A strong libido and borne by monogamy: the truth about men and sexuality

When a heterosexual couple marries, whos likely to get bored of sexuality first? The answer might surprise you

What do you know about female sexuality? Whatever it is, chances are, says Wednesday Martin, it’s all wrong.” Most of what we’ve been taught by science about female sexuality is untrue ,” she says.” Starting with two basic assertions: that humen have a stronger libido than women, and that humen struggle with monogamy more than girls do .”

Martin pulls no punches. Her bestselling memoir Primates of Park Avenue cast her as an anthropologist observing the habits of her Upper East Side neighbours. She claimed among other shockers that privileged stay-at-home mothers were sometimes given a fiscal “wife bonus” based on their domestic and social performance. The volume caused a furore, and is currently being developed as a TV series, with Martin as exec producer. Her new volume, out this week, should be equally provocative. Entitled Untrue , it questions much that we thought we knew about women’s sexuality.

Her starting-point is that research into human sexuality has been, historically, overwhelmingly male-centric;” notable sexologists”, starting with Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal( 1833 -1 890) are largely male. You have to scroll through another 25, including Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, before you arrive at a female name: Mary Calderone( 1904 -1 998 ), who championed sex education. And even in the subsequent 30 names there are only five females, including both Virginia Johnson( partner of the famous, and male, William Masters ), and Shere Hite.

All these men made certain assumptions about women’s sexuality. It’s no surprise that it was Hite who revolutionised guessing on female orgasm, arguing that it was not “dysfunctional” to fail to climax during intercourse. Crucial, too, says Martin, has been the work of Rosemary Basson, who realised that spontaneous longing, the kind sexologists had measured for years, was merely one type of relevant passion, and that responsive or triggered sexual response is much more important for women. Measured on that scale it turns out that girls are, in fact, every bit as sexually arousable as men.

New findings showed that girls reported similar intensities of passion and arousal to men, and” a real shifting in thinking” about females and monogamy.” We were taught that humen were the ones who needed assortment, but exactly the opposite turns out to be the case ,” says Martin.” Overfamiliarisation with project partners and desexualisation kills women’s libido. We used to think it’s only men who became sexually bored after marriage; turns out that’s not true. It’s when women get married that it’s detrimental to their libido .”

‘ Men really caring about what women want sexually makes a huge difference ‘: Wednesday Martin. Photo: Christopher Lane for the Observer

Martin isn’t here to talk about her own relationship, but for the record she’s 53, has been married for 18 years, still lives in New York, and has two sons aged 17 and 10 who are, predictably enough, “mortified” at what their mom writes about. She hopes her work will help validate the feelings of the new generations of young lady:” It’s not about giving them permission to’ defraud ‘, not even dedicating them permission to refuse monogamy, but I hope it does give them permission to feel normal if they don’t like monogamy ,” she says. Because that’s the central fallacy: the notion that monogamy is harder for men than for women. In fact, argues Martin, the exact opposite is the case.” Women crave novelty and assortment and escapade at least just as much as men, and maybe more .” She talks me through what she says is the classic pathway for women when they marry or commit to one heterosexual partner long-term( the research has so far concentrated on heterosexual couples; more work is needed on lesbian women’s sexuality lives ).” A couple live together, their libidos are matched, and they have a lot of sexuality. But after a year, two years, maybe three years, what tends to happen is that the woman’s passion drops more quickly than the man’s. At that phase the woman guesses,’ I don’t like sexuality any more .’ But what, in fact, is happening is that she is having a hard time with monogamy; because women get bored with one partner more quickly than humen do .”

So girls are socialised expressed the belief that they’ve gone off sexuality, when in fact they’re craving range. Instead of being the brake on passion, says Martin, the female half of the long-term partnership is the key to a more adventurous and exciting sexuality life. What it’s all about, she explains, is the existence of the only solely pleasure-seeking organ in the human repertoire, the clitoris. For her portrait, she wears a necklace shaped like one.” Women evolved to seek out pleasure, girls are multiply orgasmic, women’s biology situateds them up to seek out pleasure ,” says Martin.” The clitoris has a very important back tale about female human sexuality which is that our sex evolved for the purpose of escapade .”

Another element in the mixture, she says, was the finding that a third of women who are having an extramarital relationship say their matrimony or long-term partnership is happy or very happy.” So we need to understand that girls aren’t just seeking variety because they’re unhappy, they’re trying it because they need range and novelty ,” she says.

What does all this entail, in a practical sense, for our sexuality lives? Martin doesn’t like the word “cheating”- she prefers to use the word “step out”- and that’s what some females decide to do. But it’s not the only solution.” There are many women who are suffering but don’t want to leave their relationship or to step out, and they’ve not yet detected vibrators ,” says Martin.” I can’t tell you how many women have told me they never had a vibrator- there’s a generation in their 40 s and 50 s who missed the vibrator revolution and never caught up. And there are all these new vibrators out there- and anything new you are able to introduce will make a big difference to your sex life .” Another style forward can be for a couple to open up their relationship in some way, and invite someone else in. And she has other ideas up her sleeve that seem a lot less risque, like going on a zip wire, taking up dance lessons or running scuba diving together. Why does that help?” Research on the neurochemicals has indicated that our sexual desire is triggered when we do something new with a long-term partner. A thrilling activity is ideal: it can give you a rinse of hormones that constructs “youre feeling” new to one another again .”

Indeed, one of the purposes of the narrative seems to be that humen are too quick to settle for “the usual”( which stimulates sense now we know they’re not the ones who are borne ); but opening up the conversation about what else they could try can relight the fuse. The trick here, counselings Martin, is for them to keep on and on asking.” Men actually caring about what girls want sexually makes a huge difference. You might need to have the conversation over and over, and women might maintain saying they’re happy with things as the objective is- but keep asking, and eventually females will open up about their sex fictions. We find that their menus are more varied than men’s. Man are shocked, but also satisfied and thrilled, when they find out how sexually exciting we can be when we get past the inhibitions that have been socialised into us .”

Paradoxically, there’s been a parallel shifting in attitudes towards extramarital affairs and divorce alongside the growing studies into women’s sexuality. Martin quotes the US statistics: in 1976, fewer than half of well-educated Americans believed having an affair was always wrong; by 2013, that figure was 91%.” We’ve become a lot less tolerant of infidelity in recent years ,” says Martin.” And meanwhile divorce has become much more common: a significant number of people in the 1970 s who supposed affairs were OK, guessed divorce was incorrect .”

So at the precise moment science reveals girls have the bigger “need” to be sexually adventurous, society fixes down on infidelity. And that, says Martin, is hugely significant.” The route we feel about women who reject monogamy is a vital metric for how we feel about equality .” She’s talking, she says, about women who openly reject monogamy by being polyamorous. The overwhelming tale we buy into, after all, is that men who “cheat” are just” humen being men “; women who “step out” are far more likely to be criticised and dishonor. Ultimately, though, they’re challenging something very deep in society’s expectations of them- and perhaps their posture is the most radical female posture of all.

Untrue by Wednesday Martin is published by Scribe at PS14. 99. Buy it for PS12. 89 at guardianbookshop.com

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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