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"What Do Women Want?" Revisited


One of Sigmund Freuds most famous quotes concerns his apparent inability to understand women. He wrote, The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?

Maybe, just maybe, Freud could not answer this question because it was the wrong question. The question is too vague.

First of all, it assumes that every woman wants the same thing. This is completely wrong. You cant generalize about women any more than you can generalize about any group. If you ask ten women what they want, youll get ten different answers. All women are not alike.

Second, if you ask a woman what she wants, her answer will most likely be, What do you mean? The question needs to be more specific. The question could be, What do you want from a man? or What do you want from a sexual partner? or What do you want from life? Now you have a question that can be answered.

If I ask my wife what she wants from me, she will quickly answer, I want you to listen to me, I want you to love me, I want you to pay more attention to me. She knows exactly what she wants from me and can tell me without hesitation. Similarly, any man can ask his own wife that question, and Im certain she will be able to give him an answer right away. If you ask the right question, you will get the right answer.

However, since we are dealing here with a psychoanalytic question by the founder of psychoanalysis, we must also deal with the unconscious. According to Freud, none of us really know what we want because most of our minds are unconscious. Therefore, I may ask my wife what she wants from me and she will give me the answer that comes from her conscious mind. But on a deeper level, in her unconscious mind, might be another answer. And, similarly, if any man asks his wife what she wants from him, she will give him her conscious answer but her unconscious answer will remain unconscious.

And the unconscious answer from his wife is likely to be different than the unconscious answer from my wife. And the unconscious answer of every woman you ask will be different. Again, not all women are alike and you cant generalize about them.

How do you find the unconscious answer to the question, What do you want from a man? Freuds way, and still a good way up to this day, is to probe a womans dreams. Freud frequently wrote of dreams being the royal road to the unconscious, and their is a truth to that. By studying a womans dreams over a period of time you will find out what is preoccupying her in her unconscious mind. Sometimes what is preoccupying her unconsciously replicates what is preoccupying her in her waking life. Sometimes it doesnt.

I know of one case where a woman constantly told her boyfriend she didnt feel like having sex with him. He would ask her, in frustration, Then what do you want from me? Her reply would be that she wanted him to just cuddle with her and not try to have sex with her. But there was something quite different going on in her unconscious mind that came to the surface in her dreams. Her dreams contained a recurring theme of sexual encounters with women; hence, unconsciously what she really wanted was sex with another woman, not sex with her husband.

One of this womans dreams was, I was flying in an airplane with a strange woman, telling her about my boyfriend. I tried to cover up the problem because I wanted her to like me. She seemed understanding.* Flying in this dream represents sexual intercourse with a woman. The hope is that sexual intimacy with a woman would be more gratifying than sexual intimacy with her boyfriend, and that she would find a woman more understanding than her boyfriend.

In another case a frustrated husband asked his wife what she wanted from him and the answer that came from her conscious mind was always, I dont know. All I know is Im unhappy. He would then ask her what he could do to make her happy, and again her answer was that she didnt know. Her dreams were about lost little girls. Sometimes they were lost in the basement of her childhood family home. Sometimes there was a shadowy figure of a man lurking in the basement. Sometimes she felt scared and alone in the basement. She had been sexually molested by her father in her basement and these dreams allude to that trauma. She couldnt tell her husband what she wanted from him because she had not yet recalled that trauma of her childhood. And because she hadnt gotten in touch with it, the incident still had a powerful effect on her, causing her to push her husband away.

It is interesting that the above quote by Freud is one of the most often quoted, especially by critics. He wrote so many books on feminine development, but this quote was not from one of his books. It was taken from his correspondence with one his favorite female psychoanalysts, Marie Bonaparte. In a letter to this friend, he was apparently not trying to examine this question from every angle or exam the question itself, as he was prone to doing in his writings. I believe in later life he had become frustrated because of the onslaught of criticism by feminists and others. So this quote about not knowing what women want was probably said out of exasperation.

Although it is difficult to answer the question of what women want, is it much less difficult to figure out what women dont want. They dont want a man to tell them what they want.


New Survey Reveals What Women Want in a Short-Term Partner

Looking for a fling? A recent survey says this is what women want.

Recent research has shown that what women want in a short-term partner and a long-term partner often differ. One 2018 study in the journal Psychological Science found that when it came to casual encounters, women were more likely to choose men with "masculine" facial features, which are indicators of high levels of testosterone. Similarly, the research showed that women prefer more "feminine" facial features when choosing a husband, as they connote positive character traits like trustworthiness, sensitivity, and reliability. Now, a new study conducted by the female health app Clue sheds further insight into what women want exactly when it comes to casual sex partners. The survey used data from 68,000 users of the app, and it turns out, the following six traits are key.

1. You need to be taller than her.

Sadly, height bias is still very much real: 89. 5 percent of respondents said their short-term partner had to be taller than them, and only 11.9 percent viewed height as unimportant.

The good news is that "taller" might not mean as tall as you might think, given that the average adult American woman is only 5'3". A 2018 survey by the dating website E-Harmony found that 5'8" was considered to be the ideal height for men, which is actually slightly shorter than the 5'9" that has been deemed the average height of an adult American man.

2. But you don't necessarily need to be smarter.

While having similar education levels may be important for women seeking a lifelong mate, only 46.7 percent of American women thought intelligence was an important trait in a casual partner.

3. Hair is great, but only if it's on your face.

While bearded men are still beloved around the world, most women said they'd prefer a short haircut and a hairless chest for a fling than luscious locks and a virtual forest of upper body hair.

4. You don't have to be buff.

Unsurprisingly, about half ( 51.8 percent) of all women surveyed considered body type to be a very important factor when deciding on a partner for a casual encounter. But if you don't have a six-pack or bulging biceps, don't fret. Fit, athletic physiques were found to be the most popular among women (50.3 percent), followed by "average" body types (29.1 percent). Only 7.8 percent said they wanted someone who was very muscular.

5. Your ethnicity and religion don't matter.

In what one might be tempted to consider a sign of progress, only 9.9 percent of women believed finding a partner with the same ethnicity was important for a fling, and only 11.6 percent thought you needed to have the same faith. This aligns with a recent survey from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, which found that millennials care less about religion than previous generations.

6. And don't forget to smile!

Having an attractive smile was one of the most important factors for women from almost every country in the Clue survey. So, when you're on your date, remember to show that you're enjoying yourself by flashing those pearly whites!

And for more great advice on what women want, check out The 10 Sexiest Things to Say to Her on a First Date.


Survey Of Female Sexual Pleasure Reveals What Women Really Want

What do women want? You’re going to have to ask them. That’s the conclusion of the largest study to analyse the diversity of female sexual pleasure, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. The researchers aim to break down the ways in which women find pleasure, giving couples insight about how to boost their love life.

Debby Herbenick at Indiana University and her colleagues discovered that women’s preferences in the bedroom vary dramatically, but there are a few things that most tend to enjoy. A word of warning: this is going to get graphic.

The study asked 1,055 heterosexual women in the U.S. to answer a questionnaire that covered everything from sexual attitudes down to their preferred pattern of genital stimulation. The participants ranged from 18 to 94 years old.

Their answers were revealing: More than 36% of women reported needing clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, while less than a fifth reported that intercourse alone was sufficient. An additional 36% said that clitoral stimulation wasn’t necessary, but made for a better orgasm.

The majority of women said that some orgasms feel better than others, whereas 10.8% reckoned they all feel the same.

When asked about their ideal techniques, two thirds preferred direct clitoral stimulation. Of those that preferred indirect stimulation, the majority preferred touching "through the skin above the hood," while a smaller number preferred touching "through both lips pushed together (like a sandwich)." Fewer than 10% of women enjoyed stimulation to their mons pubis – the squishy area of tissue above the pubic bone. Around 5% preferred it when their partner avoided the clitoris altogether.

When the women were asked about what pattern of stimulation they enjoyed, most indicated that a repeated rhythmic motion was ideal. The least preferred pattern involved a partner putting extreme emphasis on one part of the motion – for instance, more pressure on the left side of the genitals.

That said, the results suggest that it's hard to go wrong in this department – 13 out of the 15 different patterns of stimulation given as options were endorsed by the majority of respondents.

Something else most women agreed on: light to medium pressure on the genitals is best. Only 1 in 10 said they preferred firm pressure during stimulation.

