DO Women Like Sex Less Than Men?

Responses to my post asking why women like sex less than men included:

  • Says who?
  • I think it’s the opposite – I think women like it more
  • I don’t think anyone can know who likes sex better

Or as one reader put it, “The overwhelming majority of men and women get their attitudes and desires for sex primarily through the natural, healthy desire to have sex… Women are equal to men and thus capable of every form of behavior that men engage in.”

To which I respond: no and yes (in that order).

Women are certainly capable of enjoying sex immensely. In some societies women are highly orgasmic and inclined to engage in sex with great frequency, as with Tahitians and American Indians before contact with Europeans.

But highly orgasmic women in America? Not so much – at least not by comparison.

Of course women are capable of having great sex. But the extent to which they actually do depends on factors other than just what nature brings them. Repression plays a role, and so do sexual objectification and male dominance (all will be explored later).

Do women like sex less? Consider this research on sexuality in America:

On the orgasm front three-quarters of men say they “always” have an orgasm, but just 30% of women do. One quarter of women don’t usually have orgasms. In the casual sex of hook-ups the rate is lower, especially for women. Sociologist Michael Kimmel (Guyland) surveyed college students on their most recent hookup. Only 44% of the men reported having an orgasm, and only 19% of the women did.

The more orgasmic a person is, the more they report enjoying sex. Not surprisingly, women report liking sex less than men do. A Chicago University study found that men have more interest in sex at all ages. And an ABC News Primetime Live survey found that 83% of men “enjoy sex a great deal,” while only 59% of women do. That same study found that while 70% of men think about sex every day, only 34% of women do.  

Women also experience more sexual dysfunction than men. A report from the Archives of Internal Medicine showed more than one quarter of young women feeling weak sexual desire. While research at the University of Chicago found that 32% of women (but only 15 -17% of men) have low libidos. Not surprisingly, 40% of men say they would like to have more sex than they do now, but only 28% of women feel the same way.

For more evidence of gender difference in sexual interest, see my post: Sex Research: It Doesn’t Fit Me, It Must Be Wrong

I wonder if men ever sit around confiding to friends that sex ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve listened to these kinds of conversations with many groups of women, yet it’s hard to imagine men doing the same thing.

The difference in the male and female experience is due mostly to cultural forces. The difference in the female experience between modern Americans and ancient Tahitians is entirely due to culture.

Yet many people think our society has no negative effects on women’s sexuality.

Maybe that’s why we don’t do anything to create change.

Georgia Platts

Sex Research: It Doesn’t Fit Me, It Must Be Wrong

A couple of people who joined the discussion on how women and men “do sex” questioned research findings I had cited because the data didn’t fit their experience.

 There is reason for concern. Often, people want to look good, normal and acceptable, even when they are anonymous.

 Prudish people are more likely to throw sex surveys in the trash. People who have more interest in sex are more likely to fill them out.

 Men exaggerate the number of partners they’ve had, while women under estimate theirs.

 Some people who are gay or lesbian may be in denial, or they may fear someone finding out, so their numbers may be underestimated.

 Trying to look normal, most people say they have sex with their spouse once a week, since that’s the number they always hear.

 At the same time, the data is based on a larger swath of the population than most of us interact with.

 Most of us are friends with people who are like us, and who share our views. That’s why they are friends. And our group may not be typical.

 One person who felt the studies didn’t fit his experience is in an open marriage, which constitutes less than 1% of the population. That’s not your typical group. Another is a feminist, also not typical of the population. A group of Southern Baptists would probably see things differently from these two.

 Keep in mind that research reflects averages. You and your friends may not be typical.

 We also tend to project our own views onto others. If we love sex, we don’t get that others don’t. If we think sex is dull, we have a hard time believing that others love it.

From the comments I’ve posted, it is clear that there is no one way that men or women behave. There is no one attitude.

But there are some strong social patterns:

  • Surveys say men want, on average, 14 partners over a lifetime, while women say they want 1 or 2
  • Women report enjoying sex less than men
  • While prostitution finds plenty of male customers, female customers are in short supply. Gigolos are practically a myth
  • Playgirl is perennially bankrupt, yet the male porn audience is huge
  • Hooking up: College women get bored quickly and exit the scene, but college men want to continue casual sex even after leaving college
  • Men are usually more enthusiastic about open marriage or swinging, and more often initiate the idea
  • Male fantasies are more x-rated; female fantasies revolve more around romance

Is this conversation dated?

One woman commented:

  • I came out of the feminist 70’s and this conversation seems a little dated.  Really, we can do whatever we want to do and who cares? 

Yet this issue still comes up with my 18, 19, and 20-something students. They still feel the conversation is relevant.

Another woman’s perspective:

  • While we are free to do what we want, what good is the freedom when you feel used and discarded?

Or slut-shamed?