OK, those things are examples of specific mental states, rather than general ones. Fair point. I'm more likely to think about sex when I'm bored, and I didn't really have an option for that in the poll.
Yeah, busy-ness and tiredness and the like I didn't really cover. I suppose I was thinking that if someone only thinks about sex when they're wide awake, they would give a frequency based on how often they're not tired. But that can vary over the longer term too, so I should have included it.
I think most people don't have "enough" experience to answer the question in any meaningful way. I just wanted to know if people's (limited) experience supports or contradicts the stereotypes about gender. On a good day, 100 or so people answer my polls, and I was thinking that a few dozen people talking about their experience with perhaps a couple or half a dozen partners would be marginally more meaningful than each person trying to make generalized guesses. But it's an LJ poll, meaningful isn't really a consideration!
To pretty much all the comparisons of men and women, my experience suggests that the answers, adjusted for cultural conditioning, come out as two almost completely overlapping bell curves, so that while I might without fibbing say "yes, I believe this is true on average", it's a value of average that's pretty close to useless as a guide to interacting with any given individual. This may also be skewed by sample bias in the kinds of people I get close enough to to have a feeling for where they are on things like this, by me generally having many more female close friends than male ones, and by small sample size in general, so I'm really reluctant to commit to saying anything at all.
[ Which reminds me, fwiw, of something Samuel Delany says somewhere, I think it's in The Motion of Light in Water, about not being willing to make any statements about heterosexual sex because he felt that a dozen female partners was entirely insufficient data - this by contrast with living for some years in a gay male subculture in New York in which it was quite possible to have several different random casual encounters in a day, and therefore having a male partner count into four digits. Which makes me wonder how many straight people there are in the world who aren't qualified to make statistically significant comments about heterosexual sex by that standard; my guess is most of them. ]
Oh, you're completely right, and I really like this comment. I think the statement "in my experience, more women than men like X" can be very dangerous if stupid people are going to interpret it as gender essentialist. Averages are totally useless for specific individuals, of course.
I like the Delany reference. And I do think most people can't make statistically significant observations about how gender plays into sex, or about sex at all. I would be surprised if more than a very small minority of my flist have had more than a hundred sexual partners, and anything less than that gives you a ridiculously small sample for generalizing. Especially since, as you point out, there is going to be considerable bias in whom one chooses to sleep with.
The kind of people who write books of usually sexist advice about this area are at best working from surveys, and most likely just regurgitating stereotypes. That's why I phrased the poll as I did, because I wanted to get away from people just talking about vague factoids they may have come across, or what they think is the politically correct thing to say. As I said to Karen, a few dozen people talking about their direct experience is marginally more useful in terms of aggregating this stuff than the same people trying to guess about the general population.
Being male or female has no effect on any of these things.
I chose this option, which doesn't feel exactly right, but is closer to what I think than any of the others; I think I'd want to say something more along the lines of "Being male or female doesn't seem to be the sole or even the main determining factor in any of these things." I don't know if being male/female (or self-identifying in a way that makes maleness/femaleness important, or, or, or) has any effect, because it's very difficult to factor gender out of the equation (apologies if I am heinously misusing scientific terms and concepts; I'm an English graduate, I mean it all metaphorically*).
There also should have been an option for "I am now thinking about sex because of this poll". ;-D
* this is not actually a valid excuse for sloppy thinking, but insufficient caffeine may be... :-/
I only think about cuddling and foreplay. Sex is more for men. I feel emotional attached to the person I get that close. Men often don't feel this attachment. They can do it with anybody. For me it does matter with whom.
Thanks for this comment, it's very open and honest of you to talk about this here on LJ.
I'm really not sure about the "emotional attachment" business; for me, it's not so much that I get emotionally attached to people as a result of having sex with them, it's more like, I wouldn't want to have sex in the first place unless I know and trust and like the person quite a lot already. Perhaps because of that preference, I haven't really encountered many men who will just sleep with anyone without any emotional engagement, at least not people I know well enough to include in my direct experience in this poll.
I wasn't quite sure what "Women are better able to handle being interrupted in the middle of sex than men can" meant. Is it about whether you can carry on after an interruption physically or whether women or men are more or less likely to be embarrassed by an interruption?
