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HOW TO MAKE GREAT LOVE TO A WOMAN
By ANNE HOOPER AND PHILLIP HODSON
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2000 Anne Hooper and Phillip Hodson
All right reserved.
'She's a girl and you're a boy. She has a vagina where you have a penis. She's different."
This is the earliest explanation offered to small children in the first round of the Great Debate. You know the one - it's that 'Are women really aliens?' question. From the age of two, the Debate affects us all. History suggests that the controversy is continuous.
TWENTIETH CENTURY SEX WAR
* In the 1930s James Thurber published his cartoon narrative The War Between the Sexes where strange vitriolic women were pictured engulfing hapless, innocent men - women were the enemy.
* In the 1960s and 70s the pendulum was pushed so far in the opposite direction by the feminists as to force the question 'Are Men Really Necessary?' At the same time sex research charted, accurately for the first time, the journey of human sexual response. What astonished everyone who read the findings was that male and female sexual response turned out to be so similar.
* The convergence of sex research, feminism and the invention of the contraceptive pill added up in the mid-1970s to a new era in which the so-called Sexual Revolution took place. A characteristic of the Sexual Revolution was that, for the first time in history, women were allowed to be as sexually outgoing as men. Men and women were equal. This meant that, in theory, women were able to have as many sex partners as they liked, to invite sex, to enjoy casual sex, in short to behave sexually as men already had for years. Some of them did. A lot of them didn't. But the foundations for sexual equality were laid. Men benefited from this outgoing behaviour by, well, just getting more sex. For the time being, a truce was declared in the sex war.
* In the 1980s AIDS brought much sexual experimentation to a halt and the sexes recouped, falling back on more exclusive dating and mating patterns but still bringing the idea of equality into the bedroom and into relationships.
* The 1990s emerged from the blanket of monogamy to examine the fact that, whichever way you enjoy sex, women's actual relationships with men didn't come up to scratch. Women voted, with their feet, to maintain their own separate households, not always to live with their male and not only to have his children.
Clinical researcher John Gottman and writer John Gray are the latest contributors to the Debate:
* the former declares that men can't deal with emotional flooding, which probably means that women shouldn't confront them (heaven for the chaps but hell for the women);
* the latter teaches that the differences between men and women are so great that they are effectively from different planets (a recipe, we suggest, for giving up).
Serious research into sex difference has been taking place for decades but, in the past 20 years, has speeded up. We understand a lot more about sexual diversity than we used to but the Debate still hasn't resolved the Nature versus Nurture argument, ie. what causes such diversity? That's probably because the evidence shows that both biology and social learning are important to the shaping of our sexuality. Almost certainly, each interrelates with the other. This makes understanding complicated. Today, in the third millennium, genetic research takes us on to yet another round of scientific information.
The biological theory has highlighted the role of sex hormones and how these affect the development of physiological characteristics with the additional likelihood that they also influence emotions. John Money and colleagues of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore have made a life study of patients, young and old, who have been subjected to unusual hormonal exposure and it is from these patients that Money developed his seminal theories.
There is his work, for example, with androgenised women. These are women who, by virtue of genetic error or drugs their mothers received during pregnancy, were exposed to an excess of androgen during their foetal development. In outward appearance these individuals appear male. Their genitals may look like anything between an enlarged clitoris to an undeveloped penis. Yet, these are girl children.
The medical treatment, developed by Money, is to feminize the genitals, shortly after birth and if necessary to dose with an androgen (testosterone) suppressant. The really interesting part is when adolescence and adulthood are reached. Money reports distinct differences in behaviour between these and ordinary women. The androgenised group were less interested in stereotypical female roles, less interested in caring for children and more likely to give priority to a career. They were also more outgoing, more outwardly active, with preferences for male interests and clothes.
Money's theory is that hormones programme the brain and that behaviour is duly affected. Research in the 1990s on 4,500 US army veterans by Alan Booth and James Dabbs of Penn and Georgia State Universities appears to back this up and shows that men producing more testosterone were less likely to marry and more likely to divorce. It was only those with a relatively low level of testosterone who were likely to report marital success.
THE GENES HAVE IT
In recent years research has discovered specific differences in the way male and female brains are organised. Psychologist Daniel Goleman reports a finding that the two halves of the brain appear to be arranged differently with more specialisation likely for men and better socialisation for women. Later work with Asperger's Syndrome (a form of autism) backs this up - the majority of sufferers are men.
Syndromes such as Asperger's are the result of genetic inheritance. Science now recognises that many such syndromes are sex-linked, with the anomalous gene switched on in one sex but switched off in the other. Asperger's is 10 times more common in boys than it is in girls. In Turners syndrome (where one of the X chromosomes is missing from the normal XX female makeup), the sufferer is 400 times more likely to inherit the gene from their mother. Scientists now believe that the male brain typically processes spatial information and understanding of physical systems - the female brain possesses better ability to read human faces and has greater aptitude for social reasoning. Genetic science classifies Asperger's as being an extreme point of the male brain continuum.
If the entire way in which we relate is laid down in the genes, what is the point, you may ask, of doing anything but throwing your hands up in the air and screaming 'forget it'? The answer is that, even though the brain lays down a blue-print, our upbringing, the education we receive as children, formally or informally, also plays its part. This is Nurture.
There have been innumerable studies that demonstrate that adults react to children differently depending on whether they 'believe' they are male or female. And at around the age of 18 months, says Money, our own beliefs about gender take over. If we think we are male, we unconsciously adopt the appropriate role. The same is true for girls.
Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence describes the research work of Richard Davidson, a University of Wisconsin psychologist. Davidson has discovered that people with a history of clinical depression have lower levels of brain activity in the left frontal lobe and more on the right than did people who had never been depressed. Using this knowledge, Davidson was also able to predict with children as young as 10 months old with 100 per cent precision, which ones would cry when their parents left them alone for a while in a strange room.
Why describe something which seems so unrelated to sex? Well, even though babies may be born with such brain differences, the good news from scientist Jerome Kagan of Harvard is that with the right firm training from our mothers we can learn to change such behaviour. And that although this gets harder with age, the brain continues to shape itself and be shaped throughout life. Nor do we suddenly stop at the age of 20, never developing any further.
Why does this matter to readers simply wanting to know more about giving their woman a wonderful time in bed? By understanding such differences we get a handle on them. We gain in optimism. This means that, if something goes wrong between two people, we can learn to alter behaviour so that things get the optimum chance of going right again. It means that if an emotional difficulty interferes with sexual expression, there are ways of learning to overcome it. It also means that even when things go amazingly well in our love lives, there is the wonderful thought they can continue to be enhanced.
What about the specific sex differences, though? How and where do these show up? Do they matter? Can they be modified so that our partners love us more or less? Will we be able to induce a partner to change, should we feel the necessity strongly?
WHAT ABOUT SEX?
Research into the nuts and bolts of sex shows that most physical aspects of sexual response in men and women are similar. We experience the same stages of sexual arousal, and when enjoying climaxes do so with exactly the same time interval of orgasmic contractions (0.8 per second!). However, where woman differ is that some of them are capable of experiencing routine multiple orgasm. According to therapists Hartman and Fithian, so too are men, but this appears to require youth, special training and a prior agreement on definitions.
For years, many dyed-in-the-wool medical men protested that women could not experience orgasm because they didn't experience ejaculation. However much you might try to explain that there are differences between orgasm and ejaculation, this was the line persistently taken. Imagine the dismay of such medical fogeys when the news about G-spot ejaculation was announced. (More in Chapter Six). Although only a minority of women experience it, ejaculation is triggered from a spot on the anterior wall of the vagina. The theory goes that this spot may be the vestige of what would have developed into a prostate gland, should the foetus have turned into a boy at around the sixth week of pregnancy, instead of a girl.
One specific sex difference however lies in the area of sexual fetish. Men are far more likely to be exhibitionists, fetishists and paedophiles. Men appear to be turned on by parts of women, such as their legs, their feet, even their high-heeled shoes. Men can become seriously attached to rubber aprons, wellington boots, shiny polythene, finding it increasingly difficult to climax without the assistance of these objects. Research also shows us a few men who are compulsively and destructively fetishistic and who are also violent, self-destructive and likely to possess a criminal record. Women of this type are rare.
PORNOGRAPHY AND MEN
One of the current and distressed complaints made by many women is that their men appear to spend more time being turned on by sex magazines than by their partners. Presumably some men may be making a specific choice to be unfaithful to a wife with a photographic model. It's our contention, however, that many of the men seduced by porn may not be making any such logical decision. We may be hearing that these guys, displaying a mildly fetishistic behaviour, as Gosselin and Wilson describe it, are also motivated by genuine brain differences.
If we return to Asperger's Syndrome, we remember that Asperger's type characteristics are the far end of a normal spectrum of male behaviour. Many men therefore may not see the emotional connection their wives are making between porn and jealousy because their own particular brain make-up is not constructed to make that same emotional connection. For them this would not be logical, as Mr Spock would say. Perhaps these same men instead dismiss their wives' distress as irrational.
This explanation is emphatically not to condone such male behaviour. If you truly want to make things work with your woman, if you sincerely want her to have a fantastic sex life with you, we feel you must learn to appreciate such connections for your own sake, as well as for hers.
Dr Glenn Wilson stated in 1989 that there is 'one 'disorder of desire' that affects men more strikingly than women - the boredom that arises from repetitive sex with the same partner'. Wilson is a biological, anthropological psychologist who believes that the 'need for periodic recharging of libido (in men) by novel females that is seen in most mammals is a ... manifestation of the males' reproductively optimal 'promiscuity strategy'.'
He is dismissive of the problem this throws up since he states that the disorder is 'not a disease but a normal biological phenomenon based on natural sex differences'. That's as maybe but 1999 findings on testosterone levels seem to show that it's the fellas with not so much of the stuff coursing through their veins that make the best, most long-term husbands. Perhaps there is an answer but one that men won't like - which is to dampen down testosterone with a chemical antidote. Anyone for bromide?
Another difference, induced by Nurture, is that women have been expected to be the more passive of the two sexes and, as a result, have shaped their behaviour accordingly. This means that they wait to be asked out on a date, wait for the man to make the first physical move, expect him to know what to do in bed. Or it used to mean this. Thanks to feminist teaching of the 70s and 80s, women (and men) in therapy groups have been slowly revising these expectations. Fewer women of the younger generations would expect to behave like this today. But attitudes take time to change.
One of these teaching methods is that of assertion technique. This proved vital to some women who were so accustomed to regarding a partner's choice as their own that they had to be taught how to make choices that concerned only them. You, as a man, might think it desirable that your woman should think only of you. But, interestingly enough, it can become irritating. Her total acquiescence sometimes gives the appearance of having no character, no mind of her own. But everyone has a character - lurking there, somewhere underneath. One participant in a group told the other women: 'I never climax but this doesn't matter because I feel so happy for my husband when he has his.' She honestly thought her lack of sexual response didn't matter. But it did. And most of all, it mattered to her - even if she didn't acknowledge it.
Excerpted from HOW TO MAKE GREAT LOVE TO A WOMAN by ANNE HOOPER AND PHILLIP HODSON Copyright © 2000 by Anne Hooper and Phillip Hodson. Excerpted by permission.
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