On the myth of the horny woman

Dan Savage recently opined

quoted Joan Sewell and Sandra Tsing Loh as saying that women with sex drives as strong as men just didn’t exist.

My first thought was: should I strap a horn on my forehead, then? Because I can’t think of a single man I’ve slept with whose sex drives I didn’t match or exceed, and I’ve slept with a decent spread of age ranges—I’ve done guys 13 years older than me, and guys six years younger. In an ideal world, I’d have sex about once a day and twice on Sundays, but given time and energy constraints, once every couple days is much more realistic. In the ten years I’ve been enjoying the fizznuckin’, I can remember turning down the opportunity to have sex with boy du jour only a handful of times.

In short: I loves me some sex. Gimme!

“But wait!” you might cry. “Maybe you’re a statistical outlier. Averages are averages for a reason, silly rabbit, and your personal experiences do not invalidate the collection of data as a whole.” That’s as may be, but you know what? Most of my close girlfriends also have very high libidos. Out of all the women I know who’ve been willing to share details of their sex lives with me, I can think of only one who doesn’t have a libido as high as a man’s, and she’s an interesting case because she was sexually abused as a child.

So the question is: How the hell did I end up with such a band of horny broads as friends? Are we all statistical outliers?

Here’s what my friends and I have in common: we’re fairly young (the age spread goes from 22 to 35), and we’re all urban, sex-positive, progressive, middle-class, professional, mostly childless and very well-educated (some might even say over-educated). My friends tend to be hyperarticulate, slightly (or a whole lot) geeky and in full possession of a sense of humor.

Some of these factors have a direct impact on sex drive. F’rinstance, I’m thinking not having a child has a lot to do with higher-than-average sex drive I’m seeing. Childbearing is physically difficult on the woman, and God knows it fucks with her hormones. Drop a ton of exhaustion from taking care of a baby on top of that, not to mention housechores and a job, and bam: Libido-B-Gone. But even girlfriends of mine who have babies or young children had what seemed to be higher-than-average libidos before stress and exhaustion made a dent.

And age certainly affects sex drive, too; women supposedly peak some time in their late 20s and 30s, and the libido tends to gradually calm down with age. But I think there’s more going on than that. I think being young, middle-class, educated and sex-positive has a lot more to do with my girlfriends being Horny Broads, all tied in with sexual liberation, sexual attraction, sexual compatibility and mate selection.

See, for the first time in a long, long time, sexual attraction has become a legitimate factor for mate selection in women as well as men—in fact, for the first time in a long, long time, women (at least those in most Westernized countries) have a say in choosing their sexual partners. People born in the 70s on forward (late 60s, even?) grew up in different sexual spaces than previous generations. Sure, people nowadays still make a fuss about the word “vagina” being displayed on theater marquees and legions of people were scandalized by Janet Jackson’s prime-time nipple, but as a whole, we’ve made progress. The very fact we can make fun in an open forum of the the people who had a fit of the vapors because an attractive black woman exposed her boob is evidence of the fact. And to pick on a show mentioned in the Dan Savage column: much as I dislike Sex and the City for being a vacuous show obsessed with consumption (whether the items being consumed were designer shoes, designer martinis or designer’s cocks), the women were depicted as sexual beings, if still tied somewhat tiresomely to assorted sexual stereotypes and all the attendant baggage.

Sorry, got a bit derailed there. My point is (and yes, I do have one. Sort of): If you’re just not all that sexually attracted to your mate, and you’re not allowed avenues to fuck around with people you do find sexually attractive, what kind of effect would that have on your libido? I imagine it’d be pretty dampening.

But as msbunburyist pointed out to me while talking about this yesterday, sexual attraction is only part of the picture. Finding somebody sexy is all well and good, but telling your partner what you want? That’s difficult, y’all, even if you’re not exactly a shy, blushing virgin. Communicating what you want sexually, and being receptive to your partner(s)‘s communications regarding what they want sexually, is tricky. And this is where we enter the territory of sexual compatibility, which is where “OMG UR HOT” and “Hey, let’s do something about that, and let’s make it really stinkin’ GOOD” intersect. It’s a process, and it’s something you have to learn from somebody else or figure out on your own. I think my friends and I come from a generation of females who inhabit a social class and culture that encourages a certain degree of openness towards the issues surrounding sexual compatibility. And this in turn allows us to express and/or act on our sexual desires. We know what we want, we know how to get it, and most importantly, we’re willing to show our partner, which leads to better sex, and better sex leads to wanting more sex.

