June 21, 2003
Doing my bit for the Google hits

Eve Tushnet links to a study comparing male and female responses to video erotica, and found that women were more "bisexual":

There were three types of erotic films: those featuring only men, those featuring only women and those featuring male and female couples. As with previous research, the researchers found that men responded consistent with their sexual orientations. In contrast, both homosexual and heterosexual women showed a bisexual pattern of psychological as well as genital arousal. That is, heterosexual women were just as sexually aroused by watching female stimuli as by watching male stimuli, even though they prefer having sex with men rather than women...

"Since most women seem capable of sexual arousal to both sexes, why do they choose one or the other?" Bailey asked. "Probably for reasons other than sexual arousal."

I would rephrase that: for reasons other than visual sexual arousal. One thing that bothers me about a lot of these sexological studies is that they generalize sexuality from one's response to video porn. Women may have a physical response to it, but the fact that in normal life a lot more men than women actually choose to watch it makes me wonder how significant that response is.

Two possible caveats come to mind here. For one thing, I think people of both sexes, even gay men, would agree that beautiful women are good to look at. (As some wags have observed, men's magazines are full of pictures of gorgeous women, and women's magazines are also full of pictures of gorgeous women.) But sex is a tactile thing, and in my own experience women, no matter how good looking, feel sisterly and unexciting when I actually touch them. That difference between sight and feel may well be greater for women, since other studies have indicated that men generally get more excited by visuals than women do.

The other thing I'm wondering here is how much of the excitement is from actually wanting the person in the video and how much is a kind of sympathetic reaction. When I'm watching a movie, I often have an autonomic sympathy with the characters: when they're frightened, my own heart starts to race, when someone gets hit I wince etc. I wonder if there are gender differences in this kind of general empathy, and if that might be affecting the results here.

Anyway, I don't have a strongly held theory about the origins of lesbianism, so for all I know the overall thesis may have some merit. But, being female and all, when I read about this study those thoughts were what sprang to my mind.

Posted by Camassia at June 21, 2003 04:10 PM | TrackBack

You want hits? Just say "Camel Toes" and they will come.

Posted by: Joel on June 21, 2003 10:56 PM

The fact that so many men can actually get seriously turned on by Playboy or Penthouse type photos of women they've never met does make me think a lot of men must be way more visual than I am. I need words, dialog, some sense of personal interaction, please.

Posted by: Lynn on June 22, 2003 10:48 PM

I think you hit on a pretty good "theory" about why women may seem more aroused while watching porn. Most women never really watch it, especially by themselves. Whereas most men do watch from time to time and are much more likely to go out and rent a video if they are bored. It's like they're senses have been muted to it after time. Whereas a women is still very sensitive to it.

Also, I'm always wary when studies like this try to lump every single memeber of a group together. everyone is different.

Posted by: Tuesday on June 25, 2003 08:02 AM

Hello ladies,

(I prefer responses from women)

I would like to know if most women feel aroused by lesbian porn because they are empathizing with the feelings of the women in porn or the visual aspects of women's bodies. On a purely physical, non-emotional level do most women have a sexual tendency to be attracted to both women and men? If so, then why? If not then what is it about a male's physical features that turn women on and distinguish that arousal from looking at other women?

Curious Miguel

Posted by: Miguel on February 7, 2004 02:39 PM
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