The main differences between male and female sexuality relate to levels of sex drive, ease of arousal and the importance of orgasm. The penis and clitoris are the only erectile organs of the body. When a person experiences arousal (by the mind responding positively to eroticism) there is an increase in the rate of blood flow around the body. This increased blood flow is called tumescence. When tumescence occurs in the genital region, it may cause swelling to varying degrees. This is what may be called an erection of the clitoral organ, although it is not strictly an erection.
The penis becomes erect because of two internal cylinder-shaped chambers, that run the length of the penis, called the corpora cavernosa. When these chambers fill with blood, the penis becomes highly sensitised to stimulation. The clitoral organ does not have a shaft. Neither do women have cavities equivalent to the corpora cavernosa. The degree of tumescence (when the erectile organ fills with blood) is much less for women than it is for men. So women do not have erections as men do and the clitoris is never sensitised to touch in the way that the penis is. This explains why many women are completely oblivious to having a clitoris and why they never discover orgasm.
Men are aroused spontaneously and beyond their conscious control. Men are consciously aware of their arousal and have a sense of wanting to resolve that arousal as orgasm. Men become easily erect when aroused. Even when masturbating to orgasm a woman has much less conscious awareness of any physical arousal. Women have to make a much more conscious decision to become aroused enough for orgasm.
Men’s sexuality generally requires interaction with another person. Their fantasies have to support their optimal situation i.e. sexual activity with a lover. Women’s fantasies can be unrealistic because they don’t have a biological need to orgasm with a lover. Men’s fantasies are based on scenarios that can be easily mapped onto real opportunities for sexual activity with a lover in real life. Men enjoy sharing their fantasies because they hope a lover will participate in activity that they fantasise about.
Women’s fantasies are not based on reality. They focus on impossible and unreal situations and people. A woman is not aroused by disclosing her fantasies to a lover because women’s fantasies (used for arousal) don’t relate to everyday sexual activity in real life. A woman is embarrassed. She keeps her fantasies to herself in case a man misinterprets and thinks she wants to play them out for real. Women experience orgasm alone while men typically prefer to orgasm with a lover. It is highly unlikely that a man would turn down a sexual opportunity just to masturbate.
Men typically masturbate or engage in intercourse as a means of releasing sexual tension. Women’s desire to masturbate involves enjoying a simple pleasure. Women are rarely conscious of any sense of arousal. But if they are there is no sense of urgency to it. Women never reach a state where orgasm becomes inevitable (even alone). Neither do they ever experience the need to resolve a state of mental arousal or the physical tension of an erection as orgasm. Men initiate sexual activity because there are many triggers that cause their arousal. Women are not spontaneously aroused nor are there any natural triggers that cause female arousal. Women are not aroused by a lover’s body or by the prospect of sexual activity. So women are not actively looking for opportunities to engage in sex as men often are.
When a man is stimulated genitally, orgasm is usually a given. A woman does not necessarily orgasm even if she receives the correct kind of stimulation. A woman only responds to the point of orgasm very sporadically: perhaps once every few weeks for as much as 3 or 4 times in one week but not every week. So how can a man ‘give a woman an orgasm’ when she cannot do this for herself even by masturbating?
Men use a variety of positions for masturbation and for sex. They can also orgasm from different forms of penile stimulation such as oral, manual and penetrative sex. During masturbation alone a woman is much more limited in the position and the kind of stimulation that leads to orgasm. A man likes to observe his penis while masturbating or the body of a lover during intercourse. In order to focus on her fantasy and shut out the distractions of the real world, a woman keeps her eyes shut throughout the time that she is masturbating.
A woman obtains an emotional payback from sex that men don’t get. A woman is reassured that she is attractive to a partner. She is flattered that she has been able to arouse him and cause him to want to have intercourse with her. She has a longing to be wanted by him sexually. She wants to matter to him so that he will care about her and protect her. A woman likes knowing that she has a man’s attention, that he is listening to what she has to say and that he is impressed by her. She takes pride in the respect that he ideally shows her as a person. She feels loved and needed because of his evident need for her body. She obtains pleasure from seeing his obvious pleasure in having sex with her.
The average male … has a greater need than most females have for a regular and frequent sexual outlet. (Alfred Kinsey 1953)