Every few years a titillating new book comes out that purports to explain Everything There Is To Know About Women And Sex. It would probably be more accurate to say this type of book rolls off the presses every few minutes rather than every few years. By now, I'm surprised isn't a section in Barnes & Noble for this particular genre. If the same consumer packaging laws were attributed to the shit we shovel into our minds, and not just our mouths, truth in advertising would have you browsing book aisles marked Pseudoscience Porn.
You'd find that section somewhere between Romance and Horror. Okay, so I can't expect that level of accountability from authors, publishers and pseudoscientists. Can they at least move them out of Nonfiction? Or shelve them with the other “special” nonfiction beside Christian Homeschooling Science Textbooks that explain how Adam and Eve had pet dinosaurs and carbon dating is a tool of Satan. You know the “nonfiction” I mean. Books that ride the short bus. Books that we pat on the head and say “of course you are, honey”. These are not books (or authors) we would ever trust to drive the bus.
There are no doubt 200 hundred reasons why, in what is a deluge of Pseudoscuience Porn, this one in particular should be met with bells and whistles—which is, coincidentally, the same number of reasons Why Women Have Sex – from coincidentally the book of the same name. If my greed overpowered my cynicism, I'd list those 200 stupid reasons and rush to a publisher in time to debate “scientist”/authors Cindy Meston and David Buss on the Talk Show circuit.
But only one reason matters: Sex sells. It sells books; it sells advertising to Talk Show sponsors and puts a tingle up Chris Matthews’ leg. It is less about one specific book than it is a cultural game of inventing celebrity experts—so we can talk about SEX and pretend we're being analytical rather than prurient. The gaping holes in research, logic and common sense will not matter a jot.
A jot, for those of you keeping score, is a measure of interest that is a fraction less than a shit. Collectively, the mainstream media doesn’t give a jot about the accuracy of the info, as long as they can smugly smear “10 Reasons Why Women Have Sex!” on their front page. A New book makes it New news. Think of it as them having their cake and eating it too: still clinging to the pretense of journalistic integrity while trying to steal pageviews from the likes of Cosmo.
Just for fun, let's pretend to take this book seriously. (But before I do, let me point out that if it wanted to be taken seriously it wouldn't have a title like Why Women Have Sex. A great title for any pick-up guide since the implied subtitle is “and how to use that info to get them to have sex with you.”)
Why DO Women Have Sex?
Apparently because they're bored, to cure or prevent a headache, out of pity or as part of a negotiation for household chores. Yep, and Bonobo monkeys do it for bananas. That doesn't mean they like bananas more than sex but why not have both?
The (first) flaw in this logic is the assumption that the answer given is the right one. That the respondents, the women who said, “Here is my reason for having sex” have complete self-knowledge, are being honest and withholding nothing (and if you can accept those two fairly unlikely conditions), and then have accurate emotional recall.
The story I tell you about why I had sex last Tuesday is me retelling you the story I told myself about it. I was drunk. I was horny. I was lonely. He looked like Brad Pitt. All those things may be true. None of those things may be true. But no matter which they are an incomplete list. They don't factor in the music that came on the radio and where I was the first time I heard that song, or the jerk at work that asked me if I was putting on weight or where I am in my menstrual cycle or that the woman across the bar from me who is looking interested in Mr. Pitt reminds me of the girl who beat me at cheerleader try-outs all three years of high school.
We are a complex mix of minutia; biological and environmental minutia. That's minus randomness, cultural pressures, whimsy, spiritual intervention and the full moon.
I am amused when I read: “Research has shown that most men find most women at least somewhat sexually attractive, whereas most women do not find most men sexually attractive at all,” conclude the authors, both psychology professors at the University of Texas.
Fascinating. Perhaps most women are lesbians? Perhaps most men have been such disappointing sex partners that most women shrug internally – onset of premature ennui?
But of course not, this is indicative of biological differences of women from the “human” model. Women, the other in her own species, don't really like or want sex. We're just made that way. RETCH! There is nothing new here. It's as old and stupid as it ever was. The argument that it is a physical difference rather than a cultural response is sophomoric and offensive. Rather like Why Women's authors. (That's right, David and Cindy. I'm calling you out. Meet behind the gym after school.)
The thing that seems to have people (mainstream media people and the folks who give them cash) so excited is how low “romance” scores on the Why list since the previous conventional wisdom had summed up the difference between the sexes: women want stability and affection; men want orgasms. Viva la difference.
So strike “physical sexual attraction” from the list of reasons. (The willingness to do this speaks volumes more about the researchers than the research subjects.) The 1,000 women interviewed by Prof. Meston gave a motley assortment of excuses... er, reasons. The authors then lumped them into judgmental and oh-so-scientific generalizations like selfish, mercenary and materialistic. (Don't worry; I'm sure future editions of the book will hide the researcher biases under cloudy rhetoric.)
The book claims in one survey of students, nearly one in ten women admitted to 'having sex for presents'. Which makes Santa every girl's dream date. The research also concluded that women are attracted to tall men with a deep voice, who smell good. And symmetrical. Don't forget symmetrical.
Symmetry is the current darling of science porn. The argument for symmetry does a sort of social loop-de-loop. (The sort of logic detour that goes nowhere. Like taking a highway on-ramp and finding yourself on a Moebius strip.) The theory being we like symmetry because it's a “natural” thing to like not because we're socially conditioned to do so (by movies, TV, culture, etc). Symmetry being according to “experts” a genetic indicator of health and that suggests he will give his lover strong children.
Women, being the slaves to biology that we are, must succumb to Symmetrical Man. Although if this were true it would cancel out the first premise “women are not really attracted to the men they sleep with” and if evolution were the determining factor and “survival of the species” the motivating factor for sex then women would be horny all the time until they were preggers. Right? Men would just be developing strategies to slip their DNA into the gene pool. Basically, all these pseudoscience porn theories are predicated on the assumption that the human model is the Alpha Man as we see him now. The square-jawed movie star that the geeks who write these books always wanted to be (or to fuck) and its all backward building blocks from there.
Humorously, when asked how Why Women Have Sex explains lesbianism or homosexuality (or anything other than fertile man penetrates the ovum of fertile woman), author David Bass responded “That's a mystery that nobody really has figured out yet. From an evolutionary perspective you would think that evolution by selection would pretty strongly channel sexual orientation into heterosexual orientation, and by and large it does. But clearly there is a significant minority who develop same-sex sexual orientation. My guess is that ultimately it's going to be something that is multiplely determined. If there was one big cause we'd already know it, but we don't.”
Don't miss the implication here that heterosexuality is obvious and explained. Not something caused. Masturbation, sex toys, fetishes, arousal beyond the age of fertility: all useless deviations.
Oh no, there is no bias. No political agenda, overtones or ruthless stupidity in assuming evolution favors only the heterosexual human male organism with desire.
If you must buy the book, Why..., maybe you can answer my burning question how? How did two Profs get 1,000 Texas co-eds to talk dirty to them without getting fired or arrested? And then fooled the public into buying the “it's for science” line? Sign me up for that class, Prof.
For the rest of you, I recommend digging up your old copy of The Hite Report on Female Sexuality (1976) or Nancy Friday's My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies (1973) and get your women's interview and sexual confession ya-yas with less pompous moralizing.