This New York Times Magazine article defies summary in a blog post but I wanted to provide the link because it quotes extensively many of the major researchers on female sexuality.
Here are some excerpts:
Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She is a 36-year-old psychology professor at Queen’s University in the small city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull — “bonobos don’t seem to make much noise in sex,” she told me, “though the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds” — she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.
What she found was that women were aroused by all of the videos, whereas men reacted based on sexual preference. The conscious ratings more closely tracked sexual preference but their bodies and minds were often out of sync.
When she peers into the giant forest, Chivers told me, she considers the possibility that along with what she called a “rudderless” system of reflexive physiological arousal, women’s system of desire, the cognitive domain of lust, is more receptive than aggressive. “One of the things I think about,” she said, “is the dyad formed by men and women. Certainly women are very sexual and have the capacity to be even more sexual than men, but one possibility is that instead of it being a go-out-there-and-get-it kind of sexuality, it’s more of a reactive process. If you have this dyad, and one part is pumped full of testosterone, is more interested in risk taking, is probably more aggressive, you’ve got a very strong motivational force. It wouldn’t make sense to have another similar force. You need something complementary. And I’ve often thought that there is something really powerful for women’s sexuality about being desired. That receptivity element. At some point I’d love to do a study that would look at that.”
This sounds like it could come from a Focus on the Family brochure. There are differences between men and women which Evangelicals believe come from a differential origin and function. For Chivers, the data lead her to think that the biological differences prompt men and women to bring complementary drives to the connection.
The article concludes with lengthy descriptions of how women are different than men. The theorists seem to converge on the notion that women want to be wanted. This concept has some perhaps unsettling implications for ex-gay marriages as well as for marriage where the spark seems to have gone out.