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What Do Women Want?: Adventures In The Science Of Female Desire Hardcover – May 27 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (May 27 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061906085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061906084
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
How interesting to find this book using the same title as a classic feminist work about emotions and gender to address sexuality. It also takes up feminist concerns to some extent but Bergner's focus is sexual satisfaction. She summarizes recent sexology research presenting it in an attractive narrative carried by women's personal voices. It's a fun and accessible read.
The presentation of the science is a little credulous, as there's a lot more room for scepticism than Bergner allows. In particular she tends to view sexology as stripping away culture to reveal nature, which is impossible and naive to suggest. However, her account provides a welcome counterpoint to the influence of evolutionary psychology on our conceptions of sexuality. One chapter deals with that explicitly.
So don't let the narrative approach fool you... This book has a foundation in research findings that people prefer to ignore. The idea that women have broad and persistent sexual appetites threatens our understanding of the social order. It also may help a lot of women realize how very ordinary their desires are.
If you are looking for the sexy counterpart to Elisabeth Lloyd's "The Case of the Female Orgasm" then this is it. Lloyd also decries how evolutionary scientists ignore sexology research. We need not put quite the faith in it that Bergner does, but we can learn a lot from her story about what the research suggests.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tim Horton TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Aug. 26 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you're interested in the same old rehashing of evolutionary psychology, (That is, you think women were, are, and always will be "the monogamous sex") this is not for you.
If you're looking for controversial but scientifically sound ideas (backed by data) that you can almost certainly parallel to your real life, this is the book for you.
The references are all available at the end of the book, so those inclined can pull up the references.

I will be recommending this book to everyone I know. It covers sensitive topics about love, sex, and long-term relationships that people usually don't discuss, but should.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ben on June 12 2013
Format: Hardcover
The author is far too quick to "debunk the myths of evolutionary psychology." Evolutionary psychology relies on scientific (empirical) methods, peer-reviewed journals and the thinking of many solidly grounded researchers. It does bother those who think that somehow human minds have escaped the pressures of natural and sexual selection (i.e., the blank slate theory suggesting that all behavior is culture-generated), but this does not make the findings of evolutionary psychologists any less valid. I will just warn other readers that the research produced by evolutionary psychology on sex differences should not be dismissed lightly — certainly not on the basis of this misleading book.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fancylad on July 5 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read the 2009 article on which this book originated, it had stuck in my head (some women become aroused watching monkeys or gay men having sex) so I thought I'd give the book a try.

To keep it brief, this book is an agenda-driven missive created to advance a personal credo. It's composed largely of extrapolations from baseless suppositions, it's derisive of actual research, hostile to evolutionary psychology, and contains dubious accusations against Christianity that are borderline hatemongering (Dawkins would tell him to cool it).

A stupid, easily refutable book that wasted my time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 114 reviews
65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Some parts good, some disappoint July 4 2013
By M. Hyman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think it is always hard to write a book about sex research, because the book is bound to be overhyped. In this case, I didn't feel that the book lived up to the hype. It sets out to explore some recent studies in female sexuality -- how do women think, what turns women on, how do people research it. There are several sections that I found quite interesting -- the physical versus self reported reactions women have to pornography, for example, and the research into female aggression within a variety of primates. These chapters, and a few others, raise some interesting questions.

On the other hand, other sections felt rather disconnected. There are a variety of interludes with women's fantasy's, but it isn't tied to research, nor is it clear whether these fantasies happen to be ones the author liked, or are representative as a whole -- for example, do most women fantasize about being raped or having sex with strangers, or were these chosen simply to counter the idea that women are demure?

The general thesis tends to be -- women are a lot more sexually oriented than society likes to think -- although I'm not sure one really needs a book to come to that conclusion. I would have liked more discussion about research and its findings, instead of profiles of a few researches and skimming into what they are studying.

In short, excerpts from this book are quite interesting, but it didn't live up to my hopes. It is approachable popular science, but doesn't have the follow up depth that could have made it much better. It certainly isn't something like The Signal and The Noise for sex. Rather, it is a bit more like a series of enhanced magazine articles... interesting, but not great.
52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Useful insights for heterosexual men Aug. 29 2013
By Greg J. Lovern - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I borrowed this book from the library hoping to learn something useful about women's sexual desires, and I believe I have.

Society teaches men two contradictory ideas about what women want in men. One side says women want gentlemen who treat them with respect, listen empathetically to her thoughts and feelings, are good friends with them, etc. The other side says that's all lies; what women really want is a man who is controlling, emotionally distant, and only really interested in her physically. Then the first side counters that women who want what the second side says they want are psychologically flawed or emotionally wounded, and best avoided.

Young men listen to both sides, wonder which side is right, then pick a side and wonder if they chose right.

After reading this book, now I understand that both sides are right. If the scientists who's work is described in this book are correct, normal women have a fascinating sexual duality that can be baffling not only for men but for women too. Normal women desire both types of men, at different times. For me it was an eye-opener.