The results show – unsurprisingly – that there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to getting hot under the covers. The women in the study showed a wide variety of preferences as a group, yet on an individual level tended to endorse a narrow range of techniques that they specifically enjoyed. Which all just underscores the value of talking about sex with your partner.

There are a few things that will get you by in the meantime. More than half the women in the study said that spending time to build arousal, having a partner who knows what they like and emotional intimacy contributed to better orgasms. And one last thing: stamina is less important than you might think. Less than one in five women indicated that "sex that lasts a long time" made orgasms feel better.

I’ll be investigating other aspects of your love life in future posts. I'll be finding out whether the G-spot actually exists, uncovering the science of female ejaculation, discovering why orgasms are good for the brain and how soon we’ll be getting our hands on a male contraceptive pill.


What Anal Sex Really Feels Like, According To Women Who've Tried It

Over the past decade, anal sex&mdashor at least, talking about anal sex&mdashhas become significantly less taboo, perhaps because butts have taken on an entirely new status (thanks, social media!). or because society has become more sex-positive overall (yay!). But still, actually having anal sex remains

among women, no matter how often it's discussed.

"Unfortunately, there is still a tendency to stigmatize acts that might be considered 'non-traditional' for some people, due to lack of information," explains Alexis Clarke, PhD, a licensed psychologist who specializes in sex and relationships. But the thing is, anal sex can oftentimes become the preferred method for women who don't have vaginas, for those for whom vaginal penetration is especially painful, and for women who simply experience more pleasure that way, Clarke explains.

For some women, it's is the cherry on top of a sexual sundae: a little extra treat that elevates something that was already delicious on its own (talking about sex here). But for others, butt sex is more like pâté: intriguing, worth a try, but absolutely not up their alleys (as in, a penis will probably not be going up that alley ever again).

If you've yet to add anal to the menu but are curious to taste test it, there are some things you should know first:

  1. Try anal training. If you're worried about tearing or pain, you can work your way up to full-blown anal by starting with a butt plug, anal beads, or fingers. "If you're comfortable with any of these things in your anus for about 15 to 20 minutes, there's a good chance you're at a point where you can successfully insert a penis" or a dildo, explains Shawntres Parks, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego. The biggest challenge, she says, is getting the sphincter to relax enough for something to penetrate it. Don't stress, it's not unusual for it to take a few tries. But when you feel your sphincter relax whether it's a toy, finger, or penis coming through, you'll know you're ready.
  2. Lube, lube, lube. To make things way more comfortable, remember that lube (and lots of it) is your best friend. "The anus is not self-lubricating in the same way that the vagina is," says Parks. So it'll need a little extra help from a store-bought friend to make the experience smoother. Parks recommends water-based lubes since anything petroleum- or oil-based will break down the materials in your condom (if you're wearing one) or a silicon strap-on.
  3. Prep the pipes.Anal douching is always available to you, but your best bet is just going poop before the act. If you're having trouble, Parks says to try an herbal supplement or tea such as Smooth Move that goes easy on the stomach. "If you try it the night before, by the time you wake up in the morning you'll probably have a bowel movement" and again later that night, says Parks.
  4. Talk it out. Be sure to communicate with your partner about how you're feeling when it comes to anal. If something doesn't feel right: stop! Even after the act, Parks says the conversations should continue. Check in afterward and ask your partner what they thought of the experience, how it made them feel, and what they might like to do differently next time.
  5. Cleanliness is key. If you're planning to transition from anal to vaginal sex, be sure to thoroughly clean yourself in between, especially if you're not using a condom you can change, says Parks. "There's a big increased risk of STIs when you're transitioning from anal sex to vaginal sex because of that transfer of fecal bacteria into the vagina." When shopping for body-friendly wipes, Parks says to "look for things that don't have harsh chemicals" and try them out for a few days. If you find you're able to use them on a day-to-day basis without irritation, then they're probably a good bet for a post-anal wipe down.
  6. Hop in the shower after. In addition to wiping yourself down, you and your partner should take a shower to clear yourselves of any bacteria. "The challenge sometimes with showering happens when couples are trying to build up arousal," says Parks. The time spent in the shower might kill the mood for a round two of vaginal or oral sex. She recommends showering with your partner to keep the sexy time going during the transition. It'll get you both clean and

Before your first go, you'll also want to peep these stories from women who have dabbled in butt sex and lived to tell the tale. Read on, and let their experiences guide yours.

"It was the most intimate night of my life."

"My ex and I had been dating for about three years before we ever tried anal. We did it not because we were bored with our sex life, but because neither of us had ever done it, and we wanted to 'have a first' together. He had slept with a lot of women in his teens and early 20s, so I loved the idea of doing something with him that he'd never done before.

We talked about it for months before finally going through with it. It wasn't really planned, but one night after we both had a couple of drinks, we started hooking up in my bedroom, and he whispered in my ear, 'Should we try it?' I shook my head yes. We slathered ourselves in lube&mdashI'd always heard that you need to use way more than you think you do&mdashthen had him enter very slowly, like, centimeter by centimeter, in the doggy position. Within about five minutes, he was pretty far inside, and it felt like nothing I'd experienced before&mdasha fullness that made me feel like I'd never had sex before.

What made the whole thing that much better was how he kept asking if I was okay and the look of sincere and utter pleasure on his face, as if he was having an otherworldly experience, too. We made a ton of eye contact&mdashI liked turning my head and watching him lose himself to the pleasure&mdashand we kissed a lot as he got close to coming. Despite my nerves, I actually orgasmed, too (I rubbed my clit to put myself more at ease). It was the most intimate night of my life. We did it a handful of times after that on 'special occasions' (I have a fear of stretching out, ha), and all were amazing, but none can compare to that first-time feeling." &mdashMarianne E.

Speaking of orgasms, there's a lot you might not know about them.

"My first experience was accidental anal."

"I was drunk, and it happened by surprise within a hookup situation because there was not enough communication. Fortunately, I enjoyed myself and had a positive experience overall. I began to realize that I liked the feeling and got pleasure from it. Now in my current long-term relationship, it's one of the activities in the rotation.

Most important, you need to properly warm up. Just like a vagina, it is easier and more pleasurable when the hole is ready to go. Proper foreplay is essential&mdashbring in lube, fingers, mouth, toys, whatever you prefer. It could take more time than vaginal sex. I think of anal as the second course, because it's better once you're already excited and feeling great. My advice is to trust your body, and if you feel up for it, go for it! " &mdashMichelle R.

"We probably should have used lube."

"I tried anal for the first time with my ex. I was incredibly comfortable with him, but using lube would have made it a more pleasant experience for both of us, since there is no natural lube. I would recommend doing it with someone who you feel comfortable with because it definitely is a much more vulnerable area." &mdashSandra O.

"It was just something we tried a couple of times out of curiosity."

"We tried it for the first time a year and a half into our relationship. We were in a place where we were comfortable with each other and eager to explore more, so one day, we tried it out of curiosity. I did some research beforehand just to make sure we would both be safe and comfortable doing it. The first time we did it, we used a generous amount of lube and made sure to prepare first. It was definitely interesting for both of us and something neither of us had done before.

After that we only tried it one more time, and we ultimately decided it wasn't something that we wanted to continue doing. It was more special doing it with my partner rather than a random hookup, because I felt safe and comfortable throughout all of it." &mdashElise T.

"It can feel amazing. as long as you use the bathroom first."

"If you're backed up or on an empty stomach, it sucks. You definitely feel like you're going to poop, either all over yourself or on his d*ck.

But if you're not and you do it nice and slowly, it's euphoric. It's different from regular sex because it feels like he's going way deeper. Anal doesn't help me orgasm more easily, though." &mdashMadeline R.

"I was always afraid it would hurt, but anal sex actually isn&rsquot so much painful as it is uncomfortable. But! The discomfort is so extreme for some people that they can barely do it&mdashlike my best friend, who&rsquos tried a few times with her fiancé and barely gotten it in, no matter how much lube they use. The key, apparently, is to be relaxed, which you really aren&rsquot gonna be&mdashin fact, knowing it&rsquos about to happen will make you tense up more than usual&mdashunless you happen to love it.

I&hellipdo not love it, but my boyfriend is super into it, and he&rsquos very respectful and lovely about not pressuring me. We maybe do it once every couple of months. He&rsquos a big advocate of using a butt plug beforehand to 'loosen everything up.'" &mdashAnna B.

"There's nothing fun about it for me."

