“Research has shown that men are more visually stimulated, while women are more literary; they’re turned on by words or erotic stories.” – Dr. Michael Krychman on Fifty Shades of Grey
I have seen variations of the above quote appear in many news articles and Human Sexuality textbooks as a basic “fact” about female sexuality. There seems to be a widely shared belief among both scholars and the general public that explicit visual depictions of sex are far less appealing to women than they are to men, and that women will choose a steamy romance novel of questionable literary value over a graphic porn video any day. In fact, many people believe this is one of the primary reasons why books like Fifty Shades of Grey attract so many female readers. However, I’m not fully convinced by this argument. My reading of the scientific literature on sexual arousal suggests another possibility: perhaps women gravitate toward these books not because they are less aroused by hardcore pornography, but because society tells women that they’re not supposed to enjoy more explicit sexual materials.