The truth about female desire: It's base, animalistic and ravenous

A new book on women's sexuality turns everything we think we know on its head

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published June 2, 2013 12:30AM (EDT)

    (<a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/user_view.php?id=2942461'>AleksandarNakic</a> via <a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/'>iStock</a>)
(AleksandarNakic via iStock)

There is a conspiracy theory at the heart of this book. Even to the most casual observer of human history, it isn’t news that women’s sexuality has been feared, suppressed and lied about. But "What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire" by journalist Daniel Bergner uses groundbreaking sex research to show the ways in which our supposedly enlightened society still has female sexuality backward -- completely, utterly, profoundly.

In accessible and entertaining prose, "What Do Women Want?" details everything from individual women's fantasies to the search for a "female Viagra." More important, though, it represents a complete paradigm shift. The book, which grew from a much-discussed New York Times Magazine cover story in 2009, reveals how gender stereotypes have shaped scientific research and blinded researchers to evidence of female lust and sexual initiation throughout the animal kingdom, including among humans. It reveals how society's repression of female sexuality has reshaped women's desires and sex lives.

Bergner, and the leading sex researchers he interviews, argue that women's sexuality is not the rational, civilized and balancing force it's so often made out to be -- that it is base, animalistic and ravenous, everything we've told ourselves about male sexuality. As one researcher tells Bergner of all the restrictions put on female sexuality: "Those barriers are a testament to the power of the drive itself. It’s a pretty incredible testament. Because the drive must be so strong to over...

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Tracy Clark-Flory

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