Most people aren’t getting enough sex, and they don’t know what to do about it. Dr. NerdLove steps in to examine the problem and offer solutions.
One of the ongoing complaints I see amongst my readers and in society in general is sex. Most people aren’t getting laid enough… and they don’t know what to do about it. Whether it’s a case of chasing after numbers, finding a no-strings-attached hook-up, a lack of nookie in a committed relationship or even just managing to lose one’s virginity, it often seems like sexual fulfillment is something that happens to other people.
It’s a constant source of frustration, angst, even self-harm in men. It’s led men to drink, drugs and dodgy sub-reddits.
But no longer.
Today, I’m going to do something that nobody else has done: I’m going to give you the secret to getting all of the sex you can handle… and I’m giving it away for free ((So many jokes…)). No sales pitch. No “free-sample-now-pay-for-the-rest.” No dodgy links. Everything’s on the up and up.
I warn you now: it’s not going to be easy. But I think you’ll agree with me that it’s worth it.
The Single Biggest Impediment To Sex
You want to know the main reason why sex seems so damned difficult to come by unless you’re one of the blessed few who seem to have an intrinsic grasp of social dynamics?
It’s women. Kinda.
More specifically: it’s the way that society has treated and socialized women for literallyhundreds and thousands of years. Over generations, society has placed barrier after barrier between women and their own sexuality. In fact, the dominant narrative for the last two hundred years has been that women are inherently the “purer” sex, the ones who are biologically inclined to monogamy, who are the less lustful of the species.
Women – and society – have been taught that sex is a masculine trait; men are satyrs who can barely control themselves while women are tasked with having to guard not only their own virtue but regulate men’s sexuality as well, because Lord knows men can’t, bless their hearts.
In fact, until relatively recently, female sexuality was an oxymoron. The idea that women evenwanted sex was a heretical thought.
Women As Non-Sexual Beings
It wasn’t always thus. In fact, in the western Classical Age, women’s sexuality was considered to be in many ways superior to men’s. In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Tiresias is called upon to settle a bet between Zeus and Hera: who gets more out of sex, men or women?1 After spending years transformed by the gods into a woman – never let it be said that the Greeks didn’t believe in rigorous study – Tiresias had an answer: a woman’s pleasure from sex wasnine times more intense than a man’s.
Medicine and fertility treatments of the time – well up until the Middle Ages – focused on the importance, even necessity of women’s sexual pleasure in order to ensure conception… the female orgasm was considered to be as important, if not more so, than the man’s.
Not, mind you, that this meant that women’s sexuality was embraced or approved of. The madonna/whore dichotomy was well and truly in place early on. In the Talmud, Adam’s first wife Lilith is expelled from Eden for trying to take the superior role in sex – riding her husband rather than laying back and thinking of Babylon; after her expulsion she goes on to lay with the wild beasts of the desert and becomes the mother of demons. Eve’s sin – giving in to temptation – is the burden of all women. The Malleus Maleficarum – the official witch-hunter’s guidebook of the early modern Catholic Church – tells stories of lustful witches who steal men’s seed, stamina and even their genitals through sex.
The idea of woman-as-insatiable-temptress lasted right up until the 19th century when suddenly the narrative shifted. Now it was no longer that women were lustful and needed to be controlled; now the story – especially promoted by proto-feminist movements and Protestant Christianity and eagerly adopted by Victorian England – was that women were the purer gender.
This idea would go on to shape not just the perception of women, but the understanding of human sexuality.
Science, Evo-Psych and The Power of the Cultural Narrative
We like to think that we’re a logical species – that we see the world with gimlet-eyed clarity and a belief in science and evidence above all else. After all, we’ve tamed the deserts, charted the oceans, harnessed the atom and conquered outer space… clearly we are a people of lucid cognition who see only what is real, untainted by superstition or cultural prejudice.
Except this isn’t true. We let confirmation bias control much of what we believe, even down toour science. Much of our belief about human sexuality – the importance and universality of monogamy, for example – stem from the Flintsonization of primitive cultures. Darwin was a notorious prude and this directly influenced his interpretations of evolution, as well as the interpretations of those who came after him. We ascribe modern morality and concepts to our paleolithic ancestors because we believe that it was always thus.
This is never more evident than in evolutionary psychology. The goal of evo-psych is to show that our modern behavior is inborn, that everything from whom we’re attracted to, to social dynamics, is born out of evolution instead of societal change. Women, for example, are built for monogamy and are less interested in sex in general – so the theory goes - because sperm is metaphorically cheap while eggs are expensive; there is less metabolic cost to men for producing sperm, while women not only generate the ovum, but place their health and safety at risk by bearing the child. It follows, then, that men are naturally not inclined to monogamy because their lizard-brains tell them that they need to spread their cheap sperm far and wide to better maximize their potential for offspring. Women, on the other hand, hold back sex in exchange for status, protection and resources; they want to maximize their individual offspring’s chances to survive… and sexual access is the currency they have to offer.
It’s a lovely theory, one that just feels right. We all know men are hornier than women after all…
Except it’s not true. Not only are women not less sexually inclined than men, but neither are they naturally monogamous. Female primates don’t actually trade sex for protection and support; in fact, it’s more beneficial for the female to mate with many males because of the way it obscures paternity and helps prevent the threat infanticide from males who might want to make her fertile again. Humans in particular are built for multiple partners; male genitalia and sexual response are designed to flush out the sperm of other males.
The “eggs are cheap” theory falls into a logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc – “after this, therefor because of this”. It’s backfilling the origins of modern sexual behavior by establishing a seemingly logical “reason” for its existence. But we’ve seen over and over again that, in fact, human sexuality has far less to do with reproduction than evo-psych would have us believe.
We let the cultural narrative control how we see the world and that belief affects everything else. Scientists have long said that males of almost every species are the sexual aggressors, because we’ve long believed that males are the universally dominant gender. But because we believe this, we overlook evidence to the contrary. When we study animal reproduction, we often focus on the actual mating… but not on the behavior that leads up to it.
In his book What Do Women Want? Daniel Bergner interviews scientists who study sexual behavior in animals – and the results are interesting. Even in species as diverse as rats and rhesus monkeys, the female does the majority of the initiation for sex; rather than letting the pheromones produced by estrus do all of the work for her, she must entice the male into mating. More often than not, the male’s contribution to sex involves being a passive actor, only coming to action when called upon.
This blindness persists even into human sexuality. One of the biggest “discoveries” trumpeted around the Internet in 2009 was the stunning revelation that the human clitoris is actually much, much larger than previously thought – extending far into the body and actually bifurcating into branches and wrapping around the vagina like a pair wings.
Except… this wasn’t really news. In fact, this had been discovered and published in medical journals more than 11 years earlier when Dr. Helen O’Connoll studied the clitoris in an MRI. And yet, this fact was ignored in medical textbooks and anatomical illustrations until recently. For reference, the penis was mapped via MRI in the 1970s. The clitoris was treated as a vestigal organ at best. While thousands upon thousands of pages have been written about penile surgery – especially about restoring or enhancing sensation, the majority of medical information regarding the clitoris and clitoral hood consisted of dermatology.
Why? Because the clitoris’ only purpose is sexual pleasure. And we, as a culture, continue to be incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of female sexuality or women having sexual agency.
Good Girls Go To Heaven/Bad Girls Go Everywhere
To be a woman in the modern world is to be placed at odds with one’s own sexual desires.
In the opening chapters of his book, Daniel Berenger talks about an eye-opening study regarding the differences between female and male sexuality. Dr. Meredith Chivers, a professor of Clinical Psychology at Queen’s University conducted a study of the sexual response in men and women, comparing one’s subjective arousal to the actual arousal as measured by blood flow to the genitals. Subjects – men and women of various sexual orientations – would watch an assortment of videos of 90 seconds each- heterosexual and homosexual couples having sex, nude men, nude women, men and women masturbating and a pair of bonobos mating. Between each clip, they would be shown a video of a nature scene to return their arousal level back to baseline normal. Each subject had a keypad on which they would rate their feelings of arousal. As a result, Chivers had records of each participant’s subjective and objective arousal.
