You can help end senior hunger. Learn ways you can take action today

Why Men Are Hot for Sex but Women Warm to It

For many women, desire is not the cause of sex, but its result

What comes first: sex or desire?

"While most men are 'preheated,' most women warm up to sex slowly." — Alamy

En español | While most men are "preheated," most women warm up to sex slowly. Learning the reasons for this difference can help men become better lovers.

Most men over 50 can remember experiencing libido as a strong drive — akin, almost, to hunger: They felt horny and went after sex. (Indeed, some still do.) But recent research shows that women experience libido as an urge far less compelling than that. In a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999, for example, University of Chicago sociologist Edward O. Laumann revealed his findings that 30 percent of women have low or no libido. (This sexual desire difference is one of the most frequent causes for women and couples to seek sex therapy.)

But there was also a silver lining: If these women have sex and enjoy it, they eventually experience desire.

The overlooked key to women's desire

In 2000 and 2002, a University of British Columbia psychiatrist named Rosemary Basson interviewed hundreds of women who reported feeling "erotically neutral" at the start of sex. Only when they started making love — and enjoyed it — did they warm up and feel actual desire.

In the years since then, other researchers have corroborated her findings. In the largest study, a survey of 3,687 women, Portuguese sex researcher Ana Carvalheira found that women who said that sex preceded desire outnumbered those who reported desire first by a margin of 2 to 1. Today, sex therapists increasingly accept Basson's view that for many (if not most) women, desire is not the cause of sex, but its result.

But if women don't feel lust before sex, why do they make love? According to Basson, it's not primarily to have orgasms, but rather to share intimacy. This means men become intimate to gain sex, whereas women have sex to gain intimacy.

If women's desire results from good sex, then the issue for men is not how to ignite their lust before the fact; it's knowing what kind of sex enables women to warm up sufficiently to experience desire. According to sexologists, the "brand" you should try is sex based on gentle, whole-body massage that eventually includes the genitals but does not fixate on them.

Unfortunately, many men don't appreciate the importance of whole-body lovemaking. "The genitals are important," says New York sex educator Betty Dodson, "but so is every other part of women's bodies. Men who rush into genital sex are clueless about women."

Forget foreplay; embrace 'loveplay'

Which brings us to foreplay, the term for activities that precede what most men consider the main event. Forget foreplay. Instead, focus on "loveplay" — extended, gentle, playful, whole-body caressing.

Loveplay might begin by holding one another, kissing, and mutual touching from scalp to sole. Then you might shower together, dry each other off and share a glass of wine. Next you could light candles, kiss, turn on some music and massage one another's neck, shoulders and back. And then — well, you get the idea.

Convinced that sex equals genital play, some men recoil from "all that touchy-feely stuff." They view women's preference for whole-body sensuality as an annoyance that postpones the hardcore action. However, leisurely, playful, whole-body massage enhances not only women's experience of lovemaking but also men's.

The whole-body sexual style that allows women to experience desire is the same approach that sex therapists recommend for men wishing to raise and maintain erections and enjoy ejaculatory control. In other words, whole-body loveplay is a win-win. It allows women the warm-up time they need to experience desire and become enthusiastic lovers, and it improves men's sexual function, boosting the satisfaction of both parties.

Michael Castleman, publisher of the website GreatSexAfter40.com, writes about sex for AARP.


Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

AARP Membership

Discounts & Benefits

    Next Article

    Read This