What Dan Savage and Dr. Ruth don't understand about sex.

State of the sexual union.
Sept. 26 2007 7:37 AM

Don't Ask the Sexperts

Dan Savage, Dr. Ruth, and others on what still mystifies them.

Read more from Slate's Sex Issue.

Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.

Slate asked seven people who earn their livings thinking and writing about sex what they've never been able to figure out about it. Some of our sexperts have academic backgrounds, some religious, and others have just logged a lot of hours talking to people about their habits and pleasures. They say there's still a lot of mystery left.

Ian Kerner is the author of She Comes First, He Comes Next, and other sex advice books.
Why do most men still know more about what's under the hood of a car than the hood of a clitoris, and why, in our post-Sex and the City culture, are women faking it more than ever?


Em & Lo are sex and relationship writers and authors of Buh Bye: The Ultimate Guide To Dumping and Getting Dumped.
We've never been able to understand why virginity is still defined strictly in terms of penile penetration. Does that mean all lesbians are lifelong virgins? What about gay men who just aren't that into anal sex? (There are plenty of them.) And how is it possible that a straight couple can engage in oral sex, manual sex, mutual masturbation, and possibly even anal sex (if you believe the rumors about Catholic school girls) and still claim they're "saving themselves for marriage"? Sure, intercourse's role in baby-making elevates it a bit among sexual acts. But these days, birth control, family planning, and reproductive technologies mean that intercourse is less a means to an end and more a pleasurable end in itself. Add to that the influence of feminism and the gay rights movement, and you'd think that there'd be a few more seats at the official sex table. Of course, if we defined "loss of virginity" as merely "mutual orgasms," millions of American women would become born-again virgins overnight. Any kind of orgasm? Er, ditto. While we'd hate to heap any more sexual pressure on women, we think a dedication to making sure all parties end up sexually satisfied should be the gold standard. Did you and your partner climax, or at the very least have a really, really good time? Then hand over that V-card.

Simon LeVay is the author of The Sexual Brainand Human Sexuality.
I'm co-author of an undergraduate human sexuality textbook, so every few years I have to review the whole field of sex research to see what advances have been made. The most depressing area is that of "paraphilias," which are pathological sexual desires, often involving victims—everything from pedophilia to zoophilia, exhibitionism to sexual murder and cannibalism. What's depressing is that we seem to be making little or no progress in understanding the cause or treatment of these conditions. So victimization continues, and the perpetrators—nearly always men—are warehoused in state "hospitals" or exposed to ever more vindictive harassment in the community. Whoever figures out how to prevent their descent into deviancy, or how to give them back healthy, loving sex lives, will have alleviated untold suffering, and will have made that dark corner of my textbook a greater pleasure for me to write and for students to read. 



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Mad About Modi

Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.