Revisiting a Bad Mel Gibson Movie.


The New York Times  decided to delve deep into the juicy depths of female sexuality. Meredith Chivers, a 36-year-old sexologist, has probed the subject long and hard, wrapping herself into contradictions trying to answer the question posed by Freud a century ago: “What does a woman want?”

Ok, sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but the story is the Times most e-mailed today, and it is being chattered about everywhere. Is the work discussed ground-breaking? Sexist? Great discussions, but I warn you now: You won’t find any of them here.

The article poses a lot of ideas that ring true with me, because of my life experiences, and some that don’t. I confess, though, these were the most pressing questions my mind raised as I read the article: How did the women insert the little probe used to test vaginal blood flow? Were they naked when they took the test? What kind of calisthenics was the woman doing (and is there more than one kind)? Do bonobos have sex face-to-face (I thought it was only humans and chimps)? How did the women in the fMRI scanner masturbate (toys, or the trusty-old right hand)? And who volunteers for tests like this, anyway? And I thought, of course women like the idea of being pinned up against the wall. I can’t even write about it without my mind going. . .  elsewhere.

Maybe my mind’s dirty. I also think it poses what I find a fatal flaw in the piece: I just don’t think female desire is all that mysterious. I also don’t think it’s necessarily bad to posit the idea women might think of being submissive during sex. Just because that might be true doesn’t mean they can’t also be in control of their sexual destinies, or view women as sexual objects rather than sexual subjects. We’re assigning submission a negative quality.

It’s not to say these inquiries aren’t worth it. But the increasing medicalization of desire (researchers are working on a female Viagra-type drug) was one of the topics discussed in the book “Sex in Crisis,” (which is not good, but I just finished anyway); it posited the way we think about sex today as a dangerous new revolution. And one of the things I took from the book is that the Christian Right has changed the way we think about sex because it treats our sexual behavior as something at odds with the way we want, or ought to want, it to be. I think this article does as well. This is sexist, but I kind of wish it had been written by a woman. Its gee-whiz quality annoys me.

But this post was meant to find out what you all thought about the article. So please, do tell.

  • ladyfresshh

    I got to this point in the article

    She pronounced, as well, “I consider myself a feminist.” Then she added, “But political correctness isn’t sexy at all.” For women, “being desired is the orgasm,” Meana said somewhat metaphorically — it is, in her vision, at once the thing craved and the spark of craving.

    and started singing that song by cheap trick

    still am actually…

  • I dunno. I sort of appreciated the ‘gee-whiz’ tenor of the thing. I’m glad Bergner didn’t assume that we were all familiar with the rudiments of female sexual desire. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone among straight dudes in being pretty ignorant about a lot of this, though I get why it would be grating for you.

    One of the things that really blew my mind was the way the women in one of the images responded to images of a naked woman exercise; they all became aroused. Jill over at Feministe suggested that because of the way women’s bodies are socially coded, *everyone* responds to them sexually. I’d never considered that, which would explain why the researchers kept finding that part of what turned women on was their own desirability.

  • quadmoniker

    Well, I could have been pretty spoiled by my feminist liberal arts college. And I agree with Jill. I’ve said for years that women’s bodies mean sex in a way that men’s do not. That idea was discussed in the piece and was interesting.

  • This was interesting. Like you quad I found things in there that resonated and other stuff that made me think “huh? really??”. I got really hung up on the language at one point. I don’t like that word “rudderless” for some reason. I just sat here for 15 minutes trying to figure out why I don’t like it but I can’t quite articulate it yet – I may get back to you on that. Mostly though after reading this I want more. I find it hard to believe that female desire is predicated on being desired more so than men. I also want to know about aspects of female desire that don’t have to do with receiving pleasure but with giving. I know a fair few women who love giving blow-jobs and one of the reasons is the reactions you’re getting from the guy, in a power-trip kinda way. How does one account for stuff like that? I’d also like to know about the possible role of aggression in female sexuality. It also made guys sound kinda cut and dried: men get boners when they see women, heterosex and lesbians – the end. Is there no evidence at all of similar fluidity in arousal in men? How does this research relate to something like the Kinsey scale for instance with regard to whether someone self identifies as straight, bizexual or gay? Are there different types of responses for differet people along the continuum?

  • Big Word

    It was an interesting read but not all that surprising to me. Anybody’s that lived with a woman knows they’re full of all sorts of surprises.

  • Big Word: They’re like a box of chocolates : )

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  • godsgifttohim

    Paradigm: Yes, we are. ***wink***