Are Women Sexually Ravenous?   

hello boysWire women up to measure vaginal blood flow and, it turns out, they get aroused at the sight of pretty much anything having sex, according to widely cited research by Queen’s University psychology professor, Meredith Chivers.

As Daniel Bergner described it at the New York Times:

No matter what their self-proclaimed sexual orientation, (women) showed, on the whole, strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men.

Even bonobos — an ape species — got women going. 

By contrast, men only responded to the usual suspects. How tame.

The study led many to conclude that women are sexually voracious, as a male friend of mine excitedly proclaimed. Or as Tracy Clark-Flory declared over at Salon:

Bergner, and the leading sex researchers he interviews, argue that women’s sexuality is not the rational, civilized and balancing force it’s so often made out to be — that it is base, animalistic and ravenous, everything we’ve told ourselves about male sexuality.

Women may well have the capacity to be sexually ravenous, and even more so than men. After all, not only does blood rush to the vagina at pretty much any sex signal, they can also have multiple orgasms.

But when it comes to modern women, things aren’t so clear-cut.

First, nearly half of U.S. women have experienced significant sexual dysfunction: no or low interest, painful sex, and difficulty achieving orgasm, for instance. One study found that only 29% of women always climaxed with their partners.

That sounds less-than-voracious.

And it reflects the sexual repression that patriarchy burdens women with. This is far from natural. Women who live in sex-positive societies are easily and multiply orgasmic, and without machinery.

Second, Chivers’ research says nothing about women FEELING aroused. If you aren’t aware of sexual excitement, why would you want to do something about it?

And in fact, the corollary to the penis is the clitoris, not the vagina. The penis and clitoris can both become erect, creating a mental state of sexual excitement. Yet no research has determined what gets the clit going.

One study found that when both the clitoris and vagina were aroused, and then a woman was startled, the clitoris lost responsiveness in a way that the vagina did not.

So who knows, that vaginal blood rush may be registering fear — perhaps nature’s way of protecting women’s bodies from assault — rather than indicating a state of sexual interest, suggests Alice Dreger, a Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

So far, I haven’t seen any research on the clitoris that mirrors Chivers’ study.

So yeah, women’s sex drive may be — or have the potential to be — as strong or stronger than men’s. But vaginal blood flow data doesn’t establish it.

To gain a sense of women’s true sex drive, we must overcome the shaming that now inhibits it.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
How to Pleasure A Woman
Wanting “X” from Sex, but Doing “Y”
How To Suppress A Woman’s Desire

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 April 14, 2014, in psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. I don’t think the phrase “sexually ravenous” applies to all women but I do agree that women are more easily aroused than men. It is also really surprising that even though women are aroused easily, they have more trouble reaching an orgasm than men do. This probably has to o with the pressure women have to “look good” during sex, so they spend too much time worrying about how they look and how their partner is feeling. This arousal rate cannot account for their sex drive because of all these factors that hinder women from actually enjoying sex. I think that the rush of vaginal blood might be a sign of fear or nervousness, instead of arousal. Considering that women are much more likely to be sexually aroused, the statistics don’t support this conclusion. If nearly half of the women in the United States are having discomfort during sex, there is definably a cultural problem with how we perceive/approach sex.

    • Well, the statistics are confusing. Women easily lubricate but they don’t easily FEEL aroused. Theory is that women lubricate easily to protect their bodies from Physical harm to the vagina, as might come from rape.

      Women certainly have the capacity to become aroused easily but our culture punishes women sexuality so much that women tend to learn to repress their interest, which is one reason why almost half of women have little or no interest in sex.

  2. Great article Ms. Platts! I would most certainly agree with the idea that just because women experience vaginal blood flow at the sight of anything sexual, that doesn’t necessarily constitute to the idea that women are sexually ravenous. Conducting research on how women’s vaginal blood flow behaves is one thing, but to conclude that the result proves to ALL that women are “sexually ravenous” is invalid. I especially liked how you included the idea how a vaginal blood rush could also be an indication of registering fear; nature’s way of protecting women’s bodies from assault rather than a state of sexual interest. While this may be just a theory, it is still a very valid idea with excellent rationale behind it. Nonetheless, to say that “woman are sexually ravenous” is truly an inappropriate phrase to say based off my consensus with the theories that counter attack research evidence.

    • It occurred to me that people might interpret “Blood flow to the vagina” at sexual stimulation as something like menstruation. But the blood flow is what creates lubrication. Maybe that’s what you’re saying but I wasn’t sure.

  3. I find this article very interesting. I have experienced such easy arousal without any further eagerness to have sex, which kind of confused me. It’s true that women are more likely to gain the sex interest, but only 29% could reach the orgasm after their arousal, which is really a sad story. And the theory that vaginal blood rush is probably caused by fear, and the reaction is to protect the female body is also interesting. I have heard that women possess stronger sex interest than men do, and I feel really surprised that only a small part of women could finally achieve orgasm. The repression from our society has really deprived women of their right and ability to enjoy sex and feel sense of pleasure.

  4. What an interesting concept! Firstly I think the possibility of women’s sexual arousal being unnoticed is the most plausible theory in this journal piece. Because we are in a patriarchal society and women have been immensely oppressed they might even feel sexual aroused but then quickly and even subconsciously change the meaning of that feeling so it isn’t even thought of as arousal. We’ve been conditioned practically for this change in emotional and physical behavior. Secondly, I would love to read the research about the blood flow of a women’s vagina and her sexual arousal, to analyze more data would help with this topic conversation greatly. Plus it will help develop more of an insight for understanding the psychological and physical effects of women and sexual arousal triggers.

