Sex Drive: Do Women Have More of Id?
An ad for unbelievably reflective glasses? Or is there a meaning hidden in the reflection?
Source: Janwillembreure w/ CC BY-SA 4.0 license, cropped and avail. under the same license.
It begun with Do Women Have A Higher Sex Drive? showing up on my "new torrents" feed (which I only follow out of curiosity, obviously). I already had two posts in the making, but this was too intriguing to leave for later. I dove research-first into the topic and left the doc for last, a format I'll follow with this post (series of posts, as it turned out).
I didn't begin with any preconceived notion as to what the answer was: it could go either way.
It didn't, it went quite Pointer-doggedly in one direction and never wavered. As far as the research goes, there isn't really any room for debate at the moment: there is one sex that out-giggidys the other in every metric relevant to sex drive.
A quick note on the importance of differences
Many women like to say that "women and men are equal — but different". Why is being different important? The way I like to put it is this: if women aren't any different from men, then there's no real necessity for women to participate politically and socially — to vote, for example — since their interests will be represented by the men when they vote.
Same can be said about seats in parliaments, juries, and such: if women and men aren't any different, then what does it matter who you put in charge or in a jury? All possible points of view will be fully covered by the men, and in the same proportions. Adding women won't give you different results or points of view, because men and women are the same.
I therefore see the field of sex differences as contributing to equality rather than undermining it. Same goes for the question of whether one sex desires sex more than the other sex (that was oddly phrased, but you get what I mean), to which we now earnestly turn.
Which of these two is the malakas? Watch this video for one possible answer.
Source: European People's Party w/ CC BY 2.0 license & MODIS image captured by NASA’s Terra satellite w/ Public Domain license.
In Greece and Cyprus we have a friendly slang form of address: μαλάκα "malaka" (mah-LAH-kah). It's sometimes used just as a greeting when you see someone, like saying "hey man!"
Malaka is indeed used just for men (though there is a rare form μαλάκω (mah-LAH-koh) for women), and it literally means a person who masturbates. It's similar to calling someone a jerkoff or a wanker, the difference being that there's no negative connotations in Greek as long as you use it with your crew/gang. (See wiki for more.)
So don't go around using the word indiscriminately to impress Greeks on your knowledge of their language! (Granted, I may have been guilty, during my uni years, of instructing people who asked me "how do you say 'hello' in Greek?", to say "είσαι μαλάκας" (you are a malaka), and then laughing as I watched them practice their newfound language skills on unsuspecting Greek speakers. But that was then and now I'm a serious person, as this post bears witness.)
Reason I'm mentioning these malakies, is because there might be deeper folk wisdom in the use of the word to refer singly to men than first meets the ear. Consider the following quote, taken from a sex differences metastudy totalling 128,363 participants:
The largest gender difference revealed among the sexual behavior measures was for masturbation incidence.
Yes: when it comes to masturbation, men leave women in the dust (unsettled because of all the huffing and fapping).
We can therefore view the popular Greek greeting word malakas (=masturbator) as densely encapsulated folk wisdom, one that furthermore respects our ancient Greek heritage. After all, Aristotle instructed us to name a thing after its distinguishing feature: the thing that makes it different from everything else, or from the thing it's being juxtaposed to. Since both men and women are already human (anthropos), the logical way to further differentiate between the two would be to name the male after the largest sex difference. The word malakas for "man" would fit such a role perfectly and would make (one assumes) our philosophical forefathers distinctly proud.
(I write this as an elaborate joke, but as I'm reading it again I'm half-convinced by my mock-argument. I'm that good.)
How does masturbation relate to sex drive?
It's rather obvious:
masturbation may be a manifestation of generalized sex drive or libido
May be? Boy these scientists take great pains not to overstate their case. And that's why we trust them! (and love them 💘 )
Source: Vicchi w/ CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
"All that's well and good," you say, "but what are the specific numbers?"
They differ depending on the study, but men always pop significantly higher (on the bar charts, I mean). Kinsey, one of the earliest sexual researchers, found that only one third of the women he interviewed had masturbated, and the rest experienced their first arousal as a result of physical-social contact with a male (as opposed to males who can get aroused just visually). A later re-analysis of the Kinsey data found that men experienced their first sexual arousal at age 12 and women at age 26!! (style guides consider the extra exclamation mark redundant, but to me that finding deserves it).
The Kinsey research was from 1929, and you might think sexual repression or outright lying is a better explanation of the findings. True, the differences are less now than they used to be, but they're still significant. In a 1990 study, participants recorded their masturbation frequency over a week. "Approximately 45% of men reported masturbating once or twice a week compared to approximately 15% of women." In an extensive University of Chicago survey from 1994, "approximately 27% of men surveyed reported masturbating at least once a week, compared to approximately 8% of women.
And the authors of a 1986 study outright state that their results don't differ from the Kinsey ones mentioned above, because girls simply date much earlier than they used to, but it's still true (according to their data) that women mostly feel aroused when partnered or dating. So all that's changed really is our sexual precociousness, not the sex differences.
Do women feel guiltier when they masturbate?
Someone's very ashamed of what she's doing.
Source: MaxPixel w/ CC0 Public Domain license.
I sense that you are not entirely convinced it's not all just due to social pressure and the differences between how men and women are raised, so here's a couple more data that might sway you.
That females reported a significantly lower incidence of masturbation than did males was especially interesting given the small gender difference revealed for attitudes toward masturbation.
That's right: a key finding that may argue against the interpretation of this masturbation difference as internalized repression or other socialization explanations, is that there was virtually no sex difference in how males and females regarded their sexual feelings. This is mirrored by all research: women don't claim to feel more guilty about their sexual feelings (e.g. masturbation, coitus, spontaneous arousal) than men do (at least not to the point where the difference becomes significant), yet they experience these states "at a fraction of the male rate".
You might say, "women may not feel guiltier, but they may lie anyway, to match what society expects of them".
If the fact that the surveys are anonymous doesn't cut it for you, and you're still worried that women might under-report their masturbatory affairs, don't, 'cause men do it too:
Clark and Tifft used polygraph data to demonstrate that male college undergraduates underreported masturbation to a greater degree than any other sexual behavior (even including homosexual behavior and forced heterosexual intercourse).
It's therefore very likely that the relative sex differences in masturbation frequency are accurate, even if the absolute masturbation frequency reports are not.
Are men encouraged to masturbate?
"Let us eat, drink, and masturbate." (I may be paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 8:15 just a weenie bit.)
Source: John Snyder & Med Chaos w/ CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses, modified and avail. under the same licenses as the originals.
Another objection might move away from the claim of negatively reinforcing female masturbation and more toward the claim of positively reinforcing male masturbation. In other words, perhaps men are more encouraged to masturbate.
As a person who has grown up with urban-legend-type warnings that masturbators will grow hair on their palms, will go blind, or will fail to grow in stature — and who is aware of no equivalent warnings against female masturbation — let me reply to that objection with this:
chimps with erections stimulated by the sight of bananas.
Sorry, I'm having issues organizing my quote library again. What I meant to say was:
No. Just ... No.
But don't just take my anecdotal experience for it. Here's an academic quote for you (unbacked by any research as far as I'm aware):
the warnings about blindness and insanity (as putative consequences of masturbation) were mainly directed at young males, not females.
Want something more research-backed? I got just the thing for you: you see, as a person who grew up in a highly religious island-country, I am aware of no double standards when it comes to masturbation, religiously speaking. Kant for one was pretty clear about it: you can't. And this leads us to the research I promised.
You see, when it comes to clerical vows of celibacy, there are no double standards, there are no two ways about it period:
Among Catholic Christian clergy, both men and women take profoundly important and sacred vows to forego all sexual gratification throughout life. The single standard of absolute purity is thus clear to both priests and nuns. Yet the evidence suggests that nuns are far more successful than priests at achieving that ideal.
The evidence referred to is a questionnaire survey by Murphy, with a clerical sample of several hundred, in which she found that nuns had "significantly greater success at celibacy" than priests.
Hey, if threats of insanity and blindness and hairiness and shortness of stature didn't do it, I didn't expect a holy vow would.
But seriously: abstaining from masturbation is, at least according to the personal experience of yours truly, quite biologically impossible. Verily I say unto you, if I tried to remain abstinent for a month, I wouldn't be able to fall asleep. Which means that in due course I'd be having hallucinations, most probably involving me having sex with imaginary people. (This might partly explain the great number of visions and miracles in monasteries.)
I know, I know: the kind of reader I tend to attract is not exactly a sucker for unsubstantiated anecdotes. So here, unbelieving Thomases:
Over a period of 4 years we contacted thousands of college students to solicit their participation in a study of voluntary sexual abstinence. The study required keeping a brief daily log of arousal feelings during a 2-week base period and a 1-month abstinence period. Almost 300 women, 10% of the total number solicited, volunteered for this study.
Those women who participated had no difficulty finishing the study. A total of 15 men volunteered, of whom only six were able to complete the abstinence period.
Those 6 should have a statue raised to them. But not before they passed a polygraph test.
So there goes the "male masturbation encouragement/reward" objection. Take it from an autodidact when I say, "no one ever taught me how to masturbate". And I'm not alone:
Arafat and Cotton [...] found that half the girls and more than half the boys (who masturbated) said they discovered it themselves. An equal number of boys and girls learned about masturbation from friends (30.9% of boys, 29.3% of girls) and siblings (2.6% of boys, 3.9% of girls). The high rates of self-taught masturbation suggest that it is not a technically recondite, esoteric practice. Anyone who wants to masturbate can probably figure out how to do it.