Male response tracked closely to their reported sexual identity; gay men were aroused by gay porn and nude men while straight men were aroused by the hetero couples and the women; their subjective and objective arousal levels matched. Women’s… did not.
In fact, the records showed that women were far more aroused than men by a wider variety of images. Regardless of sexual identity, the female subjects were aroused by the sexual activity; the lesbian subjects were aroused by the male homosexual porn and the hetero subjects were aroused by the sapphic lovers and scenes of women masturbating. And yet the levels of subjective arousal reported by the participants varied. Again, the men’s self-reported arousal levels matched their recorded blood-flow… but the women’s were often contradictedby their own bodies.
There have been other studies that strongly suggest that the cause for the discordant results is that women are socialized to be disconnected from their own sexuality – that men are allowedto sexually in tune with their own wants and lusts while women are not.
Considering the way that society responds to any suggestion that women are sexual creatures, this is hardly surprising. In the 1940s and 50s, Alfred Kinsey conducted the first comprehensive study of human sexuality and published his findings in two books. The first, Sexual Behavior In the Human Male was a runaway success, turning Dr. Kinsey into an overnight celebrity; quite the unexpected reception for a dry tome full of charts and statistical data, written for the academic and scientific community. The second book however, Sexual Behavior In The Human Female did not get the same response. In fact, public outcry against his findings – that women masturbated, that most women had pre-marital sex, that a surprising number were lesbians or bisexual and had same-sex experiences – was so intense that there was a Congressional inquiry into his finances. He lost his grants and his job and died in poverty. The backlash against his findings and his study was so great that it hampered future research into human sexuality for decades.
Society, in effect, attempted to bury the Kinsey reports because they didn’t like the way it disrupted the social narrative about female sexuality.
Even as social mores changed with rise of feminism and the Sexual Revolution in the 60s, women who were overtly sexual were portrayed as having something wrong with them; they clearly had been abused, or psychological problems or were otherwise just “damaged goods”. The idea that they might have sex for pleasure’s sake was anathema. Women, we are told over and over again, require emotional inspiration for sex; even the classic “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask)” insisted that “before a woman could have sexual intercourse, she must have social intercourse”. The infamous 1989 Clark/Hatfield study continues to be held up as “evidence” that women don’t like sex the way that men do despite the problems with its methodology and the subsequent studies that refute it.
Even today, society pushes back hard against women owning their sexual interests… even as women are encouraged to take active control of every other aspect of their lives. Every few months it seems, somebody notices that the sexual culture has been changing, especially on college campuses. It seems that not a month can go by without another article tut-tutting and pearl-clutching over the rise of “hook-up culture” and the “dangers” it’s presenting to young women.
Even the New York Times couldn’t get away from the slut-shaming; while the first few stories talked about young women who were engaging in sex because they felt like it, the second half was equal parts finger-wag and tragedy porn, a mélange of regrets, tales of woe and rape. The message was unmistakable: these poor girls, ruining their lives because they were fucking like men.
The point was driven home later by Newsweek editor-in-chief Tina Brown:
I found this tragic because it basically says that these girls are completely editing out tenderness, intimacy, excitement, somebody respecting them…
Yes. Women deciding that they wanted no-strings attached sex meant that they were cutting themselves off from intimacy and permanently marking themselves with a scarlet “S” that would forever prevent some man from considering them a viable future spouse. In 2013.
Of course, it certainly doesn’t help when you have politician after politician actively punishing women for having sex for any reason outside of missionary-position-and-strictly-for-procreation. First it was the conservative outcry over – get this – birth control pills, something that hasn’t been controversial since Griswold Vs. Connecticut (1965) made it legal for married couples and Eisenstadt v. Baird (1971) made it legal for everyone else. Rick Perry decided to lead the nationwide charge against women’s sex lives by mandating getting a stick shoved up one’s hoo-hah as an unavoidable prerequisite to getting an abortion and then closed 99% of the abortion clinics in Texas. And as goes Texas, so goes the rest of the nation; Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan were quick to follow with their own version of the trans-vaginal ultrasound laws as a way to punish all those sluts for their sluttish ways.
