Development of female sexual attitudes and sexual behavior
Awareness of Sex and Conception
(written in 1970)
Since girls have nothing to match the penis erection phenomenon of males, theoretically they should not have their attention drawn to their sexuality until the onset of puberty brings about the enlargement of breasts and the start of menstruation.
On the other hand, while far fewer girls masturbate compared with boys, it is nevertheless an accepted fact that little girls are as experimental in exploring their genitals as boys are.
Often this leads to sensations of sexual excitement concentrated on
the genital area, and it is this that appears to communicate to the girls
who experience them the realization that the genital area has a special
significance, which later experience teaches them is sexual.
However, it is remarkable that the age-group with the next highest percentage - 17.7% - is the 8 to 10s. I say it is remarkable because compared with the 7 to 9 age-group of boys, the comparable percentage is only 4.6%, despite the boys' realization that erection has a sexual connotation. But as I pointed out in the previous section, though the majority of boys realize the significance of erection between 9 and 10, the highest percentage of them do not discover masturbation until a year or two later.
In contrast with this, a number of girls go through puberty and the menarche without being aware that they are sexual creatures for some years. In the sample, 4.4% were not aware of their sexuality until they were 14; some were unaware until they were 15; 4.4% were unaware until they were 16; and 11.1% until they were 17 / 18.
The realization of their sexuality made such little impact on many, that 22.1% of the sample could not recall when they became aware of it; whereas all the male sample could remember.
In contrast with the figures given for boys, these figures for girls do not give the same support to the claim that girls are reaching puberty earlier in such numbers as are boys.
As with the boys, so the age at which the girls became aware that the sexual anatomy of women differs from that of boys depends on whether or not the girl had brothers, or parents who allowed themselves to be seen naked by their children, or had played "investigatory" games with little boys. 71.1% of the total sample discovered the differences between 3 and 8 (compared to 53.9% of boys); the 8 to 12s give a percentage of 11.1% (boys, 20.6%); and the 13 to 15s, 6.4% (boys, 7.9%), the 'can't remembers' equal 1.4%, which corresponds to 17.6% for boys.
Thus by the age of 15 the awareness of the physical differences between males and females made such an impact on little girls that 98.6% could recall by what age they knew, whereas only 82.4% of the boys could be so definite.
One inference that might be drawn from this is that boys take the fact that there are differences more readily for granted than girls, so that when they do make the discovery it does not register so forcibly.
When they first see a female nude statue which is minus a penis, though they may be excited by it, the anatomical difference is what they instinctively expected, and they are not impressed by it.
Boys, from early adolescence, employ four-letter words when in each others' company in far greater numbers than girls; and two of the words in most frequent use are cock (penis) and cunt (vagina).
They know that cunt is the female equivalent of cock, and since it is a different word, the organ to which it refers, by natural boyish logic, must be different. And in any event, girls are far more likely to get yeast infection than boys. they are going to be familiar with all sorts of things around their genitals that boys are not.
Sixty per cent of girls had no theories about conception until they learned the right one, generally round 7 and 8. Nevertheless, the original theories are as speculative as those held by the boys, though we often see them thinking along the same lines.
'When parents kissed, father gave mother a baby which she kept inside her.'
'That we all came sliding down a rainbow.'
'They appeared magically in mummy's tummy and exited via the navel.'
'Mothers took a pill to enable them to have babies.'
'They were made in hospitals.'
'They just arrived. I never really thought much about it.'
'If you were married they automatically arrived.'
'That they were found.'
There were 3 gooseberry-bush theories (told by adults) and 1 stork (told by mother). This collection is not so colorful as the boys' collection. Is it possible that little girls have a greater instinct for the facts, and from seeing their mothers' swollen stomachs are more easily able to put two-and-two together when a baby subsequently arrives?
Or are they more observant than boys? Little girls are aware that they have an opening between their legs in which they perhaps subconsciously realize that the penis will fit; whereas little boys are aware only that little girls do not have a penis and so may miss the relationship of penis and vagina, perhaps.
Girls who have yeast infections will experience interventions of various kinds by doctors or therapists.
