book reviews, books, desire, emotion, empowerment, erotica, experience, passion, pleasure, psychology, sex, sexuality, Uncategorized, women

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.




A Fragile Weight

If I say that there is a weight to being a man, then please don’t consider that a plea for sympathy. I am comfortable with the fragility of it, I accept that there are feminine and masculine aspects within me and I embrace them both. I enjoy being a man, but that comes from an awareness of how men are viewed, the misconceptions, the flaws that become monstrous without contemplation and also where denial of  any part of them leads to so much of horror that gets attributed to men. 

I would argue that it’s boys who cause so much of the damage. Boys who have grown older, but not necessarily up. Uncomfortable with solitude, unable or unwilling to reflect, to learn from wounds and negative experiences, lots of energy which appears charming but soon becomes unpleasant to deal with, it’s a set of behaviours that creates negative associations and interpretations. This however, is not an apology ( it’s not a longform version of the hashtag #notallmen) because that implies that being a man is somehow less and to me, it is not. 

The fragility and the weight serve as means of contemplation and I accept that because the trade off for me is all of the joy that comes from it. The rush of testosterone, the drive and the physicality of it, the rough places on my hands when I work outside, the way that I look in the mirror, I like the hair on me and my scent. 

I enjoy being a man, and it is not threatened by women asserting themselves. I welcome it. I want it. I am not scared or threatened by a woman asserting themselves, quite the opposite, I want it. I want to write about it. I want more women to embrace the wildness within themselves and I want them to have power because I want them to have the same responsibilities and it doesn’t take a single thing from me or any man if they do. 

A friend once said to me that more men should admit to crying and more women should admit to masturbation. It’s a good place to start and there are bones of contention within the argument, lots of language and projections that put us at odds with one another when we shouldn’t. Since writing about women, I have not, all of a sudden, come to love them. I always have but I know the why of it, I admire their struggles and their contradictions and the fire within them. I resent the forces that keep them from asserting their autonomy or their sexuality, and I admire the power of it. So many men are equal parts repelled and drawn to it, but again I think that it’s a boy behaviour rather than a man’s.