Clarifications on the Horny Woman

This could’ve been a long-ass comment, but I decided to turn it into a post because It’s (Partly) My Blog and I Can Do What I Want To. So, in reference to the Thing I posted yesterday about the Myth of the Horny Woman, I feel like I need to clarify several points, hereby arranged in numbered list because I’m too lazy to work in decent transitions or marshall the disjointed thoughts into anything resembling order:

1. In case there was any doubt left, Dan Savage is gay, gay, gay. Gayer than the fight sequence in West Side Story. Gayer than a rainbow party thrown by unicorns and magic koalas. Gayer than Oklahoma! performed exclusively by drag queens.  Possibly gayer than “What What (In the Butt)”, though I’m not sure I can make so bold a claim.

2. Dan Savage is also not even remotely Victorian. Just page through some of his sex advice for perverts. Whoa damn.

3. I loves me some Dan Savage. The vast majority of the time, anyway. Look, he’s the one who santorumed Santorum. He’s also occasionally completely off-base, but by and large, I love his column, read it with gusto and agree with his advice. In that column of his I linked to, for example, I love that he pointed out that you could choose to a) not put out, or b) demand monogamy from a partner with a high sex drive, but not both. And I, like a number of other commenters, really appreciated how he pointed out that it’s possible to sexually play with and satisfy your partner without going for the old in-out, in-out every time.

4. The random musing I wrote wasn’t an attempt to invalidate the experiences of Genuinely Non-Horny Broads everywhere. It was more an attempt to figure out why in the hell my sample of girlfriends love teh sexx0ring so much, when over and over and over again, I hear that men have higher sex drives than women do.

5. I really, really don’t want there to be a value judgment placed on people’s sex drives. “My sex drive is higher than yours, this means I’m sooooo much sexier.” “Well, my lower sex drive means I’m free to pursue healthier hobbies and freedom from samsara.” Etc. This strikes me as a variant of the “My dicks is bigger—no, my dick is bigger—OK, fine, my dick is smaller, but I can use it better” argument, and it really gets us nowhere. Sex drives strike me as being in the same category as sexual orientation. You got what you got, and there’s no point in being ashamed of it; it just is.

6. Similarly, I really, really don’t want people to declare one category or the other mythological. Lookit, oversexed broads with sex drives as high as dudes exist. I am one, and what’s more, I’ve had sex with a couple of others. Testosterone affects sex drive, yes, but it’s only part of the picture.

7. Nanna and Nicole (among others) pointed out that medications and brain chemistry have a tremendous impact on sex drive as well, which is true, and something I can’t believe I forgot to mention. For myself, when I was on the Pill, my sex drive became somewhat cyclical. It also had the distressing side-effect of…hmmm, how do I put this delicately? Drying up my well of feminine desire. Instead of weeping tears of feminine passion, I sometimes resembled the Kalahari Desert, even though I was definitely in the mood. Very unnerving for both me and my boyfriend at the time.

8. And then Bridget pointed out that initiating sex and wanting sex is sometimes tied to psychological drives instead of physiological drives, and how in the hell are we supposed to disentangle one from the other? Can we disentangle one from the other? More stuff to ponder.

9. Sandra Tsing Loh brings up an interesting point in her review (thanks, Marta, for linking to it) that our fantasies, especially female fantasies, tend to focus on the wrong and the forbidden. Some of the more hilarious bits:

And what are we girls thinking about while we bow our own violin strings? Admits Sewell, “When I was an adolescent, I imagined these knights from the Middle Ages would ravish me.” A recent confession that made me howl is in the anthology Mortified, where one of the contributors, Jillian Griffiths, describes her teen sexual fantasies about the members of Duran Duran—John puts on the Rio album and climbs on top of her “like a baby tiger. Gentle but sort of aggressive.”

