By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, February 22, 2009
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."
Gina: Oh, I can explain that. It's simple recognition. Every woman's sexual history includes at least one bonobo. "Oh, look, that's Vinnie from ninth grade!"
Gene: The study suggests that in reporting what aroused them, women seem to have been less than candid. Were they lying?
Gina: Maybe. But it's more likely that they were confused. Society has compelled women to become something unnatural, like "Riverdance" performers. We are expected to behave demurely in all places but the bedroom. So, from the waist up we are practically motionless, hands on hips in a perpetual attitude of motherly rebuke, but below, the thighs are parting, the legs are flying, the skirts are bouncing saucily. This creates a basic disconnection between mind and body. If women are confused, who can blame us?
Gene: None of this challenges the central fact that men are transparent and women are opaque.
Gina: It's a puny central fact. What's much more important is that women's eclectic appetites have created the civilized world as we know it.
Gina: Social historians concede that civilization arose and prospered from men accomplishing things to impress -- and thus to bed -- women. And it turns out that women can be impressed and beddedby all varieties of complicated things, such as the writing of great poetry, the designing of timelessly beautiful buildings, the discovery of penicillin. Imagine what civilization would be like if it had to arise from women impressing men.
Gene: I'm trying.
Gina: I'll help you out. The single great accomplishment of civilization to date -- probably developed during the Middle Ages -- would be the boob job.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon.