When it comes to sex, do you simmer or soar?
June 23rd, 2011
07:07 AM ET

When it comes to sex, do you simmer or soar?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

When comparing male and female sexuality, there’s no shortage of adages: “Men are like light switches - just flip them on and they’re ready to go. Women are like irons - plug them in and let them warm up.”

Or, wait: Is it that men are like microwaves - just push a button to turn them on - and women are like Crock-Pots that need to simmer?

Dr. Emily Nagoski, author of "The Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms" writes that “men are like driving standard transmission – if you move through the gears in the right order, you will get where you want to go – and women are like baking a souffle – the outcome depends on the ingredients and the chef, sure, but it also depends on the reliability of the oven, the altitude, the humidity of the day… more variables, more variability.”

Regardless of your metaphor of choice, the oversimplifications of male sexuality abound, as do the explanations:

• Evolutionarily, men are wired to spread their seed indiscriminately, while women are wired to cultivate.
• Psychologically, inside every man is an insecure little boy who needs constant sexual approval.
• Neurochemically, it’s the male “testosterone-brain” versus the female “estrogen-brain.”
• Behaviorally, men respond to simple cues like visual stimulation, while women respond to complex emotional cues.
• Inter-galactically, men are from Mars and women are from Venus!

Whatever the myth, we tend to view male sexuality as simple and female sexuality as complex. Maybe it’s true.

Lately, as reported in the Chart, there have been some really good books by really smart people that support this theory. In their book "Why Women Have Sex," for example, psychologists Cindy Meston and David Buss purposely excluded men from their research.

“We do bring in men occasionally by way of contrast,” they say, “but we wanted to focus exclusively on women so that the complexity of women’s sexual psychology was not given short shrift, so to speak.”

In the more recent book "A Billion Wicked Thoughts," neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed a billion web searches, a million websites, a million erotic videos, a million erotic stories, millions of personal ads and tens of thousands of digitized romance novels in order to better understand the sexual differences between men and women.

They concluded that a single cue triggers arousal in the male brain, but women’s brains require multiple cues to become aroused. “The male sexual brain is like a single toggle switch, whereas the female sexual brain is like the cockpit of an F1 fighter jet,” Gaddam says. “There are tons of dials and instruments, and there’s sophisticated calibration going on.” Again, the switch/knob comparison.

But are men really that simple? And are women really so different?

In one of the first episodes of "Sex and the City," Carrie wonders why, in an age where women often make the same money and enjoy the same successes as men, women can’t enjoy sex like men? If men are capable of having sex without any meaning or attachment, why can’t women?

Well, in my experience, women certainly can have sex like men, and as I’ve discussed in previous entries about women and porn and the rise of female infidelity, women are indeed doing just that.

But if women can have sex like men, then men are also capable of having sex like women: with complex motivations.

For example, when I talk to men who have cheated, some tell me they have done so simply for the sex or in the heat of the moment, but many, if not most, say they cheat for more complex reasons: because they were bored, emotionally disconnected in their relationship, depressed, or seeking passion.

And while it would seem that, in our age of Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and John Edwards, men are ruled by the passions of their penis, there are actually just as many men with low sexual desire as there are women.

I also know plenty of women who don’t like to cuddle after sex, and plenty of men who do. There are also lots of women who love casual sex, and plenty of men who want sex to be part of an emotionally committed relationship. In short, I know plenty of male “souflees.”

So is female sexuality is really more complicated than male sexuality? It depends on the individual woman, and how she’s using sex at the time.

Same goes for the guys. There are times when sex (and our desires) are simple and times when they’re more complex.

So is your sexuality like a light switch that goes on and off, or like a dimmer or volume knob that operates on a spectrum? More than likely, whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s both: You can be both switch or knob depending upon the context.

And sometime you’re probably a complex souflee. In their book on "Why Women Have Sex," the authors found that women had sex for approximately 237 reasons, ranging from love to pure pleasure to a sense of duty to curiosity to curing a headache.

Why do men have sex? I haven’t counted all the reasons men have sex, I bet I could get up to 237.

soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. codehints

    this could really either be a fellow's moment, or the girl's I suppose: http://littledebbieoatmealcookie.wordpress.com/explosion/

    June 24, 2011 at 03:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Eliott

    Article Started well!!! a bit "deja vu" or shoudl i say "deja lu" though .... bored to death after line 10....

