Monday, May 2, 2011

The Complex Algorithm of Female Attraction

Ogi Ogas, a computational neuroscientist, and author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts infuriated the feminist community recently when he described feminism as toxic to sexual arousal. A predictable and natural enough response, I must admit.

Over the weekend, he penned The Online World of Female Desire at the Wall St. Journal, which is more closely aligned with the material in his upcoming book. Ogas and a colleague analyzed a billion web searches for sexual content.

Looking at online activity has the advantage of examining the use of a precious resource: time. Whether someone ultimately pays for content, there's little doubt that both men and women are investing significant time on arousal, though in very different ways.

"All across the planet, what most women seek out, in growing numbers, are not explicit scenes of sexual activity but character-driven stories of romantic relationships."

This isn't news, exactly. Everyone knows that women are the consumers of rom coms, chick flicks, chick lit, and romance novels. Ogas goes into the science, i.e., "the unconscious evaluation" of how attraction and arousal work in women, calling it "the source of feminine intuition."

"Using investigative skills, the female brain evaluates all available evidence regarding a potential mate's social, emotional and physical qualities to make an all-important decision: Is he Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong?...Though the female brain carefully processes many stimuli simultaneously, it is experienced only as a general feeling of favorability or suspicion toward a potential partner. This feminine intuition is designed to solve a woman's unique challenge of determining whether a man is committed, kind and capable of protecting a family."

Ogas examines female erotica to understand how the female brain differs in this respect from "the much simpler male brain." For example, women account for 2% of online porn subscriptions, but 90% of romance novel purchases. He points out that in all romance novels, a "gradual elucidation of the hero's inner character leads to an emotional epiphany between the hero and heroine." Sex never is gratuitous or merely pleasurable - it always leads to long-term commitment, even when, in this modern age, it occurs beforehand.

Recently, female fan fiction as exploded on the internet, where women write their own stories about beloved franchises: Harry Potter and Twilight, for example. The most popular site is, which gets more than 1.5 million visitors a month.

Ogas boils down the differences between the online sexytime of men and women:

1. They search for different things.

  • Men search primarily for racy pictures of famous women they find attractive.
  • Women search for details on celebrities' personal lives. If they search for sexual content, it is more likely to be erotica in which their favorite character stars.

2. They consume pornography differently.

  • Men almost always consume pornography alone.
  • Women prefer to discuss stories in "probing detail," exploring the emotional arc, the characters, and the "nuances of the relationships."
Of course, there are exceptions. Ogas estimates that between 25-33% of the visitors to pornography sites are women.

Our data suggest that these women probably have a higher sex drive than other women and that they are more socially aggressive and more comfortable taking risks.
This is a reference to some women having high testosterone, the hormone that influences sex drive. In other words, a high testosterone woman can have sex like a man because she is more like a man.

For most women, the evaluation of a mate's social, emotional and physical qualities "must be completed before mind and body are united in sexual harmony."

It follows, therefore, that a woman who is not high testosterone but attempts to "have sex like a man" anyway is living in a state of disharmony, one where her mind and her body are at war with one another. This is characterized by doubts, feelings of guilt, rejection or loneliness after casual sex.

Anne Campbell, a researcher at Durham University in England, conducted a One-Night Stand study with 1743 subjects. Although she found that the many of women were regretful immediately afterwards, and reported feeling used (46%), the real eye opener was the motives of the women engaging in no-strings sex:

"Women were not hooking up in an effort to secure a long-term beau, but because they felt flattered by the overnight proposition.

They were lower their standards when it comes to one-night stands, so the presumed flattery is a fantasy or close to it.

Often [women] said things like, 'I felt so flattered, so happy that he found me attractive. It was so nice to be wanted. What women don't seem to see is that men drop their standards massively for a one-night stand. No woman should be flattered because a man wants to have sex with her once."

Every woman comes equipped to deduce a great deal of information about a man to determine whether she is attracted to him. For her intuition to give her the green light, she must like his smell and the taste of his saliva, both of which clue her in to his level of DNA dissimilarity, an essential component of successful mating. She must also like his demeanor, his emotional affect and his social persona. For most women, one-night stands short-circuit the process.

This is the checklist that matters. Women must respect and heed their intuition in mating. And men should understand that there is much to the process that is truly not personal. If your DNA resembles her own family's, you're not going to give her butterflies. As an acting coach once said to me, "You are not for all markets."

Ultimately, sex and even love are pure science. We cannot control it, but we can find greater satisfaction, even peace, by embracing it. We certainly can't cheat it.


indyguy77@work said...

