There’s a survey coming out soon. A huge random sample of Australians – about 20,000 people – have been asked quite detailed questions about their sexual behaviour and attitudes. It’s the most comprehensive survey of its kind in the world, and it’s impeccable in both its sampling and its survey technique.
Two of the questions were about bdsm, but the data for those questions is still being analysed. I do know that there’s been a slight increase in the number of people who say they’ve taken part in bdsm activity in the last year, and a larger increase in the number of people who taken part in role-playing games like teacher/naughty schoolgirl, which typically involve a bit of mild bondage and spanking.
What really interests me is that for the first time they’ve asked whether people usually take a dominant-top role or a submissive-bottom role, or if they just switch without a favourite. That was my idea. I’m interested in what proportion of doms and subs there are, for both men and women. I’ve heard a ton of guessing and theorising about this, but I’d like to know what the real figures are.
The previous survey found that there was no difference in health, success and childhood experiences between people who do bdsm and people who don’t. We’re all fine, thanks. But it’s possible that, say, submissives are slightly less healthy than average, while dominants are slightly healthier than average, and that’s how we came out as average in the last survey.
Is it true that there are more submissives than dominants? Are dominants or submissives more healthy and successful in everyday life, or is there no difference? Well, we’ll know in a few months, and you’ll probably be able to read it here first, in this shonky blog that no-one reads.
Young women, fucking and masturbation
For now I’m puzzling over a different result, which is that although about 76% of young women aged 16 to 20 have had sex, only about 27% of them have ever masturbated. Three times as many young women have had sex than have ever wanked.
That seems incredible to me, but it’s consistent with other surveys – in fact it’s a slight increase on the similar survey ten years earlier – so it’s bound to be true.
But it’s only the young women aged 16 to 20 who don’t masturbate much. By the time they’re over 30 most women do masturbate, and the numbers go up as women get older. Women over 30 are never quite as busy wanking as the men their age, but they’re wanking two or three times as much as their younger selves.
So – given that masturbation is pleasant, harmless, and sometimes the only thing you can do if you want to get any sleep – why on earth is it that most young women don’t masturbate, even though they’re having sex?
You could argue that it’s because girls are taught that masturbation is shameful, and so they don’t do it, or they do masturbate but they pretend that they don’t. I don’t think that’s likely to be the explanation. Remember that three out of four of them have had sex, and they had no trouble telling that to a researcher. If they’re not wanking because of conservative rules about sex, those rules should also be stopping them from having sex. So that’s not what’s happening.
My theory is this. Both men’s and women’s sexual responses are partly hard-wired, sure, but a lot of it in both sexes is learned.
Male sexual response is easier to learn. Cocks and their sexual responses are blatantly visible. Young men know when they have an erection, and to some extent there’s a feedback cycle based on that knowledge. “My cock is stiff.” –> “I am turned on.” –> “Whoa! My cock just get harder.” –> “I must be really turned on.” And so on.
Female sexual response is less obvious, and it’s more difficult for young women to know when they’re aroused.
There are experiments that found that women who are in fact having measurable physiological responses (vaginal wetness, skin tension, etc) in response to sexual images will deny being aroused. I don’t think they’re lying, or shy, or that they disapprove of the sexual images and their response. It’s that the physiological changes in women are less visible, and it’s easier to be unaware of them even while experiencing them.
So young women can be aroused without knowing it. So there’s less of a “trigger” to relieve the arousal through masturbation.
The other thing is that in our culture we spend more time and money showing images of what a sexually inviting, fuckable woman looks like, naked or not wearing much. We don’t show naked young men, aroused or sexually receptive, nearly as often. In our culture it’s easy to learn what a sexy woman looks like, and learn your own response to that, and somewhat harder to learn what a sexy man looks like, and find out what appeals to you about them.
By “sexy man” I’m talking about the kind of image, with penises and shadows, and strength or surrender, that makes (some) women say “unff”. I mean images that are actually hot, as opposed to “nice” like George Clooney’s charmingly crinkly eyes.
So a lot of advertising, for example, looks like a light version of the porn aimed at straight men or lesbians. (There are differences between porn made for het men and porn made for lesbians, but also a fair amount of overlap.) But not many advertising images of men look much like gay porn.
This may be one reason why there are far more women, especially young women, who respond sexually to both men and women, than there are men who respond sexually to other men. Both sexes are taught to desire women.
That means, in the case of young women, that the erotic images they see have less connection with the person they’re most likely to have their first sexual experiences with, who in most cases is going to be a young man.
So young men find it easier to know when they’re horny, and they are given a menu of things to like about women’s bodies and about sex. Young women don’t have so much information, from their own bodies, or about sex with young men in it.
So young women learn the things that really, personally, get them hot through their own experience, and not so much from the culture. So young women have sex first, and start masturbating later, while young men are already wanking before they’ve had any sexual experience with another person.
So that’s my theory. It boils down to: sexual power comes from knowledge. Which is one more way of saying: knowledge is power.