    June 24, 2011 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. maximas

    I just grunt and bust a nut, big deal rofl!

    June 24, 2011 at 04:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fnordian

      Classy comment.

      June 24, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse |
  4. chely

    I am a woman it takes forever to get at a really excited were my husband takes a few seconds..It stinks ..

    June 24, 2011 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lethealenoki

      change husbands

      July 1, 2011 at 19:01 | Report abuse |
    • pinger

      Wow, Linda, how superficial. I guess you won't mind if I only like women with huge DD-cup breasts?

      July 14, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
  5. ram124

    Damn faulty switch! mine goes on in one second, stays on for 10 second and bang, it goes off for months. That suck!

    June 24, 2011 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Beefburger

    Guys, just be cool, don't be overhormonal dorks. The ladies want to know that you are there to satisfy THEM, that you are willing to go the distance rather than just trying to bag your own "nut". Keep your mouth shut, girls aren't going to warm up to you if they know that your exploits go out in regular Facebook updates or go bragging to "the guys". THEY will do the talking, satisfy one and 10 more become interested. THEY want you if OTHER girls want you.

    June 24, 2011 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • carl

      I concurr

      June 24, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse |
    • El Kababa

      A gentleman should ring the doorbell a couple of times before coming in.

      July 18, 2011 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
  7. GA

    Ya, whatever, I haven't gotten laid in almost a decade...chicks hate me and don't give me the time of day. Sucks.

    June 24, 2011 at 05:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lethealenoki

      eat less food

      July 1, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • samuraishonan(at)bloodspot(dot)com

      Do you have a mirror?

      July 11, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
    • Monica

      I can never understand this kind of a comment from a guy. There are SO MANY women out there that will do anything to find a good guy. You take care of yourself, keep your body in ok condition, clean yourself, smell good, and are kind, and there's absolutely no reason why women would not be interested, no matter what age you are! That's all it takes for a woman. Looks overall don't matter one bit, as long as the guy takes care of himself and is nice. Well, and has a job.

      July 18, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
    • Adi

      If a woman decides to keep her name, both pneatrrs are interrogated and shamed by friends and family. Are you talking generally or factually here?When I got married my husband left the choice of whether or not I changed my name to his completely up to me. He really didn't care either way. So I kept my name (because I like it) and I also use his name professionally (because I like it). I use both. There was no naming or shaming by any of my family (or his for that matter) at all. My boss who's from a traditional Italian background uses her own name, but has a hypenated last name.Many of my girlfriends simply could not wait to take their husband's names. So much so, that some women even started using their husband's names before they actually got married. And, as another example, friends of ours who married recently chose a completely new name,. From what I personally see in Canada and in the UK, changing your name when you get married isn't a big deal any more.When men open doors for me, or let me go first into the elevator which they often, do I like it. I think it is polite much more so than letting the door shut in my face. I smile and always say thanks. And I also hold the door open for men and women alike.I am fortunate to work in a very large organization where respect for diversity including gender is very much encouraged and if people entertain thoughts that they are more equal than their women counterparts, they are advised to leave those thoughts at the door before they come to work. They also won't get very far in the company. And by the way, women make up a good proportion of the top execs at this company.Lastly, it is sad, but many of these inequalites are at the very least perpetrated by women themsleves. A woman who had decided not to have children and who is childfree (such as myself) is derided and scorned by women, and is counted less than equal to the venerated mothers of the world. In fact she is termed to be abnormal for not wanting kids. And if she dares pursues a career while she has young children, she is criticised by other women as a bad mother who should be at home tending to children and husband.Not saying that all the work is done, it isn't. But at least I can present a different reality.

      March 5, 2012 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
  8. CRIT

    Isn't that the same guy that represents the MAC user in the MAC vs MICROSOFT stereotype? So who's he here, the SIMMERER or the SOARER?

    June 24, 2011 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply


    June 24, 2011 at 05:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. madtrapper

    enough buildup in me to shampoo a moose.

    June 24, 2011 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dude

      That's the funniest thing I've heard today! Thanks for the laugh. 🙂

      July 4, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse |
  11. Chris Christie

    None of your damn business.