As one gets older, fantasy quality only worsens. An informal survey among women of a certain age who don’t care anymore reveals the secret: Whatever is politically correct, you imagine its polar opposite, and that’s what’s hot. It’s not fantasizing that you’re Jodie Foster getting drooled over for your Oscar-winning acting—no. It’s fantasizing that you’re the victims Foster has played to get the Oscar, the waitress raped on a pinball machine by a bunch of mooks—yeah!


Regarding movie stars, again, political idealism, earnestness, and altruism have become drawbacks. I’ve never once had a fantasy involving Richard Gere and Tibet. Brad Pitt these days seems completely desexed, what with the close-cropped hair and the relentless pussy-whipping by Angelina Jolie. He is always trooping somewhere, saving Africa or something, hamstrung every which way by multiple Baby-­Björns. Many women my age admit to feeling little for Ralph Fiennes now, or even back in The English Patient. Oh no. Only in Schindler’s List—some thirty pounds heavier, the fleshy Nazi captain, harassing young Jewish women in his basement. Hot!

Sewell is partial to Mel Gibson in Mad Max. But forget Young Mel. How about Old Mel, anti-Semitically ranting by the side of the highway, mad-dog-drunk on tequila, his career in ruins? We are Cop Lady, and Gibson is taking us right there in the squad car, oddly gleeful, pretending to flay us as in The Passion of the Christ. “Sugar Tits! Go! Fetch my coffee!” Hot hot hot!

Fascinating. It explains a lot about romance novel heroes, perhaps. I’d love to see a hero call the heroine “sugar tits” during the height of passion. HOT!

And another quote:

No wonder no one wants to talk much about real sex, dirty sex, hot sex—because the true nuts and bolts can’t be made to suit any forward-looking social agenda. Maybe, in this sense, female sexuality really is a culturally subversive little beastie. Not only do many women enjoy it best alone, but of their fantasies, perhaps the less said the better (in terms of humanity’s social progress). For women, though, the bizarre and the irregular might just be “normal.” And if so, as Sewell suggests, widespread pressure—from both the left and the right—for women to have a “normal,” at-least-two-times-a-week sex life may ultimately be geared to serve not women’s natural tendencies but men’s.

There’s an excellent point here about the pressures of sexual conformity, but I’m not convinced that it’s entirely phallocentric—but then, maybe that’s because if I had my druthers, I’d be doing it far more often than twice a week? “It’s only the patriarchy if it goes counter to my inclinations!” could be my new battle cry, eh?


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Miri says:

    Not really sure this has to do with this entry but this blog is worth a check out with regards to Amearican Sexuality and all that jazz (hands)

  2. 2
    Robin says:

    I really, really don’t want there to be a value judgment placed on people’s sex drives.

    Candy, I don’t think your original post created a value judgment; I just think it revealed how *many* there already are out there, and how women are complicit in perpetuating them.  Whether it’s in the form of “I feel like I have to defend a low sex drive,” or “women’s sex drives have been suppressed by Victorian values,”  judgments abound.  And I think we all hold them to greater or lesser degree. 

    It to me that as women DO take more control of our sexuality—our wants, needs, preferences, bodies, etc.—that we see these judgments in more myriad form because women are participating actively in forwarding and challenging them.  So I would argue that this is similar to the subversion of Romance issue that you and Lilith Saintcrow discussed—that our conversations now indicate a step forward.  But as you and others point out, sex drive isn’t just about patriarchal values or the legacy of “I am Woman”—it’s about hormone levels (including testosterone) and individual biology and emotional stimulus and relationship status and a ton of other variables that, in a perfect world, would exist without lots of judgments attached to them. 

    And while I think patriarchal values inform much of our social lives, and that authentic material choices are distributed inequitably among women (along lines of class, race, religion, etc.), maybe the way that women enforce certain judgments about gender, sex, and sexuality isn’t *necessarily* patriarchal (or phallocentric) or even the direct and inevitable result of patriarchy, but are something else (partially if not entirely). Like, at what point are we responsible for the judgments we hold as independent women?