(How’s that for some sweeping generalization cakes for you, eh?)

Anyway, here’s what I think: my sample of friends seems so skewed because we’re openly horny broads. My theory is that there are many, many horny broads out there—more than people know or are willing to acknowledge.  Not to say that there aren’t genuinely non-horny broads, because there are, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and they no doubt make up a good chunk of the population. But I think there are two other classes of horny broads that are often conflated and confused with genuinely non-horny broads:

1. Closeted horny broads, who know they’re horny but don’t/can’t show it or act on it.

2. Dormant horny broads, who think they have low libidos but haven’t had the luck or opportunity to work out what will tap into their Reservoir of Horniness.

Membership in one category or another isn’t fixed in stone; an openly horny broad can become a closeted horny broad if she moves to a deeply sexually conservative culture, for example, or a dormant horny broad may discover after years and years of boring vanilla sex that she becomes a raging nympho when she’s allowed to tie up and whip her boys.

In my completely unscientific opinion, based on my completely unscientific samples and experiences, I’m willing to concede that men on the average have higher sex drives than women. But I honestly don’t think the differences are as drastic as what Dan Savage has made them out to be.

What do you think, O Bitchery?

Categorized:

Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Sonja says:

    2. Dormant horny broads, who think they have low libidos but haven’t had the luck or opportunity to work out what will tap into their Reservoir of Horniness.

    ^ me to a T. Sigh.

  2. 2
    emdee says:

    I’m almost 58 and I’m here to tell you that Dan Savage is full of crap.  Men believe the “we want it more and more often than women” chestnut because they want to believe it.  If you can blame the lackonookie on something else then you don’t bear the responsibility. JMO.

  3. 3
    CM says:

    Like you, I’ve never had a boyfriend who exceeded my sex drive.

  4. 4
    Marti Basil says:

    I’ve been married for more than a decade, have two kids, and LOVE sex. I get it two or three times a week. Its kinky and dirty and…it’s with my husband.

    My girlfriend claimed to hate sex, had no libedo. Then she got a divorce. Now she’s having wild monkey sex with her new guy and whoever will join them in the sack. Woot! Watch out guys. And girls.

    I’m thinking poor Dan Savage needs to live up to his name! He needs to bring it on, read some erotic romance. Maybe (gasp) go down on her. She’s probably just forgotten how good it is. And he can threaten her all he wants with lap dances and mistresses, but if he’s so damned boring in bed, all his wife needs is one smoldering glance from across the room. She’ll be remembering how much she used to like it—with someone else!

  5. 5
    VWrang says:

    For what it’s worth, Dan Savage didn’t say that women with sex drives as strong as men didn’t exist, at least not in the article you link to.  What he said was: …I’m saddened to report that, according to [Joan] Sewell and [Sandra Tsing] Loh, there’s no such thing as a woman who wants sex constantly. They don’t exist—never did. […] Women have naturally lower sex drives, Sewell writes. It’s a hormonal thing. Testosterone makes humans horny, men have lots more than women, so men are hornier—and all the Sex and the City repeats in the world aren’t going to change that. The women he quoted said that, not him. And he’s rather clearly being sarcastic about what they said.

  6. 6
    Tam says:

    It sounds as if Dan Savage is a Victorian at heart.  The notion that women had lower sex drives than men (and hence are responsible for putting the dampers on their uncontrollable lusts) is actually a pretty modern one, dating only from the early nineteenth century or so.

    The Middle Ages were pretty sure that the non-virginal woman had a voracious, inexhaustible sexual appetite, and was hence rather unreliable because of it (yeah, we’re damned if do, damned if we don’t…)  Just read Boccaccio’s account of the naughty friar who taught the young girl how to ‘put the devil into hell’, until she wore him out entirely, or any number of contemporary fabliaux with similar themes…

  7. 7
    Psyche says:

    I’m thinking poor Dan Savage needs to live up to his name! He needs to bring it on, read some erotic romance. Maybe (gasp) go down on her.

    Actually, Dan Savage is gay.  Very gay.

    Most men I know would rather have bad sex than no sex, most women are the opposite.  This might have something to do with the fact that “bad sex” for the man doesn’t generally mean “actually painful” and does generally mean that he comes.

  8. 8
    Eliza says:

    I’d definitely count myself in the “sex drive higher than anyone I know” category – but my closest friend is pretty much the exact opposite of me. And she gets way, way more sex than I do. *sigh*

    I think part of the reason men think they have higher sex drives than we do is because men, in general, are more willing to lower their standards to get it. I may need an orgasm at least once a day to function, but I have no problem with helping myself out rather than go find a guy I won’t call the next morning, you know? My sex drive is high, but my personal sexual ideals come before my sex drive. Maybe this says something about a lot of the men I know, but most of them pretty freely admit that their sexual standards fall pretty quickly as their dick rises.

    I think when men talk about “high sex drive” they talk more about going out and getting sex rather than wanting it.

  9. 9
    Candy says:

    VWrang: You’re right. That was a shoddy bit of mis-reading there. And while you’re right that he is sarcastic about what they’re saying, the whole article implies, to me, that he buys into the women-don’t-want-sex-as-often-as-men-do folderol.

    Eliza: I think when men talk about “high sex drive” they talk more about going out and getting sex rather than wanting it.

    That’s an excellent distinction to make, and I think it’s at the heart of this disconnect we’re seeing.

  10. 10
    Anon! says:

    Well…. I’m always horny, but DH is often making me so mad I can’t see straight and I’m not that into him at that moment. Or else, I tell him to come to bed and he shows up 3 hours later, when I am snoring and drooling. Sometimes I am reading trashy novels until the wee hours when he bothers to stop programming and try to sleep, but by then we’re both too tired.

    And I have a preschooler who can’t stay in his own bed all night, so no middle of the night or morning nookie, either.

    But all in all? I think my libido is as high or higher than his – when he’s all done, I’m still ready for another go – and we’re both frustrated.

    My verification word? maybe34. Or maybe not!

  11. 11
    Ann says:

    Dan is often wrong about straight sex, and especially about women—straight or lesbian.
    There is SO much cultural baggage about our sexuality that it’s impossible to say what’s “innate” and what’s not.
    I know men in their late 50s who are obsessed about getting laid because they don’t want to think they’ve lost their youth. I know women of all ages who are obsessed about getting laid because they want validation that they’re attractive.
    If we lived in a society where you could “get” sex (and SATISFYING sex!) whenever you wanted, and only when you wanted, without any emotional or commitment issues, then maybe we could accurately compare our sex drives. But that’s not the case. We want or don’t want sex for dozens of reasons that have nothing to do with this notion of “sex drive,” and often we can’t parse them out ourselves.

  12. 12
    Miri says:

    “Most men I know would rather have bad sex than no sex, most women are the opposite.”

    That reminded me of a favorite saying: Sex is like Pizza, when it’s good it’s DAMN GOOD and when it’s bad it’s still pretty good!

    I guess you could put me in the always up for it column, though not writhing in a dripping heat all the time.

  13. 13
    Charlene says:

    My God.

    Could it be that we just aren’t into yattering on about sex as much as men tend to do?

    I don’t know a female friend of mine who didn’t wish her husband, wife (I’m in Canada), boyfriend, or girlfriend didn’t come in duplicate. Three times a week: try three times a DAY. And we’re all over 30.

    My mom used to hang out on the front stoop and surreptitiously watch the guy across the street mow his lawn shirtless. That was when she was in her 70s and dying of cancer, so I don’t think sex drive dies in women at a certain age.

