Since I’m writing a handbook now, I’ve been rereading many of my favorite papers, and I thought, “Why not share some of this with the blog?”
So that’s what I’ll do. Today in #papersIlike, Laan and Both’s 2008 paper in “Feminism and Psychology,” “What Makes Women Experience Desire?“
In this 2008 paper they lay out the accumulated evidence, from psychophysiological studies, about:
- Arousal nonconcordance (“In the psychophysiological studies on women cited above, we consistently found that these readily elicited automatic genital responses are not strongly correlated with subjective sexual feelings.“)
- Context dependent perception of sensations. (“These findings support our idea that men’s sexual feelings are primarily determined by peripheral feedback from the genitals, but that women’s sexual feelings are more informed by the meaning the sexual stimulus generates….Thus, women’s sexual distress seems largely unrelated to genital response, but is related to context – that is, to the circumstances of their sexual lives.” – emphasis mine)
- Why pharmaceutical treatment for women’s sexual dissatisfaction is unlikely to prove effective (“In women who for medical reasons have clear, demonstrated, neurotransmitter or hormonal deficiencies, it will probably be helpful to replenish these agents, but this will never be sufficient to activate the sexual system.“)
So you can see why I like this paper. It’s basically a summary of the science that informs my essential message on this blog: it is DIFFERENT for girls.
And I’ll just let them conclude with their own words:
Lack of adequate sexual stimulation – a possible result of lack of knowledge, bad technique, lack of attention for, or negative emotions to, sexual stimuli – or a myriad of different relationship issues seem to better explain the absence of sexual feelings and genital response. Probably the best cure for women’s sexual problems is helping women to allow themselves to
be sexual, and to work on the circumstances that may help them to be so.
This conclusion is, of course, empirically testable. Let’s get a couple hundred women in good relationships who nevertheless experience low desire, and let’s provide them with greater knowledge, better technique, more attention and friendlier emotions about sexual stimuli, and see if they get better.
Someone do that study. I’ll gladly provide the knowledge and attitude materials.
In the meantime: Ellen Laan and Stephanie Both. When you see their names attached to a psychophys study on sexual response, you know you’re in for a treat. My own tendency is to bounce in my seat and clap, but you may prefer to giggle behind your hand or to gasp, wideeyed and gape-mouthed, and then break out in a lucky-me grin.