The history of human sexuality is a long and complex one, often full of confusion. Sociologists and behavioural psychologists have conducted large scale experiments to try and get to the bottom of why men and women seem to differ when it comes to sex. Our article looks at what modern research has to say.
Table of contents
The old cliché tells us that women are from Venus while men are from Mars.
Basically, the idiom says, men and women come from different sides of the galaxy.
Nowhere has this been more suggested than in the realm of sexuality.
But is this really true?
Do the myths about gender and sexuality really stand up to scientific scrutiny in the modern age?
Our article takes a look at some of the things that people have believed throughout the history of sexuality and examines whether these ideas still hold weight.
The History of Sexuality
Throughout history, a number of cultural beliefs about male and female sexuality have become normalized and integral parts of western society.
For example, researchers tended to believe that men were inherently more sexual than women, who were generally believed to tolerate sex rather than enjoy it.
This stemmed from the idea that women’s sexuality was sacred sexuality and that it was better for women to be pure and virginal than promiscuous.
Men were also considered more sexually aggressive and more possessive over their mate.
This was viewed as a natural hormonal response, as men have more testosterone than women, and high testosterone is associated with higher levels of aggression.
However, as time passed, these ideas came into question.
Movements such as sex-positive feminism in the 1960s and 70s debunked the idea that female sexuality was essentially passive.
Sex-positive feminists instead stressed the idea that men and women are not so different after all and that women have sexual appetites just like men do.
The difference was that women had been encouraged to repress, rather than express them.
Contemporary psychologists also conducted studies to support this idea.
For example, Masters and Johnson’s 1966 study observed that both women and men experience the same levels and patterns of arousal when sexually stimulated.
Modern research supports these findings, and it is commonly understood now that women, like men, experience varying levels of sexual drive and desire.
Despite this, however, studies still flag some differences in the types of sexuality and sexual response that men and women broadly exhibit.
These studies demonstrate that women and men both have complex sexual desires but suggest that certain contexts and stimuli are important to people of different genders.
However, it is unclear to what extent social factors also impact these findings.
Differences Between the Sexuality of Men and Women
Bodies of contemporary research suggest that there are four major differences when it comes to female and male sexuality.
These differences lie in the areas of arousal, attachment, aggression, and mutability.
Let’s break it down a little further.
Differences in Male and Female Arousal
Recent studies on gender and sexual arousal have identified a few key differences when it comes to male and female desire.
The first difference is that men think about sex more often than women do.
This is evident from studies of masturbation habits among men and women.
Men, on average, masturbate more frequently than women.
However, studies also show a difference in the context of male and female sexual arousal.
While men are more sensitive to visual sexual cues, women are more likely to be turned on by their relationship to their partner or surrounding emotional and psychological stimuli.
This is why women often report finding a certain mood sexy or enjoying an erotic, character-driven story, where the characters get to know each other, rather than graphic pornography.
Sex in Relationships
Monogamy and commitment are also seemingly more important to women than to men.
Studies like Baumeister’s 2001 experiment support this and suggest that, in general, men are more likely to want casual sex.
In Baumeister’s study, both men and women were approached randomly by strangers and offered casual sex.
While none of the women took up the offer, 3 out of 4 men did.
This is probably why men are more likely to go in for a Hookup Date, while women seek serious relationships.
However, the study did not take into account the fact that women may feel threatened by strange men during casual encounters and might turn down sex on those grounds.
It turns out it’s not a myth – studies show men really are more sexually aggressive than women.
Again, this is likely due to testosterone.
After all, what is sexuality without the hormonal concoctions that make us all tick?
Sociologists also suggest that men have been socially encouraged to be more domineering when it comes to approaching and propositioning women.
Given that men’s sex drives are generally higher than women’s, it’s likely that men faced more competition over women than women faced over men.
On a biological, level this likely led to men feeling like they need to outdo each other to be sexually successful.
It’s common knowledge now that sexuality exists on a spectrum.
The famous example of this is the Kinsey scale.
The Kinsey scale is a sexuality test that offers participants the chance to rate themselves in terms of their sexual preference from fully heterosexual to fully homosexual.
Studies show that women’s sexuality flags them as more sexually flexible than men.
Meaning, they often fall closer to the middle of the scale than strictly at either end.
This suggests that, in general, women’s sexuality is more fluid than men’s and slightly more open to the person and circumstances than tied to a certain orientation.
Women’s levels of sexual desire often tend to fluctuate more over time, and women’s desire seems to be more affected by stressful or negative life events than men’s is.
Human sexuality is an extremely complex and varied thing and studies like these can only scratch the surface of truly understanding it.
A great way to approach male and female sexuality is to remember that we are all individuals with different preferences, experiences, and desires.
With that said, studies like these can help us to understand why men and women often run up against problems and differences in their sexual relationships.
Share Your Thoughts
How do you think the difference between male and female sexuality affects you?
Do you notice these differences in day to day life or disagree with the study’s conclusions?
Let us know in the comments!