      • Hipocresy surprises you? Not to me. Once a wise lesbian told years ago: “the same congressmen who oppose gay marriage are the ones who masturbate with lesbian porn.” That sums it all.

        As for your affirmation: “threesomes requires some level of homosexual behavior” I respectfully disagree with you. In fact, when it comes to MFM threesomes, what is expected is that men do not even look each other. Why? Because that’s what straight porn sell us. Hey, even I have that idea very ingrained in my gay brain (which might be the reason I dont enjoy BI porn).

        When it comes to FFM threesomes, however, what’s expected is woman to act in a homosexual behavior. Then again, because that’s what porn sell us. So, if you meant men expect lesbian behavior in a threesome due to porn, and women are willing to, then you’re right! But hipocresy doesn’t astonish me!

      • I’m not surprised by hypocrisy. But I do like to point it out.

        The reason homosexuality becomes involved is, as you point out, that with men’s FMF fantasies it’s common for them to want to see the girls getting together. That’s typically how it is portrayed in porn, too, which likely creates the fantasy in the first place — given that there’s been an increase in this sort of fantasy along with the increase in the portrayal in porn.

  3. I heard that Cybil Shepard had a threesome with two men and admitted it, and it turned out to be no big deal. I have fantasized about having two men for years and thought badly on myself for doing so. I always thought that is was so unfair that men could have two women and boast about it but if a woman had two men they would have to keep it quiet and secretive. I recently by chance ended up in the situation where this became an opportunity for me and i went ‘to hell with it, if cybil can do it so can i’! and went ahead.

    Now i would expect there to be many different satisfaction levels with this, ranging from a terrible experience to mind blowing. For me it was definitely the latter, the two guys treated me with total respect and it was so erotic for me being the center of attention. When one would take a turn and then the other it was extremely exciting and highly pleasurable. Now i didnt have both at the same time this was just purely them taking turns but all i can say is that if you are a single woman and the opportunity comes your way think seriously before turning it down because for me this was the most amazing experience i had ever had. I may never do it again, the chance may never happen again, but i am so thankful and lucky to have enjoyed something that many women think about, but very few would dare experience.

  4. It pretty much goes without saying that at this point of history, women are objectified and sold as the popular statement ‘Sex Sells’ proclaims. (However, I think this marketing strategy is beginning to become counter productive as a new generation comes in. But that’s a whole different topic).

    I feel that the fascination with threesomes is about the same as the fascination with drinking when underage. It’s forbidden and taboo, thus much more exciting, especially to those who’s religion looks down upon it’s practice. As a male, the idea of a threesome only appealed to me once I began seeing it in porn and hearing it talked about among my peers. It would be fun in the sense of purely physical gratification, when it comes to a meaningful experience, I would definitely not look for it in the comfort of two women at the same time.

    Of course our culture also highlights the sexual aspect of women and downplays it in males. In Ancient Greece, the most popular culture for homosexuality, only the aristocrats were involved in male on male relations. The majority of the population looked down on it. I’m not going to speculate on why, historically, men don’t like getting a penis in the anus with evolutionary or sociological reasons, just that generally we are not a fan.

    However, biologically, I believe that women are pre-wired to be physically receptive to intercourse no matter if they want it. When shown sexual images, even of monkeys, all women had some blood flow increase to the vagina, which indicates some level of sexual stimulation. Of course no (most?) woman want to have sex with a monkey, however, biologically she is now thinking about sex much more than she was before. There’s that myth that men think about sex every minute or something like that, I feel that is it from the relative ease of an erection and the low cost of sperm production (a few million per day). I believe women think about sex just as much, just less frequently, more in depth and for a longer period of time, due to the high risk cost of mating and investment cost of female egg (one a month, limited supply).

    Another thing i’d like to comment on is the willingness of female to female sex. Females are traditionally more caring, nurturing and empathetic. Naturally this would carry over in the bedroom, making sure each is highly aroused and satisfied.

    In the end, I completely agree that our culture has completely sexualized women to the point that males are no longer very attractive. However, I feel this is due to the lack of quantifiable ‘sexy’ male characteristics (how do you portray confidence and wit through a magazine ad) and the abundance of female beauty (where you can buy youself pretty).

    • Interesting points. A few comments.

      1. I am not sure how evolutionary psych would explain wmn being more open to 3-somes w wmn than men w men.

      2. While wmn lubricate when seeing monkeys having sex, they don’t feel any sense of arousal. Sex researchers think women lubricate at this sort of sex signal to protect their vaginas from harm — even if they don’t feel at all turned on

      3. While some wmn may think a 3-some sounds a bit intriguing, perhaps because wmn are the sex objects, they won’t necessarily enjoy it in a nurturing wayy. I know of 2 wmn who’ve tried it (they don’t know ea other) but neither liked it. Distractions with how they looked compared to the other women, wondering how the guy saw ea of them, and jealousy.

