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Female Sexual Desire Is Not Complicated

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Female Sexual Desire Is Not Complicated

Hint: Don’t embrace the negative aphorisms.

Noam Shpancer’s recent blog post on “What Do Women Want?” offers an absorbing analysis of the contradictions prevalent in female sexual desire. Concluding with the perception that female sexual desire is entirely paradoxical, he states “a tension between two conflicting motives: on the one hand is the desire for stability, intimacy, and security–picture the flame on the burner of a gas stove: controlled, utilitarian, domesticated, and good for making dinner. On the other hand is the need to feel totally, uncontrollably desired, the object of a man’s raw, primal lust–picture a house on fire.”

Although Dr. Shpancer’s description is a common experience for many women, it is important to balance evolutionary theory with how women are socialized in our culture. For far too long, women have been pitted as the more “complicated sex.” We hear these sentiments frequently in social milieus and mainstream media. It is so common that people tend to reflexively laugh when hearing someone lament “women…you can’t please ‘em” or “what do women really want?” or “what does she think I am, a mind reader?” or, the currently quite popular one, “Happy wife, happy life.” All of these aphorisms tend to paint women as difficult, fickle, lacking in self-awareness and, ultimately, something to yield to.

These sentiments are glaringly at play when it comes to female sexuality. Because female sexual response patterns are different from those of males, many come to think that pleasing a woman sexually requires delivering a strange, amorphous brew that no one can quite label or identify, sort of a “you’ll know it when you get there” mentality. Let me simplify a bit.

Women are sexual beings, capable of both orgasm and enjoying their sexual relationships on a monogamous level. However, family and culture offer young women very little guidance in terms of female anatomy and sexual fulfillment or permission to fully understand their own sexuality. Because the ways in which women respond sexually are less overt and more complicated than men, women who do not have basic knowledge of their sexual anatomy and permission to explore, have difficultyunderstanding their sexuality and enjoying their sexual experiences from their own perspective.

Across the lifespan, girls and women are consistently bombarded with messages from media, culture, even toys and play, that teach them to become more in tune with others than with themselves. For some women, these messages eventually become sexualized so that as adults their sexuality is centered on being physically attractive enough to attain male desire. The idea, as Dr. Shpancer elucidates, that female sexual desire is primed when she experiences feeling “overwhelmingly” desired by a man reflects this conditioning.

Typically, sexual pleasure is addressed in popular culture from the male’s perspective of a female being the object of his desire. Girls and women are frequently left with massive gaps in their understanding of sexual partnership from their own perspective. One of the consequences of this hyper-focus on the external is that it leads many women to only feel passion if she is sensing that her sexual partner is appraising her intensely, positively, like a piece of art in a gallery. Make no mistake, this experience of being turned on solely by male desire is different from feeling true sexual desire from a woman’s own perspective of herself and her body. This sensation is more closely linked with feeling a rush of validation. An immediate validation rush is intoxicating especially for the many who struggle with feeling good enough. In that moment, a woman can feel something that perhaps in her day-to-day life she has difficulty experiencing—her own value.

It goes without saying that both men and women enjoy feeling desired– it is nice to feel liked. Many would say that even men need to feel a bit liked by their mates to more completely enjoy the sexual experience. Discussing women as contradictory creatures, leaves some men second guessing themselves and feeling bewildered when it comes to pleasing the women in their lives. In addition, it encourages women to feel powerless about understanding their sexuality and being able to merge passion and emotional intimacy with their monogamous love interest.

A simple answer to the question, “what do women want?” is attunement with their physical selves and comfort with the process of communicating their desires to the men in their lives. For men, instead of guessing and feeling confused, take time with a woman before introducing sex into the equation—get to know her so that you both may eventually become primed for the conversations that can lead to a healthy and exciting sex life.

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Jill P.Weber , Ph.D. is the author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships. She specializes in the impact of culture on female identity and relationship development. She is a clinical psychologist in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area.
She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from American University. She has appeared as a psychology expert in various media outlets, including Nightline, Teen Vogue, Redbook, Family Circle, Seventeen, CNN, Associated Press, U.S. News and World Report and Discovery Channel.

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