In a study described recently in the New York Times, men and women were shown various types of sexually explicit videos, and sensors were attached to their private parts to measure their physical arousal. The subjects were also asked to rate their degree of arousal themselves.
The study found that men were completely predictable: Straight men reported they were turned on only by images of women, and the machine confirmed that. Same with gay men and images of men. But while women of both orientations reported similarly gender-specific responses, the machine called them liars. The sensors reported that all women were turned on by absolutely everything ... including videos of bonobos having sex. Bonobos are apes.
The Times treated this as social anthropology. The story droned on for what seemed like 200 pages and wrestled with grave epistemological issues involving the Cartesian nexus of mind and body. I opted instead for a few minutes on the phone with my friend Gina Barreca, the feminist scholar.
Gene: So, from a highly scientific perspective, can we agree this study establishes that, deep in their hearts, all women are slutbunnies?
Gina: How many pairs of shoes do you own, and when was the last time you altered your hairstyle?
Gene: Don't change the subject.
Gina: I am not changing the subject.
Gina: Trust me.
Gene: Two, one black and one brown. And I have been getting the same haircut since 1959. I call it the Howdy Doody.
Gina: That is the answer to your question. What this study has confirmed is what we have always known: Women are more complicated and more interesting than men in all observable ways. This includes our appetites in general, and our sexual response in particular. Our sexual response is constructed like the Chartres cathedral, with flying buttresses and Romanesque friezes and colonnades and catafalques and labyrinthine passageways said to have mystical powers. Men's sexual response is constructed like a rubber-band slingshot.
Gene: I want to say one word. That word would be "bonobo."