Are Women Turned On By Pictures of Naked Men?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 17 2013 8:30 AM

Are Women Turned On By Pictures of Naked Men?

151475653
Does this do anything for you or not?

Photo by Juan Barreto/AFP/GettyImages

It was great to read your replies last week—many thanks. Another question is on the way, after some thoughts about the role of the visual in female sexuality.

For a long time, we’ve been told that female desire isn’t powerfully sparked by visual turn-ons, by, say, great shoulders or a great package. That is, the visuals might matter but not so much, and certainly not as much as they do for men.  This fits with evolutionary psychology’s perspective, which suggests that female eros is innately more measured and cerebral, more about future plans than present gratifications. But are women less visual? 

Meredith Chivers, one of the inventive researchers and original thinkers in my book What Do Women Want?, does not dwell on attempting to compare men’s reactions to women’s. In her lab, she shows all kinds of porn to women and men and graphs the changes in their genitals. She can’t statistically compare what a vagina does to what a penis does—they do different things. What she can do, though, is show that women get physically aroused, strongly and swiftly, while watching all sorts of X-rated scenes. To stare at her graphs is to doubt the old assumptions.

Advertisement

But our culture goes right on perpetuating those notions. Ronnie Koenig, former editor in chief at Playgirl, wrote wisely about this month in the Atlantic:*

It's certainly more socially acceptable for men to value physical appearance. Case in point—male nudity at the movies. When we see male nudity on film it's often played for laughs. While men (and women) are treated to Halle Berry's breasts, the best we girls can get is "joke dick"—think Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Mark Wahlberg at the end of Boogie Nights. If we acknowledge that women are visual creatures then it puts more pressure on men to look good.

So, for a moment, please forget my fragility and the fragility of my fellow men and tell us the truth. How important is the visual to you? How does it play out in your sexual life? Is it essential? Peripheral? Do you bring home the visual turn-ons of the day when you get into bed with your partner? If the visual is important to you, is your partner aware of this? As always, please write from personal experience and be as specific and honest as possible, but stop short of pornographic. We want to be able to publish some of your responses later this week. Send your replies to doublex.slate@gmail.com and put “what do women want—visual” in the subject line. We will use your name unless you specify otherwise. (Let us know if you prefer that we only use your first name.) Please check out Slate's submission guidelines before you write in. We look forward to hearing from you.

Correction, June 17, 2013: This post originally misspelled former Playgirl editor in chief Ronnie Koenig's last name.

Daniel Bergner is the author of the new book What Do Women Want? Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 23 2014 12:48 PM Track Your Bag and Charge Your Phone With This Carry-On Smart Suitcase
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.