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What We Get Wrong About Women, Lust, Sex and Infidelity

Wednesday Martin’s new book, ‘Untrue,’ busts open myths

For many years everything I read and heard, and thus believed, is that women aren’t good at casual sex, only have affairs for love, eventually become disinterested in sex and do best in monogamous relationships. OK, but my lived experience proved otherwise. True, I’ve been a serial monogamist, which I interpret as being pretty good at monogamy (minus decades ago) if not lifelong monogamy, but still — this girl can commit. And when I wasn’t in a committed, monogamous relationship? Well, I could do that casual sex thing pretty well, too. And feel good about it.

Yet after hearing so many girlfriends express how they can’t enjoy sex unless it’s with someone they love, and reading so many endless articles written by so-called experts that pretty much replicated their feeling, I couldn’t help wondering, am I the only one? Is there something wrong with me?

It wasn’t until I read Daniel Bergner’s book ? that I realized, no, there isn’t anything wrong with me and I’m not the only one; it’s just that women have been fed a bunch of crap by men who wanted to keep us in our place and so we internalized those messages.

Then I read Susan Squire’s I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage, which so beautifully explains the (mostly religious) reasons why (hey, we’re the supposed weaker sex — what gives? But who had to wear a chastity belt?)

Then I read Esther Perel’s , and saw a lot of myself in what she had to say. And then I read Wednesday Martin’s just released book Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, and I once again felt validated.

There’s a lot to unpack in Martin’s Untrue — she delves into the science, history, literature, philosophy and pop culture of lustful women who are unapologetic about their desires. She wasn’t necessarily a believer from the get-go: “Just talking about polyamory and CNM (consensual non-monogamy) was making me feel threatened and defensive,” she writes.

I get it. Those aren’t conversations I’ve had with partners — or even wanted to have with partners — until recently. Still the big takeaway is that much of what we think about female desire is, well, untrue.

Monogamy and women’s desire

What does that mean? Long-term relationships are particularly hard on female desire, she discovers. Who talks about that? Not many people. Instead we hear about how wives and moms eventually aren’t interested in sex anymore. But we are — just not necessarily with our partners. Bring a new guy — or maybe a woman — into the mix, and just watch those libidos fire up!

Because I spend a lot of time reading about such things, some of Martin’s research is familiar. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover things I’d never heard about. So here are some that I find particularly amusing and enlightening:

  • Ploughs — yes, ploughs, an essential agricultural tool — shoved women into the home and under the patriarchy more than anything else. “Three linked beliefs — that a woman is a man’s property; that a woman’s place is in the home; and that women especially ought to be more ‘naturally’ monogamous — are seeds that were planted in our early harvests.” And we gals have, sadly, never recouped from that.
  • While I knew about Lisa Diamonds’ research on women’s , I knew nothing about — a “high glamour underground community for women who like to play with women” that take place across the globe, from Berlin and London to Melbourne and Sydney and to New York City and San Francisco.
  • Hot wives — wives who have sex with other men with their husband’s approval — are a thing. “Bucking the script of masculine possession, the man into this practice embraces being married to a woman who is untrue — his hotwife — egging her on to ‘betrayal’ after betrayal because he likes it.”

I’ve often thought that much of how we women operate sexually in this world is not because we are choosing to live that way but because we are constantly told it’s how we women are — “naturally” monogamous, preferring intimacy over wild sex, etc. Many women actually , so perhaps it’s .

Reading Untrue will certainly kickstart that conversation. Go get it — now.

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Originally published at

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Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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