Yes, us boys don't steal away at night to go to our underground krifo scholio where we learn masturbation secrets passed down through the gender line and unrevealed to girls.
PC is all about policing what you put out, not what you keep in.
Source: Nikolaos Gyzis in Public Domain, modified.
Source: MaxPixel w/ CC0 Public Domain license.
A little thing that might not have gone unnoticed by the OCD reader, was when I said that "women don't claim to feel more guilty about their sexual feelings [...] at least not to the point where the difference becomes significant".
Ah, you got me there, right? "The difference exists, even though it's not significant," you say.
And you're absolutely right, there's research that says that men feel guiltier about their onanisms. For example:
Arafat and Cotton’s [...] finding that more males (13%) than females (10%) reported feeling guilty after masturbation. By the same token, more males than females said they regarded their masturbatory activities as perverse (5% vs. 1%). Thus, if anything, guilt weighs more heavily on men.
Of course there's other research that says females feel guiltier. But the ambiguity is precisely why the sex difference in attitudes toward masturbation should be deemed non-existent.
So it appears it's just genuine lack of desire that prevents women from masturbating as much as men.
Do sex differences in masturbation lead to conflict between men and women?
They're both trying to pull the Pope, but one is pulling harder. I meant rope. Damned autocorrect.
Source: MaxPixel w/ CC0 Public Domain license.
For those of you who think that sex differences in masturbation are innocuous, I wrote this last section just for you!
Remember the first quote in this post, from a meta-analysis representing the testing of 128,363 participants? (This was done by 2 female feminist researchers. I don't know if it matters that much of the research I cite is conducted by females, but some argue it does, so I'm mentioning it parenthetically.)
And so this meta-analysis, examining a wide range of sexual attitudes and behaviors, such as premarital sex and attitudes toward gays, found the largest sex differences to be in the frequency of masturbation and attitudes toward casual sex. One of the authors enjoins us to note that other sex differences, like differences in mathematical or verbal abilities, pale in comparison. "Notice that these differences are enormous", the author says regarding the differences in sexuality. "We need much more attention in theory and research to these very large differences."
The same author emphasizes that in many areas sex differences are non-existent (e.g. attitudes toward civil liberties for gays or toward masturbation) or moderate (e.g. sex in a committed relationship).
So now that we're all caught up, let's go back to "those of you think sex differences in masturbation are innocuous". The aforementioned author notes that anorgasmia is "common among women and rare among men", and she cites sex therapists who believe that this might be the result of lack of experience with, and knowledge of, one's body. (A water canal seldom dug flows less readily, let's say.) To drive the point home:
Sex therapists and marital therapists also tell us that anorgasmia is a source of marital or relationship conflict between men and women. The wife is upset with the husband for not being skillful in bringing her to orgasm, and at the same time the husband feels inadequate. So, in short, the gender difference in masturbation may indeed be related to male-female conflict in close relationships.
And there's much more where that came from, but I'm afraid I need to bring this to a close, since I feel my readership dwindling as I write. I'll just have to write more posts about the sex drive of the two sexes, and how men out-sex women in almost every regard.
Sleeves all rolled up and ready to fap.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration w/ Public Domain license, modified.
All available research puts men above women when it comes to masturbation frequency and urgency.
Masturbation is (at least prima facie — that's Latin for "on the face of it") a reliable indicator of sex drive.
It's possible that women have been taught to feel more guilty about masturbation, or to want to hide it from those who disapprove of it, but (a) usually the research is anonymous (b) if women under-report masturbation, so do men (c) the actual research shows no sex differences when it comes to attitudes toward masturbation (d) there is some non-significant research that shows that men in fact feel guiltier about masturbating (e) there is anecdotal evidence that stories about hairy palms are directed only toward men (f) there's Kant (g) research conducted in environments in which men and women are held to the exact same standard of sexual purity, show that priests fail where nuns succeed.
This sex difference in masturbation is not without a possible negative impact on relationships.
Last but not least, I have with this post scientifically vindicated our Ancient-Greek-pedigreed national curse-word.
A last objection I feel might be lurking, is something to the effect that, "but of course women won't masturbate as much as men: people masturbate because they can't get the real thing, and women can get laid whenever they want!"
This has already been partly covered, in passing, by the meta-analysis above that found the largest sex differences to be in masturbation and attitudes toward casual sex. But there's a lot more to be said, about how men consume pornography to a larger extent, about how "[w]omen have been encouraged to want sex within marriage, but they still want less than men", about how often men think about sex compared to women, and so on, topics I'll be writing about in the future.
And so keep following, and I'll keep you posted!
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Earlier Sex Differences episodes: