Sex is good

A discussion of sex-related issues from a sex-positive slant.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Why are women less likely to have sex with strangers?

The Guardian recently ran an article on a study published in 1989 entitled "Gender Differences in Receptivity to Sexual Offers". For the study, women and men approached strangers of the other sex on a college campus and said, "I have been noticing you around campus. I find you to be very attractive." Then they invited the strangers to have sex.

The researchers found, "The great majority of men were willing to have a sexual liaison with the women who approached them. Not one woman agreed to a sexual liaison." (Note: I haven't been able to find the original article online, so I'm assuming the Guardian's version is accurate.)

People have proposed evolutionary reasons for this: supposedly it is to a woman's advantage to stick with one mate, and to a man's advantage to spread his sperm as widely as possible. But this argument has a big flaw—in terms of spreading genes, the woman takes a big risk by having only one sexual partner, who may be infertile, rather than having many partners and improving her odds of fertilizing her egg. (The impression I've got from some men making this argument is that they really are trying to justify cheating on their wives when they would be furious if the wives cheated on them.)

I have my own theories: women are less likely to have sex with strangers because (a) we are taking bigger risks and (b) in our culture, sex often isn't as good for women as it can be. (Please note that I am, like the study, only talking about heterosexual sex here.)

Women take bigger risks having sex with men than men take having sex with women.

  • Women get pregnant. Men don't. No form of contraception is 100% effective, even tubal ligation, according to Contraception Online, produced by the Baylor College of Medicine. (Before researching this article, I had thought that tubal ligation was 100% effective. Eek.)
  • When it comes to STDs, women are slightly more likely to be infected by men than men are to be infected by women. For example, this study found that among heterosexuals who never use condoms, the risk of HIV infection was 6.8 per 100 person-years for women, and 5.9 per 100 person-years for men.
  • Although this is changing, there is still more stigma for women having sex with strangers than for men having sex with strangers.

In our culture, sex often isn't as good for women as it could be

Biologically, women are capable of enjoying sex more than men. We are more likely to be able to have multiple orgasms, with no refractory period in between. Theoretically, you would expect women to be more eager to have sex than men.

Unfortunately, in our culture, "sex" is often equated with penis-in-vagina intercourse, to the extreme that Bill Clinton could accept a blowjob and claim he "didn't have sex with that woman."

While sexual intercourse can feel great, for the majority of women, sexual intercourse is not going to lead to orgasm. Masturbation and cunnilingus are more likely to do the trick. There are still some people who buy into Freud's idea that prefering clitoral stimulation to vaginal is a sign of some kind of psychological problem, but there are sound anatomical reasons this is so.

The clitoris and the glans of the penis develop from the same tissue in the embryo. (Here's a nifty animation; click on "Genitals" in the left sidebar.) Expecting a woman to come without clitoral stimulation is like expecting a man to come without penile stimulation. Sure, it can happen, but it's not so likely.

There is more awareness of the importance of the clitoris these days, but still clitoral stimulation is often relegated to perfunctory "foreplay" (I hate that word), an optional preparation for intercourse. The booming business in penis enlargement scams, which supposedly enhance female pleasure (NOT), shows just how many men are clueless about what women really want in bed.

In a nutshell...

As long as sex is equated with vaginal intercourse, women will be understandably less enthusiastic about sex than men. Why should we risk pregnancy and probably not even get an orgasm out of it?

Recommended reading: Let me count the ways: How to have great sex without intercourse by Marty Klein, Ph.D and Riki Robbins, Ph.D.

Update: January 15, 2006

"Pussy: It's what's for dinner" organic cotton T-shirt for men who know how to please a woman.

Guys, if you want to improve your odds, wear this cool T-shirt (designed by me). Text reads: "Pussy: It's what's for dinner." Also available on women's tees, buttons, and more—great way to screen prospective lovers, or find a new girlfriend!


  • At 8:09 p.m., Blogger James Smart said…

    Hard,unfortunate truth:for a woman, sex with a stranger can be physically dangerous, because she doesn't know for sure if she's met some violent psychopath. So, she has to weigh the excitement of anonymous sex with her personal safety.I would assume, that's one reason women are more reluctant to do such a thing.

  • At 9:26 p.m., Blogger Radical Ro said…

    Good point, forgot to mention that. Also, more women are survivors of sexual abuse by the other sex.

  • At 10:09 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Speaking from experience, the quality of the sex is not necessarily a factor in how often a woman wants it. I have spent the last nine years trying to improve my technique as a means of getting more sex from my wife. It does not work with her. We have had sex for up to two hours per session and up to 8 or more orgasms for my wife. Usually after a session like that, it takes longer to have sex again (two weeks).

    It is a very popular idea that better sex will leave them begging, but this is not always true :-(


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