What About Venus?

Margie Nichols, Ph.D.By Margie Nichols, Ph.D.

In an earlier blog post  we wrote about the distinct characteristics of male sexuality.  With the caveats that men and women are more alike than different, and that we don’t know if the differences are cultural or biological- here are some things we know about women’s sexuality:

1) Women are less sexual than men – with some important distinctions.  Women are less likely than men to orgasm regularly – 50% versus 75% – but they are MORE likely to be able to have multiple orgasms.  Moreover, many women have no ‘refractory period’ after an orgasm – that means, if the desire is there they can continue to have sex indefinitely.

2) Moreover, women may be more inherently arousable to a wider variety of sexual stimulation than men.  In a famous series of experiments Meredith Chivers and her colleagues found that men responded narrowly to pornography – heterosexual men only to heterosexual porn, gay men only to gay porn – while women responded to all kinds of erotic depictions, no matter what their sexual orientation.

3) Women definitely fuse sex and love more than men do.  Not only that, many women can’t seem to grasp how anyone COULD separate the two, which is why they don’t understand ‘sport sex’ or ‘recreational sex.’  Many women associate sex with intimate connection, support, and romance only.  One study of affairs found that while women were nearly as likely to have affairs as men, men having affairs reported ‘good’ marriages but women said their marriages were troubled.  Men often simply wanted sexual novelty, while women were looking for love, not just sex.

4) Unless troubled by sexual dysfunction, the average man’s sexual response is rapid and usually quickly results in orgasm. They are visually oriented and can compartmentalize, shifting into ‘sex’ gear easily even when distractions abound.  But many women are more distractible during sex, need more variety, and most of all need a long slow warm-up – lots of non-genital touching.

5) Many women experience a shift in desire patterns in a long-term relationship.  They no longer feel ‘horniness’ that drives them to want sex.  Instead, they make ‘decisions’ to engage in sexual foreplay activities that may lead to arousal and THEN a kindling of more desire.  This is often a major point of misunderstanding between men and women in opposite-sex relationships.

6) Women’s erotic self-image is essential to their sexual desire.  In other words, most women have a hard time wanting to get naked if they hate their bodies.  This  doesn’t seem to trouble men as much, mostly because they aren’t as a rule as self-critical of their appearance.   Many cases of decreased desire in women are attributable at least in part to a diminished sense of attractiveness.  Partners who understand this know that compliments are incredibly sexy.

In short, Mars and Venus DO exist in the bedroom.  But men and women are not opposites – the differences are more complicated than that.  We’ve just begun to unravel the intricacies of sexuality, and gender is just one of the variables.

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