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May 01 2007

Sex Crazed Sex Goddesses of Sex: Women Who Like Sex, and the Men Who Don’t Appreciate Them

Id_rather_eat_chocolateDan Savage (of the Savage Love sex advice column) did this very clever thing recently. He ran a column pretending to agree with the proposition that women across the board simply aren’t as interested in sex as men… and then waited for the letters to pour in, from legions of outraged women with high libidos insisting that they, you know, existed. (I almost wrote him one myself.)

But what struck me about these letters wasn’t so much the raw fact of them. It wasn’t that plenty of women do have high libidos, or that the problem of differing libidos in relationships cuts across gender lines. Like, duh.

Women_who_love_sexWhat really struck me about these letters was how many of these horny women got insulted and jeered at by their male partners for being horny. Women who love sex, and who’ve had male partners who didn’t want sex as often as they did, wrote to Dan saying they’d been called nympho, whore, a dog in heat.

Real_men_dont_eat_quicheIt’s hard to know what exactly is going on with these guys. Is this some macho thing — the men get freaked out because men are supposed to be the sex-crazed ones who want it all the time, and if your woman wants it more than you do then that somehow makes you less of a man? Is it just a generic “blame your partner for your problems and differences” reaction — you know, the classic “we want different things, I’m perfect, therefore my partner must be fucked-up” logic? Is it something else entirely?

I really don’t know. I’ve never encountered this exact phenomenon. I’ve never had a sex partner of either gender insult me for wanting lots of sex. I’ve never had a sex partner call me a slut or a whore or a nympho or a dog in heat — except in a good way.

Casual_sexBut I have encountered something similar. Back when I was (a) screwing around a lot and (b) at least sometimes screwing around with men, I ran into this scene a fair amount: Men who said they wanted casual, no strings-attached sex — but then got totally weird once we’d had it. (“Weird” meaning avoiding eye contact, being distant or jumpy when they’d been friendly and relaxed, doing the approach/ avoidance dance, and just being generally, you know, weird.) This wasn’t true across the board… but it happened often enough for me to go, “Hm.”

GraduateI’m not quite sure what that was about. Maybe these men thought they wanted casual sex… but really wanted some sort of love and commitment. Maybe they really did want casual sex, but didn’t want me to want it as much as they did — like the fact that I was so okay with it was a blow to their pride, I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk away from their sweet, sweet loving so easily. Maybe the sex stirred up feelings and emotions for them — not necessarily true love, but some sort of tenderness or vulnerability — and my freewheeling, sang-froid attitude was actually making me an insensitive jerk. (Like I wrote in my 1996 piece Being Single, “There are times when I feel like a caricature of a straight man, and an asshole straight man at that.”)

Get_laid_nowAnd maybe any or all of this was true, for any or all of these men — but because men are supposed to be the ones who want casual sex, when it turned out that they didn’t want it as much as they thought they did, it made them feel less manly.

Just like not wanting sex as much as the woman in their life might make some men feel less manly.

ThinkerBut maybe not. Maybe I’m talking out of my ass. Thoughts? Men — have you ever been involved with a woman who wanted sex more than you did, or who wanted sex to be casual when you weren’t sure about that? If so, what was that like? And women — have you ever been with guys who wanted it less than you did, or who didn’t want something casual when you did? And what was that like? And if you’re gay or lesbian, has this ever been an issue — have you had these kinds of differences with partners, and how did they play out? And if you’re bi, how does that play out differently? Nosy minds want to know.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    Eclectic

