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It depends what one means by "understand."  It's a William James question.  We assume that because we share language, we can share much and understand much about one another.  But there are experiences one can not really "understand" without any direct knowledge--at least I think so.
 
In any case, this is not a yes/no question and does not have a definitive answer.  It is semantic.
Cheers,
N

>>> Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>01/28/09 11:31 PM >>>
Which raises the question,
can one human being understand another?
P.
----- Original Message -----
From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Nancy Gish
To: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 8:13 PM
Subject: Re: Men women sex - The scientific pov.

Despite the scientific work in this article, which I read, the question remains as absurd as when Freud asked it.  There is no one thing women want.  And if they respond to more sexual images than men, we do not know that it is just because women are innately more polymorphous (though I think they very likely are more open to experience, in practice) or whether it is just that men, especially in this culture, are taught to be so much more inhibited.  Tell it Socrates.  Or many other cultures where a range of sexuality is not just blanked out or suppressed.
 
Like men, women are individuals with many many kinds of response:  there is not an essential "woman" whose desire can be identified and generalized.  Note "the feminine soul" as if there were such a thing but not a "masculine soul."  Or "a woman" but infinite possible men.  It's a meaningless question. 
Nancy
 


>>> Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> 01/28/09 10:41 PM >>>
----- Original Message -----
From: Kate Troy
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3:08 PM
Subject: Re: : By The Way
Hemingway didn't understand women well, either. Certainly Eliot didn't.
=====================================

first part of NY Times article, with link to the rest:

What Do Women Want?

By DANIEL BERGNER
The New York Times
January 25, 2009

Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She is a
36-year-old psychology professor at Queen's University in the small
city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member
of the editorial board of the world's leading journal of sexual
research, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The bonobo film was part of a
series of related experiments she has carried out over the past
several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as
they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull -
"bonobos don't seem to make much noise in sex," she told me, "though
the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds" -
she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She
showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the
same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and
female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a
chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing
calisthenics in the nude.

While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors
high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their
arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively. The participants
sat in a brown leatherette La-Z-Boy chair in her small lab at the
Center for Addiction and Mental Health, a prestigious psychiatric
teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where
Chivers was a postdoctoral fellow and where I first talked with her
about her research a few years ago. The genitals of the volunteers
were connected to plethysmographs - for the men, an apparatus that
fits over the penis and gauges its swelling; for the women, a little
plastic probe that sits in the vagina and, by bouncing light off the
vaginal walls, measures genital blood flow. An engorgement of blood
spurs a lubricating process called vaginal transudation: the seeping
of moisture through the walls. The participants were also given a
keypad so that they could rate how aroused they felt.

The men, on average, responded genitally in what Chivers terms
"category specific" ways. Males who identified themselves as straight
swelled while gazing at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while
watching the masturbating and exercising women. They were mostly
unmoved when the screen displayed only men. Gay males were aroused in
the opposite categorical pattern. Any expectation that the animal sex
would speak to something primitive within the men seemed to be
mistaken; neither straights nor gays were stirred by the bonobos. And
for the male participants, the subjective ratings on the keypad
matched the readings of the plethysmograph. The men's minds and
genitals were in agreement.

All was different with the women. No matter what their
self-proclaimed sexual orientation, they showed, on the whole, strong
and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women
with women and women with men. They responded objectively much more
to the exercising woman than to the strolling man, and their blood
flow rose quickly - and markedly, though to a lesser degree than
during all the human scenes except the footage of the ambling,
strapping man - as they watched the apes. And with the women,
especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to
belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and
the keypad weren't in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling,
heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas
indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and
viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the
lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on
the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians
reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded. Whether
straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while
staring at the bonobos.

"I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest," Chivers said,
describing her ambition to understand the workings of women's arousal
and desire. "There's a path leading in, but it isn't much." She sees
herself, she explained, as part of an emerging "critical mass" of
female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods. These
researchers and clinicians are consumed by the sexual problem Sigmund
Freud posed to one of his female disciples almost a century ago: "The
great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet
been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the
feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?"

...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html


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