By Carrie Weisman
With some exceptions, gender constructs have served men well in the modern world. It’s landed them in more high-powered positions. It’s gotten them higher wages. And, yeah, it’s given them license to pursue sex in ways that would lead women to be ostracized or shamed. In her new book Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women Lust and Adultery Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, author Wednesday Martin digs into the damage incurred through this “boys will be boys” mentality. And she blows a whistle on the many biases that have boxed their female counterparts into such sexually constrained identities.
Fatherly spoke to Martin about what authentic sexuality looks like in women and how men can help them find their own special shade.
A lot of Untrue is about adultery. Why was it important for you to look into how women function in relationship to non-monogamy?
Infidelity is really a great test case for how we actually feel about gender parity. We have people who believe women should make the same amount men do. We have people who believe that women should hold political office. But how do they feel when women seize a privilege that has historically belonged to men, the privilege of not being monogamous? We don’t have any autonomy if we don’t have the autonomy to do what we want with our bodies.
This book really looks at how science and social science has conspired to put out a narrative that keeps women from attaining sexual autonomy. We think it’s physical violence, coercion, and slut-shaming that keep women in their place within this culture, but it’s also bad science and bad social science. So much of it has been abused to coerce women into monogamy and to discourage us from being sexually autonomous.
How does that message relate to the current cultural climate? How does it relate to the ways in which women are now asserting their sexual autonomy?
In terms of the #MeToo movement, well, I feel like bad science brought us to this moment. There’s been inaccurate science that posits that men are naturally sexually aggressive and that the male sexual coercion of females is natural. There’s a lot of more recent science that tells us that’s not true. I think a lot of that bad, biased science helped bring our culture to a point of crisis.
What are some other misconceptions surrounding female sexual identity and desire?
There is some research to suggest that the institutionalization of a relationship, whether it’s marriage or moving in together, dampens female sexual desire even more than male desire. There are studies that document women talking marriage and long-term partnership as anaphrodisiacs, as something that dampens sexual desire. They talk about familiarity and security killing their libidos. Men need to understand this about the women that they’re with. These women need sexual adventure just as much as men do.
Okay. That’s probably going to unnerve or surprise some guys out there. And maybe that’s indicative of the issue. Why do you think so many women have a hard time coming out about their genuine attitude towards polyamory and other nonconforming sexual behaviors?
You pay a high price for being honest about your sexual desires in this culture. Everything from slut-shaming to lethal violence to someone just thinking that you’re weird. Women who do step out face a lot of danger. In this country, so many mass shootings involve men trying to control women who have left them. And a lot of the triggers don’t even involve infidelity, but the suspicion of infidelity. It’s still really dangerous for women to exercise that really basic form of autonomy within the U.S.
How can men help women feel safe speaking about their desires?
I think men need to educate themselves. They need to understand the female erectile network, the extensiveness of the clitoris, the possibility of multiple orgasms, the fact that we have no refractory period. This all seems to suggest, to me, that women really evolved for sexual pleasure and serial sexual pleasure.
What about guys in monogamous relationships with wives who are not likely to be experiencing serial sexual pleasure any time soon? How can they help their partners enjoy a more diverse sex life?
I wrote the book to be a conversation starter between women and their partners. Men should know that some women really struggle with monogamy. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to go invite a “third” into the bedroom as a way to attain novelty. But it should encourage men to step up their game. Buy her a sex toy. Talk about sexual fantasies. Watch porn together. Go on adventures that have nothing to do with sex. Go on a zip line. Learn to tango. Take a trip. Remember, adrenaline can deliver a similar feeling to what sexual novelty gives us. These are all options if you don’t want to seek out adventure by way of consensual non-monogamy.
What about men with daughters? How can they impart healthier sexual attitudes?
It would be extremely helpful to start educating kids about female sexual pleasure at home. It’s important we teach them that women are more than an extension of male desire. Girls are more than precious little things who have to protect themselves from the boys. They are thinking, feeling people who have an amazingly evolved sexual anatomy with an extremely high capacity for pleasure. This is really basic information that kids aren’t getting in school.
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