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What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire Hardcover – June 4, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1St Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061906085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061906084
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.”--Salon.com (Salon.com)

“...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.

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

Very well researched and well written book!
Much of the research showed that narcissism drives much of female desire.
Paige Turner
An uneven and in my opinion a poorly written book.
Book Shark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 86 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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70 of 80 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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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner

"What Do Women Want?" is the unsatisfying science book on female sexual desires. A surprisingly neglected area of science, this book covers the latest scientific research on female lust. The book however suffers from being uneven, lack of flow and quite frankly scientific negligence. There is some interesting research and some findings are enlightening but ultimately this book fails to answer the premise of this ill-titled book to satisfaction. This disappointing 224-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. Animals, 2. Bodies and Minds, 3. The Sexual Fable of Evolutionary Science, 4. Monkeys and Rats, 5. Narcissism, 6. The Alley, 7. Monogamy, 8. Four Orgasms, 9. Magic, and 10. A Beginning.

1. A fascinating topic.
2. A welcomed book on a neglected area of science, female sexual lust.
3. Debunking myths. "And that one of our most comforting assumptions, soothing perhaps above all to men but clung to by both sexes, that female eros is much better made for monogamy than the male libido, is scarcely more than a fairy tale."
4. Use of some of the most recent scientific fields to come up with models of behavior. "Sticking with neuropsychology, she wound up doing a thesis experiment that added to fledgling evidence: that homosexual men perform less well than heterosexuals on a type of test involving three-dimensional shapes, just as females, on average, perform less well than males."
5. There are some interesting stories and findings. "Freud didn't make a career out of hunting homosexuals. Early on, he tried to cure gays through psychoanalysis; eventually he called in his patients and gave their money back."
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