  5. I also forgot to mention that I find it interesting that for the front picture you chose a woman with a shirt saying “Hello Boys”, when the whole “joke” is that some women are aroused by “anything”. Shouldn’t there be a picture saying “Hello Anyone/Anything”? Or do those pics not exist? Because now I’m curious…

    • Tell you what, go to “Google images,” choose a picture that you think would be a good illustration and share it.

      But I will add this point: as I said in the post, women don’t actually FEEL aroused by everything. They’re way more likely to actually feel aroused by men then monkeys, for instance. (Probably no woman will get aroused by a monkey–or very very few)

  6. I agree that men are probably aroused at the sight of most of the same things that females are aroused to. It is a lot more socially accepted that men always have a bigger sexual appetite, and if women are open with sex, then they seem to be labeled. I think that women have a sexual appetite just as much as men, but can maybe control it better. If the women are being judged and called names for having the same sexual desires as men, then it is much harder for them to be as open and honest about sex as men are. I think that both sexes have the same amount of desire, but it is harder for a women to express that desire openly.

  7. I’d like to agree that women are sexually ravenous than men. Probably there are no superior or inferior compared men and women, because I assume both men and women are sexually ravenous in various ways. I’d been wondering why girls doesn’t want to talk about their own sexual experience even though they talk about having sex with their partner. I’m sure girls do have experienced and do masturbation but when we came to the conversation over these topics with my friends, most of them say “no, never.” I feel like I’m the one who is abnormal, and this made me think that women are not sexually ravenous, even though I believe they are for sure.

  8. I’m sure that if they did that study on plenty of other men they would find that they also feel “aroused” at the sight of anyone and anything doing it. And at the same time, plenty of other women who respond to the usual suspects. But I usually take these studies with a grain of salt, only because they only study a “few” people compared to the BILLIONS of people from all over the world. Every human is still different and unique. Although I kind of hope you explained to your male friend how wrong he is about. lol

    • I did explain it to him. Despite my explaining this, And him reading my blog, He doesn’t believe it.

      It could be that if you had a wider sample that you would get more variation. What is striking about the studies that have been done is that they are so consistent, though. But as I said, measuring blood flow to the vagina doesn’t answer the question that is being posed.

  9. I would have been shocked or ashamed of women’s bodies if I read this article in high school, but after taking a course on human sexuality fall quarter, my outlook on sex is far more healthier and fairer to the women’s side than before, thank god. First of all, I disagree with this the conclusion of this research that women are more sexually voracious. Women and men have the same amount of sexual desires.

    The difference is that women separate their subjective arousal from their physiological arousal while men typically associate the two with each other. That means, that even if her body is showing signs of arousal, like vaginal lubrication from seeing bonobos or anything sexual, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she is ready to “get it on” with anyone at the moment. It’s just her body’s response; similar to how people tear up when dust gets into their eye. It doesn’t mean that the person is suddenly feeling devastated because they are crying! It works the same way with that.

  10. This post made me think about one of the topics discussed in class, on how woman became oppressed unintentionally. This is still not clear to me. First: why, if the oppression of woman started as a byproduct of the structuring of early society, has this issue prevailed and enveloped every aspect of culture for millennia?
    The bases for the development of today’s culture are embedded in philosophies that depict human nature and, from this inherent belief society was formed. The works form ancient Greece for example -that exists as a a legacy for modern western civilization- depict the female as made up of an inherently powerful and dangerous sexual force (just like the sexually ravenous capacity suggested in this piece) that needs to be controlled because it threatens the stability of culture itself; similar to, and supposedly derived from the forces of nature. Thornton in “Eros” further expounds on today’s romanticisation of this power and how unacknowledged, hence naively it is handled in modern times.
    I didn’t mean to go on a tangent but I believe that perhaps we are more powerful that we think (both man and woman) sexually and otherwise, and oppression in the past has reflected the fear of this potential manifesting.

  11. This is very interesting, be good to see more research in this area. Maybe if we realise and accept women can be as sexually voracious as men there won’t be such a stigma around women having different sex partners?

  12. To read that women are sexually aroused with anything having sex makes me wonder if it has to do with the female being repressed of her sexuality and therefore, as a way to compensate for the lack of expression, resort to their thoughts for sexual arousal. Compared to men, who are naturally more free in their sexuality (not looked down as much as women) and who masturbate, talk about sex, think about sex at all times.

    Then again, it may well be that men are programmed to mate. They will not find it arousing to see a man on a man or monkeys because it does not give them an opportunity to procreate.

    Just a few random thoughts!

  13. I agree w/you – a test on vaginal blood flow- to assume that it indicates sexual voraciousness… best to ask each woman what they are feeling to get a sense exactly. I’d be interested in a deeper exploration of what it means that less woman are experiencing orgasms despite the capacity to have them and changes that can be made to create a society where there is more space for female pleasure.

  14. Women supposedly being more sexually ravenous than men are, contradicts with the fact that brothels and female prostitutes will never run out of business. On the contrary brothels with male prostitutes for women are practically non existent.
    If women were anywhere near at the same level where men are when it comes to sexual urges, then there would be an equal number of male prostitutes for women.

  15. Interesting.
    Just read this on my lunch break and will likely be thinking about it throughout the meeting I am about to go into. So… Thank you for that, haha.

  16. I always wonder why people, from laypersons to doctors, make comparisons between the vagina and penis VS the clitoris and penis. Doesn’t really make sense, given that the penis and clitoris are;
    1. Roughly the same size,
    2. Made of erectile tissue,
    3. Are what people normally touch when masturbating/having sex, and
    4. The most sensitive/sexually responsive parts of the human body.

    I’m multi-orgasmic, able to get aroused easily, and can have piv orgasms too…but that’s because of my clit, not my vagina. Lol.

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