I need to thank Minerva for inspiring this post, since she was the one who sent me the 2001 meta-analysis examining difference in sexual desire between women and men (“Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive?” by Baumeister, Catanese and Vohs ) that so frustrated me I had to blog about it .
Now I realize there’s a difference between discussing personal experience and discussing the characteristics of a general population (thank you Emily Nagoski!). But I also think that, when it comes to human sexuality, that’s particularly difficult to keep this in mind. Why? In part because generally speaking we don’t speak publicly about our own personal sexual experiences. So instead of knowing (from hearing a bunch of individual stories) that peoples’ individual experience varies, and having that knowledge to compare to the population-level data, we usually have primarily our own experience and then this data which purports to be everyone elses’ experience. Or at least, the “normal” or normative experience.
So we hold up our own selves on one side, the study data on the other, and go: “Oh my God! I’m a fucking outlier!” When, really, it might be the data that’s total shite. Or, even if it isn’t shite, it is only going to have limited relevance in terms of your own sexuality being “normal” or not. Because part of being “normal” is having unique, personal experiences which are variations on the norm.
To counteract that, I want to share some of my own reactions to this (admittedly dated) meta-analysis and talk about how my own experience of sexual desires and practices causes me to be particularly skeptical of some of the study’s conclusions.
Note: Vintage nudity and discussion of sexuality after the jump; potentially NSFW.