Posted at 2:20 PM Sep 29, 2009
By Andrea Grimes
If you, like me, want to stab yourself in the eyes every time you read the words "evolutionary psychology," you should take this opportunity to find your favorite sharp object. I like to use an ancient Native American arrowhead, because it's ironic. Something to do with early man and tools, I guess.
Okay. Got your ice pick/switchblade/shard of glass ready? Awesome. In Why Women Have Sex, a new book from evolutionary psychologist David Buss and clinical psychologist Cindy Meston, all your burning questions about why you have sex are answered. The Guardian sums up the survey of a whopping 1,006 women (I mean, that's a pretty good sample out of 3 or so billion, right?) from "all over the world" (I'm sure they totally covered most of it) thusly:
Meston and Buss have interviewed 1,006 women from all over the world about their sexual motivation, and in doing so they have identified 237 different reasons why women have sex. Not 235. Not 236. But 237. And what are they? From the reams of confessions, it emerges that women have sex for physical, emotional and material reasons; to boost their self-esteem, to keep their lovers, or because they are raped or coerced. Love? That's just a song. We are among the bad apes now.
Raise your hand if "love" seemed to you like the obvious and only reason women have sex. Yeah. How "physical, emotional and material reasons" are surprising sex motivators, I don't know--after all, women have been having sex (and been forced to have sex) with people they didn't love for, oh, thousands of years now. But lo, the evolutionary psychologists were verily shocked by the complicated brains of these little ladies surveyed:
"We never ever expected it to be so diverse," she says. "From the altruistic to the borderline evil." Evil? "Wanting to give someone a sexually transmitted infection," she explains. I turn to the book. I am slightly afraid of it. Who wants to have their romantic fantasies reduced to evolutional processes?
I mean really! Who would expect actual living, breathing, thinking human beings to have diverse reasons to do something as common as having sex? Especially since ladies like babies and marriage and pink stuff ... how could they possibly use and be used by sex? BRAINSPLODE.
The results of the study itself can be fascinating and empowering, of course. Explaining that women have sex for a variety of reasons and that they can and do use sex for power as well as pleasure, out of social obligation and emotional need, and on and on, is a good way to destigmatize female pleasure. But couching it in this shocked, "How could this happen?" attitude from the authors colors the entire work: self-directed, self-described, self-motivated female sexuality is abnormalized and exceptionalized, even in a study that supposedly tries to find what's normal. Then again, a lot of popularized ev psych seems largely to be concerned with shocking disbelief in any self-motivated action, especially on behalf of women. Really, ladies, just succumb to your mating-crazy monkey-brain and quit asking questions.