Friday, August 28, 2009

Where are the men in lab coats when you need them?

When I wrote my piece for Victoria Janssen's blog, it originally contained this paragraph:

While I would assume most romance readers are straight women, f/f sex and three-way sex are two of the most common sexual fantasies for women, regardless of their orientation. I’d extrapolate that straight women fantasize about f/f sex as much as lesbians fantasize about m/m—which is rather a lot more than logic might predict. Which has made me wonder why f/f and f/f/m erotic content has been less than enthusiastically embraced by romance readers.

After sending it to a couple of buddies to vet it for me, one of them replied with this:

I'm not sure about. There are a lot of assumptions, and a lot of arguable points. Lesbians fantasize about m/m? f/f and three ways female fantasy? I think you need to add more to support these claims. Or give a reason why you think this.

Now, this is a case of "I know what I know". I know some lesbians fantasize about m/m sex, because many of the best m/m writers and most avid (and exclusive) m/m fans are lesbians. I personally know a fair number of women (who identify as straight) who not only fantasize about f/f sex, but have experimented with it in real life, or engaged in f/f/m threesomes at their own behest, not their boyfriends'. And I absolutely know women of any orientation get physically turned on by it, because this study proves it. But that doesn't mean any of them go out of their way to think about it, just that they respond to it when it's put in front of them.

In a climate predisposed to sneer at the mere mention of two girls kissing, and in a community prone to blanket denials of f/f's appeal or claims that only straight guys would ever want to read/fantasize/think about women together, anecdotal and tangential evidence are not evidence at all.


So off I went on a quest to find some hard numbers to back up my claims. After two days of combing the internet, I ended up feeling like Frodo Baggins would have felt had he crossed Middle Earth and climbed Mount Doom only to find a pile of cold cinders and an "out of order" sign.

My path was strewn with pitfalls, baited traps and mirages. I mean, how serious can you take the claim that getting it on with another girl and three-way sex are two of the top ten things women fantasize about when the list is posted at askmen.com alongside articles on how to pick up hot chicks? And every time I found a promising lead on a sexual health or women's health website, it turned out to be merely sun-shimmer on sand--advice columns where straight women wonder if it's normal to fantasize about f/f, the expert reply always being that it's "normal" or "common" or that "many" or even "most" straight women have these feelings.

But numbers? Links to research papers? Nary a one.

At last, I found this:

Masters and Johnson (1978), for example, found that what they term "cross-preference encounters" were the third most frequent category of sexual fantasy for both homosexual males and homosexual females, the fourth most frequent fantasy for heterosexual males and the fifth most frequent fantasy for heterosexual females.

At last! Hard numbers! Except, they're not. Fifth most frequent? What the eff does THAT mean? I mean, say they studied a hundred straight women. Fifth most frequent could mean that all hundred women fantasized about f/f, but they did so less frequently than, say, non-con, stranger sex, boyfriend sex and double penetration. Or it could mean 80 of the women NEVER thought about it, and the other 20 thought about it to the exclusion of anything else. Or pretty much anything in between.


And Masters & Johnson, 1978? Seriously? Dudes, this is absolutely sad. Nobody's bothered studying this or writing any articles about said studies since 19fucking78??!! No wonder so many women were writing into those advice columns asking whether they could think about chicks doing each other and still be straight. It's not like they can actually, you know, google it and find out. Unless they have academic privileges, I guess.


So where the eff are the men in lab coats? What are they doing? Apparently, they're studying the effectiveness of condoms fitted to order, or how many women fantasize about rape (lots of hard numbers there) and its impact on the perceptions of violence against women. There are tons of recent studies on how diligently teenagers apply safe sexual practices. Just none, apparently, on what percentage of women fantasize about f/f sex.


I am, to put it mildly, disgruntled.

11 comments:

MB (Leah) said...

Heh, I tried to look up some stats after reading this and it's shocking to me how the two search terms "women" and "fantasy" always bring up tons of websites/ studies about rape fantasies even without that as a search term.

Wow. You'd think that was the only sexual fantasy women have.

Anyway, you are right, there's a lack of studies or at least, posted on the net studies.

I did come across this article, but I couldn't find where the author got her info.

Women's Top 10 Sexual Fantasies

http://www.healthyplace.com/sex/psychology-of-sex/womens-top-ten-sexual-fantasies/menu-id-1482/

Fantasizing about doing it with women was the 5th most common fantasy.

