Helen Fisher, PhD

Why Men Regard Sex As More Intimate Than Women Do

In a sexual encounter, men have more to gain and less to lose.  If they impregnate a woman by chance, they will have passed their DNA on to eternity, with very little effort.  Sex is regarded as a gift that women give men in many cultures. 

In fact, in many societies, men give gifts to women who have sex with them, a little oily fish, beer, tobacco, a choice piece of meat.  Among insects it is called the “nuptial gift.”

Men have evolved many biological mechanisms to coax a woman into bed–and to have her enjoy the experience. Saliva has testosterone in it (the hormone of desire) and men like sloppier kisses than women do. Male sweat has a pheromone, androstenol, which regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and can increase her sexual desire.  And seminal fluid is packed with chemicals that serve as antidepressants and stimulants that can trigger feelings of sex, romance and attachment.

In a recent study of “hooking up,” 50% of women and 52% of men said that they went into this sexual experience hoping to begin a longer relationship. One third succeeded.  

New data indicate that men are more likely to seek a committed relationship than women are. Men fall in love faster than women do, because they are so visual.  They are more dependent on their girlfriends because they have fewer intimate relationships with their male peers. They are 2.5 times more likely to kill themselves when a relationship ends. And men are more likely to remarry.

Our cultures suffers from many myths of female sexuality, but I have come to believe we have just as many myths about men.