female sexual desire

Sex Post-Menopause

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

Her new m/m erotic medical thriller Roughing It is out! This book is a sexy cross between The X Files and The Andromeda Strain. Read her short erotic story Babes in Begging For It, published by
Cleis Press. Her novel No Restraint will be released by Xcite Books at summer’s end. Pre-order it today. Find these books at Amazon.

I took special interest in Lisabet Sarai’s essay from last month, entitled Life
Without Sex?,
since I’m in the same boat. Sex is pretty much a part of my past, but eroticism isn’t.

I won’t say how long it’s been since I last had sex, but it’s longer than Lisabet’s experience.  I, like Lisabet, used to be a sex goddess, especially when I was in my 20s and 30s. I was a walking bundle of quaking hormones that needed constant release, and I enjoyed myself. It wasn’t always a pleasant experience. My choice in lovers sometimes left quite a bit to be desired, but for the most part I did have fun. I based my New Adult erotic romance novel Don’t Call Me Baby on those years in college. I had been loved and I had been used. I met men who satisfied me (and I satisfied them) as well as men who used me for sex without caring about me or my needs. I felt a strong attraction towards women but I didn’t understand that I was bi until years later.

The emotional pain was part of the picture as much as the soaring ecstasy. Some of the pain has lasted to this day. I recently discovered a memoir written by one of the men I based a character on in Don’t Call Me Baby. I had an affair with him for two years and he did not mention me once in his book, although everything else in the chapter where I should have been discussed was very familiar – and he embellished and lied about quite a bit of it. I was furious. He erased from his life what was very important to mine. I now know he used me and didn’t care as about me as much as I cared for him (he didn’t care at all – I was a cum receptacle to him), and it hurt. Despite that sad era in my life, I met men who taught me how to pleasure myself and how to give pleasure. The person who taught me how to masturbate was my female college roommate. She gave brief verbal instruction. When I asked, “How will I know I’ve had an orgasm?” She only said, “You’ll know.” She was right! LOL I read articles and books that aroused as well as taught. I met people I never would have met if it weren’t for some of these men. I reveled in my sexuality and enjoyed the exploration. If you want to know more about what I was like at this time, read Don’t Call Me Baby.

Now it’s my turn to confess. I’m in my mid-late 50s. Ever since menopause, I’ve lost a great deal of interest in sex. It isn’t an itch
that is in dire need to be scratched anymore. I know that part of the waning interest is biological, but I also understand that it needn’t be that way. Some of it is psychological. I am under the impression (wrong one, apparently) that women are supposed to lose interest in sex once their periods stop for good. While my libido has waned dramatically, it isn’t gone. I’m finding I, like Lisabet, am neither totally miserable nor crazy with unsatisfied lust. I feel as if I’ve mellowed.

Part of the problem is that my husband who is eight years older than me is impotent. It makes him (both of us) unhappy, but it doesn’t stop him from expressing affection or love. We just don’t have sex anymore. I used to miss it a great deal pre-menopause. Now, not so much. I still review sex toys and I love doing it. I use my JimmyJane Form 2 several times per week so I’m definitely not a monk. We talk about the problem on occasion but it isn’t a defining part of our relationship. We express our love for each other in many ways. Sex simply isn’t one of them.

With the urgent need for sex on the back burner, I’ve found I spend more time striving for other goals that are important to me. My writing, for instance, it now front and center. It always has been, but with age and maturity come discipline. I live my sexual fantasies through my writing. I rely on my past, my imagination, and my present when creating my characters and the situations they find themselves in whether the story is erotic, dark, humorous or horrific. Like Lisabet, the sex happens in my mind and is experienced through my imagination.

My body reacts to the sexy antics of my characters. What would I like to have done to me? I put it in my stories. What turns me on that I’ve never tried before? I put it in my stories. How would I have preferred a particular situation in my past have turned out? I put it in my stories. My body reacts to my own writing, which is what erotic writing is all about anyway. While I’m not having sex, I’m still a sexual being. No wonder I still review sex toys. I love using them. While I’m not a raging she devil in the sack anymore, I enjoy a mellow bout now and then, and my fiction drives me in that direction.

