Monday, January 26, 2009

I read an article in the New York Times recently, about scientific studies of the nature of women’s sexual desires. It’s a long piece, but I think it’s well worth reading. So go do that, and then come back and read this, because this is not intended to be a review or a summary of the article, but rather some thoughts of mine in response to it.

My first thought about Meredith Chivers was: how come I never get to volunteer for studies like this? I suppose one has to answer those “research subjects needed” ads. But it just sounds very interesting to be shown different kinds of porn, and then have your responses measured. Of course, I’d be wild with curiosity to know how my reactions compared with other people’s, and I imagine they don’t tell you about that.

This is interesting. (Emphasis mine.)
“Richard Lippa, a psychologist at California State University, has employed surveys of thousands of subjects to demonstrate over the past few years that while men with high sex drives report an even more polarized pattern of attraction than most males (to women for heterosexuals and to men for homosexuals), in women the opposite is generally true: the higher the drive, the greater the attraction to both sexes, though this may not be so for lesbians.”
So according to this, women who are not lesbians, but who do have naturally higher sex drives, are more likely to be attracted to both men and women? That would explain a lot.

It may be be that I have done an injustice to some of the dominant men who said they could train their submissive female partners to come on command, without any physical stimulation. Although I will point out that it still doesn’t happen instantly, at the snap of a finger. Also, note the keyword: rare.
“Barry Komisaruk, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University, has subjects bring themselves to orgasm while lying with their heads in an fM.R.I. scanner — he aims to chart the activity of the female brain as subjects near and reach four types of climax: orgasms attained by touching the clitoris; by stimulating the anterior wall of the vagina or, more specifically, the G spot; by stimulating the cervix; and by “thinking off,” Komisaruk said, without any touch at all. While the possibility of a purely cervical orgasm may be in considerable doubt, in 1992 Komisaruk, collaborating with the Rutgers sexologist Beverly Whipple (who established, more or less, the existence of the G spot in the ’80s), carried out one of the most interesting experiments in female sexuality: by measuring heart rate, perspiration, pupil dilation and pain threshold, they proved that some rare women can think themselves to climax.
All of Marta Meana’s remarks are very interesting:
"For women, “being desired is the orgasm,” Meana said somewhat metaphorically — it is, in her vision, at once the thing craved and the spark of craving…. She recalled a patient whose lover was thoroughly empathetic and asked frequently during lovemaking, “ ‘Is this O.K.?’ Which was very unarousing to her. It was loving, but there was no oomph” — no urgency emanating from the man, no sign that his craving of the patient was beyond control.”

Yes, I dislike that, too. I mean, it’s all right to ask occasionally, but I have been with lovers who ask over and over, and it is a turn-off.
“And within a committed relationship, the crucial stimulus of being desired decreases considerably, not only because the woman’s partner loses a degree of interest but also, more important, because the woman feels that her partner is trapped, that a choice — the choosing of her — is no longer being carried out…. “
Speaking only for myself, I agree with this, and I think this is one of the many reasons why polyamory is the right thing for me. I continue to feel chosen by my lovers, and to feel that I am choosing them. And that if I wish, I can choose someone in addition to them, and feel the pleasure of being chosen by the new partner.
"A symbolic scene ran through Meana’s talk of female lust: a woman pinned against an alley wall, being ravished. Here, in Meana’s vision, was an emblem of female heat. The ravisher is so overcome by a craving focused on this particular woman that he cannot contain himself; he transgresses societal codes in order to seize her, and she, feeling herself to be the unique object of his desire, is electrified by her own reactive charge and surrenders. Meana apologized for the regressive, anti-feminist sound of the scene."
As is acknowledged in the article, this is a very tricky subject to talk about. So let me say also what the researchers said: rape is very very wrong. I do not condone rape, ever.

Let us talk instead of how I have felt with people – both men and women – that I was attracted to and wanted to have sex with. In the chapter that precedes the sex, where you have not said it aloud but both of you are thinking it, the part where you are both dancing and feinting and flirting, every sense you have trained on the other – their smile, their scent, the timbre of the voice as they speak to you – in that moment, it is extremely arousing to feel that they want you so much that they wish to transgress, that they would seize you if they could, and that you would be consumed in that passion.

You can’t manufacture that electricity if one of you isn’t willing. But if there’s even a slight tingle, it is possible sometimes to turn up the juice. I have a dual perspective - I have seduced and ravished other women myself. I know how I conveyed with my eyes, my words, the angle of my head and my body, that if she would only say yes, I could burn us both up in passion, and that we would enjoy that burning. I know what it feels like to have the electricity in me run through my hands and mouth and into someone else, and electrify her. I have seen the pleasure that women took in surrendering to me in that way.

And the pleasure that I took in doing that was very different from the pleasure I took when it was my back to the alley wall, being electrified by someone else’s charge.

It’s not that you must always be either the ravisher or the ravished in sex. But it’s a potent dynamic of desire. I think that it’s one of the things that can draw both men and women to dominant/submissive sex: the wish to experience the role of either the one who dares to transgress, and thus wins his/her desire - or the role of the one who is so desired that a lover dares all for them.