The youngest age at which girls in the sample were told the details of sexual intercourse was 7; one girl learned it from an older sister at that age. The 9 to 10s were more numerous than the boys' - 13.3% to the boys' 1.5%. The mother was the chief instructor in these groups. The 11 to 12s for girls gave a figure of 31.1% (boys, 20.6%); the 13 to 14s, gave 15.5% (boys, 49.3%); and the 15 to 19s, 31.1% against the boys' 19%; the sources of information being various. (One woman did not learn the details of copulatory mechanics until she married at 28.)
If the two sets of figures are set down side by side it will more clearly be seen that the age at which most boys and girls learn the facts of copulation is around puberty, which is a natural time, in view of the increase of sexual curiosity prompted in girls by menstruation and by ejaculation in the boys.
However, in the pre-pubertal and pubertal groups more boys become acquainted with the information than the girls, and this leads to the natural corollary that more girls are left to acquire the knowledge in later adolescence than boys (girls 31.1 %, boys 19%).
Thus, though more girls learn these interesting facts at an earlier age than boys (9/12 boys, 22.1%; 9/12 girls, 44.4%), the boys quickly overtake the girls, so that fewer adolescent boys remain ignorant than do adolescent girls, especially if they too have yeast infections. This seems to confirm the widely held view that males are far more aggressive sexually than females, on the basis that if they did not intend to pursue girls sexually to the logical conclusion of such pursuit - intercourse - they would not seek to acquire the knowledge so early as they do. By 14, 70.6% of boys know the mechanics of penetration, in comparison with 59.9% girls.
On the other hand it cannot be said that as prey, the girls are not interested in knowing how their pursuer will attack them.
As with boys, at whatever age girls were told the facts about copulation, a large percentage - 62.2% - did not understand what they were told, or only partially understood. (This compares with the boys' 46%). Again, full appreciation of what sex entails did not come until two or three years after the initial instructions had been imparted.
Of those who did understand, 42.8% were given the information by contemporary friends; 28.5% were instructed by teachers and doctors; and 21.4% were enlightened by their mothers. Of those who did not understand, 71.1 % had been told by their mothers; 35.7% by friends; 28.5% learned from books; 21.4% had been instructed by teachers; and 21.4% were told by fiancées, who, within a short time, made everything clear by a practical demonstration.
Mothers as instructors of their daughters make a much better showing than fathers as instructors of their sons. Mothers account for 33% as against 16% for fathers. Girls' teachers, however, appear much more reluctant to pass on information in comparison with the teachers of boys; teachers instructed 15.5% of girls, and 28.5% of boys. Even more girls are left to fend for themselves than boys.
'Friends' were again the most common source with 31.1% (boys, 33.3%). Girls go to books more eagerly than boys - 8.8% as against 6.3% for boys. Older brothers were more active in instructing their sisters than they were their brothers - 4.4% compared with 3.1 %. As with boys, all the girls understood their brothers' instruction. 2.6% were instructed by sisters who were apparently as unskillful teachers as their mothers.
As with boys, a surprisingly high percentage of girls - 24.4% - made no attempt to acquire a more complete sexual knowledge during their teens. (The boys' percentage was 28.5%).
Only one of the girls in this group masturbated, but as the masturbation picture for girls in the sample is very different from that of the boys, it is not possible to attribute their lack of interest to a low-sex-drive, as it was with boys. However, of those who did masturbate, 8.3 % were among those who did not seek detailed information. Of the 76.5% who were interested, such phrases as these are characteristic:
'Discussions with school friends, read little pamphlets supplied by parents.'
'Reading, asking friends, observing animals.'
Experiment, literature, discussion.'
'Keeping eyes and ears open and reading text-books.'
'Asked mother when I wanted to know anything.'
'I read "blue" books, but didn't really understand. I was trusting and naive with boys, until one gave me a yeast infection!'
'Dances, parties, street-comers, in cars with boys.'
'Had intercourse regularly from 16 with my steady boyfriend.'
'Letting any boy do what he liked.'
The questions, "Have you ever read a sex manual? When? Which one?" showed that although a great many girls go to books for sex knowledge, they do not, while in their teens, go to those books which could really satisfy their curiosity. Only when engagement was imminent or a fact, did they reach for a sex manual.