  14. 14
    troublegirl says:

    Amen, sista!  I’ve only had one BF who exceeded my drive, and boy was that fun.

  15. 15
    Marianne McA says:

    Your comment about childbearing reminded me of my sister (who was trying to persuade her husband to start a family) asking me over the phone whether having a child affected your sex life.
    I relayed the question to my husband, who answered – ‘What’s sex?’

    It did affect my sex life. Not just the tiredness and the hormones, but the having children in the marital bed, and the ruling out a lot of times and places – because you can’t be doing it on the kitchen table if a small child is likely to appear and ask awkward questions. Plus, for me, motherhood was a very physical thing. When feeding a baby and carrying round a toddler all day, sometimes I’d just had enough physical contact by nighttime.

    Now the girls are older, I don’t think I’m quite a horny broad – my sex drive comes and goes – it’s all tied in to my menstrual cycle.

    Just a question – you’re talking about female sex drive in the piece, but do you think there are dormant horny blokes?

  16. 16
    Invisigoth says:

    Count me as another woman who loves sex but doesn’t get it as often as she would like.

    I have never dated a guy whose sex drive was greater than mine.  Theirs was always about the same as mine or less.

    About the only thing I think Savage may have gotten right in his column, some guys have a very narrow definition of sex.  I’ve met quite a few who think oral sex and hand jobs don’t count as sex and this is pre Lewinsky/Clinton.

  17. 17
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Here’s what my friends and I have in common: we’re not as young as Candy’s (the age spread goes from 25 to 55), and we’re all urban, sex-positive, progressive, middle-class, professional, entirely child-free (not less!) and very well-educated (some might even say over-educated). My friends tend to be hyperarticulate, slightly (or a whole lot) geeky and in full possession of a sense of humor.

    And like Candy’s crowd, our men can’t keep up with us (with one exception, she’s a twice a week is just perfect kinda gal). Never have, and I assume never will. LOL! We can’t all be on the freak-end of the bell curve, can we?

  18. 18
    Eva Gale says:

    I’m 35, a small business owner, have a high sex drive, and have 7 kids.

    Anyway, the Dh and I talk about this alot, and he thinks it’s because certain women have higher testosterone levels. Makes sense, right? At least we’re a perfect match, because life would suck if we weren’t. I have girlfriends that are mismatched and it’s a serious serious issue.

    known39 -snicker-no, I’m not lying about my age.

  19. 19
    Christinuviel says:

    Closeted horny broad here … and my one real attempt at a relationship so far was doomed in many ways, not the least of which was the boy’s low libido. So going on the evidence so far … notch me up as another one on the “woman with a high sex drive” list!

  20. 20
    Jennifer says:

    Hm, I dunno. When I’m in a relationship, I will want it/take it about any time I can get it.

    BUT, when I’m utterly single and without a prospect in sight, for YEARS, the horny pretty much goes away. I figure this is my brain being practical because there’s no hope of it getting any right now, so no matter how worked up it could get, there’s no outlet. I also don’t uh, get myself off very much. It’s really not fun for me alone.

    I somehow doubt most guys* would “shut off” under these circumstances, certainly not to the degree I do. Maybe that’s the difference between the sexes?

    * Though one of my exes said this happened to him- on the other hand, I think the year after the end of his marriage was the longest he ever went without nookie, and as long as I knew him he probably didn’t go longer than a week without, from someone.

  21. 21
    Kass says:

    Yet another high sex drive woman here. I was in the “didn’t know it” group for ages, though, despite indicators to the contrary.

  22. 22
    Carrie Lofty says:

    I have a very low sex drive, always have. No sexual trauma in my past, no chemicals or hormones messing up the works—just not my thing, apparently. The two kids can’t help, but hubby and I have been on a disconnect that way for our whole ten years together. We just work through it, find compromises, etc. All of this makes people’s assumptions about my motives and/or inspirations for writing sexy romances a little amusing.