"It's not the worst thing ever, but kind of like the same way flossing isn't the worst thing ever. There's nothing fun about it for me. It's not that it's painful, it's just mildly uncomfortable and really not my thing." &mdashJo R.

"I tried it once a long time ago. The guy I was seeing wanted to do it, and I was resistant but eventually gave in. He tried to put it in, but it just hurt too much. I don't think he used lube, and it's just really tight. Maybe I'd do it again with the right person if I had a lot of trust in him. Either way, it's not something at the top of my list." &mdashClara A.

"Amusingly, my first sexual intercourse was via anal penetration. My high school sweetheart was raised strictly Catholic and was 'saving it for marriage.' While I was disinterested in this wait time, he did explain that, to him, anal sex didn't count since it couldn't lead to procreation.

His being exceedingly well-endowed made taking it slowly and using plenty of lube the obvious choice. The oddest thing I noticed was that the initial penetration would generate a tight sensation in my throat, similar to what you might feel after a bad scare. But it was an exciting feeling, not scary at all. It's a slow but pleasantly luxurious sensation of being gently and benignly pulled inside out. It certainly was extremely erotic, and I felt aware of my entire body as an erogenous zone. I discovered I was able to orgasm via anal penetration, and anal play is something I enjoy to this day." &mdashMollena W.

"It's the perfect balance of dangerous and sexy."

"I used to be obsessed with anal. At one point in high school, I was having more anal than regular sex. When done right&mdashand by right, I mean when the guy doesn't shove his d*ck into you like a horse in heat&mdashanal can teeter on that dangerous line between pleasure and pain. He feels bigger than ever and completely fills you up. As he's going in, you have to hold your breath because you feel like your body doesn't have room for air and his d*ck at the same time, but once he's in, the pleasure radiates through your whole body." &mdashNina T.

"It really strengthens the connection with your partner."

"The key to good anal&mdashyes, that's a thing&mdashis having a partner you trust completely and who will do it right. That means lots of lube, starting small with a pinky finger just like in Fifty Shades, then working your way up to small toys or butt plugs. After that, anal can be amazing! It is super-intense, and your lover has to be extremely delicate and careful and be a good listener and super patient&mdashand you as the receiver have to have a lot of trust in that.

The anus is, after all, an exit, not an entrance, and so it could really, really hurt. This is not an act that should ever be undertaken with a random dude or at a random moment you both have to want it, and you both have to be prepared. No assholes allowed in the asshole! I think that's one of the best parts of the whole ordeal. It takes so much time, trust, and communication that it just amplifies everything physical going on because you are so connected with your partner." &mdashTess N.

"I have stronger orgasms during anal."

"For me, being penetrated during anal sex can cause a little soreness during insertion and in the first few minutes. Lots of lube, slow, gentle motions, and patience move it quickly to the next phase, which is an exciting, pleasurable pressure. I find that I can have stronger orgasms while being penetrated anally, but these are clitoral or vaginal orgasms, not anal orgasms&mdashthose are quite elusive. For me, it's probably the added stimulation, the intimacy, and the emotional intensity of anal that make orgasms stronger.

But if the angle is wrong in anal sex, with too much of a sharp upward or downward angle, a sting-y and unpleasant pain can be the result. Having the right angle of entry is important for me. Also, pegging someone with a strap-on can be very pleasurable with an insert-able double-ended dildo, or even just the harness or base of the strap-on grinding up against the clitoris." &mdashMargaret C.


How To Attract A Girl: The Key To Success!

The best way to attract women is knowing your individuality as a man and being okay with being alone. A woman can sense when you are lonely and are seeking outside validation from her or from a relationship in order to feel accepted or loved. A man that feels self-assured on his own is a man that is attractive to women in general. In addition to following these tips, my advice to you is to understand that the more you put yourself out there and can handle rejection, then the better your process will become.

If you are a man that has a hard time talking to and flirting with women, and hold yourself back because of it, then you won’t get anywhere when it comes to attracting a woman.

You have to fall off the bike a couple of times before you learn how to ride successfully. Remember when you were a kid. You didn’t give up and once the training wheels came off you fell a couple more times, but you continued to get back up because of your determination!

So have some determination in dating. I know it can be hard but that’s why having the right mindset will make the situation so much less draining. This comes naturally when you work on understanding how to love yourself, being okay with being alone, and figuring out who you are before anything else.

So many people seek relationships to fill a void and this is why there are so much heartache and so many divorces. We have to start dating right and attracting the right women into your life! You want to stop dating down and start dating up! So having the right conversations and paying attention to a woman being into you is going to be very vital in the moments of attraction.

Understand that not everyone is meant to like you. I say this because just because one woman rejects you does not mean the next one will do the same. If a woman ignores you then just move on. Sometimes these things happen and if you get set back by this one woman who ignored you, then you won’t have time to focus on you!

Attraction starts to manifest within a man when he shows up for his life’s purpose. It’s that time when you’re vibing so high that someone comes up to you and says “You seem different,” when nothing has changed at all. The change happens with the inner self in terms of how you feel, and this will have a direct correlation with your behavior and your motivation in your daily life.

This creates a significant shift in your presence and women are captivated by a man that knows his worth and carries it with respect and integrity!

Apollonia Ponti, an international certified coach and founder of apolloniaponti.com. She works with men to attract the woman they desire, build confidence, master their attraction skills and helps rebuild relationships.

You can find her expert advice on “is she using me”, plus a couple other of your core professional services, through her YouTube Channel, and Attract a Woman E-Book.

To get real results with women NOW! Change your life and master your attraction. Book a coaching session here.


Now what?

That’s a very good question. The simple answer is: use it to your advantage.

Take it all and run with it. No, I’m not talking about finding ways to use women. I’m talking about finding ways to create the life you want.

This about it like this: When do you most enjoy time around women?

a. When they’re excited, happy, free, and sexy
b. When they’re lost, insecure, and doubt themselves

I’m guessing it’s the former. When are women the most excited, free, happy and sexual? When they feel safe, secure and certain.

Now that you know what you want in women (flirty, playful, sexual women), how to make women more like that (help them feel more certain), and how to give them what they need to be like that (through communication), start giving it to them.

Encourage her to spend lots of time talking with her girlfriends, don’t ask her to make decisions or validate her decisions when she does, develop your own internal strength so you ‘pass her tests’ without even realising you were being tested, initiate action so she doesn’t have to, open up and share things about yourself that she’s afraid to share so she doesn’t fear the rejection of doing so, etc…

Help her create a space where she feels loved, accepted, and beautiful and appreciates all the beautiful gifts that she gives you in return.


What Do Women Want?

Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She 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. The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull — “bonobos don’t seem to make much noise in sex,” she told me, “though the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds” — she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.

While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively. The participants sat in a brown leatherette La-Z-Boy chair in her small lab at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, a prestigious psychiatric teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where Chivers was a postdoctoral fellow and where I first talked with her about her research a few years ago. The genitals of the volunteers were connected to plethysmographs — for the men, an apparatus that fits over the penis and gauges its swelling for the women, a little plastic probe that sits in the vagina and, by bouncing light off the vaginal walls, measures genital blood flow. An engorgement of blood spurs a lubricating process called vaginal transudation: the seeping of moisture through the walls. The participants were also given a keypad so that they could rate how aroused they felt.

The men, on average, responded genitally in what Chivers terms “category specific” ways. Males who identified themselves as straight swelled while gazing at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while watching the masturbating and exercising women. They were mostly unmoved when the screen displayed only men. Gay males were aroused in the opposite categorical pattern. Any expectation that the animal sex would speak to something primitive within the men seemed to be mistaken neither straights nor gays were stirred by the bonobos. And for the male participants, the subjective ratings on the keypad matched the readings of the plethysmograph. The men’s minds and genitals were in agreement.

All was different with the women. No matter what their self-proclaimed sexual orientation, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. They responded objectively much more to the exercising woman than to the strolling man, and their blood flow rose quickly — and markedly, though to a lesser degree than during all the human scenes except the footage of the ambling, strapping man — as they watched the apes. And with the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated watching gay men, they reported a great deal less and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded. Whether straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while staring at the bonobos.

“I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest,” Chivers said, describing her ambition to understand the workings of women’s arousal and desire. “There’s a path leading in, but it isn’t much.” She sees herself, she explained, as part of an emerging “critical mass” of female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods. These researchers and clinicians are consumed by the sexual problem Sigmund Freud posed to one of his female disciples almost a century ago: “The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?”

