(The title above this post links to the NY Times article that prompted it.)

It’s the age-old question, isn’t it – what do women want?

Errr, hmm, well. I could answer things like – a shopping spree at the Serge Lutens shop in Paris, or just a shopping spree in Paris, no credit limit. A house in Copenhagen or a medieval priory in Somerset, UK. An eleven-foot long purple IKEA sofa. My novel on the New York Times bestseller list. A searing reputation for filthy wit and razor-sharp perception in the blogosphere, with hundreds of followers and thousands of comments. World peace, the end of hunger and abuse of women. Education for all who want it. Religious tolerance. I want a general mindset where sexual orientation will be about as relevant as saying you prefer Manolos to Jimmy Choos.

Which sounds very worthy and fairly typical of my gender. Mother Theresa, I most emphatically am not.

Or, I could say – I want the body I had at 25, before stretch marks and Caesarian scar and a midsection that will never be flat again no matter how many crunches I do. While I’m at it, add another seven or eight inches to my height. With the personality I have now. Or two weeks on a tropical beach with the Resident Buttkicker. No four-year-olds allowed. Or I could say Peter Steele on a puff pastry bed covered in Cool Whip, with a side order of Johnny Depp.

It would all be true. And yet, and yet – it’s not the whole story.

Men have been trying to figure it out for millenia, and they still have few clues. One famous Arthurian tale came up with an intriguing answer to the question of what women want.

Sovereignty. The power – and the societal permission – to choose for ourselves. We are, so far as I can tell, still working on that one.

And meanwhile, worthy researchers are trying to figure out just what, precisely, triggers a woman’s sexual ignition switch.

There’s a visual gag illustrating the difference between men and women’s lust. The masculine version is a simple “on/off” switch. Guys – you want her, you lust for her (presuming you’re straight, of course) or you don’t. That’s it. End of story. The feninine version is a complex switchboard with hundreds of dials, keypads and voltmeters, that all end up in a “she wants you, or she doesn’t.”

Aha! Confess, already – it got you thinking, right?

Those worthy researchers at equally meritorious institutes of higher learning have come up with some stunning clues. Signposts, rather, pointing in several directions but with no clear road map through the impenetrable thicket of the female brain. This does give me hope. If everything there was to figure out about women had already been discovered, we would have no more mystery to dazzle the unsuspecting with, would we?

For one thing, what arouses a woman physically may have no apparent effect on her brain. We really do have the ability to exist in two dimensions simultaneously. She may say she thinks you’re hotter than a night in August, but her body may be saying something else entirely. Or – a woman may tell you she’s just not into you, and it’s not you, it’s her. She would be right. And she would be wrong, such being the perfidity of women. She’ll turn you down, but what you’ll never know is just how much she slides out the door.

The problem for all those clueless guys out there, is that unlike with men, it’s not immediately apparent when a woman is firing on all 16 cylinders. Not unless you’ve already made it to third base, in which case you can, up to a point, assume that if she weren’t, YOU wouldn’t be there. Love it or loathe it, for all those “how to score” seminars out there, no matter what Maxim tries to tell their male readers, it’s women who choose men, not the other way around.

Anyone who’s ever had a long-term relationship will tell you that it starts out hot and heavy, and sooner or later, that overwhelming urge to tangle in public and private places will wane. Which is to say, men stay fairly constant. It boils down to availability. If she’s there, he’ll want her.

However, as we all know, women are far more perverse. They may start out hot and heavy, all right, but sooner or later, desire will fizzle out like so many sodden fireworks, buried under the laundry basket of life. She really, truly, honestly, isn’t into you any more. “So, do ya wanna?” just doesn’t do it for her. No amount of flowers, dinner dates or Belgian chocolate will magically transform her into an erupting Etna of molten female desire.

You would be surprised – as I was – to find out what does.

All that research – and please remember, it’s not set in concrete or even marble – seems to suggest that female desire – the heterosexual variety, at any rate – is tied up with a certain degree of – narcissism. We ladies like to be wanted. We like to be told that we are towering goddesses of perfection, and that because we are, you guys are not able to control yourselves. You have to have us, or you’ll die. Really. Yes, gentlemen, you will have to kiss the Blarney stone. You will have to convince us that it’s true. You will, in other words, have to convince us fair ladies that no matter how badly damaged our self-image, you don’t care.

It’s that bad.

Considering that there’s a whole billion-dollar industry built around the exploitation of female insecurity, that’s pretty depressing. I once had a boyfriend who told me in no uncertain terms that I did not live up to the Playboy ideal of desirable womanhood. I didn’t, not even at 25. Therefore, so went his reasoning, he didn’t want me.

If female desire is linked with a certain degree of narcissism in the positive sense, then the bottom line is – we want you to get down on your knees and worship us. Faults and all.

At least for as long as it takes to tangle.

Read the article. Argue with me.

Who knows – we might learn something?

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