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Men Are Lines, Women Are Circles

Question: How is the study of female sexuality changing?

Beverly Whipple: It’s really interesting in terms of how or why are women being included now in research about sexuality, where they weren’t in the past. And I see three reasons. One is the FDA banned the testing of women of childbearing ages in drugs. So from 1977 until 1993, no new drugs that were developed were tested in women. So they tested them in men and the findings were extrapolated to women. And I think that we got into this mindset of, well, if men react this way, women must react the same way. And it’s not true. With the drugs, we know that women react differently, we know that these drugs may interact with female hormones, with their menstrual cycle, with other medications women may be taking, so we know that that’s not true. You can’t take drugs that were tested in men and extrapolate their findings to women. What also happened in terms of research on sexual responses is that men were much easier to study, because of their anatomy, and also, most of the researchers were men and they were interested in men. So therefore, most of the research that was conducted in terms of human sexual responses was conducted in men and findings were extrapolated to women. We found out that that doesn’t work because women are different from men.

Question: How do women and men differ when it comes to sex?

Beverly Whipple: Women can differ from men in many ways, but one is that women have a variety of sexual responses. Men may also, but men get into this linear model of only one way to respond and that’s what they get used to and they also equate orgasm with ejaculation, which is not so, they’re too different phenomenon. But when I talk to couples about sensuality and sexuality, I show two different ways that people respond in terms of their sexual experiences. And one is goal directed. And here I use the analogy of a staircase where each step leads to the next step, touch, kiss, caress, vagina/penis contact, top step of the big O or orgasm. And these are people who are goal directed. There are also people who are pleasure directed and here I use the analogy of a circle, where any activity on the perimeter of the circle can be an ending in itself and I leave question marks for people to add what they like. But when you like at these models, this is pleasure directed, this is goal directed, and then you look at the stereotypes we have of men and women, most men are goal directed. They’re looking for the end point or the goal of orgasm. And most women are pleasure directed, they’re, many people are very comfortable holding hands, cuddling, there’s many ways that they have sensual and sexual pleasure. So then you have to look at a relationship and see if the people, one person in a relationship is goal directed, one person is pleasure directed, and are they aware of this? Do they communicate this to their partner? So I think that we know that most men are linear and goal directed and most women are more circular.

Recorded on October 16, 2009

Men have a goal-oriented approach to sex, Beverly Whipple says, while women are directed simply by pleasure.

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