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Critically acclaimed journalist Daniel Bergner disseminates the latest scientific research and paints an unprecedented portrait of female lust: the triggers, the fantasies, the mind-body connection and disconnectionthe reasons behind the loss of libido, and, most revelatory, that this loss is not inevitable.


Throughout history, female desire has been portrayed as one of the most destabilizing and dangerous forces. It caused Cleopatra to throw away her kingdom for an ill-fated dalliance with Marc Antony.

What do women want? adventures in the science of female desire by daniel bergner

Even after the sexual revolution of the s, lusty women still tend to be slut-shamed by their peers and reduced by popular culture to a Girls Gone Wild stereotype. The provocative cover story stirred up plenty of controversy, prompting even the liberal author Greg Mitchell to gawk at its photos of women mid-orgasm, while cultural anthropologists criticized Bergner for making blanket statements about women despite that none of his research ventured outside the Western Hemisphere.

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Tripping through history, from evolutionary biology and psychology to the Bible, the author slowly picks apart our deep-seated belief that monogamy is the natural domain of women and that females are uniquely qualified to thrive inside of a long-lasting commitment to only one sexual partner.

Among his most compelling and titillating pieces of evidence that women are built to be just as horny as men: that their arousal, measured by blood flow to the vagina in a lab, spikes while watching hard-core pornography; that female monkeys will relentlessly pursue lazy male monkeys to mate; that female rats will take it upon themselves to mount male rats; that women for one in three online porn users.

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He also notes how female rats and other mammals have clitorides, which seem to exist only for the purpose of sexual arousal—a fact that has intrigued evolutionary biologists and upended notions about female desire across a variety of species. Still, Bergner seems to be onto something when he comes to the conclusion that women also crave sexual novelty—and that they struggle with monogamy just as much as their male counterparts.

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So here we finally have the real problem with female lust, according to Bergner: that it takes a sharp nosedive in monogamous relationships. The implication is that if only the wives were more enthusiastic about having sex with their husbands, the thorny mystery that is monogamy would be solved or, at least, improved.

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But Bergner thinks a tiny pharmaceutical company called Emotional Brain has stumbled upon a solution that will help women desire their partners more: Lybrido, a. While the former consists of a Viagra-like chemical that causes blood to engorge the genitals as well as testosterone, which triggers dopamine production, the latter contains buspirone, a compound that can temporarily suppress serotonin.

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Perhaps then we will be better equipped to get out of bad relationships or stay in good ones. Tuiten would never have developed Lybrido or Lybridos were it not for his dogged determination to better understand why a girlfriend suddenly stopped desiring him, leaving him brokenhearted, after living with him for years.

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But even Bergner admits that a pill can only go so far. And while What Do Women Want?

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Even the researchers whose studies he quotes seem to be as mystified as the rest of us about how and why women get aroused or not. How many different types of orgasms can women actually have? Does the elusive G-spot exist? No one apparently knows for sure, even after decades of searching.

What do women want?: adventures in the science of female desire by daniel bergner – review

So what do we know? We know that an arousal pill for women may be available as soon asand that sexually frustrated women can then presumably have it all—a dependable, if slightly boring husband at one moment and a passionate, almost illicit lover at the next. Well, at least for a bit.

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When it comes to sex, common wisdom holds that men roam while women crave closeness and commitment.


Galen of Pergamum, the great physician and medical researcher of antiquity, was one of many learned men of his time who believed that women had to have an orgasm during sexual intercourse for conception to occur.