Dispelling the myth that men are promiscuous and women prude

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I loved this feature by Zoe Williams (@zoesqwilliams) at the Guardian, which offered a refreshing stance on women’s relationships to sex, sparking thoughts on why the stereotype prevails that men are more sexually promiscuous that women.

Daniel Bergner’s new book, ‘What do women want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire’ argues that, while women are still portrayed as the monogamous sex, we might actually be ‘more naturally promiscuous’, more ‘predatory’ or more likely to ‘objectify a mate’.

Laying all that sensationalist language aside, Bergner’s arguments really struck a chord and made me think about the mysticism around male and female attitudes, and behaviours, towards sex.

Surely women who do have casual sex and enjoy it, without wanting to marry the other person the next day, aren’t cold, or sluts, or wavering their duties as child-bearers? In 2013, surely our attitudes to the way that women can operate sexually (post-50 Shades of Grey) are more progressive?

Sadly, comments like those issued by Stephen Fry in 2010 don’t help: “The only reason women will have sex with (straight men) is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want,” he said. “Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?”

It seems that women now, still, I think, are not truly believed when they say they enjoy sex for what it is, without emotional ties. I have female friends who say that women can’t do this. Perhaps these sentiments, and, arguably, the skewed portrayal of male and female sexual behaviour in the media, prevents women from feeling like they can admit they like sex for its’ pleasure. Perhaps we’ll always own the guilty subconscious and conscious feeling that they’re not pursuing their biological duty.

Bergner’s first argument poses that ‘women experience a loss of interest in sex within a marriage – commonly ascribed to low libido, but actually more a thwarted libido’. The age-old tale that women often kick their pestering partner away might actually tell us something – that women get bored with having one option for a long time, sexually.

The second is that wasted desire builds up over time and becomes particularly potent. There have been countless times when female friends have talked about sex and shared particular interest in it, just like a man would. Is that sexual repression? Does that show that women aren’t as interested in sex as men?

Zoe Williams’s article has definitely adjusted my way of thinking about the double standards we allow when looking at sex, and men and women.

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