What Do Women Want by Daniel Bergner



In this headline-making book, Daniel Bergner turns everything we thought we knew about women’s desire on its head. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with renowned behavioural scientists, sexologists, psychologists and everyday women, Daniel Bergner asks:

– Do women really crave intimacy and emotional connection?

– Are women more disposed to sex with strangers or multiple partners than either science or society have ever let on?

– And is ‘the fairer sex’ actually more sexually aggressive and anarchic than men?

This is a book that paired well with The Sex Myth by Dr Brooke Magnanti, in that it uses actual science to challenge certain presumptions in the realm of sex and sexuality. That sounds a bit pretentious but it’s actually really important. In this case, Daniel Bergner meets with scientists, researchers and therapists who are exploring and cataloguing women’s sexual identities, and the desires they have.

Bergner offers up the evidence that women are held back, restrained by societal and cultural prohibitions whereas their physical desires are aroused at a depth, range and intensity that is more polymorphous than we have been led to believe. That women are not hard wired for monogamy and that a degree of institutional sexism has emerged to stymie women. That women do not need comfort, wooing, intimacy but that their desires are fed by rawer, more primal instincts and attractions.

It speaks to the truth: that we have denied women their inner animal, male sexuality is traditionally allowed to be more rapacious but Bergner shows us that the data, collated over time and across a broad spectrum of volunteers, is that women have needs that are as base and immediate,they are as keen to find pleasure in novelty and want an intense, authentic sexual experience. One woman, for instance, is propositioned in a kitchen cupboard by a handsome waiter, instructed to perform oral sex on him, she refuses but admits to indulging the fantasy privately for months afterwards.

I have two books that the evidence presented here cheerfully discounted and I could not be more pleased. It’s an ambient tragedy that so many women have been conditioned to believe that their impulses are abnormal, that they like the pursuit of someone, something new as much, if not more than men do. Books like these should be better known, we can stop pretending in harmful, repressive ideas and level with one another. That women want with as much invention and intensity as men do, that their imaginations and desires, once awakened are oceans of individual, expansive fantasy.

It’s an exciting, informative book, bold and passionate, with a delicacy to the writing that is studied enough to blunt any potentially cringeworthy doggerel. I would recommend this without hesitation, even if you disagree with it’s findings (as is your right) but if you’re a woman reading this, who wants external validation of her inner truth, or  a man who is interested, or wants to confirm/deny their own experiences, then I could not think of a better book to do this with.




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