What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently

What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently

What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently

What Women Want-What Men Want: Why the Sexes Still See Love and Commitment So Differently


Following the work of E. O. Wilson, Desmond Morris, and David Buss, What Women Want--What Men Want offers compelling new evidence about the real reasons behind men's and women's differing sexual psychologies and sheds new light on what men and women look for in a mate, the predicament of marriage in the modern world, the relation between sex and emotion, and many other hotly debated questions. Drawing upon 2000 questionnaires and 200 intimate interviews that show how our sexual psychologies affect everyday decisions, John Townsend argues against the prevailing ideologically correct belief that differences in sexual behavior are "culturally constructed." Townsend shows there are deep-seated desires inherited from our evolutionary past that guide our actions. In a fascinating series of experiments, men and women were asked to indicate preferences for potential mates based on their attractiveness and apparent economic status. Women overwhelmingly preferred expensively dressed men to more attractive but apparently less successful men, and men were clearly inclined to choose more attractive women regardless of their professional status. Townsend's studies also indicate that men are predisposed to value casual sex, whereas women cannot easily separate sexual relations from the need for emotional attachment and economic security. Indeed, wherever men possess sexual alternatives to marriage, and women possess economic alternatives, divorce rates will be high. In the concluding chapter, Townsend draws upon the advice of couples who have maintained their marriages over the years to suggest ways to survive our evolutionary predicament. Lucidly and accessibly written, What Women Want--What Men Want shows us why we are the way we are and brings new clarity to one of the most intractable debates of our time.


I am convinced that men and women are intrinsically so different that nothing we do will obliterate or even reduce the differences. I do not think men have to worry that women will become unsexed or women, that men will. In fact, the freer we become in allowing both sexes to be themselves, the more fundamental and ineradicable differences will show up.

--Jessie Bernard, The Future of Marriage

Why Write a Book Like This?

WHEN I BEGAN the research for this book, I had studied mental disorders for fifteen years. The major mental disorders do appear cross-culturally, which suggests that they have some biological basis. Social factors, however, like income and family support, are often more important determinants of what happens to mental patients than their symptoms. So, although there is an underlying biological basis for mental disorders, to some extent they are also socially constructed roles. I assumed I would explain changes in sexuality, dating, and marriage in similar terms, and I initially assumed that cultural influences and socialization were by far the most important determinants of how we behave sexually. Certainly, the way we were raised and the environment we live in strongly influences how we act--in bed and out. But the more people I interviewed, and the more I read, convinced me that sexuality and choosing mates were of a different order than other social behavior. Sexual behavior and mate selection are at the root of how we as a species came into being and how we will continue to evolve. Any explanation of these phenomena that ignores biology and evolution is bound to be inadequate.

As a young man I experienced the consciousness of the 1960s and '70s. I truly believed then that the sexes were going to become more alike as we sloughed off our confining, outmoded sex roles and became freer, more self- actualized human beings. Masters' and Johnson's The Human Sexual Response showed that women were capable of having multiple orgasms, whereas men were not, and with the proper stimulation women could reach . . .

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