  23. 23
    Yvonne says:

    Hmm…
    I do think that there are major issues with quality vs quantity and various social and cultural constraints. There is no accurate scientific way to compare. Furthermore, cookie cutter averages can be misleading and detrimental.
    My ex-husband had a higher sex drive than I do (we were both in our early 20s) but he was just plain creepy and I’m glad I escaped.
    Beautiful Boyfriend, who I have been with for 15 years, jokes that he has to beat me away with a stick. He is rather shy and we have had our ups and downs. I still find him very attractive and, most importantly, he is my friend. I would like it more often, but it’s usually a couple of times a week. I also have a rich and varied fantasy life!
    My 3 sisters all have a similar drive and we are in our mid and late 30s, well educated, sense of humor, sex positive, and… childless.

  24. 24
    Hypatia says:

    In the eighteenth century there was a (kindasorta very slight) emphasis on sexual equality and the idea that both sexes should enjoy physical love in moderation.

    In the nineteeth century EVERYONE JUST KNEW that “women are totally frigid—OR SHOULD BE”.

    But before those centuries, EVERYONE JUST KNEW that women were naturally the “lustful sex”, always wanting orgasms and cuckolding men who couldn’t satisfy them.  This was not considered a good thing.

  25. 25

    I think part of it is timing, part of it is the “quality over quantity” issue.  Men can climax with bad sex, women are less likely to have a climax with a less than optimal experience. 

    In addition, I’ve seen studies (and personal experience bears this out) that show men’s libido runs highest in the morning upon awakening, while women tend to be at the top of their game in the middle of the afternoon or early evening. So sometimes it’s a matter of not being in synch, which could lead one to believe that women are less horny than men.

  26. 26
    Cristin Anne says:

    I would like to introduce those who think that woman have a smaller sex drive than men to that rather large subculture of women who spend their freetime writing porn, talking about porn, and sharing porn with each other.  Fandom, meet the strange people.  Strange people, fandom.

    That aside, I also know a number of men who have what they would consider low sex drives, and a number of women who are just complete horndogs.  So I always have to wonder who exactly these people are sampling.

  27. 27
    Christina says:

    So I always have to wonder who exactly these people are sampling.
    Posted by Cristin Anne

    One of the only things I remember from statistics class was the idea of “false surveys”.  There are so many factors in surveying for something like this that a truly representive survey would be almost impossible.

  28. 28
    Marta Acosta says:

    Hmm, I thought it was strange that Sandra Tsing Loh, one of my favorite humorists, would express this point of view.  But she doesn’t.  She’s reviewing Sewell’s book and rambling hilariously about sex between the genders.

    You can read Tsing Loh’s review, which Dan Savage quoted, here:  http://www.powells.com/review/2007_02_13.html  Neit.her of them is taking Sewell very seriously.

  29. 29

    OMG!

    Candy, I don’t even like girls that way.  And my first thought when I was reading your post was: I want to do that girl.

  30. 30
    Ricki says:

    I am totally with the quality vs. quantity people.  I think, if it’s true that guys want it more, not in the thinking about it/masturbating/fantasizing sense, but in the going out and getting it sense, it’s because guys pretty much know they’ll come every time.  If they go and pick up some random person at a bar, they’ll have an orgasm.  Girls do not have that guarantee.  We need someone who knows what they’re doing, and someone we can trust enough to do it (and obviously, that trust need varies for every girl and every situation – I’m not arguing that it needs to be love or a committed relationship). 

    And it’s not just that telling someone what to do is uncomfortable, or we don’t want to own our sexuality enough to tell someone what we like; sometimes it’s inarticulable!  “Flicker your middle finger over my clit at exactly 70 flickers per minute, with a pressure of 12 mmHg”?  (Yes, that’s a real unit of measurement for pressure.  I had to ask my husband, who knows science-y things.  I don’t know if 12 means anything, though.)  My point is, that’s not something you can say, or even know.  So you’ve got to have someone who can read signals, figure out what to do, whatever. 

    My stats: I’m 25, married to the only guy I ever had sex with, and I used to want it way more than him, but then I went on the pill and saw my sex drive go down the toilet.  Not the enjoyment of it, just the, you know, drive.  I could probably go once a week just fine if he weren’t initiating more often than that.

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