There are many stereotypical beliefs regarding differences between the sexual behaviour and attitudes of people based on their gender,a result of which is the misunderstood sexuality of women. The scientific evidence suggests that although some of these beliefs are true, many others are clearly false. Here are some known facts that shed light on the workings of a women’s sexuality:
1. Sexual Arousal
The clearest cut differences between males and females are in the areas of anatomy and physiology. For example, many females are able to experience multiple orgasms while men require a rest period. Though men and women both experience sexual arousal when viewing erotic images, men are more specific than women in what arouses them. Women are likely to be aroused by visual depictions of either sex, especially if sexual activity is taking place. Sexual scientists have long believed that male and female bodies follow the same sexual response pattern,although in recent studies it has been suggested that at times, a woman’s sexual desire may be more directly linked to erotic physical stimulation or situational factors such as feelings of closeness to her partner rather than occurring spontaneously in the form of sexual thoughts or fantasies.
2. Sexuality varies through the life span
On average, males of all ages are more likely than females to engage in masturbation, especially during childhood and adolescence. As a result, most males experience sexual pleasure initially through self-stimulation, whereas for many females, sexual pleasure may be experienced for the first time with another person. So for most males, the physical pleasure of sex occurs before a relationship is formed, whereas, for females, it is somewhat more likely that a relationship occurs before sexual pleasure is experienced. This has an influence in the way that adolescent boys and girls view sexuality, with boys often being less concerned with the nature of a relationship. By middle age, many men have developed an increased appreciation of the relational aspects of sexuality, and many women have developed a greater enjoyment of physical pleasure. Indeed, by middle adulthood, relationship factors may be more important to men’s enjoyment of sex than to women’s. Although for men there is a very gradual decline in sexual responsiveness over the lifespan, for women, menopause ushers in some noticeable changes in bodily functioning.
Researchers have consistently found gender differences in sexual attitudes. Men tend to be more permissive with regard to their attitudes toward sex, and they are more accepting of casual sex.Men are also more likely than women to view sex as an activity that does not have to take place within the context of a committed relationship. In general, women are more inclined to report
negative emotional reactions to sexuality,a lot of this can be accountable to cultural influences and suppression. The general stigma surrounding a woman expressing her sexuality influences her attitude towards it on the whole.
4. The influence of the sex hormones
Estrogen is the primary female hormone, and it helps regulate the menstrual cycle, control the development of female sex organs, and thicken the lining of the uterus to support a pregnancy. As a woman approaches menopause — the period of time known as perimenopause, levels of estrogen begin to decrease dramatically. When estrogen levels become so low that the uterine lining no longer thickens, menopause occurs. Low levels of estrogen can have a big impact on your sex drive. Women may experience vaginal dryness that can lead to painful intercourse and may have unstable mood and sleep patterns.
Testosterone, which is primarily thought of as a male hormone, is also made by and is important to, women. A woman’s ovaries naturally produce testosterone, which is used to help make estrogen. Some studies have shown that higher levels of testosterone are associated with increased sexual desire and sexual behaviour in women. And since testosterone levels tend to naturally decline in women after menopause, some researchers believe that low testosterone levels may contribute to the reduction of arousal and sexual response that often occurs in older women.
Like estrogen, progesterone is another female hormone that helps control the menstrual cycle and support a pregnancy. Levels of progesterone also decline when you reach menopause. While researchers are still working to understand the role that progesterone plays in a woman’s sexual function, changing levels of progesterone are thought to be involved in a woman’s sexual behaviour.
5. Sexuality as an Individual Difference
Sexual desire and expression vary greatly from person to person. Expecting certain types of behaviour based on gender stereotypes is likely to lead to misunderstanding and frustration when trying to understand the behaviour of other people. Regardless of the nature, origin, or extent of gender differences, it is not easy to predict the behaviour of a given person. For example, just because men think more about sex than women, that doesn’t mean that within a heterosexual couple that the man will always be the one who thinks more about sex or who will want to have sex more often. Stereotypes based on gender, even when there is some scientific support, tend to put pressure on people to behave in certain ways that might not feel natural to them. It is better to try to understand a particular partner as an individual rather than using preconceptions or stereotypes based on gender.
Doctor by profession, ardent animal lover by choice; she finds writing to be therapeutic. She loves meeting new people, hopes to travel the world and has karaoking with Oprah on top of her bucket list. @kirtana_ponnuswamy