Opening Pandora’s Box

Originally posted over at Sex And The State… because Cathy likes to give us amateurs an opportunity once in a while. If you haven’t checked her blog out you probably should, it is fucking awesome.¬†

When I first heard about Daniel Bergner’s book “What Do Women Want?” I wasn’t really impressed. I knew the premise from hearing an interview between Bergner and Dan Savage, and to be honest it sounded like several books I’ve read about the changing view of sexuality, love, and romantic relationships. While I was skeptical in the beginning that I would encounter anything new I am really glad I read it. In fact, I highly recommend it to everyone interested in the subject of a woman’s sexuality, particularly if they are unsatisfied with the Victorian-era narrative that women are made for monogamy and must act as gate-keepers to keep men’s uncontrollable lust in check.

Bergner (a journalist by profession) skillfully weaves the most cutting edge scientific research with personal tales of love, lust, and loss. Each chapter introduces new information and characters to convince the reader that the modern view that a women’s sexuality has evolved to be the more monogamous sex is little more than a societal enforced fairy tale. Women, in fact, may have evolved to actually crave more variety and more sex than men and it is centuries worth of social control by churches and governments (which historically have been male-dominated) that have created a puritanical ideal. An ideal that pressures women to fear, hate, and neglect their own passions and feel shame when they desire pleasure.

The research Bergner showcases in his book takes several approaches to remove nature and nurture, at to find out what women really want. Experiment’s include everything from Meredith Chivers’ measuring women’s arousal while watching a sexual and non-sexual movies (and comparing it to the women’s subjective rating of their arousal) to studies of the sexual practices of other animals like rats and rhesus monkeys.

The scientists Bergner interviews sees evidence for women’s sexual drives in biology. Multiple orgasms, quicker orgasms for men, and sexual arousal from observing many situations point to a drive for many sexual partners. Add that to the common decrease in arousal for their partner after a few years and the standard narrative for female sexuality starts to crumble. For generations we have been told that real love means a lifelong sexual attraction to your partner and if that attraction stops there is something wrong that needs to be fixed, usually through a psychologist or medication. To treat lifelong lust and sexual monogamy as the norm is to invite disappointment, causing harm to individuals and relationships.

With scientific research confronting (and often defeating) established social norms we all become more free. Increased knowledge allows for more opportunities, greater happiness, and more healthy relationships than in the past. What we do with this information is a choice each individual must make, but at least it is a more educated choice. As a person who is primarily attracted to  women I hope this information will help me be an understanding, supportive, and responsible partner when the woman I love eventually feels more lust for another. I hope women will read this and realize desire and fantasies are natural and they should not feel shame. These sexual desires and fantasies should not be translated as lacking love. Love and sex have become unnecessarily intertwined in modern cultures, and many of the interviews highlight how much the women love their partners even if they do not lust for them anymore.

Bergner has helped open a door for people to gain knowledge about their bodies and minds. This can revolutionize society. To free women from socially (and often politically) enforced mythological views of sexuality is to encourage self-actualization that is inevitably unique to each individual, and we all benefit when individuals are free to pursue their passions, desires, and dreams. Science is helping us approach a new revolution of individuality but it is all still in it’s infancy, as Bergner states in his closing chapter:

The science and thinking I have brought together in this book are a beginning, only that. None of the researchers I have learned from… would claim to have definitive, fully formed answers about female desire… Eros lies at the heart of who we are as human beings, yet we shun the study of our essential core, shun it perhaps most of all where it is least understood, in women.

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KinK

kink

I recently started watching the show “KinK” on Netflix. “KinK” is a Canadian documentary series that follows and interviews people who have lifestyles and fetishes that tend to run outside the mainstream. BDSM, cross-dressing, and polyamory are all highlighted in a realistic and oftentimes fascinating way.

While I’ve never been involved in much non-vanilla sex I do have an interest in it, just like I have an interest in everything, and this show has been a wonderful introduction. As a documentary the people involved are not actors, they are real people with bodies, minds, and emotions that are a fresh break from the choreographed sexuality of pornography and romantic comedies. You get to see real scenes in an informative way and come to understand the bond that is shared between the people who participate. There are many themes that run through the show (at least so far, I’m only on Season 1), but the primary ones seem to be hurting and harming are different, it is immoral to do anything without consent and immoral to prevent consenting adults from enjoying themselves, and the responsibility for communication and support does not end at the bedroom. Three things that I think all people can learn from.

I’m still not sure if the kinky lifestyle is for me but the people involved seem to be good people focused on communication, love, and safety. I’ve been to one BDSM club and in my natural introverted fashion I stayed on the edge and didn’t really do much, but I hope to explore a little more and find out what the world has to offer. I once had a pastor preach that being comfortable isn’t good or bad, it is neutral because you are being static and not challenging yourself. Being comfortable is necessary to refuel from time to time but I want more to life than refueling, and that means getting out there and figuring out where my limits are.

Anyway, if you have Netflix and are curious I recommend checking out the show. You just might learn something or a new experience might appeal to you.