Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss

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Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very readable book for a scientific tract, with psychological study data and testimony from many women worldwide on why the horizontal tango is such a popular dance.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099546634

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Many many years ago, a man who was far too young to be the fusty, dusty RE teacher he was shaping to be, asked my best friend and I why we were each having sex with our girlfriends. Even aged fifteen I thought something along the lines of 'well, if he doesn't know by now, he never will', and listed that it was great fun, a very enjoyable sensation, showed an appetite for the relationship, and that sex proved the ultimate in bonding - how much closer, to be blunt, could you be to someone than actually inside them? I'll come clean now and admit said girlfriend was not real, but several have been since, and I have had heaps of fun finding out how - and perhaps why - women have sex. I was never to know, until now, there are 237 reasons for it.

This book has taken the authors' earlier work together, which helped enumerate all those copious reasons, and asked women to elaborate in their own anonymous words, on the many reasons they have made the beast with two backs. It is actually a quite incredibly readable book, turning hard science into what could be a very popular science guide. The chapters are all coherently laid out, and whether they delve into the most obscure psychological results, theories about the evolution of human behaviour, or the testimony collected for the project from thousands of Internet-literate respondents, they all offer lots of insight.

Some of the data collected here is of the obvious kind - the Swedes as a race are the least likely to think keeping one's virginity important; some is very eye-opening. A third of married women in the western world will have an affair. 15% of females will be raped. But this book is table-free, chart-deprived, and is nowhere bound by statistics. It introduces brain chemicals like oxytocin, a bonding hormone released by orgasm - that might make the woman happier through sex, and more likely to return to the bed of the man or woman who inspired it. It mentions orgasms a lot, as they have such a large part to play in both the satisfaction of sex, but also have reproductive uses, such as perhaps aiding and timing sperm delivery.

There are several chemicals mentioned here, again with utmost clarity, that prove why sex is such a mood-enhancing, if not mind-altering, drug. Something else that might seem obvious, but is still well worth a look at, is which comes first - the love or the sex, and which might cause the other? You might find this a compelling debate. Elsewhere, the world of sex does not completely cover delightful aspects - here we read why women might have sex when they don't want it - through rape and through other means, and how they find what they thought was a good idea, can quickly turn very sour.

This is not a self-help book, although the authors said they saw benefits in repeating the rape testimony they received, and it does feature some theories such as the seven styles of love, which one will self-analyse over. In fact it bests the self-help books with actual science. Instead of relying on the warm bath, mellow music and nice bottle of wine approach to calming down for sex, the authors (who are both eminent researchers in their fields), have found that a nice roller-coaster raises the chemicals involved in fight-or-flight, and these work much more to arouse.

There are lots of such quirks in this book - if you haven't read any such science books before you might find it remarkable what people are paid to research, how they go about learning about the human brain, and what it means for us all. You can't really dip and dabble into these pages and find such nuggets, for it is a dense read, but I liked the style (apart from a couple of very poor comic asides), as all notes and references are shunted to the end and the book can be read by many very easily.

And even people with a strong human biology background will see interesting new corners of science they might not have suspected, such as the evolution of women's tastes, and psychological attitudes to sex. The ancestor of your mother may have had a much more gullible attitude to the smooth-tongued male, but the 'deception detector' has been evolved, to protect their biological interests in having a superior, honest partner for their children's sake, and so it progresses.

This, then, to repeat, gathers science from many aspects of the world of procreation, and turns it into a fine book. People after titillation will be turned off instantly, but there are probably still 237 reasons for reading this. For many this will be bed-time reading they will thoroughly appreciate. Who knows, it many even reach the shelves of fusty, dusty RE teachers...

I must thank the kind Vintage people for my review copy.

This book is metaphorically shelved alongside Sex, Drugs and Chocolate: The Science of Pleasure by Paul Martin in our admiration.

Buy Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M Meston and David Buss at Amazon.com.

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