I look forward to my old age. I shall wear purple, like the woman in the poem. And I will continue to use my sex toys and write erotic fiction into my twilight years. I’m still a sexual being albeit in a different way than 50 years ago. And I’m enjoying every moment of it.

Do Men “Need” Sex More Than Women Do?

By Donna George Storey

Lube Jobs: A Woman’s Guide to Great Maintenance Sex by Don and Debra Macleod. The book had sat neglected on a shelf for years when it finally caught my attention during a recent effort to reduce the clutter in my house.

Should I keep it? Read it? I remembered that I first saw the book at The Museum of Sex in Manhattan, and I probably assumed their staff knew how to pick out a good sex book from the many on offer. I’m also pretty sure I thought the “provocative menu” of sex scenarios, bedroom-toy tips and erotica might satisfy both my amateur anthropologist’s interest in the way sexual pleasure is presented in our society and my erotica writer’s interest in new situations for my characters. The remainder mark on the bottom edge suggests I also fell prey to my weakness for a bargain.

I sat down to give it a skim.

To quickly discover that the promotional copy did a decent job of hiding the true message of Lube Jobs, at least to my eyes. I certainly had no idea I was purchasing one of the most infuriating books about sex I’ve ever read.

If only I’d scanned the introduction, I might have saved myself three bucks and a lot of teeth-gnashing.

The authors propose that a man is like an automobile. “He, too, needs full servicing on a regular basis… Lube Jobs is for those times he wants sex, but you want sleep.

Even in the healthiest and happiest of relationships, many women find that their partners crave sex more often than they do. The lube jobs in this book are a great way to provide maintenance sex. They keep your man satisfied during those times you’d prefer to pass on the passion while at the same time sustaining your sexual connection as a couple.

When it comes to performing maintenance, attitude is everything. It must never be considered a chore: your partner will catch those vibes and feel self-conscious, guilty and eventually resentful. Instead of dismissing maintenance sex as an obligation, embrace it as an opportunity to show your man how deeply you care for him and how important his pleasure is to you. By satisfying his carnal needs and desires even when you’re busy or not in the mood, you show him that his sexual contentment is a priority for you.”

Let’s pause for a moment to check the publication date. A wife cheerfully sacrificing her body for her husband’s thoroughly foreign carnal needs—it has to be a mid-nineteenth century marriage guide, right? Alas, no. Lube Jobs was copyrighted in 2007 by a publisher in the Penguin Group. Which means, as we know, a long list of professional, purportedly market-savvy gatekeepers expected a good chance of profit from contemporary book-buying wives.

Here’s what readers get for their money—a 250-page guide to sex for women who want to fake it in the bedroom. I don’t mean just faking an orgasm but everything along the way from making sure you praise the length and girth of your husband’s penis to surprising your man with a quickie outside of the bedroom whenever possible.

In all fairness, the reader also gets some truly sad stories about marital relationships that almost failed because the wife lost sight of her husband’s sexual needs. These parts of the book were poignant, in spite of the message that came along with them. The authors themselves had a long drought of physical closeness early in their marriage when their son was born prematurely and the stress of his care consumed most of the wife’s time. Finally, even though Debra really wasn’t into it, a sexual encounter pleased Don so much, she was glad she made the effort.

Another wife put sex low on her to-do list until she grew suspicious when her husband took an unusual late-night shower after she turned him down yet again. She opened the shower door and was shocked to catch him masturbating. The husband was mortified. He slammed the shower door closed and yelled at his wife to mind her own fucking business. (I am so on his side here.) The fact she had been such a bad wife that she reduced her husband to a covert self-abuse session in the shower compelled the wife to join him and give him “the best hand-job [he]’d ever had.” Obviously it was supposed to be a happy ending but the whole scene made me feel incredibly sad about our society’s shame around sexuality.