    I don’t have any answers, but I’m interested in the results. I just hope people use small enough words; I don’t understand pair-bonding very well.
    Being in a poly relationship means that if my GF wants sex and I don’t, she has another BF to ask. No biggie.
    What’s perhaps unusual is that I’ve never been in a non-poly relationship. I’ve been in ones that had only two people in them for a time, but that didn’t mean that we had to stop looking at cute MOTAS.
    But it means that I very fundamentally don’t understand sexual jealousy, and I think that’s somehow involved with the inability to actually be casual about “casual sex”.
    I can say that the emotional effects of sex still surprise me sometimes, even though it makes perfect evolutionary sense that it’s wired directly into the most primitive brain functions. But you’d think people would learn to anticipate that after the first few dozen times.
    The other interesting thing about your experience is how it was men that gave you that reaction. It’s lesbians who are stereotypically unable to have a casual relationship (“Q: What does a lesbian bring to the second date? A: A U-haul.”), but perhaps having a smaller social group has taught the culture to deal more gracefully with exes. Alison Bechdel has some funny (autobiographical, not DTWOF) cartoons on the subject.

  2. 2
    Barb

    GF? BF? MOTAS?
    Barb

  3. 3
    Chris S

    I have been annoyed with the male stereotype of ‘simply seeking casual sex’ for quite some time, since it doesn’t reflect me and tends to put guys in a box. (…which I guess is true for any stereotype duh…)
    But then I kinda know that about myself

  4. 4
    Eclectic

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to be obscure.
    GF = Girlfriend
    BF = Boyfriend
    MOTAS = Member of the appropriate sex
    There’s also MOTSS and MOTOS for same/opposite sex.

  5. 5
    Eclectic

    Purely for everyone’s amusement…
    No (Lesbian) Sex In The Stacks, Please
    Arkansas dad sues library over lesbian sex guide; local author Felice Newman responds
    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2007/05/03/violetblue.DTL
    That’s a very composed (and hilarious) reply. Example:
    Q: According to Adams, his two sons, ages 14 and 16, were “greatly disturbed” by their discovery and apparently underwent “many sleepless nights” as a result. Do you want to comment on these statements?
    A: I imagine they went through a change of bed linens as well.

  6. 6
    Mike

    I enjoyed your writing very much. I find myself loathing steriotypes in general. The sexism in our society makes woman interested in casual sex as “sluts” but males “players”. It’s annoying as hell. I wish for an physical and emotional intimacy. Does that sound hacky? Anyway, I feel men don’t want to see their behavior reflected in any way by other members of the opposite sex. Because it does make them more vulnerable and changes how they feel. Gender issues are hard. It seems all inconclusive in the end. But I suppose it’s all an individual view of things. People want what they want, and should not be denied or villified for actions, but should not be free of criticism or different view points. Rant over.

  7. 7
    c4bl3fl4m3

    I’ve recently had a lover whom I found to be extremely attractive and fantastically wonderful in bed. My libido had been at a lull for a while and said lover made my sexuality light up like a Christmas tree. After a bit of me wanting it every time we were together, as well as sending him erotic emails and txt messages, he called me, with a pleasant laugh, a “horndog”. However, later on, in an email, when telling him about past partners who had made me feel bad because of my high libido, he told me that I should never apologize for my sex drive… not to him, not to anyone. He also reiterated this in person out loud. It made me feel better about his (albeit accurate) labeling of me.
    I’m biologically female, bisexual, and non-monogamous and I’ve often times (most of the time?) had a higher sex drive than my primary partners, who have been primarily male. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that I’m non-monogamous… because even when I’m with someone, I keep having eyes for others. I think some of the men were intimidated by it, not so much because I’m female but just because the other person wants it more than they do and I don’t think they wanted to say “not tonight, I have a headache” to me.
    I guess for me it’s always just been. I’ve never really taken a step back to analyze how my various partners have taken it. I do know that at the times that I’ve had little to no sex drive (the effects of hormonal birth control on me), I’ve always felt bad because 1.) I wasn’t my usual uber-horny self and 2.) because I wanted to be GGG (good, giving and game: another Dan Savage term) for my partners and help them satisfy their sexual desires.