When a woman who has a wonderful husband who treats her with respect etc. etc loses interest in him sexually though she still loves him dearly, while longing for the sexual attention of a distant, controlling man who is only really interested in her body -- going way beyond just periodical boredom with relationship routine -- it doesn't mean something is wrong with her. It means she's a sexually NORMAL woman.

The task for men, then, is to somehow help her with both sides of her sexual duality. Of course no one man can really be both; it doesn't make sense, even if he's a great actor. But the "bad boy" side can be addressed in sexual fantasy. After all, if you've been together for years, she's probably already fantasizing about such bad boys during sex anyway. She probably doesn't want to talk about it; she may feel ashamed about having such desires, or worried that you'll feel rejected for not being that type of man, or worried that you'll take it too literally or take it outside the bedroom, or maybe she just represses the whole thing right after sex each time.

Of course it's no surprise that some women (along with some men too) fantasize about being dominated or ravished. What's surprising is that it isn't just a titillating novelty fantasy that can be enjoyed or ignored at will. Rather, this research appears to clearly indicate that a NORMAL woman in a HEALTHY long-term heterosexual relationship often (or usually, or almost always) NEEDS to fantasize about being taken forcefully by a dominant, emotionally distant man, preferably one she doesn't know well or at all, to be sexually aroused and reach orgasm.

Of course, it should go without saying that enjoying fantasies about this in no way indicates a desire for it to actually happen in real life. As one insightful counselor put it, it can be compared to how a man's fantasy of rescuing a woman from danger is not an indication that he would enjoy actually, in real life, confronting armed criminals or rushing into a towering inferno.

Like the author and the scientists who's work he describes, I'm not exactly sure where to go with this. When I talked about it with my wife she became defensive and sarcastic. However, she did agree to read the book, and I'm hopeful that something positive may come of it. Anyway, I think it's useful for any heterosexual man to know that the courteous, respectful, solicitous, gentle, egalitarian husband she wants you to be most of the time is rarely if ever the man she wants -- and needs -- you to be in bed.

So imagine this, guys. You're having sex with your wife of several years, with whom you have a great relationship. Though she doesn't feel at liberty to tell you, for her to have an orgasm she's going to need to fantasize that a man quite different from yourself is forcefully having his way with her. Do you think it helps her when you are your usual courteous, respectful, solicitous, gentle, egalitarian self? I'll bet it doesn't. In fact, I'd guess that even hearing your voice breaks the fantasy. Imagine how frustrating it must be for her that the very niceness in you that she loves so much hinders her from reaching orgasm.

I read through all the reviews and I have some comments about the negative ones. First, some say the points made in this book are so obvious that everyone should already know them, while others say those same points are completely wrong. I suspect both factions did not read the book very closely or thoughtfully.

Second, they're right that the book does not answer the fascinating questions it raises, and it is certainly disappointing not have those answers. But a book titled with a question mark, with a subtitle beginning with "Adventures in", surely shouldn't be taken to be claiming to have much in the way of final answers. Anyway, the scientists themselves don't have the answers yet. Why wait until they do have all the answers to have this useful and fascinating information? It could be a long, long wait, and maybe this knowledge can help your marriage in the meantime.

Oh, one last point. I'd have to agree with another reviewer who said that some of the lengthy descriptions of real women's sexual fantasies was in places indulgent and approached softcore porn. The same essential information could have been conveyed in a bit more clinical form. And it does get fairly salacious in places. On the other hand, I did enjoy it!

UPDATE Sept 5:
We tried it last night and WOW, that was very hot. My wife wouldn't want me to put details here, so I'll just describe the essential points in a general way:

I had her put a blindfold on, and made up a fantasy about some other guy being overwhelmed with desire for her. She said the blindfold definitely helped her imagine the fantasy, and also helped her feel less inhibited. The key points used from the book were (a) that it was another man, and (b) that imaginary man was head over heels in desire for her (to try to trigger some narcissism in her).

She wanted to be in charge of who the imaginary man was, and she did not imagine a dominant, nor emotionally distant man. The blindfold's effect was quite exciting and I would highly recommend it.
27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Some Good Research but Ultimately Unsatisfying June 26 2013
By Book Shark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner

"What Do Women Want?" is the unsatisfying science book on female sexual desires. A surprisingly neglected area of science, this book covers the latest scientific research on female lust. The book however suffers from being uneven, lack of flow and quite frankly scientific negligence. There is some interesting research and some findings are enlightening but ultimately this book fails to answer the premise of this ill-titled book to satisfaction. This disappointing 224-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. Animals, 2. Bodies and Minds, 3. The Sexual Fable of Evolutionary Science, 4. Monkeys and Rats, 5. Narcissism, 6. The Alley, 7. Monogamy, 8. Four Orgasms, 9. Magic, and 10. A Beginning.

