Gender Imbalance in Sex Research

Figleaf has some interesting posts about a stunning imbalance in sex research. Most of the time, sex research and popular coverage of sex research is about women and/or vaginas. Does the G spot really exist? How does female arousal work? What are women attracted to? How does the vagina function? How many women have orgasms, how many women fake orgasms, how many women have multiple orgasms? Does squirting exist? Much of the popularly covered sex research that is about men and/or penises is related to queer men, porn, or penis size and stamina.

He quotes Dr. Petra, a sexologist who wonders:

Another approach might be to consider how this scenario would look if it were penises under the microscope. While there are undoubtedly distressing issues facing men around penis size and stamina the stereotype for men is they all experience pleasure from their dicks. If you talk to men you discover some get intense pleasure from testicle stimulation and are unable to orgasm without this. Some hate their balls touched. Some get a lot of pleasure if attention is paid to the shaft of the penis. Some find direct stimulation to the glans uncomfortable. Others experience more pleasure from anal stimulation.

Yet we do not suggest because men can and do experience pleasure from different areas in their genitals that there are specific spots that guarantee male orgasm or that men are somehow deficient if they do not experience say, a left testicle orgasm. We don’t scan, survey, or perform autopsies on penises to establish the most sensitive parts. Nor do we have self help books, courses or sex toys designed to coach men into experiencing orgasm through stimulation to specific areas of their genitals.

I, along with Figleaf, think a lot of this is because we already think we know everything about male sexuality. Male sexuality is simple! All he needs is a warm hole and five minutes! Let’s talk about female sexuality, which is mysterious and complicated and strange! I mean, all the ladies are, like, different from each other. Some of them want one thing and others of them want another thing! Clearly we must do SCIENCE to find out what kinds of things ladypeople like, as this is no doubt far more interesting than what gentlemanpeople like.

Uhhuh.

Look, I’ve slept with cis girls, and I’ve slept with cis dudes. (Unfortunately, no trans people have yet graced my boudoir.)  Guess what? They’re both fucking complicated. Every man has his own particular map of the spots that he likes to be stimulated, a map which changes depending on his mood, how turned on he is, what partner he’s with, what else he’s been doing that day, the kind of sex he’s having, and probably the bloody fucking phase of the moon. You can’t generalize from what one man likes to what other men like– no more than you can with women.

We should study cis male sexuality. And as part of that we should find out which bits of male anatomy are the most sensitive, and which bits tend not to be; we should study the prostate and the perineum and, yes, the left testicle. But we should do that without the nonsense women all too often experience about how G spots are better orgasms no wait clitoral orgasms are the best now you have to learn to squirt or else your sex will suck forever BUY OUR DVD AND ACCOMPANYING SEX TOY because you are not enjoying sex and you will never enjoy sex unless you BUY OUR SHIT.

Dudes. Sex is not a bloody competitive sport. How you figure out whether your sex life is satisfying is that you ask yourself and/or your partner(s) whether it’s satisfying. It is? Good. Done. It’s perfectly awesome to experiment, of course, but you don’t have to have any particular outcome to the experiment. “Eh, turns out I don’t like G spot stimulation” is fine.

But seriously, we need to study male sexuality. Stuff is happening there. The “common sense” about men is probably about as accurate as the “common sense” about female sexuality was before we started studying it scientifically– you know, all that “clitoral orgasms are immature, only vaginal orgasms are real” nonsense? True, a lot of the studies of female sexuality are shit. But the cure for bad studies is not no studies, it’s good studies.

If nothing else, think of Cosmo. Maybe if you do studies about what men secretly want in bed they can just cover those studies and stop with the throwing-darts-at-the-wall “why don’t you put your nipples on his balls” advice.

P. S. About the women who can’t reach orgasm thing: I will bet any sum of money that if women were expected to masturbate the way men are and if our culture viewed ‘real’ sex as frottage until the woman orgasmed, suddenly it would be men who were having all the problems.
P. P. S. Squirting kinda sucks. So. Much. Cleanup.

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About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    “all he needs is a warm hole and five minutes….”

    You mean five whole in a row? What am I supposed to do with the other 4 minutes and 50 seconds?
    : – (

  2. I think some of this may have to do with the fact that a lot of researchers are straight men, so perhaps female sexuality may be of particular interest to them. This is by no means an excuse, but a possible explanation.

  3. Doug S. says:

    True, a lot of the studies of female sexuality are shit. But the cure for bad studie

    Looks like something got cut off there?

  4. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in addition to the researchers-are-male thing (I don’t doubt you, but I’d be curious to see some statistics), this also may be Ozy’s Law in action, again.

    I’m not trying to derail the thread, but think on this: certainly, the assumption that we already know everything there is to know about male sexuality is degrading to men.

    But the assumption that female sexuality is “more mysterious” (read: more difficult to understand because women are such difficult creatures) and “more special” (read: pedestalization, because women are to be worshipped by default) is also degrading to women.

    In short: disparities in support for study of either gender tends to cut both ways. Spend more money on research about men than you do on women, and you hurt men, too. Spend more money on research about women than you do on men, and you hurt women, too. I should note that there are certain very specific exceptions to this, but even those are often not without analogs (read: testicular cancer research has no specific parallel in women, but can be roughly balanced with ovarian cancer research, which has no specific parallel in men).

    • (read: testicular cancer research has no specific parallel in women, but can be roughly balanced with ovarian cancer research, which has no specific parallel in men).

      They’re the exact same organs, just slightly modified in function in relation to each other and significantly relocated. How is that not parallel?

      • It was a bad example. >.<

        I was trying to come up with an example of a situation in which men need a specific kind of care or research that women don't, and vice versa. The problem is, so many issues are either shared between men and women or otherwise analogous that I couldn't think of one. =)

        Which just sorta proves Ozy's point.

  5. PsyConomics says:

    @Gaius
    You have a good point. It’s easy for me to imagine that the underlying assumptions read “Men’s orgasms are simple and women’s are weird” thereby minimalizing male sexual experience and pedastalizing female sexual experience.

    I could also see it being “chic” to do more sex research on women than on men to the point where handing out grant money for research on men might be seen as “stealing” from more “legitimate” research on women. Ozy’s law in effect there, just a bit more subtly.

    Now that I think about it, the last study on male sexuality I heard about was one where they tried to correlate homophobia with arousal response to homoerotic porn (you hate them means you are one of them sort of thing). Though even Cracked called that study garbage, so I am not sure if I’ve ever read a good study on any facet of male sexuality.

  6. The “common sense” about men is probably about as accurate as the “common sense” about female sexuality was before we started studying it scientifically– you know, all that “clitoral orgasms are immature, only vaginal orgasms are real” nonsense?

    I don’t remember ever hearing the “clitoral orgasms are immature” thing except with respect to how ridiculous it was. I do, however, remember hearing over and over and over again that vaginal orgasm was essentially a myth, and that the clitoris is the organ that gives women please and brings them to orgasm.

    Seriously, I think that at some point the whole vaginal orgasm thing flipped, and suddenly the clitoris was all the rage and the vagina was just a pleasure-less (or even painful) hole. Which is just a reductionist and ridiculous.

    Anyway, I’m actually agreeing with your post and your point. I’m just pointing out that, depending on the environment you grew up in, the whole “clitoral orgasm is immature/vaginal orgasm is real” thing may seem outdated, and has actually been replaced with a similarly toxic but reversed meme.

    The reality is that everyone’s sexual pleasure is a little different, and part of the fun of sex is learning about your partner, and helping your partner to learn about you!

    We should study cis male sexuality. And as part of that we should find out which bits of male anatomy are the most sensitive, and which bits tend not to be; we should study the prostate and the perineum and, yes, the left testicle.

    And the foreskin, please. I only know of a single study that actually measures the sensitivity of various parts of the foreskin itself, and it found that the most sensitive part of the foreskin was 4x as sensitive to light touch as any other part of the penis. But the study is often disregarded due being partially funded by an anti-circ organization (although the methodology looked fine to me). It would be nice if some serious study were given to the entire male genital package, including the foreskin, with respect to sensory experience so that we can actually know what the hell we’re dealing with.

    • “I do, however, remember hearing over and over and over again that vaginal orgasm was essentially a myth, and that the clitoris is the organ that gives women please and brings them to orgasm.”

      I’m one of those rare people who used to get orgasms from the clitoris, and now have trouble getting them unless something is inside my vagina. Different people (of both sexes!) have different “hot spots,” and sometimes they even change with time! The idea of one spot being the “right” way to orgasm is just plain stupid, and harmful to both sexes.

    • Freud started the “clitoral orgasms are immature” idea. It was part of his psychosexual theory. The clitoris is analogous to the penis and a woman must symbolically reject her “penis” in order to mature psychologically. I’m not making this sh!t up. So, the idea of vaginal orgasms being different or better than clitoral ones got engrained in our culture even though Freud was probably dead wrong about it. (To his credit, Freud actually cared about helping women be capable of sexual satisfaction, which is more than you could say about a lot of 19th century doctors.)

      • Yup, that’s the main context I remember hearing about the clitoral-orgasm-is-immature thing: Freud. And it was always talked about in a ridiculing fashion. And rightfully so. My point wasn’t that I hadn’t heard that before, my point was that every time it was brought up, the purpose was to point out its ridiculousness. I don’t think I have ever once in my life heard the clitoris talked about as secondary or immature, unless that idea was brought up specifically to shoot it down.

        • Well yeah, we’ve had the luck to grow up in an era that outgrew that idea. Doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist.

          • Of course. Did I imply otherwise? Hell, I’d argue it’s an idea that still lives on in many areas, unfortunately.

            In my original comment I was just pointing out that in our culture’s attempt to outgrow that message, many people have grown up with the reverse message: the clitoris is all that matters, and the vagina is nothing. IMO, that’s also a toxic message, that also serves to hinder women and men from fully exploring a woman’s sexuality.

  7. The problem is Xakudo, those that show any interest in the funtion of the foreskin are invariably anti-circ, becuase any research on the foreskin makes pro-circ arguments fall to peices and therefore any research on the foreskin is ‘anti-parents-rights’

    • What?

      I honestly can’t tell what you’re trying to say, or even what your opinion is on circumcision.

      To quote the film Cool Hand Luke, what we have here is failure to communicate.

      • That’s because I wasn’t actually stating my opinion on circumcision, I was simply stating that anyone who takes interest in the function of the foreskin is anti-circ, because people who are pro-circ would never dare do research because they deem all research ‘anti-parents rights’

        BTW
        I am very anti-circ.

        • Obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t make such a silly statement. Foreskins are…skin. That’s it. Just a little skin flap, yet the pro-circ and anti-circ crowds seem to act like it’s a huge deal whether that tiny flap of skin is there. (I’ve had boyfriends both with and without foreskins. It doesn’t actually make any difference.)

          I don’t see why either side would be against research into the foreskin, though, or any other part of the penis.

          As for my views, I’m pro-waiting-until-he’s-an-ADULT. I don’t think the aesthetics of a boy’s penis are something parents need to decide, frankly. If he wants to be circumcised, the procedure won’t be any different for an adult. If he doesn’t want to be circumcised…the procedure isn’t easily reversible.

          • Oh I didn’t mean I’m anti ‘consenting-adult-gong for circumcision.’
            And plus, what I said is not /silly/ , people who practice circumcision on children do not ever want to give crap about how it might possibly work, because if they did, they wouldn’t slice the genitalia of children.

            I also find it exceedingly strange how people refer to foreskin as not being a big deal because it’s just a piece of skin, have you not ever considered that skin is a very important body part and removing a large portion of it is dangerous and scarring? Especially since we’re talking about genitalia here.

          • Foreskins are…skin. That’s it. Just a little skin flap

            “Just”? The foreskin contains the large majority of nerve endings in the penis, around 20,000 of them. By contrast, the glans contains roughly 4000. Moreover, the foreskin contains types of nerve endings not found anywhere else on the male genitals. It’s makeup is quite different from the rest of the shaft skin.

            What’s not clear, due to a near complete lack of studies, is how this impacts sexual pleasure. For example, your finger tips are very dense in nerve endings, but that doesn’t mean they explode with intense erotic sensation when they are touched. So it’s possible (though it strikes me as highly unlikely) that all the nerve-endings in the foreskin don’t contribute anything to sexual pleasure.

            But regardless, it’s certainly not “just” skin. There’s a lot going on in the makeup of the foreskin.

            Also, if we apply the same metric of “everyone is different” to the foreskin, it seems likely that there would be plenty of guys to whom their foreskin would bring a lot of pleasure. But for men circumcised at birth without their consent, such as myself, they’ll never have the chance to find out. ;_;

    • [...]and therefore any research on the foreskin is ‘anti-parents-rights’

      Indeed. It’s extremely frustrating. As if parents have carte-blanche on their children’s bodies. The whole “parents rights” angle is just so absurd. Children aren’t property, and parents don’t have the right to do whateverthehelltheywant to them. Cutting off parts of children’s genitals without a clear, relatively immediate medical purpose definitely does not strike me as being within parental rights.

      I mean, labiaplasty is something that many women have done and are satisfied with, so clearly parents have the right to do that to their baby daughters, amirite? *sigh*

      It seems like our culture has a huge disregard to people’s rights to their own bodies. It just expresses itself differently depending on the gender of the person. Female? You have to carry the baby to term! Male? Cut off part of his genitals!

  8. I’m trying to figure out what the rationale is behind “nipples on balls,” if not the dartboard. “Nipples are private parts. Balls are private parts. CLEARLY PUTTING THEM TOGETHER COUNTS AS SEX AND WILL GIVE YOU AN ORGASM.”

  9. There is an imbalance between the sexes in research on violence as well. One of the main reasons of the myth of women’s “inherent non-violence” is the simple fact that only a tiny fraction of the total research on violence has been done on women. Example: When I researched female serial killers (on my own, without assistance from any academic or research archive) I easily tripled the list of known cases (140) to over 420. In other types of violence, there is copious material available but which has never appeared in studies of violence. There is now a Female Serial Killers Index on blog “Unknown History of Misandry,” featuring old newspaper reports on many of these little known and completely overlooked serial murder cases.

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