Sexual ignorance is comprehensive and universal. Misconceptions arise especially where aspects of sex are personal and taboo. Sex is a subject on which essentially every adult has their own opinion, however uninformed. It is also a subject that is widely acknowledged to be political and sensationalised.
Sex research is not taken seriously because every adult feels as qualified as the next. Few researchers obtain international renown. Those that do are often ridiculed for presenting facts and reasoning that are disbelieved by the pubic because of the conflict with popular beliefs.
Consequently, sex research is badly funded. Research can never compete with the massively successful sex industry that is dominated by the fantasies of the male consumer. Misleading information and exploitative images are shown in magazines and films for general consumption. No one ever differentiates between erotic fiction and reality.
Given men represent the prime audience for sexual material of any kind, it is hardly surprising that modern media tend to portray women responding to sexual scenarios as men think they ideally should! Sex is core to men’s emotional well-being so they struggle to accept the female perspective. In turn many women feel pressured into playing along with male fantasies.
It is easy to be cynical and to believe that people actively ignore the sex research findings. But it is more likely that the male interest in upbeat portrayals of women’s responsiveness is simply more prevalent than anyone’s interest in a more realistic description of women’s sexuality.
There is little understanding of what constitutes legitimate sex research. General statements about the population can only be made if research is based on samples of individuals who are selected in such a way so as to represent the general population. Samples must also be large enough. Researchers need to ascertain the characteristics (sex, educational level etc.) that affect sexuality and then adjust the findings to reflect the proportions of these characteristics in the general population.
Sex research has traditionally been led by men. Amazingly men can spend their whole careers researching female orgasm, a phenomenon that they have never experienced. Men’s all too evident lack of objectivity is never acknowledged. Men’s interest in sex means that they are much more motivated to discuss sexual matters than women are. Men though are primarily interested in sexual discussions that suit their own purposes. Few people are interested in an intellectual understanding of sexuality.
Men propose theories on the basis of what they observe and what they hope for. Then they assume they are correct because so few women ever comment. But women’s silence does not constitute proof that they agree with men. Little significance is placed on women’s reluctance to talk about any aspect of sex and orgasm. Men will often discount the opinions or attitudes of the real women in their lives as being a product of inexperience or inhibition. There is little acceptance that women are naturally less motivated by sexual activity than men are.
The result is that the sex research findings are ignored even by sex industry professionals. Both individuals and institution compete for funds and for recognition. Corporations and therapists struggle to sell products and services. Everyone is competing for the limelight and the scant resources. Those who can conjure up a shocking or attention-grabbing headline get the attention of the public. The rest is ignored. There are thousands of relationship therapists who help individuals and couples with sexual issues. But sex research is different. A therapist has to be trained in techniques that are known to help resolve sexual issues. A researcher needs the personal qualities that ensure they can challenge and question.
There can be no real science in sexology until women themselves (not just one or two but thousands of women in the general population) take an active part in defining their sexuality. Thus far women have left the definition of their sexuality to so-called ‘experts’. Women have not taken ownership of the conclusions by objecting when they are blatantly wrong. Explanations for women’s sexuality need to be based on the research findings, the evolutionary and biological precedents, be consistent with men and women’s sexual behaviours and explain how orgasm is achieved in a way that is consistent (with explanations for the differences between the sexes).
The majority of women worldwide do not have orgasms during intercourse: as a matter of fact, female sexual dysfunctions are popular because they are based on something that does not exist, i.e. the vaginal orgasm. (Vincenzo & Giulia Puppo 2014)