To be honest, I don't quite know what that means. I've heard the stereotype that being interrupted is really traumatic for men whereas women don't really mind. I tried to phrase that in a relatively formal-sounding way to match the rest of the poll, but I realize that what I actually wrote doesn't even make grammatical sense thanks to mixing up "can" and "able". Sorry.
Of course it's not always easily possible to quantify 'more', and it's important to differentiate between thinking about sex, and being able to concentrate on other things.
There probably isn't /that/ much difference in my sex drive over the years (if anything it's increased), but I'm better at going out and doing things so it's forgotten about, temporarily.
Also note that basing on direct sexual experience may be a bad idea. If that metric is used I'd have to untick 'women are more often sexually submissive'; however direct, non bedroom encounters/discussions with other women leads me to believe it is simply not true except in certain communities.
I was only asking how often people think about sex, not how often they are so obsessed with sex that it gets in the way of other stuff. I'm nosy, but not that nosy! It is interesting that you've got better at distracting yourself with more maturity, though.
I wanted to ask about direct experience to avoid people either just repeating stereotypes or trying to be politically correct. As far as an LJ poll is useful at all, I thought it would be more useful to aggregate the direct experiences of a few dozen people, than to ask people to make generalizations based on (in most cases) too little experience to say anything meaningful.
Under "it depends": I think about sex more often at the gym than in most other non-sexual situations. I suspect this may be because I'm more focused on my body as what I'm doing, and what I'm acting with than I am in most other contexts, and because I've detailed at least part of my verbal self to the work of counting things, which isn't really terribly interesting. (Math can be; counting to 12, or 15, or 30 repeatedly isn't.)
Interesting example, and yeah, that was definitely something I didn't include in my poll. I think it's true for me too; I'm most likely to think about sex when I'm doing something that requires concentration but not particularly intellectual engagement.
I definitely assumed that people would think about sex while having sex, that seems a given! But otherwise, I let "it depends on how I feel / what I'm doing at the time" get folded into the general question about frequency, and I see from various responses that doing that left out an axis that is important to many people.
Something else that was missed was that, at least for me and a few friends I've talked with, the people with whom I share an experience are paramount in determining my reactions. With some people, I may as well be a nun. Regardless of my state of undress or their state of excitement, I'm as, erm, pure as driven snow (cliche, but it's an apt image). With others, I'm like a cat on hot bricks. Some people just have to lightly run a finger across some random part of my body and I'm off the planet. With others, as I said, I could be hit by an asteroid containing nothing but orgasm juice, and it would have no effect.
Flirting makes a huge difference for me. If I meet someone who can flirt, and with whom I can flirt, I'm in heaven.
I think on balance I'm not interested in giving that image to the creative parts of my brain and seeing what it produces.
Flirting makes a huge difference for me. If I meet someone who can flirt, and with whom I can flirt, I'm in heaven.
Well, to an extent I can agree with that, but it doesn't really plug in to the rest of what people are talking about here for me. Or rather, I find in general that I enjoy flirting a great deal more when it's with people who enjoy it for its own sake than when it's of necessity being parsed as leading somewhere. Part of this, I think, is a learned reaction to growing up in a culture whose signs for "I am interested in what you say and am taking you seriously" get read as flirting in many other parts of the West.
I'm not that comfortable doing gender comparisons, because I have direct evidence of sexual responses in a small number of men but a shockingly small number of women. Being straight will do that. Plus, I knew remarkably little about sex before I started having it as I was shelted in several ways, as such, I learned most of what I know about sex from the men I had sex with, which means that my results are biased toward similarity.
But a different point... "thinking about sex"... what counts? Does this count as thinking about sex? The not sexy but curious sort of intellectual thinking? Or is it the oooh I want to get some thinking? What about during sex? Do I need to average out how much time I spend having sex? And what about what I often am thinking about with regards to sex... logistics. Every day I think: who am I sleeping with tonight and what will the timing of the night be? Am I likely to have sex tonight and should I do things to affect our schedule to influence that? But it's not just time for sex, that time might go to watching a movie or playing pool or whatever. But one of the things I consider is that an activity we might engage in is sex. Or I think, well, I won't be having sex tonight for whatever reason.
I also can't really tell you correlations between age and thinking versus single and thinking as I haven't been single since I hit puberty.
