Now Ladies, Science Says That Sex is Bad, Mmmkay?

by Cara on June 26, 2008

in gender, media, patriarchy, sex and sexuality, sexism, slut-shaming

I don’t know why the hell I even bother getting angry anymore, but Jesus Fucking Christ do I hate the media.

There’s some new study on sex and different male and female perceptions towards it (cue groans).  It’s about casual sex.  What kind of headlines is it prompting?  Ones like these:

Women Have Not Adapted To Casual Sex, Research Shows; Casual sex rates low for many women; The one-night stand blues: How girls are left to regret brief encounters; and my favorite, Men like casual sex more than women – scientific fact

Anyone want to guess why this pisses me off?  Probably because, oops!, that’s not what the fucking study says.

In fact, it says nothing at all about whether or not women have adapted to casual sex, and fails to show that they don’t like it because women are all about relationships.  In fact, the results show quite the opposite — that contrary to popular belief, women don’t engage in casual sex because they think it might lead to a relationship.  Amazingly enough, they generally do it for the same reason that men do: because they’re horny.

But it’s true that (presumably heterosexual) women were more likely to report negative experiences.  Why was that, in the end?  Is it because the men don’t instantly propose? No, it’s because the men are much more likely to treat the women like total shit.

Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. Men were more likely than women to secretly want their friends to hear about it and to feel successful because the partner was desirable to others. Men also reported greater sexual satisfaction and contentment following the event, as well as a greater sense of well-being and confidence about themselves.

The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been “used”. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships.

“What the women seemed to object to was not the briefness of the encounter but the fact that the man did not seem to appreciate her. The women thought this lack of gratitude implied that she did this with anybody,” Professor Campbell explained.

Oh, look at that. It’s not that women don’t like casual sex — it’s that men apparently aren’t putting in as much effort to provide their partners with sexual satisfaction, tend to blow the women off afterward rather than treating them like people, and feel more free to discuss the experience without the fear of being judged, called a whore and permanently looked down upon by their peers.

Somehow, all of this strikes me as having nothing to do with biology, and absolutely everything to do with social customs and gendered patterns of socially acceptable behavior.  But of course, this information not only fails to appear in headlines, but is nicely buried toward the end of even Scientific Daily’s article.

To be entirely fair, it seems that the study’s author is also to blame.  According to the BBC, “The academic leading the research said it showed that there was no evolutionary advantage for women in one night stands.”  As I’ve just noted, the very results of the study prove this conclusion to be utterly without merit, but that doesn’t get you quoted in newspaper articles, now does it?  Nothing for the MRAs and abstinence-only proponents to brag about there.

It seems to me that more accurate headlines would be “Men are more likely than women to be assholes during casual sex” or “Society has still not adapted to female desire for casual sex.”  But not having the desire to pass out today, I won’t be holding my breath for their miraculous appearance.

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{ 20 comments }

1 Keren June 26, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Sub- heading on the Daily Mail article:
“research shows many women don’t want sexual freedom anymore.”

I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. They will twist anything just to further their anti-woman agenda- and the majority of their readers are women!

2 Cara June 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Are you fucking serious?

Yes, you are. In the sidebar.

Dear Lord.

3 Kristen June 26, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Men also reported greater sexual satisfaction and contentment following the event, as well as a greater sense of well-being and confidence about themselves.

HELLO…perhaps a direct correlation to ORGASMS?

“Thirty-three to 50 percent of women experience orgasm infrequently and are dissatisfied with how often they reach orgasm.” Medline

I don’t know about you, but orgasms leave me all sexually satisfied and enjoying a great sense of well-being. [Particularly if followed by a nap! :)]

But that couldn’t possibly be part of the reason for the disparity…nope…women hate sex…it couldn’t be that we as a society haven’t figured out how to accommodate female pleasure…nope…not at all…

4 Melissa June 26, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Yeah – to laugh or cry – that is the question…Jesus. I can tell you that encounters where my partner for the night was as giving as I was, I walked away from the experience with a great feeling of satisfaction. When they just jumped on me like a bunny and then went to sleep, I thought, “Well that was a waste of fucking time”
It is not that I don’t want, enjoy and carry out my sexual freedom, it is simply to have a partner that knows what the fuck they are doing or at least care to try….
Jesus.

5 Jenn Smithson June 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Well color me unsurprised. Truly, unfortunately, unsurprised. They really will twist anything to try and get us to swallow this crap.

Oh no, you don’t evah feel horny or just want to have sex, your only evolutionary purpose is to lie on your back (preferably praying to the dominate deity) so you can be knocked up by someone enjoying himself with your body. Your pleasure is not necessary for this lofty purpose, therefore there’s no evolutionary need for Women to feel pleasure. Now if all of you ladies would kindly accept that and stop lying to yourselves and everyone else about what you feel, we’ll all be better off in our ‘designed’ roles. [/sarcasm]

I read in the book, How the Prochoice Movement Saved America, about studies (and other books) relating that Human beings may have sex simply For Pleasure, both men and Women (hence the CLITORIS) and that Pregnancy is the byproduct. Of course this flies in the face of every misogynist structure our society is founded upon so these messages – surprise, surprise – don’t get as much air time as “Women don’t like sex, et al.”