Full of scientific exuberance, Chivers has struggled to make sense of her data. She struggled when we first spoke in Toronto, and she struggled, unflagging, as we sat last October in her university office in Kingston, a room she keeps spare to help her mind stay clear to contemplate the intricacies of the erotic. The cinder-block walls are unadorned except for three photographs she took of a temple in India featuring carvings of an entwined couple, an orgy and a man copulating with a horse. She has been pondering sexuality, she recalled, since the age of 5 or 6, when she ruminated over a particular kiss, one she still remembers vividly, between her parents. And she has been discussing sex without much restraint, she said, laughing, at least since the age of 15 or 16, when, for a few male classmates who hoped to please their girlfriends, she drew a picture and clarified the location of the clitoris.

In 1996, when she worked as an assistant to a sexologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, then called the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, she found herself the only woman on a floor of researchers investigating male sexual preferences and what are known as paraphilias — erotic desires that fall far outside the norm. She told me that when she asked Kurt Freund, a scientist on that floor who had developed a type of penile plethysmograph and who had been studying male homosexuality and pedophilia since the 1950s, why he never turned his attention to women, he replied: “How am I to know what it is to be a woman? Who am I to study women, when I am a man?”

Freund’s words helped to focus her investigations, work that has made her a central figure among the small force of female sexologists devoted to comprehending female desire. John Bancroft, a former director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, traces sexological studies by women at least as far back as 1929, to a survey of the sexual experiences of 2,200 women carried out by Katharine Bement Davis, a prison reformer who once served as New York City’s first female commissioner of corrections. But the discipline remains male-dominated. In the International Academy of Sex Research, the 35-year-old institution that publishes Archives of Sexual Behavior and that can claim, Bancroft said, most of the field’s leading researchers among its 300 or so members, women make up just over a quarter of the organization. Yet in recent years, he continued, in the long wake of the surveys of Alfred Kinsey, the studies of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the sexual liberation movement and the rise of feminism, there has been a surge of scientific attention, paid by women, to illuminating the realm of women’s desire.

It’s important to distinguish, Julia Heiman, the Kinsey Institute’s current director, said as she elaborated on Bancroft’s history, between behavior and what underlies it. Kinsey’s data on sexuality, published in the late 1940s and early ’50s in his best-selling books “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” didn’t reveal much about the depths of desire Kinsey started his scientific career by cataloging species of wasps and may, Heiman went on, have been suspicious of examining emotion. Masters and Johnson, who filmed hundreds of subjects having sex in their lab, drew conclusions in their books of the late ’60s and early ’70s that concentrated on sexual function, not lust. Female desire, and the reasons some women feel little in the way of lust, became a focal point for sexologists, Heiman said, in the ’70s, through the writing of Helen Singer Kaplan, a sex therapist who used psychoanalytic methods — though sexologists prefer to etch a line between what they see as their scientific approach to the subject and the theories of psychoanalysis. Heiman herself, whom Chivers views as one of sexology’s venerable investigators, conducted, as a doctoral candidate in the ’70s, some of the earliest research using the vaginal plethysmograph. But soon the AIDS epidemic engulfed the attention of the field, putting a priority on prevention and making desire not an emotion to explore but an element to be feared, a source of epidemiological disaster.

To account partly for the recent flourishing of research like Chivers’s, Heiman pointed to the arrival of Viagra in the late ’90s. Though aimed at men, the drug, which transformed the treatment of impotence, has dispersed a kind of collateral electric current into the area of women’s sexuality, not only generating an effort — mostly futile so far — to find drugs that can foster female desire as reliably as Viagra and its chemical relatives have facilitated erections, but also helping, indirectly, to inspire the search for a full understanding of women’s lust. This search may reflect, as well, a cultural and scientific trend, a stress on the deterministic role of biology, on nature’s dominance over nurture — and, because of this, on innate differences between the sexes, particularly in the primal domain of sex. “Masters and Johnson saw men and women as extremely similar,” Heiman said. “Now it’s research on differences that gets funded, that gets published, that the public is interested in.” She wondered aloud whether the trend will eventually run its course and reverse itself, but these days it may be among the factors that infuse sexology’s interest in the giant forest.

“No one right now has a unifying theory,” Heiman told me the interest has brought scattered sightlines, glimpses from all sorts of angles. One study, for instance, published this month in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior by the Kinsey Institute psychologist Heather Rupp, uses magnetic resonance imaging to show that, during the hormonal shifts of ovulation, certain brain regions in heterosexual women are more intensely activated by male faces with especially masculine features. Intriguing glimmers have come not only from female scientists. Richard Lippa, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, has employed surveys of thousands of subjects to demonstrate over the past few years that while men with high sex drives report an even more polarized pattern of attraction than most males (to women for heterosexuals and to men for homosexuals), in women the opposite is generally true: the higher the drive, the greater the attraction to both sexes, though this may not be so for lesbians.

Investigating the culmination of female desire, Barry Komisaruk, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University, has subjects bring themselves to orgasm while lying with their heads in an fM.R.I. scanner — he aims to chart the activity of the female brain as subjects near and reach four types of climax: orgasms attained by touching the clitoris by stimulating the anterior wall of the vagina or, more specifically, the G spot by stimulating the cervix and by “thinking off,” Komisaruk said, without any touch at all. While the possibility of a purely cervical orgasm may be in considerable doubt, in 1992 Komisaruk, collaborating with the Rutgers sexologist Beverly Whipple (who established, more or less, the existence of the G spot in the ’80s), carried out one of the most interesting experiments in female sexuality: by measuring heart rate, perspiration, pupil dilation and pain threshold, they proved that some rare women can think themselves to climax. And meanwhile, at the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory of the University of Texas, Austin, the psychologist Cindy Meston and her graduate students deliver studies with names like “Short- and long-term effects of ginkgo biloba extract on sexual dysfunction in women” and “The roles of testosterone and alpha-amylase in exercise-induced sexual arousal in women” and “Sex differences in memory for sexually relevant information” and — an Internet survey of 3,000 participants — “Why humans have sex.”

Heiman questions whether the insights of science, whether they come through high-tech pictures of the hypothalamus, through Internet questionnaires or through intimate interviews, can ever produce an all-encompassing map of terrain as complex as women’s desire. But Chivers, with plenty of self-doubting humor, told me that she hopes one day to develop a scientifically supported model to explain female sexual response, though she wrestles, for the moment, with the preliminary bits of perplexing evidence she has collected — with the question, first, of why women are aroused physiologically by such a wider range of stimuli than men. Are men simply more inhibited, more constrained by the bounds of culture? Chivers has tried to eliminate this explanation by including male-to-female transsexuals as subjects in one of her series of experiments (one that showed only human sex). These trans women, both those who were heterosexual and those who were homosexual, responded genitally and subjectively in categorical ways. They responded like men. This seemed to point to an inborn system of arousal. Yet it wasn’t hard to argue that cultural lessons had taken permanent hold within these subjects long before their emergence as females could have altered the culture’s influence. “The horrible reality of psychological research,” Chivers said, “is that you can’t pull apart the cultural from the biological.”

Still, she spoke about a recent study by one of her mentors, Michael Bailey, a sexologist at Northwestern University: while fM.R.I. scans were taken of their brains, gay and straight men were shown pornographic pictures featuring men alone, women alone, men having sex with men and women with women. In straights, brain regions associated with inhibition were not triggered by images of men in gays, such regions weren’t activated by pictures of women. Inhibition, in Bailey’s experiment, didn’t appear to be an explanation for men’s narrowly focused desires. Early results from a similar Bailey study with female subjects suggest the same absence of suppression. For Chivers, this bolsters the possibility that the distinctions in her data between men and women — including the divergence in women between objective and subjective responses, between body and mind — arise from innate factors rather than forces of culture.

Chivers has scrutinized, in a paper soon to be published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the split between women’s bodies and minds in 130 studies by other scientists demonstrating, in one way or another, the same enigmatic discord. One manifestation of this split has come in experimental attempts to use Viagra-like drugs to treat women who complain of deficient desire.

By some estimates, 30 percent of women fall into this category, though plenty of sexologists argue that pharmaceutical companies have managed to drive up the figures as a way of generating awareness and demand. It’s a demand, in any event, that hasn’t been met. In men who have trouble getting erect, the genital engorgement aided by Viagra and its rivals is often all that’s needed. The pills target genital capillaries they don’t aim at the mind. The medications may enhance male desire somewhat by granting men a feeling of power and control, but they don’t, for the most part, manufacture wanting. And for men, they don’t need to. Desire, it seems, is usually in steady supply. In women, though, the main difficulty appears to be in the mind, not the body, so the physiological effects of the drugs have proved irrelevant. The pills can promote blood flow and lubrication, but this doesn’t do much to create a conscious sense of desire.

