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What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire Paperback – 5 Jun 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (5 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178211257X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782112570
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1.7 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 233,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Explosive (Zoe Williams Guardian)

Fascinating and controversial (The Sunday Times)

This book should be read by every woman on earth. It should be handed out to pubescent girls... It is a must read for any person with even a remote erotic interest in the female gender... it is a revelation (Tracy Clark-Flory Salon)

A new book that paints an unprecedented picture of female sexuality... [it] may strike fear in the heart of every heterosexual male (Daily Mail)

What Do Women Want? adds both steam and explosives into the national conversation-or preoccupation-with what it means to be a woman today (Vogue)

Bergner lays out the history of this brainwashing and then debunks it in his entertaining new book, What do Women Want?. He recaps ingenious studies that have plumbed our desires, including those we deny or hide from ourselves (Elle)

Daniel Bergner has written a keenly intelligent book about a subject that often exceeds our intelligence: What Do Women Want? (Gay Talese)

At last, we have a new perspective on the wilds of female desire, in rousing tableaux, as women, men, sexologists, bonobos, erotic gurus, and many others provide frank, vivid answers to the question that has haunted [us] for far too long: What do women want? The answer will fascinate all (Diane Ackerman author of A Natural History of Love)

Accessible and informative prose... this page-turning book will have readers questioning some of their most ingrained beliefs about women, men, society, and sex (Publishers Weekly)

It's everything you wanted to know about sex but didn't know to ask. Daniel Bergner upends long-standing myths about women and sex - everything from nature of attraction and pursuit to prevalence of taboo fantasies to monogamy itself (New York Post)

Knits together anecdote, case study and scientific discovery to overturn some tenacious assumptions (Emma Brockes Guardian)

A must-read for anyone who is interested in understanding what makes women tick (Suzi Godson More Sex Daily)

Bergner tumbles many fallacies...Yet it is Bergner's portraits of women agonising about their own thwarted or failing desire that truly illuminate the book. He is a tender and eloquent chronicler (Janice Turner The Times)

The possibilities are endless (Psychologies (August Issue))

Fascinating . . . Threatens to disrupt all the modern stereotypes of female sexuality (Slate)

Shatters many of our most cherished myths about desire (The Atlantic)

An excellent, accessible study (Aidan Moffat Quietus)

What Do Women Want? by Daniel Bergner cites a number of studies that throw water on the notion that women have less active libidos than men or need intimacy to enjoy sex (Irish Independent)

Book Description

In What Do Women Want?, critically acclaimed journalist Daniel Bergner disseminates the latest scientific research and paints an unprecedented portrait of female lust

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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Grame Fletcher on 10 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Try not to be put off by the American 'pop-psychology' style, with its occasional digressions into soft-porn reportage. The reading list adds some scientific credibility to this interesting review of recent medical and psychological research into the nature of human female sexuality. Bergner reports studies in rats and, for primates, Rhesus monkeys and humans, and compares and contrasts the theories of (mainly American) researchers into human female desires and fantasies. Although he selects an agenda, focusing on the prevalence of violent fantasies amongst women, the tendency for female desire to fade in long-term monogamous relationships, and presents evidence supporting a view that global patriarchal civilisations repress women's 'natural' sexuality, he avoids advancing any challenge to conventional morality. Despite the fact that it would only exacerbate male insecurities, this book left me feeling that women would be much 'happier' if society encouraged them to indulge their promiscuous desires.

Coming shortly after 'Fifty Shades of Grey', this book will go some way to explaining why 'Mommy Porn' sells so well, despite any absence of literary merit. The author could have referred to the Sperm Competition theories advanced in recent years by publications such as Robin Baker's excellent 'Sperm Wars', and ought - perhaps - to have considered that Hanna Rosin's recent 'The End of Men' presages the possibility that the world's male population are on the brink of losing control of female sexual behaviour. Regardless of economic, religious and political turmoil, the West - and probably the developing world - might just be facing the end of 'civilisation as we know it'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading some very enthusiastic reviews in The Times and The Sunday Times, not to mention references to the book in reviews of recent films, it seemed a 'must read'.
Frankly, you don't learn a lot more by reading the book than was in the reviews. For me, it is too anecdotal and I hated the populist style, weaving different strands together as if it were a novel.

But, the book may achieve the worthy goal of telling a wide audience some apparently important facts about women's desire.
The key facts being that, if it valid to measure subconscious desire by vaginal blood flow, then most women are 'turned on', without necessarily being consciously aware of it, by images/thoughts of lust being shown by men, women and even monkeys, whereas straight men are turned on, and are very aware of it, only by images of women.
Further, that the degree of arousal is invariably far greater when presented with a stranger or new lover than a long-term partner. Indeed, this is a stronger factor for women than men, who are commonly blamed for losing interest in their partners. And the common belief that men are visual and women not is also false.

But the book points out that blood flow, wetness and arousal generally can occur when a woman is raped, so it doesn't necessarily prove 'desire' as we would normally define it. However, it does seem that women have been forced by society into the straitjacket of heterosexual monogamy, with no acknowledgement that this isn't what their bodies want.

The anecdotal chapters that so annoyed me relate the stories of a handful of American women and, to my mind, prove nothing. There are also accounts of the behaviour of certain, carefully selected, species of monkey in zoos. Whether we can learn about human desire from bonobos, I also doubt.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alciato on 31 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I ordered this book on the basis of an interesting review in a prominent English Sunday newspaper. Wanting to read more, it was easily downloaded and that was probably a mistake. As highlighted in the review, the actual research by the various scientists which forms the subject matter of this book is extremely fascinating, and deserves, not only more funding but a wider audience and the author’s slightly perfunctory examination of why it has had neither could have been expanded to make a much more interesting book.

This, however, is not my principle objection to what would have been a really interesting read. Having to read past the annoying ‘new journalism’ (surely, by now Old Journalism and with none of, say Tom Wolfe’s panache) was a chore. Descriptions of the individual scientist’s personal appearances and office spaces and the experimental subjects’ tedious sexual fantasies have clearly been included to literally ‘sex-up’ what the publishers obviously feared might otherwise turn into a dry tome. The are very distracting and in my opinion this strategy had precisely the opposite effect. As the author points out, this research is at best ‘fringe’ for respectable, academic peer review, and whilst it may be of considerable interest to the pharmaceutical industry, the opportunity to simply re-brand an existing product for it’s side effects as in the case of Viagra, occurring again is expecting lightening to strike twice in the same place. As the book makes clear, this is a much more complex; less mechanistic system for psycho-chemical tinkering and the interests for either interference or non-interference are equally myriad and complex.
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