Sadder still was the woman who sheepishly admitted other wives might envy her because her boyfriend was “a very sensitive lover, very considerate, but there are times when a woman just doesn’t want to have sex no matter how good her lover is.” This woman would fake orgasms so he would stop bothering her so she could “do her part” and get it over with. One time she was trying to give her partner a hand-job and he kept pushing her hands away and trying to kiss her breasts to arouse her. She used his tie to secure his hands to the headboard to put a stop to the annoyance. He thought she was being sexy, but she was just being practical. The authors conclude: “Now that’s maintenance sex done right.”

There you have it, a philosophy to live by.

Angry as this book made me, I still feel that every person, woman and man, in these stories deserves sympathy. Sex is a complicated thing. And I realize that life throws challenges at all of us. There may indeed be times when a couple has health issues or stresses such that a woman bringing her husband to orgasm quickly with “tricks” and getting no sensual attention in return could be an acceptable choice for the couple. I have a good imagination, and this is still a stretch, but it’s possible. It’s also possible a man might have health issues and would want to bring his wife pleasure, but this scenario was not mentioned in the book.

That’s because the whole point of the book is that maintenance—or practically speaking “male-pleasure-only”–sex will strengthen a relationship because of the accepted universal truth that men need sex more than women do. The authors argue that men need sex to feel bonded to and appreciated by their partners. I know a number of women who say they want sex more than their husbands do, who crave that kind of appreciation and are unhappy without it. But in the worldview of Lube Jobs, women’s greatest sensual desire is sleep. The reasons for this supposed female lack of sexual interest go unquestioned.

In other words, this book profoundly disrespects women’s sexual desires by ignoring we have any–beyond pleasing our men and keeping them from seeking other outlets in affairs, strippers, porn or (gasp) masturbation. However, I believe that Lube Jobs also disrespects men by reducing them to simple “machines” that only require the satisfaction of an ejaculation, but who are unable to care about the complexities of their intimate relationships.

If a man is worth choosing as a significant other, he deserves better than a “lube job.”

Several male Lube Job reviewers on Amazon assert sentiments along the lines of “any man whose wife did this for him is the luckiest man in the world.” Really guys? Is this true? You’d be the happiest man on earth if your woman did all kinds of sexual tricks while you did nothing in return? Happier than if you both pleasured each other and you knew your love and attention satisfied her as much as hers satisfied you? Happier than if your partner trusted you to share what made her feel most appreciated and turned her on because you took the time to ask and care and maybe read some books to learn a few new spicy tips to make her happy? 

And, if I may ask, how would you feel if your wife asked you to please her in her favorite ways (whether we’re talking sex or, if you insist on believing women don’t care about sex, something else intimate and demanding), but requested, as a sign of your love, that she not have to do anything for you? Would the admonition to have the right generous attitude be enough to keep you from feeling resentful? Would you feel closer to your wife because you’ve been allowed to show how much the relationship means to you, even though your needs and desires were neglected without discussion or question?

Maybe your answer to all of this is “yes,” but I don’t totally believe you, especially with regard to the questions from the maintenance-providing perspective.

For I must maintain that maintenance sex does not bring a couple closer together. Lube Jobs is not self-help, although it is categorized as such on its back cover. Its unequal approach deepens the problem of marital sexual dissatisfaction by creating emotional distance, resentment and anger.

Coming of age during the Sexual Revolution, I certainly felt resentment at how few men seemed to care about my pleasure in the midst of this supposed orgy of sexual delight. I was still subject to cultural messages that men “give” a woman an orgasm, but if I didn’t receive it, preferably in a fairly short period of time, I was frigid. Or that being desired or “cuddled” and giving him pleasure is enough for a woman. Claiming my right to pleasure was difficult, scary and took hard work over a number of years. My lovers were not always as understanding as I would have liked, but for me it was very important that sexual pleasure be equal, so I didn’t stop asking. And I didn’t insist my partner figure it out without any input from me. No man can figure out what a woman wants if she doesn’t tell him. Besides, it’s much easier to say yes to sex, even if you’re tired, if you know you will be satisfied. I say all of this not to sound superior. One of the many blocks to sexual awareness is that too many people claim to be sexually sophisticated from birth, unlike the rest of us slobs who have to bumble around to figure it all out. But I do want to say it is possible, though not easy, to break free of the cliche that men need sexual release because it comes fairly easily (to most of them, male sexual difficulties were never mentioned) and women are fine with cuddling because their elusive, complicated sexuality just isn’t important to them since it’s too much trouble for everyone to figure out.