Chivers isn’t especially interested at this point, she said, in pharmaceutical efforts in her field, though she has done a bit of consulting for Boehringer Ingelheim, a German company in the late stages of testing a female-desire drug named Flibanserin. She can’t, contractually, discuss what she describes as her negligible involvement in the development of the drug, and the company isn’t prepared to say much about the workings of its chemical, which it says it hopes to have approved by the Food and Drug Administration next year. The medication was originally meant to treat depression — it singles out the brain’s receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin. As with other such drugs, one worry was that it would dull the libido. Yet in early trials, while it showed little promise for relieving depression, it left female — but not male — subjects feeling increased lust. In a way that Boehringer Ingelheim either doesn’t understand or doesn’t yet want to explain, the chemical, which the company is currently trying out in 5,000 North American and European women, may catalyze sources of desire in the female brain.

Testosterone, so vital to male libido, appears crucial to females as well, and in drug trials involving postmenopausal women, testosterone patches have increased sexual activity. But worries about a possibly heightened risk of cancer, along with uncertainty about the extent of the treatment’s advantages, have been among the reasons that the approach hasn’t yet been sanctioned by the F.D.A.

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.

Ultimately, though, Chivers spoke — always with a scientist’s caution, a scientist’s uncertainty and acknowledgment of conjecture — about female sexuality as divided between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective. Lust, in this formulation, resides in the subjective, the cognitive physiological arousal reveals little about desire. Otherwise, she said, half joking, “I would have to believe that women want to have sex with bonobos.”

Besides the bonobos, a body of evidence involving rape has influenced her construction of separate systems. She has confronted clinical research reporting not only genital arousal but also the occasional occurrence of orgasm during sexual assault. And she has recalled her own experience as a therapist with victims who recounted these physical responses. She is familiar, as well, with the preliminary results of a laboratory study showing surges of vaginal blood flow as subjects listen to descriptions of rape scenes. So, in an attempt to understand arousal in the context of unwanted sex, Chivers, like a handful of other sexologists, has arrived at an evolutionary hypothesis that stresses the difference between reflexive sexual readiness and desire. Genital lubrication, she writes in her upcoming paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior, is necessary “to reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring.”

Evolution’s legacy, according to this theory, is that women are prone to lubricate, if only protectively, to hints of sex in their surroundings. Thinking of her own data, Chivers speculated that bonobo coupling, or perhaps simply the sight of a male ape’s erection, stimulated this reaction because apes bear a resemblance to humans — she joked about including, for comparison, a movie of mating chickens in a future study. And she wondered if the theory explained why heterosexual women responded genitally more to the exercising woman than to the ambling man. Possibly, she said, the exposure and tilt of the woman’s vulva during her calisthenics was proc­essed as a sexual signal while the man’s unerect penis registered in the opposite way.

When she peers into the giant forest, Chivers told me, she considers the possibility that along with what she called a “rudderless” system of reflexive physiological arousal, women’s system of desire, the cognitive domain of lust, is more receptive than aggressive. “One of the things I think about,” she said, “is the dyad formed by men and women. Certainly women are very sexual and have the capacity to be even more sexual than men, but one possibility is that instead of it being a go-out-there-and-get-it kind of sexuality, it’s more of a reactive process. If you have this dyad, and one part is pumped full of testosterone, is more interested in risk taking, is probably more aggressive, you’ve got a very strong motivational force. It wouldn’t make sense to have another similar force. You need something complementary. And I’ve often thought that there is something really powerful for women’s sexuality about being desired. That receptivity element. At some point I’d love to do a study that would look at that.”

The study Chivers is working on now tries to re-examine the results of her earlier research, to investigate, with audiotaped stories rather than filmed scenes, the apparent rudderlessness of female arousal. But it will offer too a glimpse into the role of relationships in female eros. Some of the scripts she wrote involve sex with a longtime lover, some with a friend, some with a stranger: “You meet the real estate agent outside the building. . . .” From early glances at her data, Chivers said, she guesses she will find that women are most turned on, subjectively if not objectively, by scenarios of sex with strangers.

Chivers is perpetually devising experiments to perform in the future, and one would test how tightly linked the system of arousal is to the mechanisms of desire. She would like to follow the sexual behavior of women in the days after they are exposed to stimuli in her lab. If stimuli that cause physiological response — but that do not elicit a positive rating on the keypad — lead to increased erotic fantasies, masturbation or sexual activity with a partner, then she could deduce a tight link. Though women may not want, in reality, what such stimuli present, Chivers could begin to infer that what is judged unappealing does, nevertheless, turn women on.

Lisa Diamond, a newly prominent sexologist of Chivers’s generation, looks at women’s erotic drives in a different way. An associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, with short, dark hair that seems to explode anarchically around her head, Diamond has done much of her research outside any lab, has focused a good deal of her attention outside the heterosexual dyad and has drawn conclusions that seem at odds with Chivers’s data about sex with strangers.

“In 1997, the actress Anne Heche began a widely publicized romantic relationship with the openly lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres after having had no prior same-sex attractions or relationships. The relationship with DeGeneres ended after two years, and Heche went on to marry a man.” So begins Diamond’s book, “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire,” published by Harvard University Press last winter. She continues: “Julie Cypher left a heterosexual marriage for the musician Melissa Etheridge in 1988. After 12 years together, the pair separated and Cypher — like Heche — has returned to heterosexual relationships.” She catalogs the shifting sexual directions of several other somewhat notable women, then asks, “What’s going on?” Among her answers, based partly on her own research and on her analysis of animal mating and women’s sexuality, is that female desire may be dictated — even more than popular perception would have it — by intimacy, by emotional connection.

Diamond is a tireless researcher. The study that led to her book has been going on for more than 10 years. During that time, she has followed the erotic attractions of nearly 100 young women who, at the start of her work, identified themselves as either lesbian or bisexual or refused a label. From her analysis of the many shifts they made between sexual identities and from their detailed descriptions of their erotic lives, Diamond argues that for her participants, and quite possibly for women on the whole, desire is malleable, that it cannot be captured by asking women to categorize their attractions at any single point, that to do so is to apply a male paradigm of more fixed sexual orientation. Among the women in her group who called themselves lesbian, to take one bit of the evidence she assembles to back her ideas, just one-third reported attraction solely to women as her research unfolded. And with the other two-thirds, the explanation for their periodic attraction to men was not a cultural pressure to conform but rather a genuine desire.

“Fluidity is not a fluke,” Diamond declared, when I called her, after we first met before a guest lecture she gave at Chivers’s university, to ask whether it really made sense to extrapolate from the experiences of her subjects to women in general. Slightly more than half of her participants began her study in the bisexual or unlabeled categories — wasn’t it to be expected that she would find a great deal of sexual flux? She acknowledged this. But she emphasized that the pattern for her group over the years, both in the changing categories they chose and in the stories they told, was toward an increased sense of malleability. If female eros found its true expression over the course of her long research, then flexibility is embedded in the nature of female desire.

Diamond doesn’t claim that women are without innate sexual orientations. But she sees significance in the fact that many of her subjects agreed with the statement “I’m the kind of person who becomes physically attracted to the person rather than their gender.” For her participants, for the well-known women she lists at the start of her book and for women on average, she stresses that desire often emerges so compellingly from emotional closeness that innate orientations can be overridden. This may not always affect women’s behavior — the overriding may not frequently impel heterosexual women into lesbian relationships — but it can redirect erotic attraction. One reason for this phenomenon, she suggests, may be found in oxytocin, a neurotransmitter unique to mammalian brains. The chemical’s release has been shown, in humans, to facilitate feelings of trust and well-being, and in female prairie voles, a monogamous species of rodent, to connect the act of sex to the formation of faithful attachments. Judging by experiments in animals, and by the transmitter’s importance in human childbirth and breast feeding, the oxytocin system, which relies on estrogen, is much more extensive in the female brain. For Diamond, all of this helps to explain why, in women, the link between intimacy and desire is especially potent.