Of the whole sample,
8.8% had never read a sex manual, and they were in the age-group 22 to 25.
On the other hand, simple books of sex instruction were read by the same
number - 8.8% - between the ages of 12 and 15. Only 18.0% had informed
themselves by this means between 17 (the earliest age) and 20. But on
engagement or the imminence of engagement there was a keen interest to
acquire knowledge by 64.4% of the total sample.
Although women have still some way to go before they make their sexual relationship an equal partnership, which means that women must take the initiative in lovemaking - for example by enjoying women on top sex positions more, or by making the first caress and maintaining the active role through penetration to orgasm, which in turn means being equally sexually knowledgeable with their male partners - this new trend is a very welcome one.
On the other hand, as we shall see presently, young women are still naturally inclined to be sexually lazy unless prompted into activity by imaginative partners, and this is an aspect of the male-female relationship of which men must be made aware and do all they can to correct.
The Parent-Child Relationship
The attitude of parents towards their daughters is mainly a protective one, and this is especially applicable in matters relating to sex: unless parents have absolute confidence in their daughters there is always the fear of a premature pregnancy lurking somewhere in the background and one would expect that all parents would take the precaution of seeing that their daughters were fully acquainted with the mechanics of intercourse and fully alive to the sexual aggressiveness of teenage boys.
Only if they are armed with the full information can girls really be expected to protect themselves.
The information makes it clear that girls pass through adolescence and young womanhood even more ignorant of the actual facts of life than boys are. I am afraid that the answers to the question "Were you able to discuss sex frankly with your parents?" only confirm the early findings.
The breakdown of the answers to this question were as follows:
Were able to discuss sex with parents 40%
Were NOT able to discuss sex with parents 60%
Admittedly, these figures are much better than those for boys, but one would have hoped to find the order reversed, at least.
In contrast to the situation with the boys, whose oldest group produced the highest percentage (57.1 %) who were able to discuss sex with their parents, with the girls the largest percentage is the youngest group, the 22s - 31.3%. The oldest group, the 28s, had a percentage of 17.4%. In the other groups, the 23s and 24s produced 11.1% each; the 25s, 6.7%; the 26s, 16.6%; and the 27s, 5.8%. Among the girls who could not discuss sex with their parents, the parents' embarrassment was given as the reason by 25.9% (boys 34.7%), and their own embarrassment by 18.4% (boys 10.2%); 29.6% (boys 24.3%) said, 'The subject never came up. There seemed no need to discuss it; and 12.7% (boys 8.1 %) explained that their parents were 'too remote'.
In the various explanations given, such remarks as the following were made.
'Each thought the other had told me the facts of fife. I couldn't discuss it with them because they were too shy of sex talk and thought I oughtn't to know about it until marriage.'
'They were unapproachable about this. Their views were very old-fashioned.'
'Sex never discussed because the subject never arose.'
'Mother is a little old-fashioned.'
'Parents are quite old and have the Victorian attitude.'
'I think they thought that making love was an act undertaken when they wanted children, rather than a fulfillment of their love.'
'I never discussed anything with my parents.'
'No, because I was too shy.'
'They were embarrassed.'
'When I got to the age of 16 I think my parents took it for granted that I knew.'
'Father rather inhibited. After I had educated mother, she could discuss it with me, but by then I was eighteen or nineteen and had had intercourse with a number of boys and was taking the Pill.'
In contrast with the boys, the answers to the question, "What was the attitude of your parents towards your teenage relations with boys?" revealed that only 6.4% (boys 17.5%) had no relationship with boys until they reached their twenties. Parents who were openly hostile to these friendships were about the same - 12.8% as against 12.6% for boys. (Does this mean that parents are still anxious to marry off their daughters as soon as possible?) This attitude applied to all age groups, but, again in contrast to boys, where it was predominant among the 28s, with girls it was the 22s who suffered the hostility of their parents most. This group was 15 and 16 just at the time when the first signs of the latest sexual revolution was becoming manifest. Did some of the parents of daughters take fright, or would they have been hostile in any case?
Such remarks occur as:
'My mother hated me even holding a boyfriend's hand.'
'They were concerned lest I would fall in and out of love too often.'
'Deep concern on the part of my father about my boyfriend's intentions.'
'They were afraid I would go wrong.'
2.1% of parents were amused by their daughters' teenage friendships, but we find a much lower percentage - 14.2% (boys 28.7%) - completely ignoring their daughters' relationships. But the greatest contrast is found in those who encouraged their daughters - 53.9% as against the 31.7% for boys' parents which rather underlines the question, 'Are parents still anxious to marry off their daughters as soon as possible?'
The bulk of daughters who were encouraged by their parents (70.8%) came from among those who were able to discuss sex with their parents. That any parents can encourage male - female relationships and yet not be able to discuss sex with their daughters appears at first sight to be somewhat paradoxical. This, surely, is the time when girls need a little friendly advice - warnings perhaps from those parents who are embarrassed by the existence of sex, about the natural sexual aggressiveness of the male.
But as we have just seen, the 'hostile' parents, their hostility substituting for warning, are no more numerous in the case of girls than in the case of boys. On the other hand, even among those who encouraged teenage friendships, none seems to have advised their daughters to be on their guard against letting their emotions make them careless in not refusing the sexual advances of boys. I find this a little puzzling; or am I being unfair to parents? Are they really so confident in their daughters' ability to resist male blandishments? I hope this is the case!
The figures for "Have you ever seen either
or both of your parents naked?" broke down as follows, and produced
Put another way, slightly more girls see their father naked than boys do - 53.3% as against 51.3% boys. Taking into consideration the natural inhibition imposed by so-called modesty, one would nevertheless suspect that fathers would be less reticent in appearing naked before their sons than before their daughters. But the figures seem to indicate that this is not so.
Similarly, one would expect mothers to be more willing to be seen naked by their daughters than by their sons, and this view seems to be supported by the figures - 71 % of girls saw their mothers naked, almost double the number of boys who saw their mothers naked, 34.2%. This accords with the fact that women are on the whole more 'modest' than men. But does the fact that fathers are more frequently seen naked by their daughters than they are by their sons suggest that more men have exhibitionist tendencies than has previously been thought?
The analysis of the 'both parents' group shows a slightly different picture from that disclosed by the similar analysis for boys.
Though those who did discuss sex frankly and appeared naked before their children are the more numerous, the figure of 45.8% for those who did not discuss sex but who yet were seen naked by their children (45.8%) is still surprisingly high. The comparison is given added force and the situation in respect of boys more startling still. Traditionally, all middle class mothers are supposed to have a talk with their daughters about what to expect in bed on their wedding nights sometimes between engagement and marriage. Even if they have discussed sex with their daughters during adolescence, they are generally thought to offer a commiserating reminder later. Let us now explode the myth !
Did your mother speak to you about sex when you became engaged or later?
The fathers all said in effect, 'Don't be disappointed at first; sex improves.' Among the remarks the mothers made were:
'Sex is a lovely and precious thing in marriage and greatly to be enjoyed if practiced wisely.' (Both parents had discussed sex frankly with their daughter; mother had given her initial sex instruction at the age of 11; both had encouraged her teenage relations.)
'I suppose you know all about it any way.' (Neither parent had discussed sex with her, but had let her see them naked from early childhood; they had encouraged her teenage relationships.)
'What are you going to do about the Pill, dear. I'm worried about it.' (There had always been frank discussion; both had let her see them naked from early childhood, they had encouraged her teenage friendships.)
'We discussed a few more details and she helped me over contraceptives. She took me to the family planning clinic and gave me a book.' (There had been frank discussion; she had always seen her mother naked, but her father infrequently, she thought somewhat to his embarrassment; they had been sympathetic and tactful, but made known their likes and dislikes among her teenage boyfriends.)
'She didn't tell me anything, but advised me to go on the Pill.' (Sex had not been discussed, and her father had shown deep concern about the honorable intentions of her boyfriends.)
'Lie on your back and it will just happen.' (Mother had always refused to discuss sex; both parents had ignored her teenage relationships.)
