One of the oldest and hoariest tropes in our culture is idea of sexual drives differing in men and women; men are – so the idea goes – hot blooded, almost bestial and totally at the mercy of their libidos. Dudes are so horny that they just can’t control themselves; arousal means that they must satiate it at almost any cost. They’ll stick it in just about anything that offers the right combination of friction, suction and heat – and they’re pretty flexible about their standards for all three. Deprive a man from sexual release for long enough and just about anything becomes fuckable – how else can you explain sailors mistaking manatees for mermaids?
Women on the other hand are less erotic and primal; they are slow to arouse, quicker to turn off if everything isn’t just so, and simply aren’t as interested in sex. Women may like sex but men need sex. One of the oldest jokes in the world1 is that women could rule the world if they got together en masse and decided to hold the Great Fuck-Out until they were given control.
Never is this more apparent when it comes to the idea of casual sex. Ask the average man on the street about who’s more into sex – or who’s more likely to go home with a relative stranger – and you’ll be told over and over again: men like sex more.
There are all sorts of reasons given for this apparent dichotomy. Some people will insist it’s because women know they have the power – (s)he who cares less has the most leverage, after all – and enjoy wielding over men. Others will hoist the old canard about alpha males and assholes. Others will insist it’s all about status; women only sleep with the highest status males they can find. The wild and wonderful world of evolutionary psychology – which is usually thrown around by people who don’t understand it – will tell you it’s because of sex’s evolutionary purpose of procreation. Women, according to evo-psych, are guided by the unconscious need to ensure the survival of their genes. This, in practice means that they are driven to be especially picky about the potential fathers of their children, giving preference to men who are more likely to care for the child or be able to provide for it’s welfare and help ensure it’s future success at propagating it’s own genes. Men, on the other hand, are driven by the need to spread their seed far and wide; women can only give birth every nine months while men can potentially father children several times a day.
The actual reason, as it turns out, is slightly more complicated than that.
- Literally. The Lysistrata, performed in 411 BCE, is the story of how the women of Sparta and Greece forced an end to a war by refusing to sleep with their menfolk [↩]