According to a recent study highlighted in Men’s Health, “Guys are just hornier” than women. The University of Texas researchers stated that men are less selective about their partners because women risk pregnancy when they have sex and therefore need to be more careful about who they take to bed.
It’s the same argument that we’ve been hearing for years and years: women are less sexual than men because they have more to lose. That’s why the ladies push for intimacy and connection, while men are more interested in solely the sex act.
But what if that story turned out to be a myth? What if everything you thought you knew about human sexuality – and female desire in particular – turned out to be false?
Let’s start at the beginning.
In order to truly understand what’s going on here, we have to take it way back to pre-human times. Best way to do that? Take a look at the apes.
The conventional theory of evolution states that humans evolved from chimps, our closest genetic relations. Studies of chimp behavior show them to be extremely violent: they engage in warfare, political calculations, and rape. Chimps exist in male-dominated societies, with each alpha-male violently protecting his harem of females from any other dude chimp who happens to wander into his territory.
If we evolved from chimps, we can extrapolate information about “natural” human sexual behavior; namely that because chimps are male-dominated and violent, with multiple females “belonging” to each male, it makes sense then that humans are as well.
Patriarchy and violence, then, are simply genetic.
Evolutionary biologist Christopher Ryan blows that conventional theory out of the water with his book, Sex at Dawn. According to Ryan, hypothesizing about the origins of human behavior by examining chimp activity is faulty because we may not have evolved from them at all.
I know it sounds crazy, but it turns out that there’s another type of ape that are genetically as closely related to us as apes are. They’re called bonobos and as far as genetics go, it’s a fifty-fifty toss up.
If chimps are the warring tribes, bonobos are basically a bunch of lazy hippies who spend their time eating, hanging out, socializing, and having sex. They exist in female-dominated societies and solve in-group conflicts by having orgies.
Ryan believes that we’re most likely evolved from the peacenik bonobos and not the violent, warmongering apes. His draws his theory from the fact that female bonobos closely resemble human females: they have front-facing vaginas (which allows them to have missionary-style sex), they kiss and look into each other’s eyes when they’re copulating, and they have sex even when the female isn’t ovulating.
This is starting to sound very, very familiar…
One distinguishing characteristic of female bonobos is something that Ryan refers to as “copulatory vocalization, “ which, in layman’s terms, means that they’re loud when they’re doing it. Female bonobos call out during sex, not to further arouse the male they’re have sex with but to attract other males in the area.
Female bonobos actually change the timbre and tone of their calls based on the social ranking of the male that they’re currently with. Other males in the area can tell the ranking of that male from the sounds she puts out and then determine whether they’re higher or lower ranking than he is. While the lower-ranking males will end up ignoring the female’s call, the higher ones will come find her and have sex with her after the previous male has ejaculated and fallen asleep.
The ladies aren’t looking for someone to take care of or provide for them. They’re looking for the strongest and healthiest genetic match so that their offspring will survive. That’s it. That’s their motivation.
But why should you care about monkey gangbangs?
The conventional belief that men want to spread their seed and women are looking for a provider to care for them and their offspring doesn’t fit at all with this image of our female ancestors being willing and able to take on as many suitors as are available.
According to Ryan, that disconnect is because the promiscuous male/faithful female model is based firmly in the functioning of agricultural societies. With the introduction of agriculture 10,000 years ago, humans suddenly had property – a concept that evolved to include wife and children, as well as land and animals – to defend and claim as their own.
While 10,000 years might seem like a long time, it’s important to remember that (by some estimates) the human race has been around for around 200,000 years. For the majority of our evolution, therefore, we were hunting and foraging for our food and living in small societies in which everyone was obligated to look out for each other’s survival if they wanted to live themselves. Under this model, Ryan posits, there was no need to be assured of paternity and there was even less need for the women to seek the protection of one male.
So which model is accurate: chimps or bonobos?
Chimps fit if we’re looking at agricultural human society as our representation of “natural” humanity, but the bonobos are a much better fit for our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors. That means that we got it all wrong with our assumptions about male promiscuity and female need for protection.
Turns out, it’s the ladies that both like and need to get it on with multiple partners and the guys don’t really give a shit about whether or not the kids are theirs.
Meanwhile, back in the 21st century…
Meredith Chivers is conducting experiments on human sexuality at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada. One of the top experts in her field, Chivers has been peeking inside of people’s brains through a serious of experiments that are revealing truly surprising things about human sexuality.
In one experiment, Chivers hooked up straight and gay men and women to machines called plethysmographs in order to measure physical manifestations of arousal and then showed them a serious of videos. The videos included a variety of porn (heterosexual, gay, lesbian, a masturbating man, a masturbating woman, a well-built naked man walking on a beach, and a naked woman doing calisthenics) as well as a video of bonobos getting it on.
Yup, you read that right. Monkey porn.
While the men in this study responded to images that matched their professed preference – male on male sex and male masturbating for the gay men, heterosexual intercourse, and anything with the ladies for the straight guys – the women responded to everything…even the bonobos!
The takeaway from this experiment is that, despite the popular image of the man who can’t keep it in his pants while because wifey is waiting frigidly at home, perhaps women are, in fact, the sexually insatiable gender.
While Chivers seems reluctant to come right out and say that women are hornier than men, journalist Daniel Bergner has no such qualms. His book What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire examines the experiments done by Chivers and other sex researchers and comes to the conclusion that, at least biologically speaking, women are in fact more easily aroused and less suited to monogamy than men.
On top of Chivers’ experiment, Bergner points to another study that starred Diedrah, a rhesus monkey that he told Salon was his “favorite character” in What Do Women Want? Contrary to the popular understanding that male primates are the aggressors, Bergner observed Diedrah “sexually stalking” the male rhesus monkey that was the object of her desire. This total role reversal shocked Bergner and made him realize that there’s a whole lot about female sexuality that both science and popular culture has been ignoring.
Another example Bergner gives in Salon that highlights our lack of knowledge of female sexuality is the fact that science didn’t even officially discover the fact that the clitoris isn’t just a little nub until 2009. That’s right, everyone: the clit is actually as big and possible even bigger than the penis.
Before your minds are taken over by images of ladies with massively engorged clitorises, let me clarify. The part that you probably know as the clit (the little button that ladies love to rub because it has 8,000 nerve endings on it) is actually just the tip of the iceberg. Stretching out below that visible part, the female body actually has an entire internal clitoral shaft that become erect when aroused, just like a penis.
Add that to the fact that women can have multiple orgasms and are physically capable of having intercourse at any time and suddenly it’s painfully clear that women’s bodies have been telling us all along that the ladies really, really like to do it.
So, Men’s Health…Our monkey ancestors were all about it, women get turned on by basically everything, and our primary sex organ is more sensitive and potentially bigger than a penis. I guess that just leaves one question:
Are you really sure men are hornier?