Every partner in a couple has her/his own history, her/his own psychological and physical needs. No example in Lube Jobs challenged the model that men need sex more than women, that men are visual, that men would be more than delighted with one-sided pleasure on a regular basis. These all might be true for a given person, but I need and enjoy sex. I want my partner to be happy and not just dutiful. I’m very visual. Last time I checked, I’m not a man. More to the point, no man would be happy with me if he told me my pleasure didn’t really matter to him, because I sure as fuck would not be happy with him. And I know I owe his desires the same respect I expect for my own.

Now that I’ve written this review, I can do what needs to be done. Lube Jobs doesn’t even rate the library donation box. It goes straight to the recycle bin. If only we could get rid of the outdated and toxic worldview it espouses so enthusiastically, maybe we’d all be happier.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman and a collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

We Don't Get No Respect

By Lisabet Sarai

Reading Donna George Storey’s post about Fifty Shades last month, I had one of those “aha!” moments. Donna cited Alyssa Rosenberg’s observation that romance is one of the only areas of cultural expression that focuses on women and their lives. I suddenly understood that reading romance could be more than just an escape into impossible fantasy, easily dismissed as shallow and frivolous.

Modern romance, which has largely jettisoned the wimpy, passive heroines of its past, gives its readers (who are primarily women) the opportunity to vicariously experience female agency. The female protagonists of today’s romance tend to be feisty, competent and independent. They are firmly in charge of their own lives, and frequently are not looking for the soul mate who eventually and inevitably comes their way. It might not be too far a stretch to view them as role models.

Furthermore, in erotic romance, women bravely, sometimes brazenly, express their sexual selves. Today’s erotic romance heroines embrace their desires. Often they bed their partners long before they fall in love, and they’re just as likely to control the sexual action as the heroes. As Donna points out, even the virginal Ana is the true dominant in Fifty Shades. She defines (and redefines) the rules, which poor Christian tries to follow.

Romance is about female power—the power to make decisions about relationships, and the power to enjoy personal sexual satisfaction. No wonder it’s so popular, in a world where many women lack that sort of power.

So why doesn’t the genre get more respect? Why is it so easy and so fashionable to belittle romance—especially erotic romance? Why does Donna feel so uncomfortable writing “mushy” dialogue, blushing as if it were obscene? Sure, there’s a lot of poorly written romance out there, but that’s true of every category of fiction. Why do people feel the need to denigrate romance as “trash”, “bodice rippers”, or “mommy porn”?

Maybe because the female power is viewed as a threat.

In a male-dominated culture, it’s too dangerous to take romance seriously.

“Take romance seriously?” Some of you reading this are no doubt chuckling at the absurdity of this notion. And I suspect Remittance Girl will be sharpening her rhetorical blade, ready to assert that romance is in fact a product of male-dominated culture, an attempt to domesticate the socially-disruptive effects of lust by promulgating the myth of harmonious, monogamous, stable coupling.

Still, think about what the world would be like if women all began to act like romance heroines. Speaking out and acting on their desires. Insisting on respect and consideration from their lovers. Demanding to be taken seriously. Claiming a well-deserved, personal happy ending, without guilt or feelings of inferiority. Some men would be very threatened indeed.

“Hah. Illusions. There’s no such thing as a happy ending.”

