Why Women Have Sex

Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)

by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss

306 pp. | $25.00

Reviewed By Elizabeth Sher

A Long Winded Research Project About the Physiology and Psychology of Female Sexual Behavior.

david buss author

The authors are both psychology professors from the University of Texas, Austin. Cindy Meston, PhD, and David M. Buss, PhD, offer insights into female sexuality from their extensive research. Why Women Have Sex is a book of research project results that are based on new research, including previous researches from the authors. The geographical areas surveyed in this research include women in the United States, Belgium, France and Italy. Why Women Have Sex appears to have been inspired by the classic 1966 Masters and Johnson’s book, The Human Sexual Response. The authors, William H. Masters (1915-2001) and Virginia E. Johnson (b. 1925) were researchers who encouraged studies on sexual psychophysiology; in fact, they encouraged the beginnings of such research.

The area where the book, Why Women Have Sex, falls short is its length. The book is too tedious for the casual reader and its number of quotes is excessive. There are over sixty quotes in the first one hundred pages alone and there are almost three hundred pages that include bibliographic footnotes, as well as an index. Instead of being a concise, inspiring read, it tends to be on the pedantic, scholarly side. When I finished reading this book, I had lost interest in learning about female sexuality.

The book’s chapters include information about attraction, being in love, jealousy, conquest, pleasure, competition, revenge and pacts. These topical areas are all too familiar to the average popular non-fiction reader. Other topics include sexual abuse and sex as punishment.

Cindy Meston focuses more on the physiological origins of female sexuality. Dr. Meston covers these topics, as well, including physiological measures such as fMRI (functional MRI) test results (to “identify areas of the brain involved in human sexual response and behavior.”) and other medical measures, such as the adaptations that shape female sexual behaviors. With brief descriptions of animal behavior, Darwinism, genetics, major compatibility complexes, erogenous zones and various other kinds of research, the reader obtains insights into the biology of sex.

I was surprised that there were no graphs, tables or photographs to illustrate the book’s ideas. The topics herein are all covered in popular fiction, such as Psychology Today, talk shows and soap operas, offering very few new insights. Although the authors mention female sexual behaviors in non-heterosexuals, including bisexual and polygamous women, the range of different ethnic cultures is scarcely explored.

There are quite a number of times when sex occurs as a result of jealousy, revenge and aggression, including experiences of betrayal and deception. These are overriding themes in quite a number of the quotations. On page 90, a woman mentions, “Thinking that if I had sex then he would be interested in me…Nope…That is all he wanted in me. On page 53, “The reason I had sex with my ex-husband? I was young...I thought by having sex it would ensure a committed relationship…and the more that we made love, I thought the more he must love me, I was a fool.”

Each woman frequently has a clear, unique motive. The result of the study yields over 237 reasons why women have sex but it is not clearly reflected in the survey responses. The research is based on an exhaustive survey of 1,006 female research participants and their sexual motives. The findings include statistics, facts, cross-cultural study results and sexual experiences.

Why Women Have Sex offers the reader a glimpse into a wide range of female sexual surveys and a very good theoretical historical survey of sex, as well as other related topics. The book is an important, but ultimately tiresome work covering the psychology and physiology of female sexuality.

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