It’s not often at a formal Hamptons’ dinner party you see a large visual aid of female reproductive organs, or to the point of the evening, I should refer to them as female pleasure centers.
As part of Authors Night, the fantastic fundraiser for East Hampton Library, I had the literary pleasure of attending the dinner held for Wednesday Martin (best-selling author of Primates of Park Avenue) in honor of her soon-to-be released book Untrue: Why nearly everything we believe about women, lust, and infidelity is wrong and how the new science can set us free. Martin is a dynamic, smart, extremely well-educated teacher and researcher with a fascinating and liberating story to tell. Ditch the scarlet letter for a scarlet bustier, and let’s talk science.
Martin set out to question a deeply ingrained cultural myth, even in 2018, that men want sex while women want intimacy and connection. But monogamy sounding a lot like monotony is not exclusive to men’s nature. Women who are “untrue” as Martin points out, “have dared to do something we have been told is immoral, antisocial, and a violation of our deepest notions of how women naturally are and ‘should be.’”
The party line that men have stronger libidos, it’s only testosterone that drives sex, and women just want a cuddle and Häagen Daaz, is not true according to anthropological and clinical studies. However, to acknowledge women’s deep desire for novelty outside her relationship is still socially taboo. Cue Don Draper walking on Anna Karenina’s grave.
Martin also explores what would happen to couples who ditch the deception and try to set ground rules on outside paramours, which quickly become problematic: You can only see the person once. Sex but no kissing. He/she does NOT get to meet the dog.
Some statistics on cheating show women’s numbers rising. Martin points to research and clinical experience that the institutionalization of roles and the familiarity of a spouse is especially challenging for female desire. It’s not that she doesn’t have desire, it’s that the same old sex with the same old man isn’t interesting.
Another study found that women who were otherwise happily partnered or married who had affairs were not looking for a new husband or exit strategy. They also weren’t looking for emotional connection or companionship. Their sole focus was their own pleasure. “That’s very different from all the other relationships in her life,” observed the researcher.
Women of a certain age really get hit hard with the just dry up and call it a booty call day stick. Our culture assumes it’s men-oh-pause for these women. They are told their hormones are shifting and it’s natural not to have any sex drive. Is every woman older than 50 just having a thyroid issue? Men’s hormones are also changing but the prescription they walk out with is Viagra.
A fascinating point Martin makes in terms of measuring a woman’s desire for an affair is the importance of context. It’s not sex with a stranger. It’s if he’s not a jerk and great in bed and it’s safe sex and he won’t make disparaging remarks about your body and texts you or doesn’t text you depending on what you want, and your mother will never know . . . It’s a whole other way to check a box.
You also can’t divorce the subject of cheating from divorce. One report in the book found that divorced women had assets valued at 90 percent less than their married peers. Women are no fools, as Martin notes. But in partnerships where the women have their own financial security, commitment is shifting.
So, you can only imagine how totally fascinating the conversation was at that dinner party. What Martin created was permission to be open and honest, even among strangers. Safe space in a world of silent shame.