We’ve all heard the narrative – men are naturally promiscuous, libidinous, horny devils who simply need to have sex all the time, right? And women… well. We’re meant to be chaste and respectable, and less likely to want to, ahem, screw all the time.
Tell that to our 17th century ancestors.
The common idea of the male sex drive exceeding that of women is actually a rather recent invention. Not that you’d know it without engaging in some heavy research. Which Faramerz Dabhoiwala thankfully did for us in his book The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution.
Take, for example, Robert Burton, the author of the iconic book The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): “Of women’s unnatural, insatiable lust, what country, what village doth not complain?”
Or William Wycherley, in his play The Country Wife (1675): “Why should women have more invention in love than men? It can only be, because they have more desires, more soliciting passions, more lust, and more of the devil.”
During the Stuart period, it was commonly held that women were far more sexual (and thus sinful) than men.
As Dabhoiwala explains, “the most extreme, misogynist version of this argument asserted that women’s minds were so corrupt, their wombs so ravenous, their ‘amorous fire’ so voracious, that truly, ‘if they dared, all women would be whores’.”
The idea likely stemmed from Eve, whose sinful conduct with the serpent apparently brought about the ‘fall of man’. Though one could argue that Adam likely pushed Eve out of the Garden of Eden first to cushion his fall, chivalry be damned. As, taking the [horrifying] miracle of childbirth into account, she certainly seemed to receive the raw end of the deal. Perhaps it should more honestly be called the ‘fall of woman’.
The view of naturally lustful women gradually began to change in the 18th century, and the idea of men as the hornier gender has continued right through to the current day, achieving an almost indisputable status as a commonly held truth.
But, in fact, its origins are socially constructed.
Modern science is still trying to make sense of sex and sexuality, and will no doubt bring numerous conflicting insights over the coming years, but which gender is hornier than the other is likely simply a reflection of the dominant narrative of the time.