But where would all of the slut-shaming be without a generous dose of hypocrisy to go with it?
Women are allowed to be sexual… but only in prescribed ways. Their sexuality is to be a performance, something done in order to please men, not for themselves. The nude women that bedeck the scenery of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” are decorative, not empowered; their sexiness is there to affirm Thicke’s desirability and virility. The Daily Mail – a UK tabloid that is, frankly so shitty that wrapping fish in it would be an insult to the ocean, takes great glee in drawing attention to nip-slips, muffin-tops and the occasional oops-no-panties moment for female celebrities. It loves nothing more than criticizing them for their shamelessness & lack of decency – as well as not keeping their bodies to the desired standards of Daily Mail’s readers and editorial board.
- …and few celebs are willing or able to slap back as effectively or awesomely as Amanda Palmer did. Warning, very NSFW
Geek culture similarly has a love/hate relationship with women’s sexuality; they may love the sexy cosplayers but only in as much as they gratify men’s interests… and even then they’re suspect. Adrienne Curry gets held up as an “attention whore”2 and “fake” geek girl whenever she attends San Diego Comic-Con in skimpy costumes. Cosplayers who portray sexy characters, Rule 69 versions, or otherwise show “too much” skin are simultaneously lusted after – witness the number of “hottest cosplayer” photo galleries – and accused of only being there to bolster their number of Facebook and Instagram followers. As though someone who’s “only in it for the attention” is willing to shell out the hundreds of bucks for a SDCC pass, fight through the Thunderdome that is the Comic-Con hotel-reservation system3 and spend countless hours and dollars creating costumes just “for the attention” rather than a way of embodying and expressing their love for the characters they adore….
It isn’t helped any when men themselves are socially resistant to sexually aggressive women. A large part of why women aren’t willing to approach men they’re interested in is because men react badly to such a violation of the social narrative. When women make the first move, they’re often seen as being slutty or overly-aggressive. Those men who don’t respond with immediate distaste tend to overestimate the women’s interest in them and react accordingly… which is to say, trying to spelunk her tonsils with any portion of his anatomy he thinks she might take.
Small wonder then, that women – even in this day and age, when more and more young women are discarding traditional definitions of “feminine behavior” and forgoing dating for casual relationships in college – are still uncomfortable with the idea of fucking as care-free as men do; not only do they bear the majority of the physical risk but the social risk as well.
The Secret To Getting More Sex
So now that you’ve stuck around this long, let’s talk about what all this means to you.
If you’re looking for more casual sex, whether it’s a fuck-buddy relationship, a same-night hook-up, or just no-strings attached sex, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. The level of cultural conditioning that we’ve received – women and men – is difficult to unravel and work through… even when you know it’s there. There are a large number of women who want a casual hook-up but feel uncomfortable pursuing one because of social opprobrium, even in 2013. Women are continually subject to messages of denial and shame when they step out of the traditional gender roles of sexuality and this directly affects their relationships… and yours.
(As the official NerdLove Celebrity Patronus Dan Savage has said many times, part of why American culture’s so screwed up over sex is that “Canada got the French, Australia got the convicts and America got the Puritans”.)
So what can you do about it?
Understand That Women Want Sex Too
As far as advice goes, this seems like a “duh, George” moment if ever there was one. But one common sticking point I’ve seen over and over again is accepting the idea that women are as much sexual beings as men are. All too often, guys have a hard time expressing their desires or even wanting to admit that they have them. They often see their own sexuality as problematic and assume that women are naturally going to be offended by it because they’re so much less animalistic or base than men, or that they have different needs. Except it’s not true; women want to get laid just as much as men do and for the same reasons. Sometimes they want emotional intimacy or to feel desired. Sometimes they’re bored and it’s something to do. Sometimes it’s a way of proving something to themselves or to others. And sometimes they’re just horny and want to fuck.
