Friday, January 23, 2009

A question for the ages: 'What do women want?'

This Sunday's New York Times magazine features a very extensive story in its magazine featuring a question that has puzzled mankind for all of history.

The article follows the work of the following expert entering this area of research that has unfortunately been in the hands of men. Her work is to finally study and quantify female desire:

Meredith Chivers is ... a 36-year-old psychology professor at Queen’s University in the small city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Her findings in the article are for mature readers but are in no way obscene. You can read the article at:

Her work has much more to do with the mind than the body. Men have quite a simple reflexive system for desire. Women are much more complex and face great difficulty when their system for desire malfunctions. There really is no Viagara for women.

The following paragraph denotes the importance of Chivers' work:

Thinking not of the search for chemical aphrodisiacs but of her own quest for comprehension, Chivers said that she hopes her research and thinking will eventually have some benefit for women’s sexuality.

“I wanted everybody to have great sex,” she told me, recalling one of her reasons for choosing her career, and laughing as she did when she recounted the lessons she once gave on the position of the clitoris.

But mostly it’s the aim of understanding in itself that compels her.

For the discord, in women, between the body and the mind, she has deliberated over all sorts of explanations, the simplest being anatomy. The penis is external, its reactions more readily perceived and pressing upon consciousness. Women might more likely have grown up, for reasons of both bodily architecture and culture — and here was culture again, undercutting clarity — with a dimmer awareness of the erotic messages of their genitals.

Chivers said she has considered, too, research suggesting that men are better able than women to perceive increases in heart rate at moments of heightened stress and that men may rely more on such physiological signals to define their emotional states, while women depend more on situational cues.

So there are hints, she told me, that the disparity between the objective and the subjective might exist, for women, in areas other than sex. And this disconnection, according to yet another study she mentioned, is accentuated in women with acutely negative feelings about their own bodies.

This article constitutes a great read with an open mind. There are other female researches who disagree with Chivers. One stresses from her research that women first connect with a sense of intimacy, of first knowing the person. Another said women simply want to feel desired and craved.

One researcher said: “When it comes to desire, women may be far less relational than men.”

After reading this piece, you'll have to choose the answer to the ageless question that most fits you and your experiences.

No comments: