Politics & Society What Do Women Want? by Daniel Bergner | Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on July 16th, 2013


What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner

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Blurb: When it comes to sex, common wisdom holds that men roam while women crave closeness and commitment. But in this provocative, headline-making book, Daniel Bergner turns everything we thought we knew about women’s arousal and desire inside out. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with renowned behavioural scientists, sexologists, psychologists, and everyday women, he forces us to reconsider long-held notions about female sexuality.

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This bold and captivating journey into the world of female desire explores answers to such thought-provoking questions as: Are women perhaps the less monogamous sex? What effect do intimacy and emotional connection really have on lust? What is the role of narcissism – the desire to be desired – in female sexuality? Are political gains for women (‘No means no’) detrimental in the bedroom? And is the hunt for a female Viagra anything but a search for the cure for monogamy? Bergner goes behind the scenes of some of the most groundbreaking experiments on sexuality today and confronts us with controversial, sometimes uncomfortable findings. Incendiary, profoundly insightful, and brilliantly illuminating, What Do Women Want? will change the conversation about women and sex, and is sure to spark dynamic discussion for years to come. (Canongate)

Read an extract from the book | The New York Times

Read an extract from the book | The Guardian

Janice Turner, The Times 

“Thank goodness this was written by a man. A woman publishing such a book would be ignored, discredited or suffer online the kind of violently offended male tirade spouted by Tom Cruise’s sex guru character in Magnolia: “Respect the cock!” … it is Bergner’s portraits of women agonising about their own thwarted or failing desire that truly illuminate the book.”

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Jenni Russell, The Sunday Times

“It’s Bergner’s contention, in this fascinating and controversial book, that we must recognise the deep tension that exists between what many women may want for social and familial reasons, and what fulfils them sexually. There is no easy resolution to that dilemma — should we build greater distance into our relationships? Should we have ­private assignations like the upper-class French? — but pretending that it doesn’t exist is creating great private agony. Acknowledging it and understanding its costs and its reality offers the hope of leading more fulfilling lives.”

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Emma Brockes, The Guardian

“Rats are a big part of this book, as they often are in pop-science, which could boil down many of its arguments to “because a rat did it” … the potted social histories are cursory  … The lives of modern women fare better, particularly in a good section on the huge and growing problem of antidepressants … And Bergner is touching on the difficulty of sustaining interest in a partner over the course of a long marriage … These sections are a welcome relief from the rats and a reminder that reading life through brain chemistry will get you only so far.”

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Elaine Blair, The New York Times 

“Bergner proceeds as if the value of being called “animal,” of being considered highly libidinous, were self-evident — as if such charges had never been used against women. The fact that scientific and medical study of women’s reproductive systems has over the last three centuries been a fun house of ethically questionable experiments and misogynistic pronouncements doesn’t weigh as heavily on this book as you might expect … There is something drastically undertheorized about what all these tentative findings and speculations are doing in the same volume and what they might mean taken together.”

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