'I began to ask her. She said quickly that it was made out to be much better than it was.' (There had been sex discussion, and she had seen both parents naked until her early teens 'when I no longer wanted to', and they had been tolerant of her teenage boyfriends.)
'She asked me if I knew what happened when a man and a woman were joined together. She was rather embarrassed, so I told her right away that I had read books.' (No discussion of sex; both ignored her teenage relationships.)
Among the Noes, 61.7% of the parents had never discussed sex with their children; 38.2% encouraged teenage relationships; 17.6% were indifferent to teenage relationships; 8.7% disapproved of teenage relationships; 5.8% were anxious about their daughters' teenage boyfriends.
Early Sexual Behavior
Erection effectively draws the boy's attention to the penis, and after puberty has been well established the activity of the seminal vesicles and the amazing production of sperm in a never ceasing process, sets up sexual tension which can only be relieved by ejaculation. Unless the boy is very low-sexed indeed, he is bound to masturbate during adolescence; and, in fact, statistics show that about 98% of boys do so (Kinsey).
Though women have similar sex drives to men, they are not regulated by the same biological processes as the men's. Unless the adolescent girl has discovered more or less accidentally that manipulation of the clitoris and vulva provides her with very pleasant sensations, she is unlikely to be subject to spontaneous erection of the clitoris and swelling of the vulva, which are the equivalent of penis erection.
The girl's attention, then, is not so forcibly drawn to her genitals as is the boy's, and it is a natural consequence, therefore, that far fewer girls than boys masturbate during adolescence. Again, if physical tension does build up, in most women it tends to subside naturally without resort to orgasm. There is not the same physical compulsion to masturbate on girls as there is on boys.
With regard to incidence among women, the picture is not so clear-cut as that for men. The most reliable consensus that I can find for adolescent girls is that given in an article by Dr Lester W. Dearborn in The Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior (p. 208). 'Although masturbation is an adolescent practice in both sexes, all evidence points to the fact that there is a higher percentage among males than among females.
However, at the age of 15 there is every indication that at least 50 per cent of girls have masturbated, and that the percentage increases as the group gets older.' Kinsey gives the overall figure of 62%, but as more women in the 40 to 50 age-group masturbate than in the unmarried 20 to 30 age-group, 62% is not a really relevant figure for our purposes here.
Analysis of the figures provided by the sample is as follows:
Never masturbated 71% Have
Those who discovered it for themselves accounted for 92%; those initiated by friends, the remaining 8%. In the 12 to 18 age-group only 27% masturbated regularly with an incidence of once weekly; the remaining 73% masturbated 'very infrequently', and one girl had masturbated only once.
The most popular age for the girl's first date is 15. Only in the case of 17.8% of all girls did their escorts try to caress them sexually. 62.5% of these girls were 15 at the time, 25% were 17, and the remainder (12.5%) over 20. Most of the girls resisted, and the partner got no further than kissing and undoing a button of a dress, or a zip. There were a number of cases of deep-kissing, which the girls for the most part found exciting, though one or two described it as 'rather messy, our faces got very wet'. Only 18.7% of the girls allowed their escorts to fondle their breasts, which all found pleasant.
As a general rule, the first sexual caresses were not experienced until a year or even longer after the first date. Since the 15s were most numerous in having their first date, naturally the 16/17s provided the greatest number to have their first experience of a sexual caress.
More than a third (35.5%) made no resistance. Of this group, 68.7% indulged in mild petting; 25% in heavy petting to orgasm; 6.3% in intercourse. After the first attempt, 5.4% repelled all further caresses. The remaining 59.1 % put a show of resistance, but eventually gave in. Of this group, 11.2% permitted intercourse; 3.6% indulged in heavy petting to orgasm; while the remaining 85.1 % indulged only in mild petting. This should also improve parents' confidence in their daughters.
Some of the reasons for eventually giving
in are interesting:
Psychologists can have a field-day here. Breaking down the sample as a whole, we find the following experience of first sexual caresses:
Mild petting 81.5%
Heavy petting to orgasm 11.6%
This should further increase the confidence of parents in their daughters and their daughters' boyfriends.