A simultaneously frothy and substantive tour of female sexual desire.
The title of this “work of cultural criticism” is a double-entendre; Martin (Primates of Park Avenue, 2015, etc.) investigates women who’ve been untrue—i.e., unfaithful—and she debunks popular untruths about female sexuality. As she shows, women are not inherently more monogamous than men, and although Americans talk about valuing monogamy, many of us, including a lot of women, cheat. Sometimes women cheat to keep their marriages together. Rather than go through messy, economically disastrous divorces, women find sexual fulfillment on the side so they can continue to tolerate an unsatisfying marriage. Vignettes drawn from interviews Martin conducted with 32 men and women leaven the book, but the strongest sections are Martin’s accessible translations of academic research. For example, primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy studied langurs in India, noting how female langurs often mate “promiscuously,” with as many males as possible. Hrdy theorized that this behavior is “assiduously maternal.” Male langurs have the habit of killing infants in order to lure now-childless females to mate with them. By having sex with lots of males, a female decreases the number of males who might want to kill her baby because, after all, that baby just might be the would-be killer’s offspring. The author’s summaries of research are never dry. She notes that Hrdy’s depiction of “sexually assertive” females was, initially, somewhat controversial; in what Hrdy describes as a “mortifying” moment, one colleague asked, “So, Sarah…you’re saying you’re horny, right?” Other scholars who make appearances are sociologist Alicia Walker, who argues that women don’t just stumble into adultery after one too many drinks at the hotel bar on a work trip, they actively pursue infidelity; and primatologist Zanna Clay, who suggests that females’ cries and groans during sex have the effect of advertising to nearby males, “Receptive and ready just as soon as this is over!”
An indispensable work of popular psychology and sociology.