  3. 3

    I don’t think this particularly thorny problem is one we can blame entirely on the male of the species.  Sure, men contribute to the attitudes regarding female sexuality, but so do we women.

    Once upon a time, I was one of those insatiable women: I wanted a lot of sex, I enjoyed sex, and I wasn’t afraid to pursue it myself.  In my heart of hearts, I always wondered what was wrong with all those women I met who just didn’t like sex or weren’t that interested.  I remember being horrified that a woman could be married and not have sex more than a couple of times a year with her spouse.  Again and again, I thought, “What’s wrong with her??” 

    See, I just assumed it was the woman’s problem.  Afterall, I believed a high sex drive was normal.  Guys had one. Why shouldn’t women?  To my naive little brain, it seemed clear that those women were repressed by the patriachy or damaged by trauma or…something.  I wasn’t alone in this thought process either; many of my female friends felt the same way. 

    Then after I had been married for a couple of years, I woke up one day and realized I was one of those women myself.  I just wasn’t that into sex any more.  Hey, I missed that voracious woman but I wasn’t in that space any more.  More to the point, I realized I wasn’t being repressed and I didn’t feel traumitized by anything new.  It was the same old traumas I had carried around when I was orgasming like a maniac.

    It was then I realized that low lobido is as complex as anything else about people and sexuality.  Just as there is no one button to turn a gal on, there’s no one button to turn her off.  And how guilty I felt to remember how dismissive I had been of all those other women.  I mean, I know I’m not a damaged person just because I’m not that interested in sex right now but for years I had treated those other women as damaged in some way. 

    Maybe my opinions were informed by the patriacichal, repressive world I grew up in,maybe I could still blame it all on the penis conspiracy around me, but I didn’t become a slavering racist or homophobic just becuase those attitudes were common where I grew up.  Aren’t I in the end just as responsible for my attitude toward and my treatment of my sistas?

  4. 4

    Dragging the subject back to romance novels…

    I think Candy’s original post and the comments to it help to illuminate why so many love scenes don’t work.

    There is no generic ideal sexual experience. Our sexuality is as unique as we are. When we read a description of the generic ideal sexual experience, we recognize it as a lie and tend to skim over it.

    I wonder why, then, a genre supposedly written by women for women so often lies about our sexuality?

    What’s up with THAT?

  5. 5
    Estelle Chauvelin says:

    Just to show how things change- I can’t remember which, but a Greek author (probably in a comedy) once described how horny a teenage boy was by comparing him to a married woman.

  6. 6
    Amy E says:

    Joyce, chiming in with your point—some of the hottest, sexiest, steamiest, make-me-run-for-the-toys erotic romances I’ve ever read were written by an author who is a virgin.  Write what you know, my ass!  It’s all idealized, but you’re right, it absolutely shouldn’t be generic.  *Something* is different from “regular sex” or it wouldn’t be a fantasy.  It’s not business as usual, PIV, humpty hump, crashing waves of pleasure, souls communing in the stars above… and to me, it’s that difference in erotic and romantic writing—whatever it is—that truly makes it hot.

    Did that make any sense at all?

  7. 7
    Jessica says:

    I hear you on the “a) not put out, or b) demand monogomy from a woman with a high sex drive, but not both. 

    I’d like to reverse that, as well.  My first husband, yes, I said FIRST had an idea in his head…a certain image of what “marriage” was and how a “married couple” acted.  He’d heard all his life that women had lower sex drives then men.  Needless to say, he, unlike the stereotypical man, wouldn’t put out for this sexually starved kitten. 

    For seven years I wondered what was wrong with me?  Why couldn’t I attract my husband when tons of women I talked to said they wished their husbands would want it LESS. 

    So…it wasn’t until after our divorce that I realized I needed someone as sexually interested in all forms of good luvin as I was.  I’m a monogamist by nature.  *huge grin*  I found a delicious man who loves sexin as much as I do and there you go!  Amazing how we’re both cuddled up in contentment.  I’m a lot more confident in myself as both a person and a woman. 

