Men Watch Porn, Women Read Romance
Years ago I met a man who intrigued me. He was my first real love. But I didn’t go headlong into a relationship, I wanted to get to know him, understand him.
I became the detective, trying to determine whether he was right for me. Was he devoted, caring? Empathetic? Did he appreciate me? Was he in love with me or was I just a passing fancy?
He thought understanding each other was overrated.
My sleuthing confirmed my initial attraction – that he was deep. Unless the subject was sex and relationship, which he thought were the same thing. Big problem!
I eventually learned that this dynamic – men seeking sex and women seeking answers – is not unusual. It is even reflected in the erotica we seek.
Cognitive neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas says that men search the internet for two-minute clips that are all about skin and explicit sex. Women’s erotica is more like detective novel meets romance, and takes hours to read and digest. (The number of women romance readers and male online porn viewers are about the same. About one in 10 men are into romance while one in 10 women check out porn clips.)
The men’s interest is simple, uncomplicated. But women more likely want character-driven stories that reveal the lover’s nature. Sex is not for its own sake, and not with impersonal strangers.
As Ogas notes, the female cortex is highly developed and skillfully scrutinizes all available evidence – social, emotional and physical, somewhat consciously but largely not. All this leads to a general feeling of favorability or suspicion: Is he committed and kind? Is he a rouge? A player? Only if the detective work leads to a stamp of approval will physical and psychological arousal unite.
Men’s desire has been likened to an on/off switch, while women’s to a complex circuit board.
Why? Who knows? Some will point to evolutionary psychology: To best reproduce themselves women need a man who will stick around and support their children with resources. So women must be careful, picky. But men (having a great deal of sperm) best reproduce themselves by willy-nilly spreading their seed. It’s a popular theory, but I have my doubts since women in some cultures behave a lot like our sexual stereotype of men. American Indians prior to European contact, for instance.
Others say that in a world where women have less power, women’s lives are more affected by men than vice-versa, so they need to be more careful, even if their sleuthing isn’t very conscious. Women are more likely to follow husbands who are transferred in their careers than vice-versa, for instance. Also, men’s social status affects women more than women’s status affects men’s. When a waitress marries a dentist, her social status immediately rises to his. Not so much for the trucker who marries a female business executive.
And since men are typically bigger and stronger, abused women suffer greater injuries and have more difficultly defending themselves.
Women are also more likely to depend on men, financially, because they are more likely to stay home full-time with kids. Is he dependable? Can he keep a job? If men leave, women in our society bear all the responsibility for children (versus Ancient American Indians who parented communally).
Also, women’s sex drive is typically lower in our culture (largely due to repression, which is due to sexism), perhaps leaving women wanting emotionally connected sex more than variety and experimentation.
And of course, women were raised on a diet of Disney princesses living happily ever after with their one and only true love. Could have an effect.
Meanwhile, bombarded by women-as-object images, men come to see women’s bodies as objects that are all about sex, and women’s body parts sex-signals. Hence the simple look-arousal response. (Surprisingly, the breast fetish seems to be learned, not natural.)
When women and men so often have contradictory ways of seeing and being, you have to wonder why (for about 95% of the population) women and men are thrown together in the first place.
Yet, when it comes to relationships — and not mere erotica — there is more coming together. In fact, guys are getting more romantic and seem to be quite relationship-oriented. So maybe in real life it’s more often a match, after all.
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