Perhaps there’s no “ever after”. However, healthy, egalitarian, enduring, fulfilling relationships do exist, hard as that may be sometimes to be believe. And you know, based on my personal experience, it’s not just women who want that kind of relationship. Many men value independent, assertive partners. Men do not necessarily want a doormat as a companion. Or, for that matter, an innocent virgin!

The kicker is that despite the official perspective that romance is trash, readers of the genre have more economic power than any other market segment. The phenomenal success of Fifty Shades is only the latest demonstration of this fact.

This observation makes me realize that romance readers don’t really care whether the pundits view romance as unrealistic or superficial. They’re going to buy and read what they enjoy, losing themselves in stories of the women they’d like to be. It’s only authors of erotic romance, like me, who grumble about not being taken seriously by the literary establishment.

Well, you know what? I respect the romance I write. I know how difficult it is to create an original, compelling story that still adheres to the conventions of the genre. More difficult, maybe, than writing a so-called literary novel, where there are far fewer constraints.

So I’m going to stop griping and get back to writing. The only respect I really need comes from my readers.

50 Shades of Grey – Women Expressing Sexual Fantasies

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica,
erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her
husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web
, her Facebook page, and her Amazon
Author Page


I read “50
Shades of Grey” when the book first came out since the feminist e-zine ON
THE ISSUES had wanted me to review it. I felt the same way lots of people felt
about it. I thought it was poorly written. It started out as
“Twilight” fan fiction so it wasn’t even an original idea. It was not
a realistic depiction of BDSM, and I had read better erotic books with BDSM as
a major theme. Although some disagreed with me, I thought the relationship
between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele was abusive and stalkerish. This is
a very polarizing series of books. You either hate them or you love them. There
seems to be little middle ground.

Now that the movie
has become a huge box office hit, “50 Shades of Grey” is back in the
news again – with a vengeance. The books and movie are a cultural phenomenon
that has brought erotic fiction and talk about sex into the forefront. Make no
mistake – women have been reading erotic fiction for aeons, but they read
furtively. The Kindle helped bring about increases in sales of erotic fiction
in part because of the privacy the device gives the reader. Woman no longer worried about getting the hairy eyeball from strangers (or friends or family) who saw a
strapping, shirtless man on the front cover of the book. “50 Shades of
Grey” expanded on this. Sexologist Dr. Patti Britton wrote on her blog
that the book series “normalized the
discussion about sex and especially about the holy grail of BDSM: Bondage and
Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sado Masochism. It allowed kinksters to
come out of the closet and claim their orientation.”

What “50 Shades
of Grey” also did was bring the average straight woman out of the closet. Women
aren’t hiding their love for the series and movie as if they are ashamed of it.
It’s wonderful women feel comfortable enough thanks to “50 Shades of
Grey” to be so open about the sexual needs and wants. It has also
introduced an entirely new population to BDSM, despite critics accurate assertions
that the books and movie are not accurate depictions of the lifestyle. When the
first book initially exploded into public consciousness, sex toys sales skyrocketed
by 400%. According to an article in Cosmopolitan, ben wa balls (sex balls) in
particular became popular because Christian Grey gave a pair to Anastasia
Steele. Check out this description from the book: “He
holds out his hand, and in his palm are two shiny silver balls linked with a
thick black thread … Inside me! I gasp, and all the muscles deep in my belly
clench. My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils … Oh my … It’s a
curious feeling. Once they’re inside me, I can’t really feel them—but then
again I know they’re there … Oh my … I may have to keep these. They make me
needy, needy for sex.” Both men and woman wanted to re-enact the sexy
scenes the women read in the book.

online have talked about the effect “50 Shades of Grey” has had on
their sex lives. They’re enjoying sex toys more often. Some have found new and
creative uses for household items such as chip bag clips in place of nipple
clamps. They’ve discovered the joy of bondage tape, including humorous
astonishment at the fact that the tape sticks only to itself, not to skin and
hair. That stuff isn’t electrical tape, which sticks to everything. Keep in mind most of these women are very vanilla, and
this book series and movie are their first exposure to BDSM. Two subscribers to
the kink website Fetlife hand-crafted a paddle and flogger. Other fans
described their favorite scenes in the books.

