Writer and comedian Stephen Fry – most well-known perhaps for his guest role as Dr. Gordon Wyatt on the TV series Bones – raised quite a controversy a few days ago when his comments during an interview with gay magazine Attitude hit the newsstands and, consequently, the eyes of nearby feminists. In the interview, Fry – who later claimed he was simply misquoted during a humorous interview- was quoted as saying that women only engage in sexual activities with men “because sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship,” according to an article in The Observer.
This comment was, for obvious reasons, taken as quite a slap in the face by feminists such as Rosie Boycott, who responded by saying that “women are just as capable as men of enjoying sex…” In fact, if you were to ask most straight single men which statement they agree with, chances are good you would find your subjects conflicted. Depending on their range of experience with that infinitely more complicated opposite sex, you would be given answers ranging from complete agreement with Fry to scoffs like those of Ms. Boycott’s. As a writer and card-carrying male with a rather uneventful sex life, however, even I tend to agree with Boycott’s claims that some women – though certainly fewer than men – enjoy sex very much, and not all women can be lumped into the ranks of the sexually stunted.
It seems, however, that Fry’s opinion may very well be backed up by the facts. In the Newsweek article “The Pursuit of Sexual Happiness,” University of Texas psychologists Cindy Meston and David Buss are quoted as saying – based on five years of research and an online survey of 1,000 women – that “84 percent of women report they’ve done it to ‘keep the peace’ at home.”
A University of Michigan study quoted in the same article even found that 9 percent of women have even used sex to barter for gifts or household chores, a situation that may be all too familiar to men who have been married for any significant length of time. So was Fry right after all? Is sex really just a chore that leads to a more successful relationship for women?
Ultimately, the controversy boils down to one particular mistake that comedian Fry made when talking to Attitude — the assumption that motivation dictates enjoyment. While he may have been correct in asserting that some if not many women’s motivation to have sex is to prolong or sustain a relationship, he then made the incorrect inference that this motivation meant that they did not enjoy sex but viewed it simply as a price to pay. To use an overly simplistic analogy, whether or not I enjoy riding a bike has nothing to do with the fact that I more often than not ride it simply because it will get me from point A to point B faster than walking. It may be true that the male libido often demands more of women than they enjoy reciprocating, but many men finding themselves in happy and healthy relationships will attest to the fact that the female libido is alive and well – even if it does occasionally surface more ferociously in pursuit of a better anniversary gift or a cleaner kitchen.
Polly Vernon, “Stephen Fry Shocks Feminists by Claiming Women Don’t Really Like Sex”, The Observer
Jessica Bennet, “The Pursuit of Sexual Happiness”, Newsweek