  8. 8
    C. L. Hanson

    That’s a fascinating experience you’ve had with guys who think they want NSA sex but end up being a little thrown off kilter when it happens. I think many (most?) people don’t separate physical and emotional intimacy entirely. So while it seems men are more likely to want NSA sex and women are more likely to want committment/romance (without necessarily much of a sexual component), the lines are pretty blurry. So you get a whole lot of guys who think they want NSA sex (because that’s what guys are supposed to want, and it sure seems like fun), but when it actually happens they end up having an unanticipated emotional reaction.
    I touched on the confusion about sexual expectations in my sex on the first date post: http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/2006/03/immodest-proposal-sex-on-first-date.html
    BTW, I love Dan Savage, and I enjoyed reading all of the letters from women who wrote in about having a high libido. It actually didn’t even occur to me to write in myself because when he wrote about women not really wanting sex, I assumed he was just being sarcastic to make a point.
    In my opinion, there’s a huge range of “what women want” in terms of sex, love, and relationships. The cardinal (sexual) sin for me is to take what one woman wants and then project it on women in general, believing that any woman who doesn’t feel the same way about her sexuality as woman X feels about her sexuality is just lying to herself, duped by the patriarchy, etc. That was the main thrust of my feminist sexuality post: http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/2007/02/feminist-sexuality.html

  9. 9
    Buck Fuddy

    Never. I have never been involved with a woman who was too interested in sex. In fact, I’ve only met a few women who were as interested in sex as I am, and believe me, I appreciated it!
    I would never criticize a woman for having a high libido. The only thing better than a horny chick is two of them! :-)
    But, on the other hand, I would never criticize a girl for having a low libido either. It’s just not nice. There are a lot of things a guy can to to pique a girl’s interest in sex. Criticizing her sexuality isn’t one of them.

  10. 10
    Buck Fuddy

    c4bl3fl4m3,
    Yes, definitely take it as a compliment. I’s never use that term, I guess because I don’t especially like dogs, but if I say a girl is horny, that’s high praise.
    Anyway, reading your post and mine made me realize we’re both looking at this from the polyamorous perspective. I can see where this would be a real problem for monogamous people. If your partner has a higher sex drive, you’d probably be worried that they’d pursue sex outside the relationship. I’d think this would be as big a concern for women as for men though, so it’s still not clear why the criticism only seems to cut one way. Maybe monogamous guys are just more controlling than monogamous women?

  11. 11
    Simon

    I’d say the reaction you saw from men wanting casual sex and then being weird and distant afterward is something else…
    It’s a non-verbal way of making sure you get that they are not into you beyond sex… its the ‘so you don’t get the wrong idea’ brush-off.
    i.e. they see you acting fine and misread that as you being into them. they then act distant to put you off. make sense?
    no of course it doesn’t! It’s unbelievably presumptious and rude at best, but I’d wager its close to the truth a lot of the time.

  12. 12
    Paradox

    This post is spot on for me, especially when it comes to men. I’m a bisexual woman, and have been poly for some time, but I started out trying to do the whole one-person thing.
    I’ve had several male partners call me a slut and nympho, or just complain that they felt used because I wanted sex all the time. It was really hard on me when I was younger and insecure about wanting sex at all.
    Actually, all the men I tried to date exclusively had lower sex drives than I did. Since I’ve been making non-monogamy a relationship requirement, I’ve been much happier with my partners and much better sexually matched. However, I’m definitely familiar with the manly insecurity over sex drive differences.
    (I’ve never had a woman complain about my sex drive, but then I only really started dating women around the time I embraced polyamory.)
    I’ve also had guys get really weird after we had casual sex. I always figured it was because they assume I’m going to be clingy because I’m a lady. They need to be careful to put me off! Must be vigilant! No clingy pussy!
    I find it pretty patronizing, since I’m always really upfront about being happily NSA and it means they think I’m lying or delusional. A part of me is amused at the stupidity of their faith in gender roles, especially in the face of contrary evidence, but it’s more irritating than funny.

