As mentioned yesterday, I just wrapped up the What Women Want book – a slightly disjointed mix of scientific studies rolled into anecdotal social discussion on women and sex, hypergamy and monogamy, mostly in the context of impacts to longer term relationships. I’ve read better, and nothing shocking, but further reinforces the need to understand that women’s biology and evolutionary psychology drive them to behave in a certain way. Our brains and logical thoughts can overcome this to a degree, but it is on us, as men and husbands and boyfriends to be aware of this hind-brain thought process so we can continue to use the tools we have available to overcome it to the extent possible. While long term pair bonding is a big benefit for raising kids, the more I read, the more I’m not sure we humans are designed for this. It is the hand we’re dealt though, and I believe strongly in having a strong marriage if you’re in one, especially if you have kids, and not bemoaning the fact that our evolutionary genes and lizard brain crave variety in sexual partners.
So a few interesting things from the book:
- Woman are visually aroused by erotic images, as much or moreso than men, however, there is a discrepancy between their brains and bodies. The book referenced a study, or series of study, where they inserted an instrument that measured arousal (moisture, temperature, something like that) into women’s vaginas, showed them a variety of erotic images and asked them to state how aroused it made them. Their bodies were often showing high levels of arousal for naked men, women, copulating monkeys and porn, to state a few things they were asked to evaluate. Meanwhile, their hamsters would state they weren’t turned on. Also, gay or straight, women showed arousal from the sensors for men and women, while men subjected to a similar study were very much related to their stated sexual orientation – that is gay men weren’t turned on by lesbian scenes and straight men weren’t by gay men scenes, which wasn’t true for the women.
- Studies of primates and other animals showed a general preference to mate with multiple partners especially over time. Some female animals would not mate with their same partner in short time span a second time, but would a new partner.
- Various anecdotal stories about the distance between mind and body for LTR women. The women would want to have sex with her partner, that she loved, but her body would not be into it. Some reasons in the examples were the gaining of a few pounds, or being too gentle or nice. Others were comparing the current relationship with past ones where the older partner was more alpha in behaviors than their current one.
- Discussed the 50 Shades phenomenon with raw, lustful dominance and how it started activating the sensors in the brain that were firing early on in the dopamine/adrenaline phase of the relationship. Implied that it led to more LTR sex.
- Implied that women are very lustful, maybe moreso than men, early on in a relationship, but the brain chemicals that lead to these super exciting times drop off faster than men. Implied that men would be more likely to continue to have sex and be happy with the same female (humans as well as primates) while females get “bored” first and would like more variety.
- Talked about Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants and their role in dulling sex drive. Basically, it really mixes up the dopamine/sarotonin balance that is so important in libido (basically decrease dopamine which as we all know is a big part of getting turned on and excited by your partner) [note Wellbutrin is another antidepressent that supposedly has no sexual side effects and may actually increase libido].
Basically the book didn’t really tell you what women want, but basically stated that men are pretty easy to turn on and women are more complex. I think what you can take out of this is that it is easy to get complacent in your relationship and easy to get used to your partner and what they bring to the table. It takes a near constant effort to keep those things at bay, to continue to be playful and flirty and not fall into the boredom trap. It’s something that every marriage deals with, and is even harder with the routine of full time work, kids and all the responsibilities that brings.
While I want to close the laundry room door and have a quicky with Holly against the washing machine (hello Dopamine flood!), most days that is just not feasible. I could be doing more to be dominant and get those brain chemicals firing, and she could be doing more to keep things exciting on her end, but we’re finding our way. We’re just an average married couple trying to keep as many of the “in love” feelings we can and to keep things exciting, but it’s an uphill battle as many of you know. We both feel pulled in a million directions throughout the day, and sometimes it’s just easier to get lost in your own head versus trying to connect with a partner. But we’re aware of this, which helps us to stay up on it, to have sex even if the stars aren’t aligned, to stay connected and bonded in some way. We do a lot of touching and kissing and butt grabbing and flirting, even if sex is not happening.
I still think though we could be doing more to keep the excitement up, but it’s hard sometimes to always be “on”…As Jules Winfield says in Pulp Fiction “But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.” and continue to lead us to the promised land of marital happiness in and out of the bedroom.