Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Women have a complicated relationship with sex. Or, rather, researchers are always telling us that we do. Attitudes about sexuality have generally been governed by evolutionary psychology. A prime example is a 1989 study about casual sex, which found that 70% of men will have sex with a stranger (if asked), but no women would. Seriously, as in 0%.
Terri Conley, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, set out to investigate how researchers came to such conclusions. When it comes to claims about women and sex, Conley simply says: Prove it.
“These gender differences that everyone knows exist, and they know they’ll always exist, and they’re biological — when I started pressing on them I found that a lot of those assumptions hadn’t really been tested,” she told The Cut. So, Conley's taking these "facts" about the sexuality of men and women and actually testing them. Novel idea, no? It turns out that the theories aren't holding up. In fact, almost 50% of the time, women said "yes" to an offer for casual sex in her study.
While evolutionary psychology suggests that women pass on casual sex due to an inherent lack of sexual desire, Conley says there's an entirely different reason. She posits that women say "thanks, but no thanks" for fear of being judged. She also says that women have serious reservations about whether a one-night stand would be enjoyable with a new partner. She tries to explain to men, "The reason women are turning you down for casual sex seems to be that, for one thing, a lot of you are calling them sluts afterward." Also, "A lot of you aren't bothering to try to be good in bed." Preach.
Conley's future research will focus on how men define sex and if monogamy is the best option for either gender. We're happy to see someone tackling the age-old myth that women don't want sex. Because we do. Like, yesterday. (The Cut)