    June 24, 2011 at 06:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Barnacle Bill

    Simmer, soar, who cares?

    All I know is that I want to have s3x with the woman in the picture NOW!

    June 24, 2011 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Rami

    You mean someone finally understood women and wrote about it?

    June 24, 2011 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. unowhoitsme

    And this is NEWS? It's been happening for years!

    June 24, 2011 at 07:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Thenextstep

    WoW !!!!!!! Same old BS............... Only now its been printed on the CNN Website in article form........... WOW !!!!!!!! Give that man a beer.

    June 24, 2011 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Almost Done

    Baaah. Who needs to be in bed fiddling around for an hour? 3 minutes. Maybe 4. She better get hers. Because I'm gonna get mine. It's a shame though that when a woman orgasms, the act can still continue. But when a man goes, boom, it's pretty much over. Good for me, bad for her. Why does EVERYTHING have to be about HER? What happened to equality? LOL!!

    June 24, 2011 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Howie

      What do you mean over? I go boom like ten times in a night. 4 -5 hours? No problem.

      June 24, 2011 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
  17. CEC167

    Are those typos or is the grammar really that poor?

    June 24, 2011 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Uncle Jetski

    What a moronic article. If the vast majority of men are, to quote Kerner's quote, "like light switches," and the vast majority of women are "like souffle's," to cite exceptions as a way of instigating a discussion is journalistic pap.

    June 24, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Coby

      And you would know because??? Sounds like a man who can't get a girl to simmer..... how sad for you... but bitter isn't cool.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse |
  19. Mike

    For many men, the Internet has liberated them from the trouble of deciphering the knots of the female psyche.
    When the urge strikes, he is only a few free tugs away from satisfaction, and then he can go back to what he was doing - running a business, restoring a car, gardening, there's no limit of meaningful activities.
    No need for the psycho-social circus of dating or marriage.
    On the rare occasion one craves actual human contact, one is only a few clicks away from getting a good hourly rate from a pro.
    No more drama, no more wasted money, much higher personal satisfaction.

    June 24, 2011 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Coby

      Really... and its just sad to have to paid for it..... Not enough game to get it for free...

      July 21, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse |
    • Ezeike

      PRICH you have done well. i would have loved to have you sit with me to model out practical luootisns you provided in your essay on how best to end violence against women

      March 5, 2012 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  20. phil

    I think its all in the mind.... If women wish to understand men, then try to think like one.....

    June 24, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Linda

    No metaphors needed. Men and women are people–not airplanes or microwave ovens. I'm turned on instantly by the sound of certain accents when men talk. I'm completely turned off by blonde men. I love and lust after tall men with lots of dark hair and brown eyes and especially an Hispanic accent although a Southern drawl means alot–like Toby Keith for instance–even though he's blonde he's a major turn on for me. So don't generalize and don't put us in a category. Antonio Banderas is short and generally I wouldn't like that but oh those brown eyes and that head of curls!

    June 25, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. chtisty

    In everything Let ur whole life be directed by God

    July 12, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • boka

      You are pathetic. Grow up.

      July 18, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse |
  23. pinger

    I simply follow an amended version of Teddy Roosevelt's policy: "Speak softly and carry a big dick!"

    July 14, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. alisa

    Gluten Intolerance Symptoms http://www.aboutgrain.com/

    March 22, 2012 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Patience Zorn

    Toggle switches serve a very crucial and specific purpose. It can be defined scientifically as a mechanical device that permits or does not permit the flow of current in the circuit. The switch usually has two positions which is on and off. In a normal toggle switch, when the switch is on , the circuit remains intact and there is proper flow of current whereas when it is off there is no current flow as the circuit is incomplete. The switch has a different shape and has two arms which are inline and connected with the help of a pivot. This pivot creates a positive instant action or snap action as it is termed getting two arms in contact when the switch is turned on...

    Our personal internet page

    February 24, 2013 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Gabrielfet

    https://t.me/Dating_Flirting – Dating and sex without obligation in your city

    – Sex without obligation


    November 30, 2020 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Rodgerkie

    https://bit.ly/3pqNrie – Sex without obligation

    https://bit.ly/2I3ZL7m – Flirting in your city

    December 19, 2020 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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