After reading through 7,000 pages detailing the sexual frustrations and joys of women who answered an anonymous survey, Joan Sauers has a message for her gender: Men aren't psychic.
"How are they going to know that we're not getting off if we don't tell them?" asks the author of Sex Lives of Australian Women, published this month.
"One of the biggest things for me to come out of the book was the idea that we absolutely need to communicate more with our partners," says Ms. Sauers, 54.
A script editor, Ms. Sauers became Australia's foremost sexpert after research for a teen drama led her to write last year's Sex Lives of Australian Teenagers.
Right away, she says, her friends started pleading for a follow-up focusing on them.
So Ms. Sauers developed an online questionnaire with help from a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexuality.
Within three months, she received responses from 2,000 women. And she doesn't think these sex secrets are particular to Aussies.
"My results actually would probably be quite similar if I did the same survey in North America and the United Kingdom," she says.
Ms. Sauers spoke with The Globe and Mail from her office in Sydney about why the world needs another book about sex, and what men and women alike can learn from Australians' peccadilloes.
Question: It seems we're very open about sex these days -- from advertisements to TV shows and films, it's everywhere. What do you think your book adds to the public discussion?
Joan Sauers: What we've seen isn't so much the sexualization of culture as it is the commercialization of sexuality, and the use of sexual imagery to sell things. When you actually look at the way women talk to their partners and the way women talk to each other, we still don't talk about our own experiences.
One of the things I'm getting overwhelmingly from both women and men as a response to the book is they're saying to me, "You know, we always loved watching Sex and the City because those women actually talked to each other about how they do anal sex and how they do oral sex. But we actually don't really talk to each other about that. We talk to each other about our kids, and about our relationships, and about our jobs, and exchange recipes, but we don't really talk about our own individual experiences in the bedroom."
And because of that there's a kind of silence that allows for misconceptions to grow and fester.
Question: You found that a lot of women are faking orgasms during sex. Why do you think that's so common?
Joan Sauers: There was one woman in the book who said, when I asked how she had an orgasm, "Oh, I go into the bathroom and masturbate after we've had sex." It's really sad. This is the funny thing, a lot of the women in the survey, including women who described stories like that, are doctors and lawyers and they're supposedly liberated in their public lives. But in their private lives they're still sort of back in the 1950s, which is bizarre.
Question: You got responses from 2,000 women -- but with an online survey, how do you know people are who they say they are, or that they're even women?
Joan Sauers: You can't absolutely know. But the thing is, that's true of any census and most surveys nowadays. Even face to face there's no guarantee that people are telling the absolute truth. What I did was, I hired this consultant who's a clinical psychologist whom I worked with on the other book. We went through every single survey response. There weren't that many [fake responses] there were a few -- but it was usually so obvious which ones weren't written by women. There were some really funny ones that were obviously guys screwing around.
Question: So what did they write?
Joan Sauers: Things like, "Oh, I'm a 21-year-old girl and my favourite thing is to give guys oral sex and I love it so much I actually had to quit my job because I didn't have time to give oral sex as much as I wanted to."
Question: What is the most surprising thing you discovered?
Joan Sauers: The most surprising thing and also the most exciting thing was just how different we are, and how different women's experiences of sex are. ... As soon as I would start drawing a conclusion or making a generalization I'd get another 10 surveys where the women felt completely differently. Some women love giving oral sex to men and they feel like it gives them an incredible sense of empowerment, whereas a lot of other women say they hate it because it makes them feel incredibly physically submissive.
Question: Who were the most popular fantasy partners?
Joan Sauers: That was really funny. A lot of women talked about role-playing, and they talked about particular types of guys: teachers, doctors, cops, firemen, sportsmen, plumbers, builders, carpenters, gardeners, truck drivers, life guards. And my favourite: One woman named Zorro and another woman named Santa Claus.
Question: One in five respondents said they'd made a sex tape. Where does that trend come from?
Joan Sauers: It's definitely younger women. One of the reasons the number was so high was about 40 per cent of the respondents were in their 20s. ... Although a lot of the married women in their 30s and 40s have done it too. But mostly, the biggest numbers were in their 20s. And not just sort of being taped with a camera, but a lot of them have filmed themselves, or their boyfriends have filmed them on cell phones.
Some of them regret it, but not all of them. One of the commonest responses was just, they loved it while they were doing it and they felt really turned on by this idea of being a bit of an exhibitionist, and then they looked at it and they just felt really fat. But then others said it was kind of great because now they have this tape their husband can look at instead of looking at porn starring some random strangers.
Question: What was the most positive discovery you made?
Joan Sauers: I guess just that women really love sex. That most women want more sex, and most women want better sex. And most women have a real sense of joy about it and they have a sense of adventure and fun. In spite of all the expectations that porn has created, and in spite of the religious repression and the lack of education, women are still finding ways to have a ball.
Sex by numbers
Highlights from Sex Lives of Australian Women, published this month by Random House Australia, which surveyed 2,000 women:
1 in 5
Women who have made a sex tape.
Percentage who reach orgasm most of the time during some kind of sexual activity.
1 in 3
Women who rarely or never experience orgasm.
Percentage who say they want sex most of the time when it is offered.
Percentage who fantasize about sex with another woman.
Percentage who have had a sexual experience with another woman.
1 in 4
Women who look at pornography at least once a month.
Main reason women say they put off having sex
Too tired from work, looking after children and doing housework.
Top celebrity fantasy partners
George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. Others mentioned: Robbie Williams, Monica Bellucci, Richard Gere, Michael Bublé, Pierce Brosnan, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Matthew Fox and Roger Federer.
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