As Simple As It Gets
“Wolfgang likes to look at images of female derrieres. He prefers certain poses: bent over, legs splayed, leaning on her knuckles. He like these images so much that he is willing to pay for the privilege of looking at them. Sometimes he pays several times a day. This might seem excessive, though not exactly remarkable, except for one fact: Wolfgang is a monkey.” — A Billion Wicked Thoughts, p. 23.
Of course. A monkey in an experimental lab, where his sexual preferences are being studied. Monkey or man, the phenomenon is instantly familiar, right? We discussed the subject last year in these pages, in “Men and their computers, alone together.”
The principal sexual cues for male humans, just like for male monkeys, involve visuals of a prospective sexual partner’s anatomy. The principal male sexual cues are anatomical, and visual. Young and old, gay and straight, all around the world, men seem to want to look at body parts.
Which parts? Both gay and straight men want to see something good in the chest area (breasts for straights, pecs for gays), something appealing between the legs, and a good butt. In addition, straight men seem to have a thing for small feet.
Small feet? Sure, of course. Remember Cinderella? A Billion Wicked Thoughts quotes psychologist Donald Symons: “In the Cinderella folktales the prince is never canvassing his kingdom in search of a girl whose feet will fill out a gravy boat of a shoe.”
In one of Ogas and Gaddam’s datasets, there were 93,885 sexual searches for feet and only 5,831 sexual searches for hands. Small feet represent a minor but definite male sexual cue.
As we’ll discuss in a future article, the presence of a small but definite male attraction to feet has far-reaching implications for understanding those individuals such as foot fetishists who are exclusively attracted to feet.
We’ll recall that body part fetishists are almost exclusively men. Getting stuck on one female body part, and an atypical one at that, seems to be an inherent vulnerability of the male sexual software. More on that later.
The authors claim to have found evidence for a variety of other male sexual cues as well.
Hail to the Chief
The sexual excitement of a man’s partner appears to be a male sexual cue. Moaning and thrashing are always appreciated.
Another cue, interestingly enough, is the presence of another male who is perceived as physically dominant. As I noted in “The strange new science behind A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” — a possible explanation for the fact that many straight men like to look at large penises.
As Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha discussed in Sex at Dawn, early humans may have tended to mate promiscuously. Watching a female member of the tribe have sex with the chief would have been a big turn-on for the other men of the tribe — some of whom might now get a turn with her.
The idea of male sexual cues and male sexual software is intuitively appealing. The whole construct seems reasonable, and seems to fit with our everyday experience of male sexuality.
But is Male Sexuality Really That Simple?
No. It only appears simple when it’s limited to clicking images on a screen. Remember — as I discussed in “Studying sexuality — one mouse-click at a time,” the authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts didn’t set out to study sex. Their book is limited to the cues governing desire.
In bed with a partner, your average man needs other things as well. He needs to feel valued. Appreciated. Accepted. And yes, desired. He needs to feel good about himself.
Sometimes people forget this. They buy into the idea that men are just monkeys, needing only a glimpse of female anatomy to get turned on. Yes, the sight of one’s partner with her top off can be a big plus. But her welcoming gaze can be important too.
Sometimes both men and women forget that sex is part of the relaxation response. People occasionally do it when they’re tense, but that’s the exception. For most couples, sex is a way of relaxing together.
But one wouldn’t know that simply from looking at men’s mouseclicks.
Let’s hope that the readers of A Billion Wicked Thoughts don’t interpret the authors’ findings as a general guide to male sexuality. Because if they do, then many more people will be even more misguided about sex than they are already.
You’ll notice that we’re now at the end of Part 5 of this series, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the book’s findings about female desire.
That’s going to take some time.