  13. 13
    A

    I was in a long term monogamous relationship for seven years in which I wanted sex much more often than my fiance. He accused me of making the relationship all about the sex and kept hinting that I would leave him, just like all his other lovers before him, because he wouldn’t put out.
    The sex was decent in the beginning — two, three times a week on average, which I could deal with. Not ideal, but satisfactory. Eventually it dropped off to once a week, then once every two weeks, then once a month. The longest period was three months without sex.
    It started to affect more than just our sex life. I no longer felt comfortable getting intimate with him because of the never-ending accusations that I was “pressuring” him into having sex. Mind you, this would come if I would sit beside him and rub his chest or shoulders or other innocent gestures of affection and intimacy. Whether or not I intended them to be sensual/sexual or not (and most often they weren’t), it didn’t matter — they were always interpreted to be me attempting to coerce him into sex. Eventually I started to lose confidence in myself sexually. Was I unattractive? Was I bad in bed?
    I would try to talk to him about it and tell him how I felt, but it was always turned around and the whole “you’re going to leave me because I won’t put out” and “it’s all about the sex for you, isn’t it?” thing was always thrown out, along with a myriad of excuses as to why he didn’t want to have sex. His hip hurt, he didn’t feel like he deserved it, etc…
    I started to discuss non-monogamy with him in an effort to get us something we might both be missing. Perhaps he needed something different for a while and I knew I certainly needed more of what I was not getting. He seemed open to the idea… But nothing panned out.
    On the rare occasion we would have sex, I would feel so confused and so ambivalent about it that I was unable to get physically aroused and it often hurt quite badly. I put up with it because I knew that saying anything would stop the sex completely… Who knows when I would have gotten it again after that?
    Eventually the relationship ended, for reasons unrelated to the sex. It took me a long time to get my sexual confidence back. It took me a long time to feel like I was even capable of arousing someone, capable of getting them off. It took me even longer, and with the wonderful partner that I have now, to realize that I don’t have to suffer in silence during sex just to have it, that someone who actually cares won’t stop and pout and lay guilt trips if you tell them to slow down or touch you a little differently.
    In the end of it all, I discovered that the relationship was fundamentally flawed in more than just that aspect; more than I ever assumed. He lied about almost everything and to me, one of the worst was when he told me after it was over that the non-monogamy bothered him the most and that he only agreed to it to stop the arguing, well… If only I was able to see that then.
    Today, I have an incredible partner, a dear sweet man who has helped me discover that even I didn’t know the bounds of my libido — 3-4 times a day is our average. He doesn’t give me giant pouty faces, like I’ve sullied his masculinity forever if I suggest he do something differently in bed and best of all, his libido keeps right up with mine! We can’t get enough of each other.

