Men often brag about their sexual conquests. A man who has sex with lots of women is often called a “stud.” Women don’t brag about having many partners. A woman who is very sexual is often castigated as a “slut.”
Intense Sexual Needs
But some women are very sexual. Their lives–and their struggles to maintain relationships and their own self-respect while being highly sexual–have not been the subject of much sex research. But one study is intriguing (citation below). Ph.D. candidate, Eric Blumberg of Ferndale, Michigan, interviewed 44 very sexual women. He defined “very sexual” as (1) having six or more orgasms a week solo or with partners, or (2) considering oneself very sexual, with having lots of sex an important element in their lives.
Blumberg found his subjects by advertising in Detroit’s alternative weekly. The women ranged from age 20 to 82, in education, from high school to graduate degrees, and in employment, from janitor to CEO. The newspaper’s readers are overwhelmingly white, and so were the study subjects, with two Latinas, one African-American, and no Asians. As a result, this study can’t be applied to all women. Nonetheless, it’s a pioneering effort and quite intriguing.
All the women said they felt intense sexual needs they could not ignore. All had struggled with feeling different from American cultural expectations of women. And alll had experienced distress about being highly sexual.
While growing up, they realized they were different from their friends and from how they were raised to be. More than half (57%) said they’d experienced “major conflicts” that caused “painful struggles” to accept themselves. All had considered themselves “sluts,” “nymphomaniacs,” and “sex addicts.” Most had been called these names by friends and lovers. All considered such name-calling unfair, though many believed the accusations were true.
Almost all the women eventually accepted themselves as highly sexual. For some (16%), this happened in their teens or twenties. Typically, these women had sex-positive parents who saw nothing wrong with having highly sexual daughters, or they had friends who reassured them that they were fine. But for most, self-acceptance came slowly and did not really happen until they were well into adulthood. The process was usually gradual, often involving more than one divorce from men who reacted negatively to their wives’ sexual enthusiasm.
Almost all the women had experienced brief flings and/or simultaneous relationships with various partners. Ten (23%) were married and five more were in long-term relationships they considered “satisfying” (total, 34%). However, most, including those in committed relationships, said they were open to flings.
Strong, insistent libidos that are difficult to control make these women appear rather “male.” They marry, but often have extra-marital affairs. Most described themselves as more comfortable with men than women, and many expressed pride that male friends considered them “one of the boys.” Many complained that their women friends just didn’t understand their sexual enthusiasm, a complaint many men voice about women.
One experience associated with female hyper-sexuality is a history of sexual trauma. Ten of the 44 (23%) reported incest or abuse. But about one-quarter of the female U.S. population has experienced sexual trauma, so sexual exploitation can’t be viewed as explaining these women’s sexual enthusiasm. It’s just who they are.
Blumberg argues that none of the women appeared to be “addicted” to sex, nor did they feel uncontrollable sexual compulsions. Their descriptions “did not suggest that they were currently or ever had been sexually out of control in any meaningful way. Some described themselves as occasionally sexually impulsive, especially in their teens or twenties, but participants did not fit the general description of compulsion or addiction, nor did they report the negative consequences typically associated with sexual compulsion.”
They simply enjoy sex a great deal, and once they accept themselves, enjoy sex exuberantly. Thirty-five of the 44 (80%) said that on balance, the impact on their lives of being highly sexual was positive.
What do you think?
Blumberg, E. “The Lives and Voices of Highly Sexual Women,” Journal of Sex Research (2003) 40:146.