This shit seriously pisses me off. I have half a mind to write op/eds to the publications shoveling this tripe.

6 SunlessNick June 26, 2008 at 9:20 pm

“research shows many women don’t want sexual freedom anymore.”

It’s times like this that I wish there was a God(dess) of Science to rain fire down on people who twist research studies.

Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out.

They were afraid of being called sluts perhaps? No, can’t be, completely irrational. They must have disliked the sex – no reasonable woman could possibly imagine she might be subjected to ill-judgment for daring to enjoy herself.*

The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been “used”.

Which must be their problem, because men totally aren’t users. (Unless they have been found out as users, in which case they are innately so because of their genes and can’t be blamed for it). But no, they must have disliked the sex – no reasonable woman could possibly construe a man’s behaviour to her as using.*

* Sorry. I have toothache. Bitter sarcasm is about the only reaction I can manage right now.

7 becca June 26, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I am so glad that you went into this like you did. And I’m so glad that I’m not the only one steaming under the bonnet over the “boys will be boys” attitude, especially when paired with “And girls dream of valentines and babies.”

I was in my middle eastern women’s lit. seminar tonight talking with my classmates about rights of passage and the “secrets” that women only get from other women upon marriage in a lot of traditional societies. The professor told us of her experience of her “right” to the secrets, saying that it all boiled down to basically one secret: how to get everything you want from your husband! With SEX.

Well we all quickly dispelled that myth for sexually liberated women in the West, reasoning that women in more oppressive cultures don’t enjoy sex because it’s forced upon them, sometimes as young as 8 and 9 years old, and it’s primarily for men’s pleasure and then it’s over. (And more…of course)

And then I chimed in, giggly, that my (male) partner is the one who can hold sex over my head for little things he wants from me if he wants to–because I WANT MORE SEX than he does for the most part. Figure that out, biology!

8 roses June 27, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Interesting that the fact that over 50% of women who had one night stands had positive feelings about them proves that women don’t like casual sex.

The first time I had sex outside a relationship I had negative feelings about it. I felt guilty and conflicted. Why? Because I had been taught that nice girls don’t have casual sex. Once I had worked through that, I felt fairly neutral about about casual sex (not usually positive because of one of the other things you mentioned – some men seem to feel there’s no need to worry too much about their partner’s pleasure during a one night stand – after all, it’s not like he’s trying to get her to sleep with him a second time. So the sex wasn’t very good).

9 Lilith June 28, 2008 at 1:06 am

I have found a solution to this problem. I look a male over, If I like what I see, I take a mental picture. When I get home I masturbate. Then I dismiss him in my fantasy, Roll over and sleep. No man can do anything for me that I cant do for my self, and a damn sight better at that.
No man is worth the trouble that they put us through.
Sisters before misters….

10 Jha June 28, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Lilith: “Sisters before misters…”

What a GREAT tag against “bros before hos”!! I’m totally using it!

11 brenna June 28, 2008 at 10:55 pm

I’ve noticed a direct correlation. Those guys who talk about how they just want to have sex? Yeah, quite unlikely to participate in a little oral satisfaction… unless it’s theirs.

12 jj July 1, 2008 at 9:51 am

See, your argument is correct, and as a guy I find slut-shaming to be a sad social reality. But then this – “Men are more likely than women to be assholes during casual sex” – you spend an entire article explaining the casual realtionship of headlines with truth, and then jump from “women don’t feel appreciated and *that* adds to their fear of being slut-shamed while men like to brag about sex because women like men who have been preselected by other women” to “men are more likely to be assholes”. Seriously. Why not just say “men and women are both interested in casual sex with each other but do respond differently to social (and biological) pressures. These social pressures make it more likely for a woman not to enjoy the episode with hindsight than for a man.”

13 Cara July 1, 2008 at 10:36 am

CLEARLY, JJ, you didn’t actually read/comprehend the argument. The argument wasn’t that men are assholes during casual sex for talking about it afterwards. The argument is that the heterosexual women in this study were less likely to be sexually satisfied. What this tells me is that the men weren’t trying very hard to provide them with pleasure. The issue wasn’t only that women were afraid of the slut-shaming, but that THEY DIDN’T FEEL APPRECIATED OR VALUDED BY THE MEN THEY WERE SLEEPING WITH. Two radically different things, and the women reported both.

Also, I’m pretty sure that your “women like men who have been preselected by other women” argument is total crap. Men don’t brag about sex to women they’re trying to sleep with. Because if a man goes up to a woman and says “so let me tell you about this hot chick I fucked last night,” chances are extraordinarily high that the woman he’s talking to isn’t going to sleep with him — if for no other reason than knowing it will be all over town the next day. Men brag about sex to other men.