  14. 14
    Adamt

    There is no goddamn realistic way that I am the first male to reply to this with the originally solicited intent. Really? And this post is nearing four years old?
    Hi, my name is Adam, and I’m in a relationship with a woman who wants sex significantly more frequently than I do, and am going on year four of said relationship.
    I’ll try to be as detailed and honest as I can about this, because it looks like nobody else is around to be thorough. Bear with me if I digress a little.
    When I got into this relationship, it was to be a “Friends with benefits” sort of arrangement, with the agreement that if either of us started to feel emotionally attached in a more-than-friends kind of way, we’d let the other one know and deal with the situation then, to avoid the drama and pain that was the reason we were looking for “friends+” and not “dates.”
    That worked out pretty well. We saw eachother once every week or two, alternating who drove to the others’ house (not a trivial matter, considering it was Dayton, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana that were involved). Sex happened, probably every time we met, sometimes multiple times a night. Life was pretty good. Eventually, the “I’m having feelings” clause got invoked, and we opted to go for it, do the “love” thing. That’s also been going pretty well since.
    Circumstances brought about a need for her to find a new place to live, and, well shit, I got this condo that I own and would she like to move in, she can sleep in the same bed we sleep in when she comes over. Sure, that sounds like a fine idea.
    An unforeseen side effect of us living in the same place is that we can have sex whenever we want–well, okay, that part was foreseen. But it brought about a revelation that I don’t want sex as much as I did when I was 20, something I wasn’t aware of due to a pretty long dry spell following a breakup when I was 23 (and I was 26 when I met the woman in this story). On the other hand, she wanted (read: wants, present tense) sex as much as I did when I was 20.
    Now, I like having good feedback. It’s good to know when I’m doing something right, and it’s good to know when I make her feel good, bedroom-wise or otherwise. But there’s a certain extra metamessage conveyed when I’m shaving and she comments on how hot that gets her. The extra message, to put too fine a point on it, is, “I would like to ride you right now.” And I would have to apologize and tell her that I couldn’t–not in the right mood, have to go to work, whatever. It didn’t help that there seemed to be a lot of these “so hot” triggers, too–my voice, my expression when I shave, my expression when I think, how I look when I eat, the dimples I get when I do damn near anything…it was a horrifying game of hopscotch trying to avoid doing things to set her off so as not to be a tease. A game of hopscotch that resembled one of those bullet-hell shooter games.
    It sucked for me to feel guilty about doing things that I normally do as a matter of course because they make waiting unnecessarily hard on her. It sucked for her to feel guilty about making me uncomfortable about it. It also sucked because it meant that I was left with essentially-complete control and responsibility for initiating when we did have sex. What could we do? It starts to wear on a person when one gets turned down sufficiently often because of not being in the mood.
    She’s about a once-a-day person, give or take, and I’m about a twice-a-week person, give or take; so our particular disparity in preferred sexual frequency isn’t a complete deal-breaker. It’s workable. We generally have sex on my schedule, and it’s sufficient for her tastes, even if it’s not as much as she would choose if it were a thing either of us could realistically change. But I like it when she initiates, and I like it when she wants. Except when I can’t seem to get in the right frame of mind, when wanting her back takes deliberate effort (which makes it feel insincere).
    There’s the social pressure thing, too. As a man, I’m supposed to be the provideur, the omni-capable problem-solver executive-decision-er. And I’m never supposed to do anything that hurts her. Not being able to fulfill her wants sexually wounds those senses in a pretty significant way. I’ve convinced myself, superficially at least, that our on-my-schedule arrangement is “good enough” but I really feel like it’s more of a patch, a band-aid that we can keep on this until we can figure out a “real solution,” something that actually addresses both of our drives without compromise. I’ll let you know if I ever figure that one out.
    In this time, we’ve wrestled with a number of related issues. She’s supposed to be able to “make me want it.” Something must be wrong with her, she must be ugly or something, why else wouldn’t I want her. And then there’s the “swept away” thing you’ve written about elsewhere.
    We’ve been together a pretty long time, and we’ve hashed out most of these questions and made a way to make it work for us, at least for the time being, and I’d like to think it’s because we’re both pretty calm, forgiving, intelligent, considerate people (although a vitamin B-12 deficiency may have also played its part). She’s come to understand that my schedule, so to speak, for these things just isn’t what hers is, and that it’s not anything personal or because of anything being objectionable. It’s okay–though anytime we really spend any time thinking about it, it sucks. Why can’t I fix it? There has to be a way! How is it that I can’t find a solution?!
    I won’t claim to be much like other men. But I’ve done my time beating myself up over not being able to satisfy the woman I’m with. It’s been very hard to move past, and I’ve had to do so by way of ignoring it, pretending that everything is okay when I really just want to be able to do her like she wants. But, I am what I am, and I will simply do my best–and that will have to suffice. It’s a good thing I’m so massively confident in myself in so many other areas, otherwise I don’t think I could insulate myself from feelings that she were just settling for me.

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