have even felt compelled to re-enact scenes from the book. One man on Fetlife
who is new to the BDSM lifestyle with his wife talked about how his wife has
introduced a wide variety of sex toys to their play since reading the book,
including dildos, vibrators, hot wax, and ben wa balls. He and his wife planned
to see the movie, and he wanted to prepare a sexy surprise for her once they
returned home. He asked for advice on how to proceed. One person recommended
acting out a scene where Christian tied Ana to the headboard and blindfolded
her. He put headphones on her ears so she couldn’t hear – opening her to expand
her horizons through using her other senses.

Fetlife subscriber described enjoying being spanked. Like Ana, she enjoyed the
sting but leaving marks was not okay. One thread discussed songs that reminded
fans of the book, including Lucinda Williams’ “Sweet Side”, “Dark
Side” by Kelly Clarkson, “Love Is A Battlefield” by Pat Benatar,
and “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. The books and movie have introduced
the general public to BDSM, and Fetlife offers tips on exploring the lifestyle
to anyone who’s interested.

are writing “50 Shades of Grey” fan fiction, which is ironic since
the first book started out as “Twilight” fan fiction. Storylines
range from pure sex to loving relationship to even marriage between Anastasia
and Christian, complete with a baby. Here’s an excerpt from one of the stories
at Fanfiction.net:

I know she loves
it when I tell her how much I lover her and need her, it gets her all riled up
and she will do anything “You’re so ready Ana. I love it when you’re so
ready for me.” I slide two fingers into her as my thumb strikes her
clitoris and I can see her building. “Not yet Ana. Not yet.” She
moans and I can’t help but let out a little giggle “be patient. Not long
now.” I move my fingers in a rotating motion to build her up even more and
she arches her back to push her breast in to my hand and lets out a cry
“oh. Please Christian. I. Need. You!”

are openly discussing what they want from their partners when it comes to sex.
This book series and movie have fired up imaginations, resulting in an uptick
in purchases of sex toys and erotic fiction as well as the creation of fan fiction.
Despite criticism, “50 Shades of Grey” must be recognized for the
positive effect it has had on women’s expression of their sexual likes and

What Do Women Want?

By Donna George Storey

that’s a title sure to sell books. Especially if said book promises to
answer that question with “the latest scientific research” by
“paint[ing] an unprecedented portrait of female lust.”

mostly overcome my old bad habit of feeling compelled, for the sake of
my professional development, to read every article about sex that
catches my eye—from Cosmo covers offering secret bedroom tricks that fulfill every man’s deepest desires to more serious journalism like Mary Roach’s Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Yet an enthusiastic review of Daniel Bergner’s What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire
proved just too provocative, so I put my name of the hold list at my
local library. Granted I was equally wary and amused that the mystery of
female sexual desire was to be answered by a male author, but the
“science” in the title promised at least a certain amount of objective
reportage and possibly some useful up-to-date discoveries.

finishing the book, I think I’ll go back on the wagon as far as “read
this and you’ll understand sex” come-on’s are concerned.

Bergner’s book left my raging intellectual curiosity about sex sadly
unsatisfied. However, I did gain some valuable insights into issues of
importance for erotica writers: namely, the constrictions on the way
we’re allowed to write about sex in mainstream publishing and our
endless human quest to seek a simple explanation for our very complex
and powerful urge to merge (or the lack thereof in married women, which
was Bergner’s unacknowledged focus, not to say obsession, in the book).

