Accessible, engaging inquiry into the boundaries of the female libido by New York Times Magazine contributor Bergner (The Other Side of Desire, 2009, etc.).
The author's multifaceted exploration travels across varied terrain, ranging from the varieties of female orgasms and the effect of monogamy on lust to the development of a female desire drug. Bergner combines into a cogent whole vast amounts of information on female sexuality gleaned from interviews, academic papers, scores of books and data gathered from conversations with researchers. He begins with Meredith Chivers, whom Bergner describes as a bold sexologist and a careful statistician whose always-scrupulous work explores women’s primal and essential selves. One of the author's provocative conclusions, arrived at after years spent talking with Chivers and her subjects, explodes one of society’s ingrained concepts: “Women are supposed to be the standard’s more natural allies, caretakers, defenders, their sexual beings more suited biologically, to faithfulness. We hold tight to the fairy tale.” Bergner devotes a chapter to the varied ways female sexuality has been perceived since classical times, then probes societal and cultural mores that have pegged women as the less lustful gender. Using scientific studies as a scaffolding, he translates data from studies performed on monkeys and rats, explaining how its interpretation over the years has negated information regarding female sexuality. “What science had managed to miss in the monkeys—what it had effectively erased—was female desire,” he writes. In another example of his adroit translation of technical material into entertaining and erudite reading for curious readers, the author distills a highly entertaining chapter on speed dating from a 2009 article titled, “Arbitrary social norms influence sex differences in romantic selectivity.”
Stylishly written and cogently organized, making it easy and rewarding for lay readers to understand and appreciate some fairly complex science.