Not really hard evidence.

I do wonder what the stats are though. I know for myself, who identifies as a two on the Kinsey scale, I only fantasized a few times about a woman who really hit on me, but whom I wasn't attracted to in any way.

And then once in a blue moon I'd fantasize about a girl I knew in college. But in my whole lifetime and world of sexual fantasy, it was pretty rare for me to fantasize about sex with a woman.

Now, since I discovered how much I love reading it, girl on girl does enter my fantasies more often.

kirsten saell said...

always bring up tons of websites/ studies about rape fantasies even without that as a search term.

I know! Is this the only aspect of women's fantasy lives that the scientific community cares about?

And fifth most common or fifth most frequent--yeah, doesn't tell you that much. I mean you could break it down like this:

100/100 women think about f/f sex some of the time, but fantasize about four other scenarios more often.

X/100 women think about f/f some of the time, and of those X women, Y number list it as #1, Z number list it as #2, and so on...

Or 10/100 women fantasize about f/f all the time, to the exclusion of everything else, and the other 90 never think about it, but fantasize about a wide variety of other scenarios.

Statements like "fifth most common" are so ambiguous as to be almost useless.

What I wanted to know is the percentage of all women--straight, gay or in between--who have ever got off on it as a fantasy. As in, going out of one's way to think about it, not just getting off when it shows up unexpectedly in some m/f porn or something. What percentage of women have masturbated to orgasm at least one time to fantasies of women together?

No one seems to have that information posted anywhere. Grr.

MB (Leah) said...

No one seems to have that information posted anywhere. Grr.

Well, I'm going to school this fall and will maybe have access to online academic and science papers that one usually needs to pay to read if not a student. I remember having access to that last time I had online classes.

I could try and look it up for you.
It would be interesting.

who have ever got off on it as a fantasy. As in, going out of one's way to think about it,

What percentage of women have masturbated to orgasm at least one time to fantasies of women together?


Again, in my case, fantasizing about a woman only came up after contact with a specific person and even then, men would enter the picture and take over my fantasies pretty quickly. Men are so pushy like that. LOL snort

Ummm... I wonder too, how many women might fantasize about being with a woman during sex with a man.

I was kind of thinking that since the rape fantasy involves such a social taboo and or that men might have a strong interest in studying that due to their part in that fantasy, that it might be why the rape fantasy is so well studied.

Cause, you know, it's all about men and what they want.

However, you'd think then that "male" scientists would push to see what percentage of women like to get it on with other women, another fantasy that involves what also might turn on a man.

Jill Sorenson said...

I liked your article at Victoria's.

I don't really get the rape fantasy thing. It sounds made up or exaggerated to me, but it's hard to judge. Just because I don't fantasize about rape doesn't mean it's weird or wrong etc.

I can see why women are reluctant to talk about the f/f fantasy, even with their partners. I know how my husband reacts, with a typical male enthusiasm. He doesn't need any more encouragement, LOL.

MB (Leah) said...

I don't really get the rape fantasy thing. It sounds made up or exaggerated to me, but it's hard to judge.

I never got that either. It's never been one of my fantasies. Not even minor coercion.

But I think it's common because women have been taught that having sexual desire means they're a whore or something so if they get "taken" or "raped" then they can have sex and get off without the guilt. And from what I've read, most rape fantasies aren't about violence but about giving up culpability in wanting sex.

It seem rather complex.

I know how my husband reacts, with a typical male enthusiasm.

I hear that all the time. I've discussed my liking f/f with my husband and he gets jealous and doesn't want to hear about it.

It's interesting how different men react. It's not always a male fantasy, sometimes it comes across as a threat maybe.

kirsten saell said...

I've fantasized about rape on occasion, and I think a fair number of women have. And violence against women is a huge social issue, so I guess that's why there are so many references and resources for people to find data on it.

I think lesbians would appreciate your husband's reaction, Leah. I've heard some say it's a huge pet peeve that men don't take them seriously--they see lesbians as a curiosity or a challenge (she's just waiting for a "real man") or fodder for their own fantasies rather than competition. I've come across men who are genuinely interested and encouraging about my bisexuality, but they're rare compared to the ones who grin and offer to set me up with someone they know "and then [they] can watch!" Um, no. No you can't. Ass.