Let’s start with the writing style of What Do Women Want?
Published writing about sex is generally divided into two comforting
categories. First we have the “scientific” approach, which is deemed
acceptable for review in the New York Times (indeed Bergner even nabbed a nonfiction spot
in that venerable publication to promote his book). This is either a
sex guide by a credentialed doctor or a journalist’s reportage of what’s
going on in the underfunded labs of sexologists. The emphasis here is
on the “facts” tastefully and maturely presented with the aim of helping
us understand our biological drives. The tone may be humorous, like
Roach’s, often pointing out the ridiculousness of sex, but there can
never be any obvious intent to arouse lust. That goal is left to erotica
and porn, where the author is at liberty to use every trick in the
book—dirty words, loving descriptions of sex acts, vivid, taboo-breaking
fantasies—to inflame the reader’s libido. The price for this freedom is
that such works can’t be taken too seriously, even if some do prove
wildly profitable.

I’d always wondered what would
happen if someone tried combining these two forms, intellectual
seriousness with vivid, evocative prose. Many erotica writers do so
quite successfully in my opinion. Bergner makes a certain kind of
attempt by juxtaposing reportage of scientific studies and the search
for a “female Viagra” (which is apparently much harder since it requires
a change in brain chemistry rather than just blood flow) with decidedly
flowery accounts of women’s experiences and fantasies. The experiment
derails because Bergner’s heavy-handed prose requires the reader to
either submit equally to the reportage and the personal fancy or to
doubt both. For me, What Do Women Want? has been falsely
advertised as the kind of “scientific” book that we’re supposed to
respect when there is a buried personal agenda at work throughout.
Perhaps the book would be less of a con if it were advertised as memoir
or creative nonfiction, but then again it would lose a good portion of
an audience that craves “objective” answers to the mystery of sex.

an inquiry into what women want could result in a very long book
indeed, Bergner’s main focus is stories of women who have lost desire
for their sweet, loving partners, but feel excitement for men who treat
them like, well, Christian Grey treats Anastasia Steele. Yet, rather
than quoting the women in their own words, he freely indulges his own
writerly impulses. In the following excerpt, he’s describing the
experiences of a “real” woman named Isabel:

“Women who
dressed with urgent, ungoverned need for the desire of men could set
off, inside her, a flurry of disdain, like an instinctive aversion to a
weakness or wound. Yet whenever she walked into a restaurant where
Michael waited for her at the bar, his focus seem to pluck her from the
air, midfall, and pull her forward. His eyes held a thoroughly different
kind of constancy than Eric’s later would. Eric adored her. Michael
admired her. She was a possession, the heels of the boots she picked for
him taking her across crowded rooms toward her owner. The boots were
like the frames and pedestals he chose for the photography and sculpture
in his gallery. He had specific opinions about how she was best

If the book were fiction, I might be more
willing to allow myself to be carried along by the strongly flavored
sensibility of Bergner’s prose. But in many cases I felt manipulated, as
if he were imposing his voice on Isabel among others, making her into
his character, for the mere sake of showing us he can write in a Best American Short Story style.

Bergner does describe some interesting results of studies—did you know
that in speed dating whichever sex sits still is pickier about partners
than the one forced to get up and rotate? But far too many studies he
mentioned dealt with women’s boredom with nice guys. Basically Berger
argues that traditional evolutionary biology got it wrong. It’s not the
men who are the promiscuous sex, sowing their seed far and wide while
women wait for a nurturing mate, but rather the women who are even
hungrier for sex with strangers, thus explaining the much touted desire
gap between married men and women. By the time he attributed Adriaan
Tuiten’s search for a drug to restore female desire to a broken heart
when his first girlfriend lost sexual interest in him, I suspected
something else was at stake for the author as well. And indeed, turning
back to the acknowledgements, Bergner rather wistfully thanks his
ex-wife for the faith she offered for many years.

or not Bergner’s ex-wife left him because her sexual desire for her
tender mate faded, his choice of highly personal writing style and a
notable focus on one slim aspect of female sexuality demands that he be
honest with his readers about where he comes from on the issue of
marriage and the loss of desire. Yet he maintains the opacity of the
traditional journalist throughout, in spite of his revealingly biased
choices in language.

