Good At Sex: Misjudging What Women Want (pt6)
male vs female rankings of sex acts
In the Marketplace of Sex Acts, we explored women’s ratings of what they like in bed, vs. how often they experience men doing them:
This is useful, but how often men do something is influenced not just by men suspecting a woman will like the thing, but also their own limitations - if a woman hates a man getting soft, you might know this but doesn’t mean you can stop it from happening by sheer force of will. If a woman loves getting her ear tongued, you might know this but still refuse to do it if you think earwax tastes gross.
So I decided to run another survey, testing what women actually like vs. what men predict women will like. Thus we can see the difference in judgement alone, unaffected by men’s own preferences or capacity.
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I asked ~345 women and ~1800 men to rank 77 various sex acts on a scale of 0 (hate it) to 100 (love it). And - yes, the women I’m asking are subject to selection bias, as they skew sluttier, kinkier, more liberal. But I maintain that this is exactly the kind of selection bias we want for this particular inquiry, because this is the demographic of women you’re most likely to end up having casual sex with.
how much women would like if a guy did it, and
how much men predicted a woman would like it
This is actually kind of tricky - it doesn’t make sense to ask about predicting what someone likes in a long term relationship, because at four years of dating you’re probably gonna have already figured out if she likes doggystyle or not.
But first date is hard, because some sex acts depend a lot on trust and rapport; even if a woman likes being choked, she might not like being choked during the first time she has sex with someone.
So in the survey, I asked people to imagine they’d been on a few dates already with someone they felt comfortable with, and this was the third time they were having sex. I asked women to assume that for each sex act given, the man trying it was doing it because he genuinely thought she’d like it, not because he was being an asshole.
And for men, I gave the instructions:
For calibration, you can ask:
"If I started trying this, how likely is she to be happy I'm trying it?"
"How likely is it she'd be aroused by me trying this"?
"How good an idea is it to try this if I want her to leave satisfied with the experience?"
"If I started trying to do this thing, how likely is it she wouldn't stop me?"
Some things that surprised me:
Some items that were in “women want this more than men actually do it” zone from the last graph, are things that, in this graph, men overestimated, compared to women’s actual rating.
In the Marketplace of Sex Acts graph, ‘he focuses primarily on your clitoris (as opposed to vagina’) was something women wanted more, compared to how much they reported men actually did this.
But not for want of men knowing that women want it! In this new survey, men overestimated how much women wanted clit-focus.
This makes me think something is going on like, “women complain men neglect paying attention to their clit; this makes men think women want clit-focus more than they actually do”. This implies, then, that men are making a mistake - they shouldn’t be increasing their estimate of how much women want it so much as they should lower their estimate of how much other men do it.
So when men hear women expressing frustrated desire for focus on clit, they should update less in the direction that “women want this more than I think”, and more in the direction of “other men do this less than I think.”
To be even more concrete:
Imagine that I, a lady, rate clit-focus as 70/100 on the 'how much I like it' scale.
Bob, also, when asked to predict how much I like clit-focus, guesses that I like it 70/100.
But assume every man I've had sex with has only ever pounded on my vagina. I am real upset about this and go "guys, clit-focus is important, ok? make sure you do it. I like clit-focus, it's important for good sex"
Bob, hearing this, goes "oh shit. maybe 70/100 wasn't a high enough rating. Women must like it 99/100"
and then, during sex, Bob focuses my clit to a 99/100 degree. He does it for hours, makes sure he never does sex without it, and kinda neglects my vagina.
And like. Yeah I like clit-focus and it's important, but Bob is going kinda on overdrive here? I also like vaginal stimulation too, and occasionally I want sex without clit-focus, idk?
What Bob should have done was go "Hm, while I could update to 99/100, I could ALSO maybe update that other men are failing to do this, and other men's failure is what's generating her complaints. Maybe my original prediction was correct and I should continue to treat this as though she likes it 70/100."
In general, this seems to be a mild trend for a certain cluster of sex act preferences, with ‘clit focus’ only being one example out of this cluster (will go over the rest of the cluster below); it’s less that women desperately want a specific kind of sex, and more that your competition is failing at meeting the low bar of providing that for them. In this area, you should be careful not to overcorrect.
Still, though, this is only for that specific cluster of sex acts. There’s another category that is consistent with the Marketplace of Sex Acts graph - women both report that men don’t do it, and men also underestimate how much women like it.
This I think is the fault of typical mind fallacy - this second cluster falls squarely into the ways male and female sexuality differ the most, and also the cluster that we get the most mixed signals about.
This implies there’s two main ways men fail at understanding women - ways caused by other men’s failures, which I’ll call the Low Bar Cluster, and ways caused by more fundamental gender gap misunderstandings, which I’ll call the Mars Cluster. I’ll go over the specific sex acts in each cluster, below.
But before I do, first check your predictions. How do you most expect yourself to be off? For example:
Where do you predict rough vs. sensual sex falls on this chart?
Doggy vs. cowgirl?
Talking about the sex before vs. during vs. after?
Cumming after 3 minutes vs. 30?
”He says he’d love to get you pregnant” - just, that one.
Choking lightly vs. firmly
Again - how bad is it when the guy is silent, really?
Have your predictions? Let’s get into the full details below.
Full chart with labels: