Is Male or Female Sexuality Better?

I heard so many of my friends saying, ‘Why can’t I have sex and feel nothing?’ It was amazing: that this was the new goal.

That’s what 25-year-old Lena Dunham told New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni as they discussed her Sex-and-the-Cityish HBO series,  “Girls,” which she writes, directs and stars in.

Dunham points out that numerous cultural cues press women to take on non-emotional, non-connected, “empowered” sexuality.

Yet she can’t manage to do it, herself. And she is not sure it’s empowering,

There’s a biological reason why women feel about sex the way they do and men feel about sex the way they do. It’s not as simple as divesting yourself of your gender roles.

Evolutionary psychology says women are genetically programmed for monogamy so fathers will stick around and provide resources for their children, while men are promiscuous so that they can widely “spread their seed.” The so-called “female” vs “male” ways of doing sex.

I have my doubts. If women are monogamous then men can’t be promiscuous. And both men and women are promiscuous in some tribal cultures.

Modernity seems to breed a monogamous ideal (meaning lifetime marriage after a few years of “sewing your wild oats”) among both women and men, perhaps because these societies are complex and children aren’t raised by the entire community (as they are in small tribes) making single parenthood difficult.

And even while casual, male-stereotypic hookup sex has overtaken college campuses (at least in theory), a recent study of hookup culture found that most men and women (around three-quarters) prefer close, connected relationships.

Still, study after study shows most women preferring sex in a context of love and connection, while men are more open to casual encounters.

So which is better? Casual or connected?

I’ve asked my students what they think. They see positives and negatives in each approach.

The variety offered in non-connected sex can be fun, and if you really do it “man-style,” guilt-free. There are no ruts!

But STDs and unwanted pregnancies are bigger risks. And it’s possible that one partner will end up wanting more, which can create hurt and complications.

And, emotional connection adds depth and dimension, and many can’t enjoy sex without it.

The problem, my students think, lies in feeling pressured to behave in ways that are inauthentic – which isn’t pleasurable, either!

And is non-emotional, non-connected sex more “empowered”? Or do some just think so because it’s thought of as the “male” way in a culture that values masculine over feminine? Or that sees men and “their ways” as more powerful, by definition. Sure, you’re less vulnerable and dependent, but there is great power in relationship.

Likely the “best” and “most empowered” sex is that which is most fulfilling, and which best expresses who you are and what you want, and which is acted out most responsibly.

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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 December 28, 2015, in feminism, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I think in today’s college culture there is definitely an emphasis, if not even pressure from other guys, to participate in a hookup culture. However, I think the older that I have gotten, the more I have realized how overrated it is. I totally agree with the post, there is nothing wrong with hookups necessarily nor with monogamous relationships. However, I do see an issue with going into a sexual encounter all the time in a mindset that it will only be a hookup. If the most empowered sex is the one that makes you the most fulfilled, then by going into sex with a “hookup only” mindset I think you would be neglecting potential for it to be more fulfilling.

    • It’s not that hooking up could not be fulfilling, but if you are going for the most fulfilling sex then I think it would be best to go into it with an open mind. However, I can also understand how some people may feel for one reason or another that just hooking up or only having sex in a monogamous relationship is what they only want to do.

  2. I have always preferred connected sex mostly because I’m a relationship type of woman and I have tried the promiscuous route, but just something about being with a partner for a while and he or she knowing what you like and it just flows because you have that chemistry, it just works better for me. With a new partner you have to learn what they like or how they move and touch and it’s just personally such a anxious feeling for me. I do agree that connected sex has an emotional connection and adds depth and dimension which is great because you can just let go and have it be more fulfilling. I believe that having promiscuous sex there is too much thinking involved, like wondering if you’re good in bed or if you’re pleasing them. I just think it is way too much effort involved like the chase and finding someone and ‘smooth talking’ them into sleeping with you.

  3. In this moment in my life, easy is the way to go. When you involve love and feelings, that’s my time to move on. I see myself in the near future to be in love and in a monogamous relationship but not now. Many times, my friends make references as how similar I am to a man due to the fact that I can be with someone and have no feelings. I can have a sexual encounter and leave and not look back. Of course this is not often, I still fear STD’s and unwanted pregnancies. Have mentioned to my girlfriends in more than one occasion, how perfect it would be to have a couple of good friends where you can call and say, hi can I come over and have sex, and dine out! Sounds kind of like a man, but that’s what fits in my life style and what I’m willing to have and give. Very few times you find friends like this and when you do, you need to use them till you can.

  4. I agree that the best sex is whichever sex you feel most comfortable with. I will not fault those who are only interested in hook-ups because that is the style of sex that works for them. Non-connected sex could be viewed as empowering for women, assuming that they are having it entirely for their own physical pleasure. They are going out and getting what they want, I respect that and hope that they practice it safely. A different type of pleasure is experienced though, when you share it with the one you love. So I also see the pros in a committed and loving sexual relationship. Sex is a very personal thing and no two people experience it the same way. There is no way to decide which is better, it is all a personal preference. As long as each person is satisfied and isn’t always compromising their needs for their partner’s.

  5. I enjoyed reading this post and I believe it brings up a lot of good points. Truthfully, I was a bit shocked to read that many women today say they do not want to have any emotional connection when it comes to sex. I feel that the media in our society has a huge impact on how women (and men) perceive what is accepted or “cool” when it comes to sexual relationships. I also think this idea about what is acceptable has changed over time. For example, during the 1950s a young women was expected to find a husband, settle down and raise a family. That was her job. The media today projects a very different image of how women should be. In today’s ultra male-dominate culture, women are expected to look like supermodels and act loose and carefree. This is bad not just for women but men as well. Selling the idea that ALL men have these expectations for women when in reality it just is not true. In my opinion, even though pleasure can be found in having casual sex, I think it would be hard for many people to completely void their experience of any feeling or connection at all. I believe that sex is most fulfilling when both people involved are heard and respected.