14 My Piece August 11, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Casual sex because of leading to relationships? What a load of bs. You do it because you’re horny, and usually drunk. You regret it later because the sex sucked and you realized that masturbating would have been better. Then you worry about stds.

15 Amy January 18, 2009 at 2:53 am

Actually, I don’t agree at all. I think women DO have a biological aversion to casual sex. In evolution women who had non-committed sex with men that were not going to support them or their offspring took a huge risk and often died in childbirth or their children died. It’s for this reason that women are programmed to seek love and commitment and bond to a sex partner. I like sex, but think it’s part of a bonding experience. Men just want sex as a physical thing. Even when i’m drunk, im not out looking for casual sex and I wouldn’t have casual sex because i’m horny, even if I’m drunk and had a one night stand, it would be because i want to feel close to them i.e. a bonding thing. If a man leads me on to get sex and then doesn’t call me, I inevitably feel hurt and used. In contrast I never lead men on to get sex, because I only want sex with someone i want to form a meaningful/loving connection with. Whereas men want sex with every girl they can! no strings – even better in their eyes! I agree, men ARE more likely to be assholes during casual sex, but only because they see sex as a physical thing, not an emotional thing. Unlike women, a man’s hormones do not prompt him to bond to a sex partner, nor be discerning about whom he has sex with. Men just to go for whatever sex they can get, from whoever that girl is – they don’t care who, and then they turn and run. Thats the sad truth of it.

16 Cara January 18, 2009 at 10:12 am

Well clearly if that’s Amy’s experience, it must be true for everyone!!!!

Seriously Amy, I’m sorry that you’ve had some bad experiences with some asshole guys. And I don’t at all doubt that you have. Nor do I doubt you when you tell us how sex is connected in your mind with bonding. But let’s not use how you think and how in your experience guys seem to think to paint all of humanity with the same large brush. Not every woman is you, and not every woman’s sex drive works like yours. Not all men are the asshole(s) you’ve slept with or have sex drives that work like theirs. Really, it’s very simple and kind of annoying to have to explain.

17 Anna January 18, 2009 at 11:03 am

evolutionary psychology as a cheap cover for misogyny? check. dear me.

I’ve had numerous one night stands. Most of them left me feeling like shit. You know why? Because when people find out, when the asinine men I had an unsatisfactory fuck with decides to tell everyone I get labelled a slut, a whore, a girl who ‘can’t be raped because she’d drop her knickers for anyone’. I’m cheap, I’m easy, I’m fair game for anyone to sexually assault on a night out because, you know, as a result of a few one-night-stands I’m totally up for it, with anyone, ALL THE TIME.

Except I’m, you know, not.

The one night stands I feel a lot more positive about? The men I slept with that didn’t behave like that (sadly few.. I can think of one off the top of my head), and oddly enough, the women (who have never acted like that at all). It ain’t the casual sex that fucks you up, it’s how society treats you afterwards. “Nice girls don’t sleep around”.

Whilst writing this I realised that actually.. I don’t want to be a nice girl.

18 Anna January 18, 2009 at 11:06 am

and p.s. Amy – I’ve never felt like I’ve ‘bonded’ with anyone more as a result of having sex with them. I bond with people by having conversations with them, by sharing life with them, by spending time with them. Maybe my hormones are defective. Or something.

19 Trisha May 4, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I stumbled upon this while googling the title of the movie I am working on “Science Sex and the Ladies” It’s a non-fiction movie that centers around the very basic misunderstandings regarding female sexulaity. Mainly that women exist in a very different sexual environment than men do – particularly because women as a whole don’t orgasm as much as men do. Not that they can’t orgasm as much – because they certainly can. It is simply that in our culture they don’t. The movie discusses why this might be the case and what might be the implications of that unfortunate fact. Studies and media representaions like this are all too common, and I enjoyed reading your comments. I can see that the base problem here is pretty clear to some of you and I hope to open this discussion wider with my movie. Thanks! You can check out the production blog for the movie if you’re interested http://www.sciencesexandtheladies.blogspot.com It doesn’t have too much about the content of the movie, but if you want to discuss at all it’s trisha@ancmovies.com

20 Whit September 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm

First off, we need an understanding of what evolution is.

Evolution is defined as change in the genetic material of a population of organisms from one generation to the next.

This article makes a blunder I would like to point out.

“Evolution often acts through positive or negative emotions which draw us towards adaptive behaviours or drives us away from harmful ones.”

It is very, very tricky to say that emotions are genetic. How much of our emotional responses stem from genetics as opposed to culture, psychology and experience is a topic that is up for debate. As a scientist, he cannot say “Evolution often acts through positive or negative emotions” like it is common knowledge and expect his work to be taken seriously.

Also, to my understanding it claims that the survey was conducted online, basically a survey of convenience. Online surveys are not valid, they are usually not truly random samples, and are usually taken by individuals who have strong feelings one way or the other.

I call this piece, Bullshit.

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