    My new husband had been in previous relationships where the woman was like “again?  but you wanted it a month ago!!!”  LOL.

  8. 8
    Jenny Crusie says:

    Joyce wrote:
    “There is no generic ideal sexual experience. Our sexuality is as unique as we are. When we read a description of the generic ideal sexual experience, we recognize it as a lie and tend to skim over it. . . . I wonder why, then, a genre supposedly written by women for women so often lies about our sexuality?”

    I’m really struggling with this comment.  What makes you think that romance often lies about sexuality?  Isn’t it possible that the sex scenes you’re reading are the authors’ truths?  And quite a few readers’ truths?  That if there’s a similarity in certain sex scenes, it’s because it hits a lot of women as truthful?  Because if the books aren’t working women wouldn’t buy them, right?  And alternately, if every woman’s sexual experience is unique, how are romance novelists supposed to reflect that?  I’m picturing a “Choose Your Own Adventure” section here . . .

    Of course, I’m saying this as an author who rarely varies from the missionary position in her writing (real life is none of your business) so I may just be defensive.

    Also, I am now consumed with the desire to have my next hero call the heroine “sugar tits” during sex.  I’d say, “If I accomplish it, consider it a shout out to Candy,” except then she’d just keep pushing the envelope.  “Have the next hero say, ‘Who’s your daddy?’”  No.

  9. 9
    Megan says:

    “Sugar tits”  *sputter my coffee all over my desk* Jenny, you rock so hard!

    The thing I don’t get, if anything in that book Savage was talking about, is true…is why is it then, that women are collectively spending millions of dollars every year, buying books in which people are not only having sex daily, but several times a night?

    Further, why is it, in most romance books, guys in their 30’s are getting it up 3 times a night or more? Where are these guys, and can they talk to my partner, cuz he needs a nice long chat, about how to make that happen.

  10. 10
    Peter says:

    I’m curious why all the examples cited in the post of male-dominant/female-submissive fantasies.

    Even allowing for great variation in sexual tastes and degree of libido, why are there so few female-dominant/male-submissive scenarios? I think there are only a very few femdom books at Ellora’s Cave, for instance.

    Het men seem to have a much more even distribution of dominant/sadistic vs submissive/masochistic fantasies. I’m rather saddened at how rare it is to find a het woman who is sexually dominant on a deep level.

    There’s a manga series called “Tramps Like Us”, by Yayoi Ogawa, about a career woman who keeps a younger semi-homeless man as a pet. It’s a rare example, IMHE, of a romantic story in which the woman is the social superior of the man she eventually chooses. Are American romance readers going to buy a story about a woman who picks the guy with lower pay, education and height than her?

  11. 11
    Candy says:

    Also, I am now consumed with the desire to have my next hero call the heroine “sugar tits” during sex.  I’d say, “If I accomplish it, consider it a shout out to Candy,” except then she’d just keep pushing the envelope.  “Have the next hero say, ‘Who’s your daddy?’” No.

    I’ve been so consumed with the discussion over the RITAs that I completely missed this comment.

    Anyway, Jenny, having a hero who screams “Who’s your daddy” at crucial moments couldn’t possibly be any more disturbing than having “Who’s Your Daddy?” stamped on a bent-over toddler’s diapered butt.

    For. Serious.

  12. 12
    Jenny S says:

    As an update, The Savage Love column for this week basically negates everything said before, and supposedly that was Dan’s whole plan. And I love him, so I’ll go with it.

  13. 13
    tornadogrrrl says:

    Coming from a place of possible too much information… 
    my sweetie has been known to call me ‘sugar tits’.
    i don’t think it’s ever happened in the throes of passion, but it’s pretty great non the less.

  14. 14
    fiveandfour says:

    So is the doll here the inspiration for the “Who’s the Daddy” pose or vice versa?  Inquiring minds are almost afraid to know.

    (Scroll down…between Batman and Godzilla.)

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