Intimacy isn’t much of an aphrodisiac in the thinking of Marta Meana, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Meana, who serves with Chivers on the board of Archives of Sexual Behavior, entered the field of sexology in the late 1990s and began by working clinically and carrying out research on dyspareunia — women’s genital pain during intercourse. She is now formulating an explanatory model of female desire that will appear later this year in Annual Review of Sex Research. Before discussing her overarching ideas, though, we went together to a Cirque du Soleil show called “Zumanity,” a performance of very soft-core pornography that Meana mentioned to me before my visit.

On the stage of the casino’s theater, a pair of dark-haired, bare-breasted women in G-strings dove backward into a giant glass bowl and swam underwater, arching their spines as they slid up the walls. Soon a lithe blonde took over the stage wearing a pleated and extremely short schoolgirl’s skirt. She spun numerous Hula-Hoops around her minimal waist and was hoisted by a cable high above the audience, where she spread her legs wider than seemed humanly possible. The crowd consisted of men and women about equally, yet women far outnumbered men onstage, and when at last the show’s platinum-wigged M.C. cried out, “Where’s the beef?” the six-packed, long-haired man who climbed up through a trapdoor and started to strip was surrounded by 8 or 10 already almost-bare women.

A compact 51-year-old woman in a shirtdress, Meana explained the gender imbalance onstage in a way that complemented Chivers’s thinking. “The female body,” she said, “looks the same whether aroused or not. The male, without an erection, is announcing a lack of arousal. The female body always holds the promise, the suggestion of sex” — a suggestion that sends a charge through both men and women. And there was another way, Meana argued, by which the Cirque du Soleil’s offering of more female than male acrobats helped to rivet both genders in the crowd. She, even more than Chivers, emphasized the role of being desired — and of narcissism — in women’s desiring.

The critical part played by being desired, Julia Heiman observed, is an emerging theme in the current study of female sexuality. Three or four decades ago, with the sense of sexual independence brought by the birth-control pill and the women’s liberation movement, she said, the predominant cultural and sexological assumption was that female lust was fueled from within, that it didn’t depend on another’s initiation. One reason for the shift in perspective, she speculated, is a depth of insight gathered, in recent times, through a booming of qualitative research in sexology, an embrace of analyses built on personal, detailed interviews or on clinical experience, an approach that has gained attention as a way to counter the field’s infatuation with statistical surveys and laboratory measurements.

Meana made clear, during our conversations in a casino bar and on the U.N.L.V. campus, that she was speaking in general terms, that, when it comes to desire, “the variability within genders may be greater than the differences between genders,” that lust is infinitely complex and idiosyncratic.

She pronounced, as well, “I consider myself a feminist.” Then she added, “But political correctness isn’t sexy at all.” For women, “being desired is the orgasm,” Meana said somewhat metaphorically — it is, in her vision, at once the thing craved and the spark of craving. About the dynamic at “Zumanity” between the audience and the acrobats, Meana said the women in the crowd gazed at the women onstage, excitedly imagining that their bodies were as desperately wanted as those of the performers.

Meana’s ideas have arisen from both laboratory and qualitative research. With her graduate student Amy Lykins, she published, in Archives of Sexual Behavior last year, a study of visual attention in heterosexual men and women. Wearing goggles that track eye movement, her subjects looked at pictures of heterosexual foreplay. The men stared far more at the females, their faces and bodies, than at the males. The women gazed equally at the two genders, their eyes drawn to the faces of the men and to the bodies of the women — to the facial expressions, perhaps, of men in states of wanting, and to the sexual allure embodied in the female figures.

Meana has learned too from her attempts as a clinician to help patients with dyspareunia. Though she explained that the condition, which can make intercourse excruciating, is not in itself a disorder of low desire, she said that her patients reported reduced genital pain as their desire increased. The problem was how to augment desire, and despite prevailing wisdom, the answer, she told me, had “little to do with building better relationships,” with fostering communication between patients and their partners. She rolled her eyes at such niceties. She recalled a patient whose lover was thoroughly empathetic and asked frequently during lovemaking, “ ‘Is this O.K.?’ Which was very unarousing to her. It was loving, but there was no oomph” — no urgency emanating from the man, no sign that his craving of the patient was beyond control.

“Female desire,” Meana said, speaking broadly and not only about her dyspareunic patients, “is not governed by the relational factors that, we like to think, rule women’s sexuality as opposed to men’s.” She finished a small qualitative study last year consisting of long interviews with 20 women in marriages that were sexually troubled. Although bad relationships often kill desire, she argued, good ones don’t guarantee it. She quoted from one participant’s representative response: “We kiss. We hug. I tell him, ‘I don’t know what it is.’ We have a great relationship. It’s just that one area” — the area of her bed, the place desolated by her loss of lust.

The generally accepted therapeutic notion that, for women, incubating intimacy leads to better sex is, Meana told me, often misguided. “Really,” she said, “women’s desire is not relational, it’s narcissistic” — it is dominated by the yearnings of “self-love,” by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need. Still on the subject of narcissism, she talked about research indicating that, in comparison with men, women’s erotic fantasies center less on giving pleasure and more on getting it. “When it comes to desire,” she added, “women may be far less relational than men.”

Like Chivers, Meana thinks of female sexuality as divided into two systems. But Meana conceives of those systems in a different way than her colleague. On the one hand, as Meana constructs things, there is the drive of sheer lust, and on the other the impetus of value. For evolutionary and cultural reasons, she said, women might set a high value on the closeness and longevity of relationships: “But it’s wrong to think that because relationships are what women choose they’re the primary source of women’s desire.”

Meana spoke about two elements that contribute to her thinking: first, a great deal of data showing that, as measured by the frequency of fantasy, masturbation and sexual activity, women have a lower sex drive than men, and second, research suggesting that within long-term relationships, women are more likely than men to lose interest in sex. Meana posits that it takes a greater jolt, a more significant stimulus, to switch on a woman’s libido than a man’s. “If I don’t love cake as much as you,” she told me, “my cake better be kick-butt to get me excited to eat it.” And within a committed relationship, the crucial stimulus of being desired decreases considerably, not only because the woman’s partner loses a degree of interest but also, more important, because the woman feels that her partner is trapped, that a choice — the choosing of her — is no longer being carried out.

A symbolic scene ran through Meana’s talk of female lust: a woman pinned against an alley wall, being ravished. Here, in Meana’s vision, was an emblem of female heat. The ravisher is so overcome by a craving focused on this particular woman that he cannot contain himself he transgresses societal codes in order to seize her, and she, feeling herself to be the unique object of his desire, is electrified by her own reactive charge and surrenders. Meana apologized for the regressive, anti-feminist sound of the scene.

Yet while Meana minimized the role of relationships in stoking desire, she didn’t dispense with the sexual relevance, for women, of being cared for and protected. “What women want is a real dilemma,” she said. Earlier, she showed me, as a joke, a photograph of two control panels, one representing the workings of male desire, the second, female, the first with only a simple on-off switch, the second with countless knobs. “Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man.”

After our discussion of the alley encounter, we talked about erotic — as opposed to aversive ­— fantasies of rape. According to an analysis of relevant studies published last year in The Journal of Sex Research, an analysis that defines rape as involving “the use of physical force, threat of force, or incapacitation through, for example, sleep or intoxication, to coerce a woman into sexual activity against her will,” between one-third and more than one-half of women have entertained such fantasies, often during intercourse, with at least 1 in 10 women fantasizing about sexual assault at least once per month in a pleasurable way.

The appeal is, above all, paradoxical, Meana pointed out: rape means having no control, while fantasy is a domain manipulated by the self. She stressed the vast difference between the pleasures of the imagined and the terrors of the real. “I hate the term ‘rape fantasies,’ ” she went on. “They’re really fantasies of submission.” She spoke about the thrill of being wanted so much that the aggressor is willing to overpower, to take. “But ‘aggression,’ ‘dominance,’ I have to find better words. Submission’ isn’t even a good word” — it didn’t reflect the woman’s imagining of an ultimately willing surrender.

Chivers, too, struggled over language about this subject. The topic arose because I had been drawn into her ceaseless puzzling, as could easily happen when we spent time together. I had been thinking about three ideas from our many talks: the power, for women, in being desired the keen excitement stoked by descriptions of sex with strangers and her positing of distinct systems of arousal and desire. This last concept seemed to confound a simpler truth, that women associate lubrication with being turned on. The idea of dual systems appeared, possibly, to be the product of an unscientific impulse, a wish to make comforting sense of the unsettling evidence of women’s arousal during rape and during depictions of sexual assault in the lab.