  5. The finding that straight people, particularly women, are aroused by nudes of the same sex makes sense to me. The Kinsey Scale grades people on a 0-6 spectrum with exclusively gay people on one end (0) and exclusively straight people on the other (6). The majority of the population(1-5), are actually statistically bisexual in some proportion, but many are closeted, assumed to be straight or gay, or may acknowledge attraction to other genders but primarily identify as straight or gay.
    I would like to know more about the context of this study. Where and when was it conducted? What are the in-depth demographics of Laurelle and her contacts? I am particularly interested in the fact that there were no known gays or lesbians in her study. Could it simply be that there are no openly gay or lesbian individuals among her most immediate connections? It may be that, with a larger sample size, more out gays and lesbians would be included. In response to the possibility that some people may think that “lesbians don’t count”, I would say that one factor is that people, and societies, tend to be more permissive, or have more look-the-other-way attitudes toward female homosexuality/bisexuality than they do toward those same identities & practices for males. Also, people tend to be more permissive toward bisexuality in general, since it can be perceived as ‘partially straight’ and not ‘completely gay’ (This is exemplified by the tendency of some males to be accepting of two men and a woman having sex, but less accepting of two men alone.) I would also like to see more data concerning how individuals feel about threesomes with multiple genders, e.g., a person having a threesome with one man and one woman.
    I realize that the study was informal, but it would be interesting to see a scientific expansion of Laurelle’s fascinating study.

  6. The results of this survey are somewhat surprising in the sense that why would a straight woman be more intrigued in having a threesome with two women than two men. On the other hand, it is very true that women are seen as societies sex object. They are seen as the ultimate trophy. The thing, or object, that represents lust, desire, want, need, sin, or whatever else one would want to include. Men, by nature I suppose, think with something else other than their brains and society only encourages men to do so by making it seem ok to objectify women and their voluptuous curves and bodies. This way of thinking can also take away or even eliminate the essence of romance in a sex life. Instead of the male saying Oh you look so beautiful or something sweet, they might say Oh you look hot girl. Like damn you so fine. Just a completely crude or just off putting comment like that could ruin a whole moment. Going back to the survey taken, I do find it interesting that men in an anti-gay religion would still want to have a threesome with two women. The question stated do they think lesbians don’t count is very interesting because it almost seems as if they think that lesbians really DON’T count. T his would also go to show that men can unequal in not including lesbians in the gay community. One thing I did like was that 28% of men said they would want one partner. Gives me hope to know that chivalry hasn’t died just yet.

  7. I think this issue of women being seen as sex objects, isn’t as big of a deal as most would make it seem. It is however a bit interesting to find out that females are more attracted to the sight of other nude females than they are to the sight of nude males. If females would rather see another female naked and the same would go for a majority of males, then women being seen as the default sex object should be accepted. Personally for myself, the thought of three females having sex would sound better than two females and a guy having sex, and I think it would be the same on a females perspective. I don’t think there will ever be a time in our society when a female isn’t the standard sex object and instead it is a good looking guy rather. This reminds of a Carl’s Jr restaurant commercial that had a good looking female eating a hamburger in her bikini, and that was all there was to that commercial but i sure did want a Carl’s Jr hamburger after that. What I’m getting at is that women being used as sex objects at times isn’t demeaning and should be accepted in certain circumstances, especially if a good amount of women will find it entertaining or pleasing for themselves. Also going to some of the previous comments posted, I do think that this is predominantly a world that praises the female species over the males. Women in most average families are expected to stay at home and live off of the husbands earnings, even though in more current times women have been seen as the primary ‘breadwinner’ in some families. Another way we praise to women is that all living humans have to have some kind of rooted love towards their mother, as the ones that brought them into existence. Even the earth and land we live on, it is referred to as ‘mother nature’ not ‘papa earth’. Back to the point in the article, women are seen as the primary sex object, but that has to be ok if some women see it that way too.

  8. I have to agree to disagree with this article, for starters I doubt any man would turn down a threesome especially if it involves two woman. Since last reading this article I asked ten different male individuals of different races if they would take part in this act and only two said no due to the fact that they were “married” even though i still believe the thought of it is running through their minds!! On the other hand females are a lot more shy and conservative so i would of expected the numbers to be lower. I also feel that men have a much higher sex drive than women but a woman should turn any human naked eye on regardless of you being gay or straight so I have to agree with the FACT that it is most likely to have two women and one male.

    • It’s not scientific, as I note in the article. But just the fact that so many women she spoke w/were more interested in threesomes w/women than with men was interesting, and suggested how we learn to see females as sexier. Also interesting that people belonging to anti-gay religions had no prob w/3-somes.

      Otherwise, I don’t know if the men were lying about preferring one woman. I was reading a book called “Pornified” that studied men and porn. One man said that the images can be a problem because when he’s with a woman he wants to be with THAT woman, and not having images of other women in his head, or threesomes or whatever, in his head. He wants to be with HER.

      There can be some variation among men. And it may involve how interested they are in straight sex, and how interested they are in connection w/one woman. And… most of the men did want threesomes. But it seems to be a learned taste. Years ago before this was all over porn, men were less likely to report they wanted that particular thing.