Accepting that women are sexual beings, just as men are, is an important part of being able to relate to them sexually and to be able to communicate with them. It’s not a negotiation or trade of value for value, it’s a collaboration; you’re both interested in something that’s fun and feels good, here’s what you both bring to the table, are you interested?
A major impediment to women’s sexual interest is social. A woman who expresses herself sexually is branded as a slut or a whore; a woman who has too much sex – for suitably random values of ‘too much’ – is seen as worth less or “damaged”. All too often, if a woman is overtly sexual, society is quick to assume that there’s something wrong with her or that she’s doing damage to herself; almost every hand-wringing article about “hook-up culture” in colleges worries about how these women are ruining their future potential. Strippers and escorts, so goes the common assumption, are only doing their job because “daddy touched them” or they have unspecified “issues”. Amanda Knox’s sex life (**Gasp** she bought a vibrator! She had one night stands!) was used as “proof” that she was mentally unhinged and thus a murderess; even after her acquittal, she’s forced to justify her sexuality to the media. Even women who simply approach men rather than waiting for men to make the first move are shamed for aggressively pursuing what they want.
One of the sexiest aspects of a modern man is someone who can accept a woman as she is without judgement. It’s fine for her to be the aggressor; it feels good to be desired. Whether she likes to be overtly sexy or not doesn’t speak to the quality of her character, nor does it imply anything other than “she likes to feel sexy”. It doesn’t matter if she’s had one partner or many; it’s only important that she’s into you.
Fight Back Against Rape Culture
I’m a big believer in enlightened self-interest. It’s good to do the right thing just because it’s right… but sometimes it’s worth noting that doing the right thing is good for you as well. Case in point: Want to get laid more? One of the key reasons why women aren’t as receptive to casual sex as men are is because of the risk to their physical safety. Part of the solution then, is to help build a world where women can feel safe. When harassment is brushed off as “he’s paying you a compliment” or “boys will be boys”, when a rape victim is almost always automatically blamed for her own assault and someone drinking, hanging around with men or is dressed provocatively is seen as “asking for it”, we’re fighting against our own interests. The tolerance, acceptance and even normalization of rape and rape culture all contributes to a world where women are in danger just by virtue of being women. Speaking up when someone is being harassed, calling out rape jokes and bad behavior, supporting women even in the face of being dismissed as a “white knight”, even something as simple as practicing and encouraging enthusiastic consent are all ways of pushing back against rape culture.
Be An Ally
Yes, I’m advocating being a feminist ally because it’ll help you get laid. Remember what I said about enlightened self-interest? It applies just as much here.
Guys get caught up in the myths of feminism and the idea that it’s about taking something away from men – as though privilege is a zero-sum game. Feminism isn’t about hating men or putting men into a submissive role or taking over the world. It is – as the famous quote goes – about “the radical idea that women are people too” and treating them accordingly… and that helps men as well.
There’s a phrase in feminism: “The Patriarchy hurts everyone.” Every time a man laments that women won’t make the first move, he is lamenting the gender roles that the patriarchal system enforces. Every time he wonders why women aren’t as interested in sex as men are, he’s staring down at behavior enforced by the entrenched structure. Every time a guy is given shit for acting queer, called a fag or is told he’s being a little bitch, he’s being punished for acting outside of the strict definition of “MAN”.
These are all things that feminism is trying to change. Fighting back against the “traditional” definitions and restrictions of gendered behavior frees women and men.
And it helps both men and women sexually. One of the most important victories won by feminism was the right for women to control their reproduction. The introduction of hormonal birth control was a critical factor of the Sexual revolution; when women were able to have sex without the risk of pregnancy, it opened up the world to them. Not only were they able to embrace education and careers without concern about their lives being interrupted by pregnancy, but it also enabled them to pursue relationships – casual and otherwise – with a freedom that they didn’t have before. The conservative push to roll back all of those hard-won victories will directly affect men just as much as women.
The adage that a rising tide lifts all boats applies to equality as much as it does to finance. Helping work towards equality and social change is in your own best interest.
And besides: allies are sexy as hell.