Having Sex "Like A Man" Has Been A Disaster For Women

I was in 8th grade the first time I ever got my hands on a copy of "Cosmo." I was babysitting the toddler of some family friends and had just put the tot to sleep when I began to roam around the house waiting for something to catch my interest. I wandered over to the bookcase in the living room and — bingo! Copy after copy of thick, glossy women’s magazines stacked neatly on a shelf awaited me.

By Gwen Farrell4 min read

Over the next few hours, I lapped up the information hungrily. I was relatively sheltered as a preteen, but I had no idea I was so uneducated. These magazines were only too willing to wax poetic on the apparent myth of the female orgasm, the importance of the G spot, and other lurid topics discussed in intimate and sometimes off-putting detail.

The main takeaway for me at that time was that female pleasure was unattainable and male pleasure was a perfunctory side effect of sex — a conclusion that should be resented by all women. The common thesis of these articles was that women were inevitably, finally, taking their own sexuality back after years of societal stigma, but men were failing to meet the mark, both in sexual encounters and in relationships. The apparent solution to this was to treat sex like men do, or so these publications suggested to their readers.

Over a decade later, we’re seeing the effects of this kind of rhetoric put into practice. Casual sex is upheld as the gold standard for what a successful relationship between a single man and a single woman should look like, and wanting a monogamous relationship is demonized as clingy or unrealistic. In promoting this agenda, though, our culture chose to ignore the very fundamental realities about the sexes, with catastrophic results. Having sex “like a man” has been nothing short of a disaster for women, and it’s time for us to finally acknowledge why.

Why We Lie To Ourselves About Sex

Why do women embrace this practice, when it leads to so much trouble and heartache? There could be several reasons as to why, and as most women know, we’re only too willing to talk ourselves into a bad situation, even if there’s no real logic or reason behind it. If it makes us feel good, we go after it with open arms. We’re after that short-term oxytocin rush, no matter the cost. 

In a culture of smartphones and short attention spans, many of us have no real grasp of delayed gratification, especially when it comes to something like sex. We’d rather skip to the main event than go through something like a date or an awkward talking phase. This sometimes primal instinct goes against our biological capability. Studies show that women are much better and much more adept at delayed gratification than men. One particular study even describes this as “the female advantage.” We, as women, have the power to withhold sex and not engage in it until we’re given proof it’s the real thing or there’s something more lasting on the other side of this attraction — but we don’t. 

Women are biologically much more adept at delayed gratification than men, including toward sex.

Another reason could be the pressure we feel to be relatable. We’re not like other girls who are stingy and selective with their bodies, we’re one of the guys! We have sex freely and we like it, just like men do! It makes us “cool” and more approachable to prospective sexual partners compared to other females.

But the purpose at the heart of this issue comes back to one thing: feminism. When we’re equal to men, in every way, shape, and form, we should be able to engage in male things just as they do, including but certainly not limited to strings-free sex. If we’re able to have a sexual relationship with no pesky feelings involved, we’ve succeeded in proving to ourselves and everyone else that we’ve reached the societal echelon of what every feminist wants to be: a man.

What’s the Big Deal?

The obvious response to this is, so what? If adult women are doing whatever they want with their bodies with other consenting adults, what’s the harm?

We know by now that a lot of young people are engaging in casual sex, that is, a sexual relationship outside a committed monogamous relationship, at an increasing rate. Forty percent of adults in their early 20s report having strings-free casual sex, and 40% of teenagers report having more casual encounters than being in committed relationships. Simultaneously, 62% of women are admitting that they’re not happy, satisfied, or fulfilled with their sex lives. 

Not only that, but according to one survey, we know that about 660 people in a pool of 1,000 participants have had a one-night stand. And “81% of American women did not enjoy their brief encounters as much as they hoped they would.” It’s evident that even though women are having casual sex at a greater rate than their forebears, the trade-off isn’t that rewarding. We’re not even having good sex.

Perhaps that’s because we’re ignoring the most fundamental truth there is about gender dynamics: Women and men are wired differently, especially when it comes to sex. We have different approaches, different wants and needs, different desires, and different turn-ons and reactions. It’s utterly futile and an exercise in self-sabotaging the formation of our identity to believe that we as women can approach sex the same way a man can.

One piece of research, a comprehensive collection of 150 studies on the subject, found that men are aroused more easily, they are more likely to introduce sex and at a more frequent rate, and they have more sexual fantasies and a desire for spontaneity than women do. Conversely, some women report that feeling desired within a passionate context is more important to them than achieving orgasm, just as women predominantly prefer romantic relationships as a precursor to regular sexual encounters. Behavioral differences even differ on a cognitive level, down to the size of a woman’s hippocampus (concerned with memorization and processing learning) being larger than a man’s, whereas a man’s amygdala (in charge of understanding emotions and recalling them) is larger than a woman’s. Despite all of this and much more, we’re maintaining that casual sex is essentially the same for both.

Even though women are having casual sex at a greater rate than their forebears, the trade-off isn’t that rewarding.

The Outcome of Having Sex Like Men

Men are visual, and women are emotional. It’s an oversimplification to be sure, but weren’t we all a lot happier when this was still an integral part of our discourse on gender and sexuality?

We know the rates and statistics of the women who have casual sex and how many women are dissatisfied with their sex lives. But we don’t have – and probably never will have – the qualitative data on the level of damage “having sex like a man” has done to women’s psyches and emotions, including how they perceive their own sexuality and how they interact with men going forward. 

We lie to women and say that it’s possible for us to have sex like men do, with no feelings involved and no strings attached. But we also do men a disservice in the process, by leading them to believe that concepts like commitment and marriage are stodgy, outdated concepts better relegated to the past. In both cases, there’s likely a positive short-term experience, but the long-term effects are destructive.

We have entire generations of women believing they shouldn’t be able to ask for commitment, and entire generations of men trained to see and use women as sexual objects for their own gratification. Overall, it’s a lose/lose situation.

Closing Thoughts

Though we’ve been trained to embrace casual sex (and to not complain or criticize it if it turns out to be disastrous for us), we shouldn’t feel like failures if we can’t commit to noncommittal experiences. It’s natural, healthy, and beautiful to seek meaningful relationships and to experience greater satisfaction from intimacy within those connections. We don’t need to have sex like a man because we can already have the best experience possible by having sex like women! We can be consumed by healthy, expressive emotion and the satisfying power of passion, Better yet, we won’t have to get up and leave immediately afterward.

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