      I did a survey of women students in my classes, and hardly any of them were interested in 3-somes, so this sample may be high in that regard (i.e., women’s interest in 3-somes). I did see a sample of Cosmo readers that was similarly high. I guess they’re more open to experimentation.

      But the fact that men are much more interested than women creates a problem. A lot of men will feel frustrated about never fulfilling that particular fantasy.

  9. First off,I am a firm believer in the fact that this is a women’s world. The men that were surveyed,were lying.We all know that the average man will not turn down a naked women.Women should be more sexual than men,mainly because they control every moment spent with the opposite sex.A lesbian is almost every guys dream.Most men don’t recognize gay men because of dislikes or other personal reasons.Someone stated earlier that homosexual men in our world is not ok simply because anoyher man said so.ait is a personal choice in my book,do your thing. Now,a threesome between two women and a man will always be a desire in this society.Some women don’t mind being sex symbols,they may feel that since it has always been portrayed like that why change it.The women & whomever that doesn’t,im sure majority of those women have personal issues with themselves. Give the right time and day,they would engage in the lovely activities.

  10. I think that women just have this thing about them that makes them beautiful. Even though I’m not lesbian or bisexual I think I’d rather watch a woman strip naked than I would a man–unless he was amazingly sexy–but I still wouldn’t want to see the whole package. But as far as having a threesome, the idea of there being 2 girls & one guy makes it sound exciting. Whereas a threesome with 2 men and one girl just makes it seem nasty; its almost as if the two men are over powering the one girl and I just don’t think thats right. I also think a woman has the ability to make anybody want her. I am not trying to be biased but I don’t think men can do that.

  11. Looking at a naked woman I think regardless if you are straight or gay, you will be aroused no matter what. I think that what the article is saying could be true. I think most women would prefer to be in a threesome with another woman than with another guy. I think most women would prefer to have another woman in a sexual intercourse because maybe they are gentler than being with two guys. I think that is just another kinky side of a woman. However, i think that because women are branded as “sex objects” people just see them that way. As oppose to two guys.

  12. As strange it is to say, I too asked 3 of my girl-friends (friends that are girls) if they would be down to have a 3 some.
    The first one who has a boyfriend said that she would be down to have a 3 some w/ not only her boyfriend, but her boyfriends brother.
    The second one is a virgin claimed that she wouldn’t know how she would handle two guys because she is scared to even handle one guy.
    The third one claimed that she would never have a threesome because she would much rather be naked in the presence of one guy who she feels truly deserved the title of having sex with her.

  13. I think the survey is not fair enough because there is not a huge number of interviewer. It is also no gays or lesbians were interviewed. Instead only bisexual people were interviewed. However, the conclusion of men have more desire of having threesome than women can be true. Women may be more sexual than men, as concluded in the experiment by measuring the bloodflow in the vagina. Nonetheless, because of the internalized sexual preconception in society, which suggests that women should be passive and indifferent towards sex, women learn not to be sexual since they were small. I would say that the experiments prove that women and men are equally sexual. Women may be even more sexual than men. And the survey shows how the tradition, culture, expectation from society largely change the value and opinions of women towards sex.

  14. I’m not surprised with the results of the survey. Our culture seems to flaunt threesomes and sexual activity among women. By doing so, they create the illusuion that: 1. Women are sex objects and that 2. It’s acceptable (or atleast more so) then gay males. If you ask a guy, “what do you think about lesbians?” I think most would mention how “hot” they think it is. Lesbians aren’t getting more acceptance because society agrees they are free to chose who fall in love with, but because the women being sex objects excite males with their activities. Gay men don’t get this, they are continued to be put down. Why? Because our society doesn’t think guy on guy action is hot. Its a double standard. And what’s even more disapointing is that women are blinded by what a male society finds attractive v. what is not.

    • (argh, apparently the site ate my original post. Grr.)

      I would point out that a significant number of women find homosexual men attractive in the same way that many men find homosexual women attractive. But I agree that in a largely male-dominated society, that tends not to hold the broad appeal that lesbianism seems to. Still, it exists.

      As for the original article, I personally see the ménage à trois as a solution to a problem that doesn’t come up terribly often in our society: A situation where three people genuinely want to be each other, and the extra effort (and drama) that goes with increasing the number of people in a relationship is worth the added enjoyment received. I think that anyone that boils it down to “more women in bed r gud” is grossly oversimplifying things and failing to properly consider the question.

      Would I, personally, want to participate in a threesome? Only if I had two partners that I wanted to be in one with, and they both wanted to be with me and the other person. At that point, it becomes the best course of action to take. Gender, to me, is irrelevant – desire to be with another person (or people, as the case may be) is all that would matter.

  15. It can be true that most women would have a threesome more likely with a women then a male. Some women prefer women over men just maybe because they have had a previous relationship with a man and it wasn’t quite what they expected. Do the rules of religion collide with sexuality? It does when you were raised that way and still go with that religion. Yes it does collide with sexuality because some religions do not approve of same sexuality or women two women. No I wouldn’t want to do a threesome with two men either because two men are like just as the same as one man. My sexual orientation is straight — males. But who am I to say that I would never talk to a women.

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