Positives:
1. A fascinating topic.
2. A welcomed book on a neglected area of science, female sexual lust.
3. Debunking myths. "And that one of our most comforting assumptions, soothing perhaps above all to men but clung to by both sexes, that female eros is much better made for monogamy than the male libido, is scarcely more than a fairy tale."
4. Use of some of the most recent scientific fields to come up with models of behavior. "Sticking with neuropsychology, she wound up doing a thesis experiment that added to fledgling evidence: that homosexual men perform less well than heterosexuals on a type of test involving three-dimensional shapes, just as females, on average, perform less well than males."
5. There are some interesting stories and findings. "Freud didn't make a career out of hunting homosexuals. Early on, he tried to cure gays through psychoanalysis; eventually he called in his patients and gave their money back."
6. A brief history of sexuality, the prevailing ethos of some eras. The thinking behind what was meant to be female.
7. Parental investment theory under the magnifying glass. Not afraid to be critical of other pop-science books.
8. Does a good job of putting functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) in the proper perspective.
9. Does point out some missed opportunities in science. "What science had managed to miss in the monkeys--what it had effectively erased--was female desire."
10. Some interesting social observations. "Female desire is not governed by the relational factors that, we like to think, rule women's sexuality in contrast to men's."
11. The thrill of fear and sexuality. Fantasies.
12. The relationship between marriage and monogamy toward women's libidos.
13. An interesting discussion on the anatomical origins on the varieties of bliss.
14. A discussion on how science and in particular pharmaceutical companies are searching for female libido enhancement medication.
15. Readings provided.

Negatives:
1. An uneven and in my opinion a poorly written book.
2. The book just wasn't fun to read; a waste of a fascinating topic.
3. Not a criticism directed toward the author but the truth is that we know so little about our sexuality. As a society we should back more studies in this fascinating field.
4. Some minor spelling issues.
5. Some readers will have issues with the at times necessary explicit nature of the book and some topics are difficult or uncomfortable.
6. It doesn't answer the premise of the title to a satisfactory level.
7. Weak explanations on neuroscience. Poor use of good science.
8. No links to end sources or reading material.

In summary, I'm very disappointed in this book, such a waste of a fascinating topic. The uneven writing style coupled with scientific negligence left me, well...unsatisfied. Simply, I didn't enjoy this book. During the ride on this rollercoaster of a book, there are some interesting findings, some myths were debunked but it ultimately brings you right back where you started and it never answers to satisfaction the premise of the title, What Do Women Want? In a mild defense of the author, he is not afraid to be critical of some well-known pop science findings and putting fMRIs in perspective. That being said, I'm sorry, I can't recommend this book. Thankfully, it's a short ride if you so desire to get on this unsatisfying rollercoaster.

Further suggestions: "The Science of Love" Robin Dunbar, "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" by Matt Ridley, "Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire" Eric Berkowitz, "Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business" by Barbara Annis and John Gray, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink, and "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not really rigorous March 25 2014
By Global engineer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some of the research presented here is very interesting, but I have to say this was very lazily slapped together. The author seems to have sought out the most eye-catching research and then just sort of seemed to take their researcher's claims at face value(including claims that the sole reason their research isn't more widespread is because of sexism). A little more credulity would have been welcome. Instead the author just seems to chalk up any discrepancy between the research findings and what we see in the real world to "culture".... Some of the questions I really would have liked to seen answered is if female sexual appetite really is as large as the author claims, why is frequency of sex highest among gay men(where neither partner is a woman), and lowest among lesbians(where both partners are women). Why is infidelity highest among gay men, followed by straight men, then straight women, and finally lesbians? If culture were the sole determinant, then you would expect lesbian sexual frequency to be at least as high as straight women, as lesbians have already eschewed large portions of the culture. If you are interested in this kind of thing, "Why Women Have Sex" is a much better, and much more thorough, look at the topic.
39 of 56 people found the following review helpful
"INFORMATIVE, INSIGHTFUL, PROVOCATIVE!" June 9 2013
By Geraldine Ahearn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What caught my eye with this title was a flashback of viewing the romantic comedy, "What Women Want" with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. A story about after one man having an accident, is able to dive into the female psyche, realizing he had women figured out all wrong. A far cry from this book, of course, but the title does indeed make the reader extremely curious. Daniel Bergne chronicles an informative and concise presentation on female sexuality as he defines the differences between the old myths, and scientific findings. He raises questions that have sparked debates for years such as, are women more aggressive than men? What triggers female sexuality, what do fantasies indicate, and discusses mind-body connection. In addition, the author presents information on the reasons for loss of libido, and how lives can change due to its consequences. Information is also presented on intimacy, multiple partners, and emotional connection. The chapters include the following topics:Animals;Bodies And Minds; The Sexual Fable Of Revolutionary Science; Monkeys And Rats; Narcissism; The Alley; Monogamy; and much more. A point of interest is highlighted in Chapter 10, The Beginning. Daniel Bergne offers important questions and answers on the future of female sexuality, through scientific research, such as will there really be a Viagra for women? If so, will it work the same way it does for men? The author shares a fascinating journey of research through experiments on sexuality today as he confronts the reader with interesting findings. This illuminating presentation is thought-provoking as the material presented will make the reader curious and think about the research, long after this book is closed. It will also be a primary resourceful topic for group discussions. Brilliant, educational, and highly recommended!

--Geraldine Ahearn(Author Geri Ahearn)

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