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What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire Kindle Edition

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Editorial Reviews


“This book should be read by every woman on earth... a must-read for anyone with even a remote erotic interest in the female gender.” (

“...Shatters many of our most cherished myths about desire.”--The Atlantic (The Atlantic)

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

Totally engrossing.”--New York magazine (New York magazine)

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

“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)

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)

From the Back Cover

When it comes to sex, common wisdom holds that men roam while women crave closeness and commitment. But in this provocative, headline-making book, Daniel Bergner turns everything we thought we knew about women's arousal and desire inside out. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with renowned behavioral scientists, sexologists, psychologists, and everyday women, he forces us to reconsider long-held notions about female sexuality.

This bold and captivating journey into the world of female desire explores answers to such thought-provoking questions as: Are women perhaps the less monogamous sex? What effect do intimacy and emotional connection really have on lust? What is the role of narcissism—the desire to be desired—in female sexuality? Are political gains for women ("No means no") detrimental in the bedroom? And is the hunt for a "female Viagra" anything but a search for the cure for monogamy?

Bergner goes behind the scenes of some of the most groundbreaking experiments on sexuality today and confronts us with controversial, sometimes uncomfortable findings. Incendiary, profoundly insightful, and brilliantly illuminating, What Do Women Want? will change the conversation about women and sex, and is sure to spark dynamic discussion for years to come.

Product Details

  • File Size: 828 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (June 20, 2013)
  • Publication Date: June 20, 2013
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,545 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Daniel Bergner is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of three books of nonfiction, including The Other Side of Desire; In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa, which was selected as a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; and God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 103 people found the following review helpful By M. Hyman VINE VOICE on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think it is always hard to write a book about sex research, because the book is bound to be overhyped. In this case, I didn't feel that the book lived up to the hype. It sets out to explore some recent studies in female sexuality -- how do women think, what turns women on, how do people research it. There are several sections that I found quite interesting -- the physical versus self reported reactions women have to pornography, for example, and the research into female aggression within a variety of primates. These chapters, and a few others, raise some interesting questions.

On the other hand, other sections felt rather disconnected. There are a variety of interludes with women's fantasy's, but it isn't tied to research, nor is it clear whether these fantasies happen to be ones the author liked, or are representative as a whole -- for example, do most women fantasize about being raped or having sex with strangers, or were these chosen simply to counter the idea that women are demure?

The general thesis tends to be -- women are a lot more sexually oriented than society likes to think -- although I'm not sure one really needs a book to come to that conclusion. I would have liked more discussion about research and its findings, instead of profiles of a few researches and skimming into what they are studying.

In short, excerpts from this book are quite interesting, but it didn't live up to my hopes. It is approachable popular science, but doesn't have the follow up depth that could have made it much better. It certainly isn't something like The Signal and The Noise for sex. Rather, it is a bit more like a series of enhanced magazine articles... interesting, but not great.
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94 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Greg J. Lovern on August 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I borrowed this book from the library hoping to learn something useful about women's sexual desires, and I believe I have.

Society teaches men two contradictory ideas about what women want in men. One side says women want gentlemen who treat them with respect, listen empathetically to her thoughts and feelings, are good friends with them, etc. The other side says that's all lies; what women really want is a man who is controlling, emotionally distant, and only really interested in her physically. Then the first side counters that women who want what the second side says they want are psychologically flawed or emotionally wounded, and best avoided.

Young men listen to both sides, wonder which side is right, then pick a side and wonder if they chose right.

After reading this book, now I understand that both sides are right. If the scientists who's work is described in this book are correct, normal women have a fascinating sexual duality that can be baffling not only for men but for women too. Normal women desire both types of men, at different times. For me it was an eye-opener.

When a woman who has a wonderful husband who treats her with respect etc. etc loses interest in him sexually though she still loves him dearly, while longing for the sexual attention of a distant, controlling man who is only really interested in her body -- going way beyond just periodical boredom with relationship routine -- it doesn't mean something is wrong with her. It means she's a sexually NORMAL woman.

The task for men, then, is to somehow help her with both sides of her sexual duality. Of course no one man can really be both; it doesn't make sense, even if he's a great actor. But the "bad boy" side can be addressed in sexual fantasy.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By B. Dale on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a clergy I have seen my share of bored, if not sexless, marriages and counseled more than a few who had affairs to find desire again and rejuvenate their sex lives. But regardless of the book’s title it fails to provide sufficient guidelines for bored spouses or hope for monogamous couples whose sizzle inevitably has turned to fizzle. But while the answer to Bergner’s question is far too complicated to be answered easily or completely by science, it is a fascinating summary of what the experts know (or not) about women’s desire.
In summary, women’s sexual response is incredibly (and marvelously) complex. Bergner interviews sex researchers studying the sexual functioning in the animal kingdom, such as monkeys, mice, rats, and spiders, as well as women. Focusing on arousal they study a variety of social factors, such as the ways initiation impacts desire, and the physical, such as the brain’s neurotransmitters and how dopamine increases desire but yet interacts with serotonin and testosterone in a complicated way. They find the body responds even when the mind is unaware of it and study to whom we are aroused and when. And, while most people are aware of the clitoris and the g spot, (even if they can’t find the latter,) few are aware of the nerve-dense clitoral extensions and wings or the four nerve pathways that carry signals to a woman’s brain via the spine. The complexity of arousal is apparent when women are orgasmic even though spinal injuries dictate they should be physically unable to be so. Surely these various research studies are enough reason to read this book in order to fully appreciate the female’s sexual complexity as a miracle.
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