Edit: This is a piece about cis women who have sex with cis men. Other configurations may vary. Also, wording has been changed to reflect the fact that some people do not need to orgasm to enjoy sex.
Even among the more gender-role liberated, there is an understanding that there is some sort of ugly “truth” in thinking that women want love while men want sex. Everyone knows that women experience less sexual desire than men. Also, there was that one study that showed that men say yes to casual sex and women say no. Science!
Once upon a time, in Western society, men thought that female sexuality was uninhibited. They observed the fact that they were tired and spent after orgasming with women while the women could continue to have sex and drew the conclusion that women were swirling vortexes of scary, scary libido, the witches. Indeed, in some places in the world, women are mutilated under those same auspices.
Sometime in the history of the Western world, it was decided that women — or, at least, the virtuous ones worthy of being wed — were not each an endless cauldron of hot passion, but, instead, were frigid. Even in the era when that belief became popular thanks to Freud, however, opinions were mixed. Somehow, in the end, frigidity won out over insatiability.
Everyone knows that ladies cannot control themselves and always crave sex. Oh, wait, they actually don’t want sex at all. Because they can’t be human and, you know, vary in their sexual tastes from individual to individual and situation to situation.
Most reasonable folks would nod along to the sincerity and not the sarcasm in that last bit. Where it goes wrong is the popular perception that women can just snap their fingers and get sex with men in the way that men get sex with women. While it could be true that a cold approach for a sexual encounter is more likely to be successful if a woman propositions a man than in the opposite case, the cause for this disparity can easily enough be explained in the difference in what a random one-off romp mean for a man versus for a woman.
The presumption behind most casual sexual encounters between men and women is that penile-vaginal intercourse is the standard, while cunnilingus is more on the optional side. Given that penetrative intercourse isn’t what causes the vast majority of women to experience orgasm, there is an orgasm gap. Even if orgasm isn’t what makes sex pleasurable for a woman, because of the penile-vaginal focus of most heterosexual casual sexual encounters, women find that most casual partners are not terribly sexually skilled.
If something isn’t likely to be fun for someone, why would she bother to do it?
To generalize, then, casual sex usually means at least some sexual pleasure for men, so they would logically be more likely to both seek and accept it. On the other hand, it often means frustration for women. Given that alone, compounded with how much riskier sex is on the vaginal end, women would be irrational indeed to approach casual sex like most men do. As it turns out, when assured that they will actually enjoy an encounter, women are more likely to say yes.
In other words, if men who have sex with women are interested in more of it with more of them, sex needs to stop deserving its reputation for being so dude-centric.
Look out for my follow-up piece on the social stigma associated with female sexuality.