As soon as I asked about rape fantasies, Chivers took my pen and wrote “semantics” in the margin of my notes before she said, “The word ‘rape’ comes with gargantuan amounts of baggage.” She continued: “I walk a fine line, politically and personally, talking frankly about this subject. I would never, never want to deliver the message to anyone that they have the right to take away a woman’s autonomy over her body. I hammer home with my students, ‘Arousal is not consent.’ ”

We spoke, then, about the way sexual fantasies strip away the prospect of repercussions, of physical or psychological harm, and allow for unencumbered excitement, about the way they offer, in this sense, a pure glimpse into desire, without meaning — especially in the case of sexual assault — that the actual experiences are wanted.

“It’s the wish to be beyond will, beyond thought,” Chivers said about rape fantasies. “To be all in the midbrain.”

One morning in the fall, Chivers hunched over her laptop in her sparsely decorated office. She was sifting through data from her study of genital and subjective responses to audiotaped sex scenes. She peered at a jagged red line that ran across the computer’s screen, a line that traced one subject’s vaginal blood flow, second by second. Before Chivers could use a computer program to analyze her data, she needed to “clean” it, as the process is called — she had to eliminate errant readings, moments when a subject’s shifting in her chair caused a slight pelvic contraction that might have jarred the plethysmograph, which could generate a spike in the readings and distort the overall results. Meticulously, she scanned the line, with all its tight zigs and zags, searching for spots where the inordinate height of a peak and the pattern that surrounded it told her that arousal wasn’t at work, that this particular instant was irrelevant to her experiment. She highlighted and deleted one aberrant moment, then continued peering. She would search in this way for about two hours in preparing the data of a single subject. “I’m going blind,” she said, as she stared at another suspicious crest.

It was painstaking work — and difficult to watch, not only because it might be destroying Chivers’s eyesight but also because it seemed so dwarfed by the vastness and intricacy of the terrain she hoped to understand. Chivers was constantly conjuring studies she wanted to carry out, but with numberless aberrant spikes to detect and cleanse, how many could she possibly complete in one lifetime? How many could be done by all the sexologists in the world who focus on female desire, whether they were wiring women with plethysmographs or mapping the activity of their brains in fM.R.I. scanners or fitting them with goggles or giving them questionnaires or following their erotic lives for years? What more could sexologists ever provide than intriguing hints and fragmented insights and contradictory conclusions? Could any conclusion encompass the erotic drives of even one woman? Didn’t the sexual power of intimacy, so stressed by Diamond, commingle with Meana’s forces of narcissism? Didn’t a longing for erotic tenderness coexist with a yearning for alley ravishing? Weren’t these but two examples of the myriad conflicting elements that create women’s lust? Had Freud’s question gone unanswered for nearly a century not because science had taken so long to address it but because it is unanswerable?

Chivers, perhaps precisely because her investigations are incisive and her thinking so relentless, sometimes seemed on the verge of contradicting her own provisional conclusions. Talking about how her research might help women, she said that it could “shift the way women perceive their capacity to get turned on,” that as her lab results make their way into public consciousness, the noncategorical physiological responses of her subjects might get women to realize that they can be turned on by a wide array of stimuli, that the state of desire is much more easily reached than some women might think. She spoke about helping women bring their subjective sense of lust into agreement with their genital arousal as an approach to aiding those who complain that desire eludes them. But didn’t such thinking, I asked, conflict with her theory of the physiological and the subjective as separate systems? She allowed that it might. The giant forest seemed, so often, too complex for comprehension.

And sometimes Chivers talked as if the actual forest wasn’t visible at all, as if its complexities were an indication less of inherent intricacy than of societal efforts to regulate female eros, of cultural constraints that have left women’s lust dampened, distorted, inaccessible to understanding. “So many cultures have quite strict codes governing female sexuality,” she said. “If that sexuality is relatively passive, then why so many rules to control it? Why is it so frightening?” There was the implication, in her words, that she might never illuminate her subject because she could not even see it, that the data she and her colleagues collect might be deceptive, might represent only the creations of culture, and that her interpretations might be leading away from underlying truth. There was the intimation that, at its core, women’s sexuality might not be passive at all. There was the chance that the long history of fear might have buried the nature of women’s lust too deeply to unearth, to view.

It was possible to imagine, then, that a scientist blinded by staring at red lines on her computer screen, or blinded by peering at any accumulation of data — a scientist contemplating, in darkness, the paradoxes of female desire — would see just as well.


The Psychology Behind Submissive Fantasies: Do Women REALLY Want To Be Ravished?

As a psychologist and couples counselor, I’ve been asked this question by men, women, and couples for the last twenty years. My specialty is helping couples bring back the passion in their relationship and using fantasy is one way of doing this.

And the fantasy of being ravished, being lovingly, yet forcefully taken by her man is consistently in the top five female fantasies, often the number one fantasy. This is different than the “rape fantasy” which has often been misrepresented.

Of course, women don’t want to be raped this is an act of violence and power, not one of love. However, as revealed in the always popular romance novels, the fantasy of a strong, powerful man initiating sex with a woman, not accepting her initial reluctance, and then loving her passionately, is a popular fantasy. This is not about abuse and power, as in most of these novels (and fantasies), the couple ends up married and living “happily ever after.”

So what’s the truth here, at least from a psychological perspective? When we first meet someone we’re attracted to we experience that initial chemistry and go into that “honeymoon” period, where our bodies are flooded with chemicals and we are “walking hormones.”

However, this initial chemistry fades over time and we need to take steps to reignite it! To create sexual passion, there needs to be sexual tension and for this, there needs to be strong sexual polarity. We need to consciously create this in our relationship.

Polarity comes from strong masculine energy meeting strong feminine energy. Just like the positive and negative terminals of a battery create electricity, so will the masculine and feminine interact to create passion! Now each of us, male and female have an inner masculine and an inner feminine and either sex can express either aspect.

For the heterosexual female “ravish me” fantasy though, we’re talking about the man embodying the masculine and taking charge with those masculine qualities to be focused, direct, relentless in pursuing his goal, in this case, loving his woman into “submission.” This can range from simply initiating sex, to be a little more assertive than usual, to being more aggressive, to being a little “rough,” all the way to role play and using restraints and sex toys.

To use a simple example, I’m 6’3" and over 200 pounds and have found that many woman have simply enjoyed the weight of my body pressing into them and found that arousing. Perhaps that is enough to begin your journey. I also happen to have large hands (no euphemism here). I’m usually able to hold both of a woman’s wrists in one of my hands and even that small step can often be assertive enough to feed into the submission fantasy. Just consider what YOU can do to orient yourself in that direction, it doesn’t have to be “whips and chains.”

From an evolutionary psychology perspective, women want to know that their man can take care of them, can “hold” them, both emotionally AND physically.

I have a female friend who is close to six feet tall and she LOVES that her husband can physically hold her, pick her up, engulf her and make her feel like she’s a little girl sometimes.

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If we believe that “form follows function” than if a man can open a woman sexually with his dominance than perhaps he can also metaphorically open her heart with his dominance. Perhaps there is part of each woman who wants to have her heart ravaged open, even more than her body? Don’t we all want our partner to help open our heart and experience more love?

Now on the flip side, there are times when a man enjoys his partner initiating sex in a more dominant and aggressive way as well. Being stuck in ANY role will ultimately diminish passion. We need to mix it up. But that’s a topic for another day

These are my thoughts about this question, “Do women want to be submissive?” I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about this and any other ideas for bringing back the passion in relationships.

If this article interested you and you’d like to find out more ways to bring the passion back in your relationship, please go to www.freepassiontips.com to receive my monthly newsletter as well as my Special Report, “20 Rituals for Romance!”

This article was originally published at passion101.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.


What Attracts Women to Men Psychology

It’s a question often asked: What attracts women to men? Are some guys just born naturally attractive to women, or is it how a man lives his life that makes him attractive?

Today I’m going to bust THE big myth about what attracts women to men, and give you the straight up honest truth.

You’ll learn the underlying psychology of why women are attracted to certain things men do, and I’ll be showing you how you can use this knowledge to understand why there are so many popular misconceptions about attraction.

Why Is Attraction Such a Complex Issue These Days?

1) Attraction is a genetic thing – women are programmed to respond to certain qualities like height, dominance, confidence, and so on. Historically (we’re talking hundreds of thousands of years) the men who possessed these qualities produced offspring with a higher chance of survival than men who didn’t, and as a result these men were responsible for a greater percentage of surviving children. The increased success rate was probably something marginal, but over hundreds of thousands of years, even a marginal advantage becomes extremely noticeable and widespread throughout a species.

2) This genetic programming is based on what works in an environment that is VERY different from the environment we live in now. We no longer have to run from predators, hunt and forage for food, and engage in conflict with neighbouring tribes. Things that were typically a disadvantage aren’t such a big deal anymore – people who would’ve been left for dead can now be productive, successful members of society who can provide for a family.

Although you don’t really need to be your classic alpha male type to survive and do well these days, the ancient attraction programming remains intact and pushes women towards guys who behave this way. Don’t go try to be an alpha male though – what you think it means and what it actually is are likely two very different things.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but being attractive is something you can learn to do by paying attention to your beliefs, behaviours, body language, and putting at least a bit of effort into being decent looking.

The modern attractive man isn’t some super aggressive juice head whose life motto is “never back down”. He’s just a normal guy who’s comfortable with who he is, confident, well put together, and willing to put the work in to actually go out and meet people.

The Big Attraction Myth: You Need Things Like Height, Money, and Social Status to Be Attractive to Women

I know I just said women are genetically predisposed to want these things, and it might seem like I’m contradicting myself here. Especially since in our own personal experience we often see the most attractive women with tall, rich, successful men. Actors, business owners, executives, guys with nice houses and fast cars.

The reason why it SEEMS like height, looks, social status, and money attract women is a common cognitive error: a misunderstanding of correlation and causality. Causality means one thing causes another, like being rich causing women to like you. Correlation means one thing is linked to another thing, like rich men being more likely to have attractive women with them, but not necessarily because of their wealth.

Now, there are of course some women who will only date men above a certain height, income level, and so on, but the majority of women aren’t like this.

So why would we believe things like money, social status, and so on are correlates rather than causes?

The reason is rooted in the way women identify these traits in men. If women are attracted to men with status and wealth, an effective evolutionary strategy for men would be to fake these traits. Producing offspring with a faker could be disastrous for the woman a faker likely does not have adequate resources and social influence to provide for her offspring.

To counter this, women must be able to differentiate between the men who genuinely have wealth and social status, and those who are faking. One way to do this is by developing a heightened sense of social perception and recognizing what successful man behaviour looks like compared to the behaviour of an imitator. The behaviours become the primary source of attraction.

Women are not attracted directly to wealth and status, but to the behaviours indicating a man genuinely has wealth and status.

This provides the explanation for why it seems like wealth, status, and height matter so much. If you were suddenly made better looking, a few inches taller, and inherited a billion dollars, would you behave the same way you do now? Of course not! You’d instantly be more confident, more relaxed, happier, less stressed out, and so on.

Women pick up on these behaviours, and it’s these behaviour patterns that are at the core of attraction, not the wealth and status itself.

Can a Lot of Confidence Overcome Deficiencies in Height/Wealth/Looks/etc.?

It can definitely increase your chances, but you still need to do what you can to make yourself more attractive. Eating right and getting in shape will not only help you look better, it will make you a hundred times more confident. Just because women will still date you if you drive a beater, doesn’t mean they don’t prefer a BMW.

In short, confidence helps, but no woman is going to stick around for very long if you have no ambition, passion, or direction in life. You might get laid, but why would a smart, attractive, fun woman stay with a confident but lazy man when there’s tons of confident ambitious guys out there?

There’s just no excuse to not have your shit together. It’s not so much about being super rich and having washboard abs as it is not having any glaring deficiencies. As long as you’re reasonably in shape, well groomed, drive something not about to break down, and have a clean place of your own, you’re doing fine.

Why is Confidence Such a Big Part of Being an Attractive Man?

Essentially, confidence is about being yourself. It’s about being congruent and able to authentically express who you are without worrying about what people think. People who lack confidence, who are socially awkward, who are afraid to speak their mind, what they’re doing is broadcasting to the world that they’re willing to stifle their own impulses and desires for the sake of social acceptance.

This indicates they’re not used to being socially dominant and enforcing their worldview, that they may have been subject to social rejection in the past, or maybe they’re not typically successful and their fear of failure causes doubt and hesitation.

Men who are naturally attractive to women aren’t all super smooth James Bond types, in fact I don’t know many people like that at all. The guys I do know who are quiet and serious but still get laid are very good looking, and they succeed in spite of their personality, not because of it.

Most guys who are really good with women are the guys who are fun to be around. They’re not afraid to show their goofy, quirky side. They’re adventurous and outgoing. For a real life example of a guy who isn’t good looking but has an attractive personality, look at someone like Seth Rogan. He’s the type of guy women say they have a “weird crush” on, the type who isn’t good looking, but is still attractive.

5 Tips for Being More Physically Attractive to Women

Remember, you don’t need to be some fit, super suave looking playboy (trying too hard usually backfires), you just need to look like you put at least a bit of effort in.

1) Develop a style that reflects who you are. Don’t just wear random clothes, think about what sort of image you want to project. When women look at you, what do they see? Try to imagine yourself from your ideal woman’s perspective: if you were your ideal woman, would you date you? Does your style reflect the unique person you are, or are you just another average guy?

2) Go to the gym at least once per week, even if you’re in decent shape. You’ll look better, but more importantly you’ll feel better. If you aren’t in shape, this is even more important.

3) Get a good haircut. Find a proper salon in your area. You might not notice the difference between a cheap and an expensive haircut, but I guarantee you women do. A well trained stylist who’s good at his/her job will know what kind of haircut suits your face, and they’ll do a much better job. You can get great haircuts in most major cities for around $45.

4) Work on your body language. It’s so important but so hard to notice yourself. I recommend filming yourself talking to see how much you fidget, what your expression and eye contact is like, if you sway back and forth, and so on. Read up on body language and try to become more aware of how you move. It’ll be awkward at first, but you’ll adjust.

5) Make sure you’re groomed. No nose/ear hair, keep your beard trimmed. Nothing wrong with a beard, but don’t just let it grow wildly. If you have bad skin, see a doctor or try a few different skin care products. Get rid of the unibrow, even if it’s just a few stubbly hairs between your eyes. Coordinate your facial hair with your haircut.

5 Tips for Developing an Attractive Personality

This is a much tougher process than being physically attractive. Reason being: the key to being emotionally attractive is being yourself, but hardly anyone understands how exactly to do this. It doesn’t help that so many sources tell you NOT to be yourself, and give you advice about acting smooth that just makes you look like a dickwad.

1) Define yourself. An interesting fact: demographics (location, income level, etc.) are the best predictor of what a person will believe. When you ask most people what they believe, what they value, what they want out of life and why, they can’t tell you. Knowing what you want and having a direction in life that’s congruent with who you are is wildly attractive. Women love a man who knows what he wants and goes after it.

2) Be comfortable alone. Neediness is one of the worst, most unattractive qualities a guy can have. Make sure you spend time being alone and not passively consuming media. Sitting around watching TV or creeping facebook isn’t what I mean. I’m talking about reading, thinking, meditating, being in touch with who you are. We’re exposed to so much social pressure and influence that it takes a conscious effort to shed all off and discover who we are and what we want.

3) Eliminate negative or limiting beliefs. Do you believe you’re incapable, unworthy, not cool? Do you feel, deep down, like you deserve the lifestyle you want? The woman you want? Or do you secretly feel like the women you want are out of your league? Like the job, house, car, type of life you want are out of reach? Trace these beliefs to their roots. Why do you believe those things? Are they valid reasons? Could you be giving certain people or events too much weight when it comes to determining your value as a person? Ultimately, it’s about living up to your own expectations, not anyone else’s.

4) Practice self-awareness and authentic expression. Become aware of how you behave, what you say and do. Are these things in line with your beliefs and desired life direction? Imagine who you’d like to be, and make a conscious effort to be that person on a daily basis. Speak your mind and act on your desires – don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about what you believe or what you want. Attractive men are willing to risk rejection or criticism to get the things they want in life.

5) Practice lifestyle design. If there are particular things about your life you want to improve, like making more money, being more fit, meeting new people, learning a new skill, and so on, write those things down and make a plan for reaching them. Having goals you’re working towards brings about a lot of different benefits: confidence when you reach them, a sense of purpose while you’re working on them, and a sense of achievement and self-worth that comes with having a plan for your life.


Watch the video: Libanette (January 2022).