Do women enjoy sex with men?

Disclosure: I am a man, so surely have no first-hand insight into that question.
I can only rely on what I am told.
But there does not seem to be a consistent answer, from women themselves,
to that question.
On the one hand, we have in the august New York Times Book Review
a review by Rachel Shteir of The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy
which begins with the following:
Five or six years ago,
my mother and I [Rachel Shteir] sat in a darkened theater
talking about a couple we knew.
The wife was an executive with Ivy League degrees.
The husband had some nebulous part-time job,
but mostly he stayed home with the kids.
What, I wondered, does he have that’s attractive to her?
There was a pause.
Sperm, my mother replied.

Today, that conversation is as obsolete as “The Feminine Mystique.”
For one, as The New York Times recently reported,
more women are having children without marrying.
In 2009 more than half of all births to women under 30
occurred outside marriage —
an institution that is losing popularity in historic proportions.
She could also have mentioned
the rise of children conceived through artificial insemination from sperm banks.

Then there is the view that
the only thing women want from men is someone to do the grunt work.
This was expressed at length by one of the PCBs of the Washington Post Style section, Monica Hesse,
when she wrote:
Weiner, or someone pretending to be Weiner, apparently assumed that
women would enjoy seeing photos of bulging briefs via Twitter.

We polled some women. Really, they would like to see . . .

“I would like a photo of a made bed,”
says Kathryn Roberts, who works at a law firm in Washington.
“I would take rose petals, but I want them on top of a made bed.”
And not that fake kind of made, either,
where the comforter is smooth but the sheets are a jumbled mess.

“Or laundry,” adds her friend Andrea Neurohr.

“Folded laundry,” elaborates Roberts.
“Maybe in a wicker basket.”

Over the years, a handful of famous men —
and a boatload full of unfamous, Craigslisty men —
have landed in the news for sending women
photos of their artfully framed packages.
Brett Favre allegedly had a special delivery for Jenn Sterger,
a sideline reporter for the New York Jets.
Kanye West allegedly provided some of his female MySpace friends
with some extra-friendly pictures.
There are entire Web sites, aimed at men,
teaching them the etiquette for public displays of private parts.

Men! Broaden your seduction techniques!

How about you move away from the below-the-waist close-up?
How about you try going naked from the waist up?
How about a picture of you, sweaty, cleaning out the storm drain?
How about a photograph of you gently caressing the yogurt,
as you rotate the soon-to-expire food to the front of the refrigerator?
So sexy!

“The refrigerator,” says Gretchen LeMaistre.
“That’s a big scenario.”
LeMaistre is a San Francisco-based photographer
who has worked on the “Porn for Women” series,
tongue-in-cheek books purporting to tap into women’s most intimate pleasure zones.
In the yet-unpublished “Porn for Working Women,”
an attractive man cleans out the office fridge and asks,
“Am I the only one who cares if we have a clean breakroom?”

Not all women like this, of course.
This is the part where we call up an expert,
who affirms that there is a great diversity in what women find arousing.

“There is a great diversity in what women find arousing,”
says Marta Meana, a renowned psychologist
who studies women’s sexual function at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
She would never want to make blanket statements
about what does or does not put wind in one’s sails.


“But,” she says, if you look at the empirical literature,
it does indicate that the majority of women
are not as aroused by pictures of” naked man-parts.

Cindy Meston directs the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory
at the University of Texas at Austin.
She is a past president of
the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.
If there is something you want to know about what turns women on,
she is the person you call.

“We spent six years of research on why women have sex,” Meston says.
They compiled 237 reasons.
Duty sex. Revenge sex. Pity sex.
Bored sex, engaged in because women simply had nothing better to do.
“Of the 237 reasons why women have sex,” Meston says,
“not one was looking at a man’s genitals.”

[The key point here is that the notion that
a woman could find pleasure in sex
(see below for at least one who will admit to finding pleasure in sex with men)
does not even seem worth mentioning to the author of this piece.
What a bitch.
But how typical of the Washington Post,
which so transparently reflects the values of
an ownership family of three generations of single moms.]

Women, research increasingly shows,
are nuanced sexual beings whose arousal depends on
context, mood and a whole bunch of things they aren’t even aware of.
Men are different.
Men do tend to find the equivalent naked pictures of women titillating.
When they send women photos of their genitalia,
they are engaging in a sort of sexting golden rule:
I think it’s hot, so you should, too.
(If women also employed this rule,
they would text pictures of themselves taking out the recycling.)

“I can picture liking a photo that’s a little private and romantic,”
says Amy MacHarg of Arlington County.
She could envision a photo of some massage oils,
or perhaps a man sitting at a candle-lit table.
He would be holding a pan.
Because he had just cooked the meal.

Now, of course, there is a difference between the images that turn women on
and the physical acts that give them the most sexual pleasure.
But even so, one would think that the actions of the male phallus gave women pleasure
that they would find images of that pleasure-giving tool of some interest.
And certainly, the unequivocal message given by the women in Hesse's article
is that their only use for men is to do the work,
not to give them pleasure.

But now for another view (obviously, not one that would occur to Ms. Hesse).
Let us quote the view of a WASP women (in fact, an Episocpalian!)
who was born in 1943 and experienced, by her own account,
her first instance of sex
(as we used to say, "was deflowered" or "lost her virginity")
in 1962 in the summer after her freshman year at Wheaton (MA) College.
She lost her virginity to a man who was born in 1917, i.e., was 26 years older.
And how did that affect her attitudes towards sex?
Well, in the year after she lost her virginity
she went back to college and, in the normal course of events,
met a man her own age, a student at Williams.
And what were her attitudes towards sex then?
Let me now quote her directly,
in the words she used in a book of hers that was published in 2012 (when she was 69):
As winter melted into spring [of 1963]
I began seeing Tony practically every weekend,
either at Williams or at Wheaton.
We didn’t have an intimate relationship at this point.
He never pressed me for sex.

While his gentlemanly behavior was quite attractive,
this situation did pose a bit of conundrum for me.
I was physically attracted to Tony and [her emphasis]
I had learned the pleasures of sexual intimacy from [her first paramour].
This created a yearning in me
for something more than necking in dorms and cars.
But pushing for sex with Tony would have raised more questions:
girls like me didn’t do that back then.
I might have to explain why it wasn’t my first time,
and that wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have.

[The common work-arounds to that problem back then were:
1. claiming the hymen had been broken in some sort of accident or medical event
(horseback riding was a favorite) or
2. it had been broken in a rape.]

“The pleasures of sexual intimacy.”
What a quaint phrase,
and one that does not appear very compatible with the attitudes expressed by Mss. Shteir and Hesse.

But wait.
On Googling Ms. Hesse I find that
Could that have anything to do with
her problems in finding male sexual parts of interest?

For a columnist in the Post Style section who, pace the article about Weiner,
says “straight female fans” may enjoy seeing the male anatomy, see
“Skin is wearing thin on HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ ”
by the arch-feminist Anna Holmes, who wrote the following:
As for the men, well,
they aren’t asked to bare all very often, if ever.
By my count, it has happened only once,
to actor Alfie Allen (brother of pop singer Lily)
who plays the turncoatish and arrogant Iron Islander Theon Greyjoy.
But Allen’s nude body is not presented as pleasurable eye candy;
viewers are not persuaded to desire him but to despise him.
the man straight female fans are arguably
most likely to want to see disrobe,

Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow,
is likely to remain bundled up in the animal skins and iron armor
favored by his military brotherhood, the Night’s Watch.

Said one Twitter user, @Aurelia_Nicole,
“I understand sex as a currency in Westeros
but I need it to be a bit more egalitarian.”

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