Now is the perfect time for me to
be honest. While I am all for revising the rigid story of a natural
male promiscuity and the female preference for monogamy, in my personal
experience, I have always had better sex when I know and care for my
partner and he cares for me. Thus, I did not in any way feel that the
book illuminated the mysteries of my desire. Which leads me to the
second lesson of my reading. Bergner insists we have to replace the old
story with an equally simple one—it’s not men who have insatiable
appetites, it’s women (which is actually the view of earlier Christian
philosophers, so it’s not exactly new). But what if we human beings,
male and female, all have our own ever-evolving stories about pleasure
and sexual desire? Might not we all have different reasons, genetic and
cultural, for behaving and desiring as we do, narratives that might also
change within a single person’s life course as well as varying among
different people? What if there are no rock-solid eternal truths to
comfort us about what is natural in sex (or any other human behavior)?

inherent in these “scientific” studies is the assumption that there is a
normal or correct sexuality. Yet I’ve never seen a real-life example
offered of this envied normal state. (Therapist Marty Klein maintains in
his book, Sexual Intelligence, that the only true normalis
that most adults have sex when they’re tired.) Bergner does not
interview a promiscuous woman who has found happiness indulging her
natural urges like the rhesus monkeys in the lab. Even one of the few
sexually frisky married women Bergner mentions is not a poster child for
happy monogamy by his definition:

“The abruptly, she
mentioned something hidden. She was a baseball fan, and when she had
trouble reaching orgasm, or wanted to make love with Paul but felt that
arousal was remote and needed beckoning, she tended to think about the
Yankee’s shortstop Derek Jeter. She smiled at the comedy of this
confession. It was only sometimes that this extra help was required, she
explained. ‘Jeter is the ultimate Yankee. Tall, all-American, everyone
loves him—he’s it. He comes home to me after winning the World Series.
He’s still in his uniform, and he throws me onto the bed and kisses me
in a frenzy all over and thrusts right into me without me being really
prepared for it. He just ravages me.’”

Yes, the secret
is out, the wife “sometimes” has to cheat in her fantasies to feel lust
for her husband! Both Bergner and the wife seem to find such fantasies
embarrassing and comic, but more to the author’s point, the fantasy is
described as “hidden” (But from whom exactly? She told him about it,
should she advertise it on a tattoo on her face?) and conforms to the
rape-by-a-stranger fantasy that several of the scientists he interviewed
claim arouses women more than any other fantasy. Bergner does not
really explore the wisdom of taking fantasies literally. He allows that
these women probably don’t actually want to be raped, but he does seem
to assume that a mere fantasy about another man is a form of infidelity
and proves his case about women “wanting” lots of sex with buff, selfish
strangers in alleyways.

Okay, I’m going to get
personal again, but at least I’m being transparent about my point of
view. I’ve never fantasized for more than two seconds about a specific
person or celebrity, nor does rape, which we’ll define as nonconsensual
sex, ever play a role in my rich and varied married-woman fantasies,
although the partner usually takes the lead because, damn it, I get
tired doing everything out there in the real world. Still my preferred
fantasy partner is a faceless drone, used and discarded for his sexual
value alone. I like it that way. Does my fantasy prove anything more
than that my imagination does not follow society’s rules for
proper female focus on the man’s personhood? And how is it that
Bergner’s list of women’s sexual fantasies, told with a sort of
breathless titillation, can be seen as news decades after Nancy Friday’s
My Secret Garden shocked the world? Alas, the book is mired in
not-very-unprecedented assumptions and judgments Bergner claims to be
challenging. In the end he does admit it is “just a beginning,” in spite
of the promotional copy’s promise to a potential reader that he or she
will get some interesting answers to the title question.

yes, the book is mostly a waste of time if you are expecting to find
out what all women want. Yet even its failures remind us that there is
plenty of room for a nuanced, clear-eyed inquiry into the stories we
tell ourselves about sexuality and desire. Daniel Bergner has
unwittingly made his own contribution, though not quite as he intended.
His book does give us a coded look into the interests and passions of
one particular man, but undoubtedly a more honest What Do Women Want?: I Don’t Really Know Either would not sell nearly as many copies.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt



Pin It on Pinterest