    • Yeah, both men and women tend to prefer emotionally connected sex. And the fact that we, as a culture, act like the the so-called male way of doing things is better is very androcentric: valuing in terms of the masculine.

  6. it was in those cultures that men thought it was important to know whose children were their’s — after all, not knowing who mommy is gave women a lot of power —”

    Could it be not so much about not giving women a lot of power, but men not having their ego and power taken away? It seems natural from a non humble, ego perspective for a man to care a lot and want to “know” whose children is his. I mean if you are raising a child, more often you want the one to be “yours” who you are caring for. Though it’s good to be a father to a child in generl, which is why in modern times we have adoption and such. But a man wants to pass on his property, his skills, his knowledge, wisdom, hunting, whatever and life lessons to his son, so his son can pass it on after the father dies and to the future generations. He wants to care for his daughter to and it’s his daughter, not another mans. It’s one of those things, it could be hard to undestand if you’re more humble, but if you’r a proud person and have a strong ego, you will be apt to care more about that.

    • Well, well I can say is that it is only in patriarchal cultures that men control and repress women’s sexuality so that they can know who daddy is. In non-patriarchal cultures no one cares.

  7. Hello mam,

    Why are women monogamous?
    Women could make love to any man in the primitive communism type of society. Since property was under common ownership. But when surplus production lead to an improved form of DoL and the notion of exchange made way for the birth of wealth and private property, men wanted to make sure that the wealth was inherited by his legitimate heir. And ever since monogamy is the norm.Ladies lost their autonomy over their bodies and was subjected to cultural stereotyping. Since social differentiation in tribal society based on property is low or non existant, promiscuity still prevails or women have more autonomy to choose their partners. This what Engles told. Far better explanation than evolutionary biologist I guess.

    Why are men into more hookups and casual relationships?

    Because they run the show. I mean because of patriarchy. So they systematically shut out women from occupations beginning from industrial revolution through legislation promoting the mother home maker house wife role making her subordinate and dependant on him. Extend it to the cultural sphere by terming the ones working as deviants and self centred. Therefore the role and status were made subordinate to him. This was defined and redefined and propagated through culture suppressing women. Since men did tasks unique and more demanding like hunting and getting meat for the whole society his prestige and status increased enabling him access to power and even sexual access to female bodies. It continues to this date unrefined forms.

    And yes women do not really enjoy sex always with their partners. They just give in. They do not get what they want due to partners ignorance about her real needs. So the suppressed sexual desires comes forth in the form of fantasies and dreams of women. You can attribute the same to the stupendous sales of the novel 50 shades of grey. Studies reveal that more women have read the book than men…….. your thoughts on the above?

    Unroll now I had no idea that you were a PhD in sociology. I just scrolled up now and saw your personal info. I’m terribly sorry. But you really look beautiful.!

    • “Men wanted to make sure that the wealth was inherited by his legitimate heir.”

      That’s a common theory. But not knowing who dad was gave women a lot of power. Family lineage was traced through women, clans were headed by women, and property passed through women. And that was fine so long as you didn’t have patriarchal cultures. (See for example Pacific Islanders and Indians of America’s east coast, prior to European contact.)

      Patriarchal cultures appear to have first arisen in more arid places. Unlike planting societies, arid peoples depended more upon 1) meat — which men hunted, and 2) plundering other cultures — and men were the warriors. And so these peoples started to value those men who were especially good at hunting and plundering. Their gods were thought of as male, and men came to be more valued than women. And so patriarchy arose: valuing men over women and giving men positions of power. From there, men took power more broadly. It is in those cultures that women’s sexuality was controlled, and it was in those cultures that men thought it was important to know whose children were their’s — after all, not knowing who mommy is gave women a lot of power — weakening patriarchy. So I agree with some of your points but others are controversial. I’ll be writing a lot more on all of this later.

      re this:

      the suppressed sexual desires comes forth in the form of fantasies and dreams of women.

      Repression can even make sexual fantasy go away — too evil. I stopped having fantasies (and I was more repressed than most, so completely losing them won’t happen with all women). Still, women have fewer fantasies than men, describe them less vividly than men, and they are less likely to want to act them out. Why did more women buy shades of grey? When it comes to erotica, women are more likely to read (9/10 erotic readers are women according to “1 Billion Wicked Thoughts”). Men are more likely to watch porn clips (9/10). But men are just about as likely as women to have fantasies about someone dominating them.

      This post is related to the above point, and to my next one: Men, Women & Domination Fantasies

      50 shades of grey: Studies reveal that more women have read the book than men…….. your thoughts on the above?

      see these:

      See my last comment +

      Why Women Want Shades of Grey
      Learning to Like Torture in Shades of Grey
      Shades of Making Sexism Sexy
      Fifty Shades of Pro-Orgasm

  8. We must be psychic Georgia in Liking each other’s posts almost at the same time. Do have a Happy New Year my friend. 😀 ❤

  9. I suppose, if there’s an advantage to “empowered” sex (especially in that sow your oats phase), it’s that young women will insist that there be pleasure in it for them, too. Too often, young women “in love” suppress their own pleasure to please a partner. Since pleasure in sex is a little more complicated for females (or at least not so damn obvious) it would be nice if young women could find their way there, before settling down for the long term.

  10. you have always the best, powerful and appealing discussions.

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