My thinking about sex is so strongly dependent on depression that I can't really answer the survey. When I'm not depressed, I probably think about sex several times/day as a default, or maybe several times/hour if I'm reading something that pushes my buttons. (Or with someone who pushes my buttons, likewise.) When I'm depressed, I might go 4-6 weeks without thinking of sex. Even when I read something that would push my buttons in other circumstances, I notice it at a distance, usually in terms of, "Oh, that's interesting. So-and-so would probably think it was hot." And then I move on...I suspect you mean something more arousing than that sort of abstract "thinking about sex."
You ask about "in my experience," and then ask me to compare the experiences of men and women. Um...I've been addressed in both masculine and feminine terms, but that doesn't mean I have that kind of intimate experience with being both a man and a woman. (Actually, my experience encompasses being a woman who doesn't give a damn about gender, being a woman actively trying to conceal/ignore gender, and being a woman who feels comfortable with some kinds of gender displays.) I have experience with being one person. Sure, one person over 38 years, in a range of situations, but still basically one person, which rather limits my ability to compare male and female. I understand you don't want my impressions from surveys, but I have discussed some of these concerns with hundreds of friends.
>Men have a higher sex drive than women I don't believe they do. However, I believe it is more socially acceptable for men to talk about sex, except in a few subcultures.
>Men think about sex more than women do I don't know
>Men are more likely to focus on genitals whereas women are interested in the whole body I don't know
>Women like foreplay and cuddling more than men It's interesting that you combined these. According to my observations, which may be skewed, men often like foreplay very much, and like cuddling very much, but regard them as different sorts of things, no more to be mixed than sushi should be mixed with chocolate.
>It is more difficult for women to have orgasms than men If you mean young people? I would say definately. It's more of a problem for older men (and it's bound up with masculinity in a way that makes it hard to even talk about.)
>Women are more likely to be able to have multiple orgasms than men Yes. Somewhat more likely, though it's not something all women and no men can do.
>Men are more responsive to visual erotic stimuli than women are Yes. Like the previous question, the distributions overlap a lot.
>Women are better able to handle being interrupted in the middle of sex than men can. I don't think this correlates with gender. Some people just cope with distractions and interruptions better than others. I don't know if ability to multitask makes it easier. Exaggerated startle reflexes certainly make it harder.
>Women are more likely than men to form emotional attachments to their sexual partners No. Not according to anything I've seen.
>Men seek out more sexual partners than women do What do you mean "seek out?" I have noticed men taking a more active role in courting potential partners, especially in some communities...I haven't noticed this getting them more partners, total.
>Women are more often sexually submissive than men Hah! No. Depending on the group, there's either no correlation with gender at all, or men are more likely to be sexually submissive.
Thanks, this is very informative. What you say about depression is the kind of thing I had in mind when I included the "depends" question. It's interesting that depression can make such a massive difference, and thank you for talking about both sex and mental health so openly. This thread had turned out far more interesting than I expected when I posted a silly time-wasting poll; I didn't realize people were going to be so honest and forthright about such a personal thing, and I'm really pleased about that.
I didn't specify sexually fantasizing versus thinking about sex in the abstract. Partly because I wanted to give people a little privacy, and mainly because those silly magazine articles which exclaim that men think about sex every few minutes, but women only think about roses and wedding dresses and pink things (or whatever sexist claptrap) almost certainly don't specify exactly what they mean by "thinking about sex".
I'm sorry that the experience thing was confusing. Of course, everyone only has the experience of being themself. But the point is that, for example, if you are in a relationship with someone, you know whether they have a higher or a lower sex drive than you, you know if they're more or less interested in cuddling or visual erotic images, and so on. I wanted people to answer based on that level of knowledge, rather than based on their friend's cousin's neighbour's third-hand gossip, or based on repeating stereotypes and theories, or based on refusing said stereotypes because they politically believe that men and women are equal. It's not that I expect you know to what it's like to be your partner, but I think it's reasonable to expect you to have a fair idea what a partner's sexual tastes are.
There are some people who couldn't answer most of the survey: absolute virgins who have never had any sexual experience whatsoever, and people who are absolutely strictly homosexual. But I predicted those groups to be small, whereas I think most people do not have the experience of having frank, detailed conversations about sexuality with several hundred people. I would actually quite like to be wrong in that assumption, but I didn't ask people to include data from such conversations because I didn't think most people would have that information.
