Women's Sexual Experiences
Preferred Intercourse Conditions
Particularly pertinent to the last point
are the results that emerged when the women were asked to respond to the
following instructions: "List the conditions (or example, your feelings,
the physical surroundings) that seem to be most important in determining
sexually responsive you will be at any particular time that you have
intercourse. Try to list at least five."
As already mentioned, this finding was regarded as being related to the fact that a number of women had, in their spontaneous descriptions of how their man was able to give them an orgasm emphasized the importance of freedom from distraction and of being able to focus exclusively on their body sensations during sexual arousal. Together, these observations imply that the attainment of orgasm in a woman involves a rather high degree of concentration upon self and a simultaneous shutting out of outer world.
The build up to orgasmic excitement seems to require an insulated, "detached from the world," self-absorbed state. This idea considered further at a later point when its implications are discussed relative to some of the findings bearing on the personality correlates of orgasm consistency.
Percentage Frequencies with Which
Various Conditions Are Mentioned by Women As Facilitating Their Sexual
When one examines this data, one finds that a number of the major conditions cited by women as helping them to be sexually responsive have to do with feeling friendly (particularly towards their partner) and perceiving the world in positive rather than negative terms. Thus, 18 percent mention "Good relationships between husband and self" and 8 percent "Something 'good' or 'successful' occurring that day" as facilitating. With reference to the second of these categories, a number of women indicated that if they had achieved a valued goal or received recognition for successfully doing something in the period prior to engaging in intercourse they were particularly likely to be sexually responsive.
A good feeling about self and the world seems to be central to such facilitation. A similar sense of feeling "good" is implied by the category "Not tense or depressed," which represents 8 percent of the statements about conditions that enhance responsiveness. Many of the other statement categories have to do with body feelings.
Women say their responsiveness is greatest when they are not tired, not ill and clean - and to a lesser extent when they are experiencing an optimum room temperature and had good food, and "have had a few drinks." Scattered references are also found to the value of modulating the environment with "soft music" and semidarkness. A fairly low number of statements were made that concerned the value of novelty in stimulating responsiveness. It would be interesting to know how much such factors affected a man's ability to become aroused and achieve an erection - ED hasn't been regarded as a product of social features much in the literature.
Thus, 3 percent of the statements referred to the value of being in a different setting such as a hotel room or the woods; and 3 percent indicated that their responsiveness was magnified if there had been previous exposure to sexually provocative material in a book or film.
Sexual Fantasies During Intercourse
As part of the effort to obtain material concerning the nature of the intercourse experience from the women, they were asked: "Please give at least two examples of thoughts or images or fantasies you have had more than once while having intercourse or during orgasm."
More than 75 percent of the women indicated that they have had at least one fantasy or image that recurred occasionally (but not frequently) during intercourse. When these fantasies were roughly categorized, it was found that about 40 percent involved scenes in which the woman was having a sexual contact or interchange with someone other than her husband.
Within this category, more than half of the instances revolved about themes in which the woman perceived herself as being raped, sexually humiliated, or somehow sexually wicked. There were fantasies of being helplessly tied and having to submit to brutal rape, of being a cheap whore humiliated by men, and of having to expose one's genitals publicly in an embarrassing way. A number of the women fantasized that they were actresses on a stage and were performing sexually for an audience. Masochistic and exhibitionistic elements were strongly prominent in the fantasies that were collected. Needless to say, powerful ejaculation onto a woman's body or into her anus or vagina, featured prominently in many men's fantasies. Such fantasies are undoubtedly the result of the cultural influence of pornography.
Another interesting category (10 percent) of fantasy portrayed self as being a royal or superior figure (for example, goddess, princess) with special power or prestige. Illustratively, one woman said "I see myself like a queen in a fairy tale."
About 30 percent of the images reported by the women dramatized simple sensory experiences. There were references to "red flashes," "colors," "water rushing," and "things floating." In these instances the woman would, as she engaged in sexual intercourse, conjure up images of intense colors or swiftly flowing water or of objects and persons floating in the air. Such images seemed to be simple representations of the arousal and excitement produced by sexual stimulation.
Other less common fantasies that were mentioned may be cited to illustrate the range obtained: a man climbing a steep mountain, a picture of husband and self combined into one person, an unknown male face, a religious ceremony, scene from a sexy movie, the word "love" on a valentine.
One of the interesting aspects of the sexual fantasy material collected is the frequency with which it concerned being with someone other than one's husband or in a different place than the immediate situation. It seemed to represent an attempt to depict self as being with a new sex partner or engaged in a novel form of sexual activity. One could think of it as a means for adding spice to an experience that has grown repetitious or stale.
At another level, it might be viewed as an attempt to remove oneself from the immediate situation, a way of distancing self from what is actually occurring. It might be a way of escaping unpleasant aspects of the immediate sexual intimacy. One woman explicitly stated that while having intercourse with her husband she imagined that she was with other men because she felt so negatively toward him.
There is a noteworthy contrast between such fantasies of escape from the immediate setting and the earlier described concern that many of the women have about carefully insulating the intercourse situation against intrusion from "outside." In one case the woman's emphasis is upon getting out or away and in the other it is upon keeping away from what is "out there."