And I didn't often discuss it with my ex, because I think he'd have felt weird to know I was thinking about chicks when were were having sex, lol.

I read Nancy Friday's Women on Top, a compilation/analysis of women's fantasies, ages ago, and recalled a lot of f/f fantasies in there. And when I searched the book at Amazon, I found a long list of names at the start of the girl-on-girl chapter--more than for the chapters of a lot of other common fantasies. But I couldn't really look further with Amazon's "look inside" feature, and I was reluctant to purchase a book I'd already read. I don't even know if I can, since it was removed from Canadian shelves as obscene about six months after it came out.

I checked out that list, Leah, and it's the same one posted all over the men's online mags. I hesitate to take totally seriously a top ten list with the heading "I taw, I taw a putty tat" as representative of girl-girl fantasies, lol.

MB (Leah) said...

I hesitate to take totally seriously a top ten list with the heading "I taw, I taw a putty tat" as representative of girl-girl fantasies, lol.

LOL, I know, what the eff was that? snort. That's kind of right up there with "muff diving" or "eating at the muff buffet"

M. A. said...

Drat. I miss you guys. My Revolutionary America instructor is the same bozo who instructed Colonial Louisiana History so I'm doing nothing but READING this semester, too.

Hi, everyone.

I am pretty skeptical of any study for subject matter like erotic fantasy. I just don't see how reliable the data is unless the participants are all completely in touch with and truthful about their fantasies and the folks collecting the info are very precise and not "slanting" the data one way or another.

I never considered that lesbians might comprise part of the m/m writers and fandom, but after thinking about it, this makes sense to me in a tripped up kind of way. It may also explain some of the more vindictive or overzealous attitudes some supporters of this particular genre express towards any romance fiction including female character/s within the romantic pairing or grouping.

As to why f/f/(m) hasn't found its footing in fiction, yet, I suspect the genre's time will come at some point. Genres tend to rise and fade in popularity.

Mfred said...

Oh! I'm super late to this conversation, but if you want to read an interesting book about what scientists have been doing in the sex research area, I would recommend Bonk, by Mary Roach.

I don't think there is a lot dedicated to just sexual fantasy but it does outline a lot of the reasons sex research- and especially sex research on women's sexuality and sexual experience, is behind the times.

Silvia said...

Also late to this conversation... But, yes, it's kind of a dirty little secret that many lesbians enjoy m/m romance fiction. I'm one of them. ;)

I'm sure there are many layered reasons. But one reason, I believe, is that it's so easy for us to suspend disbelief. The fantasy works so well, is so appealing, because it doesn't have to be as tainted by reality. You can just go with it and not worry about how men "really act" in relationships and in bed, because it's not something you're familiar with. Like M/F, but even easier to idealize. And you can leave all of your own relationship baggage at the door!

I do also enjoy f/f, of course, but I'm so much more picky about the characterization & relationship dynamics. And most of it is written in a way I just can't identify with. (The "Rachel Morgan" series by Kim Harrison being a big exception- that's how to build f/f romance!)

M. A. said...

I'm sure there are many layered reasons. But one reason, I believe, is that it's so easy for us to suspend disbelief. The fantasy works so well, is so appealing, because it doesn't have to be as tainted by reality.

Hi, Silvia!

Your comment is so interesting to me, because the explanation cites exactly the reason I feel more "distanced" from M/M fiction as true fantasy/escapism material.

I like my fiction "real," and I understand that's an oxymoron. When I write historicals, you can believe I've gone above and beyond to scrape up historical facts and details to present them realistically.

I also enjoy depicting relationships that are real/believable to me. My research is VERY modest -- as Kristen's pointed out there is not extensive research material available -- but most documented real-life menages are not the stereotyped man with two/more women; more often they are m/F/f.

When I discovered this I was pretty surprised; but as I read more information about it, it made sense to me. Once it "clicked" it became easy for me to "see" it and plan it and write it.

I'm writing a m/m novella now, and I enjoy the challenge of it, become very immersed in and adore the characters. But I don't pretend for one minute that this m/m romance accurately represents a "real" gay relationship (and if I ever did, I've got several gay buds who'll put me in my place, lol.) Because I don't have that "bond in reality" with m/m, I'm always a little "worried I'm doing it wrong." It's fun to try, though. : )