"Women are better able to handle being interrupted in the middle of sex than men can"
Try having sex in the morning with the alarm clock on snooze. It's not a problem.
As for ageing and libido: I am no longer clinically depressed (although I am chronically sleep-deprived) so my sex drive is far stronger than it has ever been. My teenage years were spend in near-total social isolation, so I wasn't introduced to porn, or form any close relationships, and whatever sex drive I had was sublimated into my work. As a side-effect of avoiding shared experiences with boys my own age in passing wank mags around, porn didn't 'fixate' me on any of the things that seem to be the normal adolescent obsessions; indeed, I may be an extreme outlier in that my sexual self-expression was formed by sex rather than by paraphilia.
...Which leads to another point: Men are more likely to focus on genitals whereas women are interested in the whole body. This may be a cultural artifact. I focus on what works: if it's erogenous and accessible, it's a turn-on - and I have found that this varies from woman to woman, from time to time and from mood to mood. 'Accessible' is, of course, the key: an unreceptive woman - and the majority are unreceptive most of the time and very unreceptive indeed towards me - does not excite me. Conversely, openness and a sense of fun - a relaxed sensuality - definitely does. It's not a 'whole-body' thing, though I don't focus on genitalia because all kinds of places and all kinds of things have turned out to work as foreplay and as flat-out orgasms for one or both participants in a lively sexual relationship: it follows that I can find myself in 'focus' on anything that reminds me of such an occasion, in those moments when my mind wanders to sex during the working day.
As for how often that is, I would say nil per hour when I am totally focused on a programming task, or absorbed in a book. And probably every few minutes at all other times.
Thank you for this comment. You raise a really interesting point which no-one else has covered when you mention the effect of porn. I could definitely see an argument that many (perhaps the majority?) of teenage boys develop their sexuality via porn initially, whereas the majority of women discover sex either through advice magazines and YA books, or even only by actually getting into sexual relationships. And that might account for many of the observed differences between men and women.
I'm fairly sure that most of the differences, if they exist at all, are cultural, but so what? We aren't in a position to observe humans in their "pure, natural state", so all we can do is make observations about the reactions and preferences of humans in this particular culture. It annoys me when feminists argue that differences between sexes aren't innate, but are merely cultural; this seems a really pointless distinction since culture is in fact a major aspect of human biology!
Also a very interesting point about the whole body erogenous thing. That's much more useful precision than is normally discussed when people resort to stereotypes, and as I've said to several commenters, I am really delighted that you've chosen to talk honestly about intimate stuff.
i see that at this point i am the only person who answered "all the time" to the first question.
i should probably clarify: this is highly unusual, and has only been true for the last couple of weeks. before that i had no sex drive, except for short periods when i was initially sexually attracted to a person -- but even then i wouldn't think about sex a whole lot. generally, i think about sex much more intellectually, like i'll see something and think "oh, the *poing* would think that's hot". i am a high-quality porn purveyor for my partners, *snicker*, but those things don't usually arouse me. nothing much does; i have to purposely think of past arousing experiences, and i usually don't bother (unless it's so that i can masturbate myself to sleep when i have an insomnia attack).
even when i was a teenager i had a sluggish sex drive, so much so that i thought "drive? what's this 'drive' thing supposed to be?".
well, now i know.
it's somewhat amusing, but also quite ridiculous, to think about sex that much at my age. i don't know what set it off, but it's terribly distracting, and i am not getting much done. and i am hoping it stops soon. because i definitely don't want to spend my days cruising the net for yaoi (japanese drawn boy-on-boy porn).
Thanks for this comment. I very much appreciate that you've decided to document this phase of being sexually fixated publicly, both here and in your journal. I'm much in favour of people being honest and open about different forms of sexuality, I think it really helps to counter all the misinformation and stupid taboos that are out there. It does sound annoyingly distracting though, so you have my sympathy.
I also use masturbation as an insomnia cure; not that it really matters, but I'm somehow glad to know I'm not the only one.
Also, thanks for defining yaoi; I had seen the word around but was pretty hazy on what it meant, so the clarification is helpful.