We’ve all heard that men are more visually stimulated then women, but the main difference might be that men are just more likely to admit to it.
On Oprah yesterday, it was revealed that 1 out of 3 consumers of internet pornography are women, but the majority of female porn users keep it a secret. Recent studies have also shown that women are just as sexually aroused by viewing pornography as men are, and and other ways behave similiarly to men when it comes to sex.
It appears that women’s and men’s sexual behavior is much more similiar then previously realized, women are just less honest about it because of the whole stud/slut double standard. A lot of what has been known about sexuality comes from questionaires, but self-reports are unreliable. This was learned in a recent study, where men and women were surveyed about their sexual behaviors. Later, the men and women were asked the same questions, but were led to believe they were undergoing a polygraph test. Women’s answers changed significantly when they believed their lies would be detected, while men’s anwers changed little. Not suprisingly, it was found that men did exaggrate their sexuality to some extent, while women denied being as sexual as they actually were. Based on the honest responses to questions about sexuality, women’s and men’s sexual behavior is incredibly similiar. A lot of what we’ve learned about sexuality is based on surveys that just aren’t accurate.
One difference found in women’s and men’s physical reaction to pornograpy was that women were more turned on by viewing other women then men were viewing other men. This is not at all surprising when the vast majority of sexualized images we see throughout our lives are of women, not of men. Because men admit to being turned on by lesbian behavior, it makes sense that women are less likely to repress their sexual attractions to other women. Think about it, if men were as commonly objectified and women said men together was hot, the number of bisexual men would eventually increase too.
Even though more men admit to using and enjoying pornography, that doesn’t mean that women are less capable of visual stimulation. It appears that the biggest difference between men’s and women’s sexuality is what’s considered normal and acceptable, ideas that were created at a time when women had little independance or power. The idea that men are turned on by the image of a naked women is not only socially acceptable, but is expected. That’s not true for women. Few women will even admit they are attracted to a naked male body.
To a great extent, objectification is a learned behavior, men learn to do it, women learn not to. As children, boys and girls learn not to stare and that the genitals are private. Many boys aren’t immediately comfortable staring at women’s bodies, seeing pornographic images, or admitting to porn use or masturbation. But boys are told that it is normal to enjoy porn, and even recieve messages that it’s abnormal not to. Over time, they become comfortable. Girls rarely become anywhere close to as comfortable staring at or objectifying the male body.
Despite women’s interest in pornography, the vast majority of porn is made for the pleasure of either gay or straight men. A lot of the men in straight porn aren’t even that attractive. Women can change this, but we must have the courage to admit we to are sexual beings too. Until that occurs, we cannot expect that women and men will be held to the same standards in their sexual behavior, and women will continue to be ashamed of and repress their sexuality.