So in other words: "Most women having one night stands are short-sighted dimwits utterly incable of assessing themselves, the men they spread open for or their banger's motives."

Not a surprise on any front, though it's nice in its simplicity.

Susan Walsh said...

Another reason why it makes sense to avoid such women if you're looking for more than P&D.

TGP said...

If the level of T corelates to "man" behavior, and apparently there is a continuum of levels of T versus estrogen, depending on the person, are there gradations of "man" and "woman" behavior? And I mean for both men and women? If so, do some men have female attraction triggers to dome degree?

I always felt uncomfortable and sullied by one night stands. Perhaps I have some female chemistry coursing through my vains.

The LP 999/Linda said...

Cool. Always interesting reading Susan :).

Susan Walsh said...

There is definitely a spectrum for males as well. In fact, men with very high testosterone have some difficulty in this day and age getting along in society. In addition to violence and crime, high T men are less able to collaborate, cooperate, share credit, etc. There is a pair of Harvard Business School professors who have a practice consulting with alpha males in business. Quite a few corporate leaders lack management skills, even though their natural leadership abilities served them well in terms of advancement. They offer require remedial training to acquire the skills we might call beta traits.

And to some extent, I think you could also say that some men do have more female attraction triggers. For example, many men prefer relationships - they'd most like to find one woman to partner with, not use Game to become a tomcat.

I don't know if testosterone is increasing in the female population, or decreasing among males. There's some thinking that dominant behaviors can actually lead to increased testosterone. If that's true, then feminism will have made women more masculine. And Game can make men more masculine.

Vox said...

I was exchanging email with Athol a few days ago, and one thing I postulated was that no ALPHA could have written his book. The same way that corporate alphas need remedial beta training, I suspect that women who manage to tame an ALPHA long to get him to marry her would do well to encourage their husbands to get some remedial training as well.

Once what Roissy calls the abundance mindset is established - or what I prefer to refer to as a sufficiency of girls on the girl tree - I think it is very hard for a man, especially a high-T man, to break his instinctive reaction to simply moving on to a less difficult partner.

The same is likely true of high-T women. Commitment is not only hard work, in order to be successful it has to be conscious work.

IndyGuy77 said...

"Commitment is not only hard work, in order to be successful it has to be conscious work."

That's interesting and an angle I haven't really heard expressed much.

I sure wouldn't have expected that to come from you. I suppose I'm naive in some ways and I've never been married (though I never had trouble holding up my end in LTRs on monogamy issues).

SarahsDaughter said...

"Ultimately, sex and even love are pure science. We cannot control it, but we can find greater satisfaction, even peace, by embracing it. We certainly can't cheat it."

This is why it is so important to associate with the cream of the crop. Love can be found (easily) in the loser network. Women/daughters should be well informed on where to spend their time.

"I sure wouldn't have expected that to come from you." - IndyGuy77

Seriously? Oh hail the master... HA! Unless Spacebunny is an angel sent directly from heaven to serve Vox's master plan, their success is the blessing and provision of years of conscious work. I have yet to see a successful marriage sidestep this.

SarahsDaughter said...

Monogamy might seem like the indicator to a successful marriage, it is a symptom, not a cause. Many of healthy marriages exist that have not been monogamous by one or both partners. There is much more to it, beginning with the 1st Commandment. (There are also plenty of long term monogamous marriages that can hardly be deemed "successful.")

Giraffe said...

HA! Unless Spacebunny is an angel sent directly from heaven to serve Vox's master plan, their success is the blessing and provision of years of conscious work. I have yet to see a successful marriage sidestep this.

From the outside, a good marriage often looks effortless. Even bad ones do if they hide problems well.

An unmarried man probably thinks that he would like to have one of those easy marriages. Then he gets married. Poor bastard never saw it coming.

indyguy77@work said...

Eh, maybe it's just that a lot of what some folks would maybe call "work" in marriage is probably stuff I'd call "marriage". I certainly don't expect it to be easy or without challenges.

The fact that you have two human wills working in concert (or not) is going to create some manner of friction all its own.

But that's just life.

Andre said...

My girlfriend likes my smell so much that she asked me to wear a t-shirt for 3 days and give it to her as a gift. She smells the t-shirt throughout the day, specially before going to sleep, and always asks me to "recharge" it, by wearing it again for a while.

I guess that means we have pretty good chances, right? ;-)

Anonymous said...

A persons smell is so important,there are people that have a nice scent...naturally. I use to love an ex scent and yes use to ask for his shirt when he would leave :-) Great topic, thanks

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