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The Real Lives of Highly Sexual Women

Almost all the women eventually accepted themselves as highly sexual.

In America, men have permission to be highly sexual. Women don't. A man who beds many women is a "stud." A woman who acts similarly is a "slut."

Sex researchers have largely ignored the lives of highly sexual women, but one study is illuminating (Blumberg, E. "The Lives and Voices of Highly Sexual Women," Journal of Sex Research (2003) 40:146.) Ph.D. candidate, Eric Blumberg of Ferndale, Michigan, interviewed 44 highly sexual women. He defined "highly sexual" as (1) having six or more orgasms a week solo or with partners, or (2) considering oneself highly sexual, with sex a key element in their lives.

To find participants, he advertised in Detroit's alternative weekly. Subjects ranged from age 20 to 82, in education, from high school to graduate degrees, and in employment, from janitor to CEO. The newspaper's readers are overwhelmingly white, and so were the subjects, with two Latinas, one African-American, and no Asians. As a result, this study can't be applied to all women. Nonetheless, it's a pioneering effort.

All the women said they felt intense sexual needs they could not ignore. All had struggled with feeling of being different from cultural expectations of women. All had experienced distress about being highly sexual.

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While growing up, they realized they were different from their friends and from how they were raised to be. More than half (57%) said they'd experienced "major conflicts" that caused "painful struggles" to accept themselves. All had considered themselves "sluts," "nymphomaniacs," and "sex addicts." Most had been called these names by friends and lovers. All considered the name-calling unfair, though many believed the accusations were true.

Almost all the women eventually accepted themselves as highly sexual. For some (16%), this happened in their teens or twenties. Typically, they had sex-positive parents who saw nothing wrong with having highly sexual daughters, or they had friends who reassured them that they were fine. But it took well into adulthood for most to accept themselves. The process was usually gradual and painful, often involving one or more divorces from men put off by their wives' sexual enthusiasm.

Almost all the women had experienced brief flings and simultaneous relationships with more tahn one partner. Ten (23%) were married and five more were in long-term relationships they considered "satisfying" (total, 34%). However, most, including those in committed relationships, said they were open to flings.

Strong, insistent libidos that are difficult to control--these women appear rather "male." They marry, but often have extra-marital affairs. Most described themselves as more comfortable with men than women, and many expressed pride that male friends considered them "one of the boys." Many complained that their women friends didn't understand their sexual needs, a complaint many men voice.

One experience associated with female hyper-sexuality is a history of sexual trauma. Ten of the 44 (23%) reported incest or abuse. This proportion mirrors women in the general population, so sexual exploitation does not explain these women's sexual intensity. It's just who they are.

Blumberg argues that none of the women appeared to be "addicted" to sex, nor did they feel uncontrollable sexual compulsions. Their descriptions "did not suggest that they were currently or ever had been sexually out of control in any meaningful way. Some described themselves as occasionally sexually impulsive, typically in their teens or twenties, but participants did not fit the general description of compulsion or addiction, nor did they report the negative consequences typically associated with sexual compulsion."

They simply enjoy sex a great deal, and once they accept themselves, they enjoy it exuberantly. Thirty-five of the 44 (80%) said that on balance, the life impact of being highly sexual was more positive than negative.

 

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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