People are not enjoying sex as much as they could be, Occidental College sociology professor Lisa Wade said at her talk “Sex Machines vs. Sex Objects: How Stereotypes Subvert Sexual Pleasure” on Wednesday.
Wade argued that sexual values imposed by mass media create “gendered sexual roles” that undermine the natural pleasure of intercourse.
The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response invited Wade to speak as part of Harvard’s inaugural Sex Week.
“Sex sells,” said Wade as she showed scantily-clad, seductive women on advertisements for everything from socks to hearing aids to organ donation.
These ads, she said, sell specific versions of sex that are different for men and women.
She said men are taught certain rules: Have sex, have it with as many women as possible, and follow the “script.”
“You flirt with a woman, grab for butt first, then boobs, then you start going under the clothes,” said Wade, describing this script. “Men are given this role, told to act out this role, and if they don’t follow it, then they are considered different.”
Women, on the other hand, are more often objectified than empowered.
Women “learn that being the object of men’s desire is the most important role we have,” said Wade as she showed a promiscuous photograph of female Czech Parliament members. “Even if a woman is talented in some other way, she still needs to capitalize on her attractiveness.”
But being sexy is different from being sexual, Wade said. She summed up masculine sexuality with the sentiment “I want” and feminine sexuality with the sentiment “I want to be wanted.”
Women may be anxious about their entire bodies during sex, Wade said, while men are typically self-conscious about just one part—the penis.
“We have really rigid demands for the penis,” said Wade, drawing laughter from the crowd.
The penis not only has to be large, she said, but it also has to produce a perfectly hard and long-lasting erection at any time. Furthermore, she said, “their ejaculation should reach outer space.”
But Wade said that 25 percent of college-age men have trouble getting an erection, and average sexual intercourse lasts three to seven minutes.
In addition, she said that women are so preoccupied with how their bodies look during sex that it detracts from their pleasure and that three quarters of women do not have orgasms during sex.
“Women who have sex with women orgasm 83 percent of the time, but only a third of that with men,” said Wade, eliciting a gasp from the audience. “Seventy-two percent of women fake orgasm, and even more so if in love, because they don’t want to disappoint him.”
Attendee Lynne S. Peskoe ’14 said she enjoyed the talk. “It was really informative and well-done in terms of not being preachy.”
Roberto A. Perez ’15 won a mini-vibrator in a raffle at the end of the event. He said he plans to “use it as a massager.”
Wade ended with a few words of advice: “Men, remember that you are more than a penis. Women, don’t equate sexiness with attractiveness. Everyone: broaden your view of what is sexy. Most importantly, talk to one another—it can open up another dimension of sex.”