chapter  33
6 Pages

Of language and the flesh

ByTHOMAS LAQUEUR

The commonplace of much contemporary psychology – that men want sex while women want relationships – is the precise inversion of pre-Enlightenment notions that, extending back to antiquity, equated friendship with men and fleshliness with women. Women, whose desires knew no bounds in the old scheme of things, and whose reason offered so little resistance to passion, became in some accounts creatures whose whole reproductive life might be spent anesthetized to the pleasures of the flesh. When, in the late eighteenth century, it became a possibility that “the majority of women are not much troubled with sexual feelings,” the presence or absence of orgasm became a biological signpost of sexual difference.