This post is the first in a series I’m going to do looking at some study or other that I’ve come across. I can’t promise timeliness – today’s study is close to a decade old – but I will actually read the darn thing. Like, the actual journal article, not the press release or the Daily Mail distillation.
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
When you’re a highly sexual woman, I think you generally don’t get to talk as freely with girlfriends about sex, men, and relationships as other women do. There are dozens of little things to worry about. Will they think you’re pathetic/slutty/boastful/deluded/going to come on to their partner? &c.
Oftentimes, you can talk to men about these things, but then there’s another set of concerns. Or just one concern: that they will misinterpret your frequent desire to jump into bed as a desire to jump into bed with them, specifically. This can be awkward. Conversely, if you do want to jump into bed with someone, specifically, casually mentioning how much you love fucking is a clever seduction trick.
Anyhow, it was with this general wish to share and identify in mind that I googled, the other day, “highly sexual women” and “research”. I loooove research, so I’m not sure why looking for this had never occured to me before.
What I found was a wonderful 2003 paper by Eric S. Blumenthal, “The Lives and Voices of Highly Sexual Women”. It’s an exploratory study, done in the USA, based on semi-structured interviews with 44 mostly white women who self-identified as ‘highly sexual’ against the criteria:
(1) You typically desire sexual stimulation, typically to the point of orgasm, with yourself or a partner, six to seven times per week or more and act upon that desire whenever possible.
(2) You think of yourself as a highly sexual woman, sex is often on your mind, and it is an aspect of yourself that strongly and frequently affects your behaviour, and quality of life satisfaction.
(As an aside, I definitely place myself in the second category, not the first. I think about sex a lot every day, but I don’t necessarily feel I need it ‘six to seven times per week’, every week.)
A central fact
Blumenthal found that the women reported their lives had been “enormously affected by, if not completely organised around, their sexuality,” and that the influence of sexuality on their lives could not be overstated. Almost all of the participants said that being highly sexual was a ‘central fact’ of their lives – one that affected their relationships, activities and life choices, and occupied a major part of their time and energy.
It’s hard to put in words just how and why it is that knowing other people have felt the same things that you is so gratifying. It’s powerful, though. No joke, I cried when I read the first issue of Filament magazine, and I felt close to it reading Blumenthal’s study.
What does it mean to have your sexuality permeating your activities and life choices so thoroughly? For me, the ways in which this happens are subtle and perhaps, from the outside, unexpected. It’s not just that I have an open relationship or go to sex parties. It’s also my hobbies and my daily routines. For example, I love sewing and fashion. I enjoy them just for themselves, but, very consciously, they serve an ultimate purpose of attracting men to me, and enhancing my feelings of sexual confidence. Another example. Every weekday lunchtime, I go out. To get lunch, yes, but also to look at men, and have them look at me, as I walk around the city.
Most of the women in the study had struggled with living in a society that defined them in pejorative ways, and that had “mores and belief systems” that didn’t match their own behaviours. Some struggled painfully with self-hatred, while others were just conflicted about being different, afflicted, unfeminine. Most eventually overcame these conflicts, and a small, lucky group, generally with sex-positive or sex-neutral parents, experienced little internal conflict to begin with. One even reported feeling “blessed” by her highly sexual nature. Heartwarming!
With regard to societal attitudes, the participants reported being aware of being perceived negatively, or simply presumed not to exist. It’s this invisibility, not the negativity, which annoys and interests me most, so I loved this quote from one participant:
I think the stereotypes that bother me are that women generally don’t like to have sex or don’t want it. Even on like, “Mad About You” or some sitcom where they were talking about having sex, “See, I just make my grocery list in my head, while we’re having sex.” And I thought, “That’s terrible. What kind of message is that, you think about your grocery list, while your husband is making love to you?” [laughter]
Who among us hasn’t groaned watching some stupid sit-com joke about women not liking sex? I mean, I can even think of some series in which a good two-thirds of the humour turns on this.
In terms of social interactions, the women reported some negative effects. A fascinating finding, for me, was that every one of the women repeatedly mentioned the difficulty or impossibility of gaining sexual satisfaction from just one primary relationship. Some dealt with this by having short relationships, others by having multiple concurrent relationships (n.b. my preferred coping strategy!).
The paper gave some attention to friendships with other women, which could be difficult:
Many women reported experiencing a considerable amount of accusatory, rejecting, and judgemental behaviour because of the attitudes of other women toward them, particularly female friends and peer group members.
The participants generally attributed this to discomfort arising from other women’s lack of comfort with their own sexual feelings, or to the threat of competition that highly sexual women might create. Those who had found other highly sexual female friends that they could be open with were grateful, and those who hadn’t were sad or even bitter about it.
The good bits
A majority reported that their relationships with men were very comfortable. Some described a feeling of camaraderie that rings very true to me, others reported a more flirty, bantery type of relation, and a small group said that men were often frightened by their strong sexual energy (not a problem I’ve experienced).
Many women in the study reported that their strong sexual feelings had also positively influenced their personal growth and development:
They reported learning to make conscious choices about who they were and how they would live life. Many of them reported that the introspection and personal growth required to cope successfully with the intensity of their sexual desire had ultimately produced a self-confidence and sense of individuality that then generalized to other areas of their lives.
I mean, that’s fascinating, isn’t it? Pretty much the opposite of the popular imagination’s sad slut.
And lastly, well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Sexy pleasure!
The experience of life as a highly sexual woman was also reported to be filled with satisfactions and pleasure.
There aren’t really any good quotes on this, probably because it’s hard to describe, but the words ‘ecstasy’, ‘amazing’ and ‘rejuvenating’ featured.
It’s just a small, exploratory piece of research, so I was surprised by how much of it was familiar to me. And so! I give this study my highly-sexual-woman seal of approval.
If you’re a highly sexual woman and you want to feel like less of a freak for fifteen minutes, or if you want to sex a highly sexual woman and think you might seduce her by understanding her (hint – alternatively, just show her your abs!) check it out here.