The XX Factor

Are Women Passive When It Comes to Sex? Yes, and It’s Biological, Not Cultural.

Earlier this week we asked female readers to write in telling us whether they experience their sexuality as relatively passive and male readers to write in telling us if they see female sexual passivity as the norm (or not). Many responded. We’ll be publishing some of these responses today and tomorrow. Here is the first.

From: Vanessa

I am a woman who is not passive at all when it comes to romance. When I go out, I’m always checking people out, I tend to be the one who asks for a first date, and in the bedroom it is almost always me making the first move. Despite all of this, I’m still of the opinion that there is a general tendency for women to be more passive and to want to be the object of desire, and my suspicion has always been that this is more based in biology than culture.

Let me explain: I am a lesbian. I’ve always dated women and moved in the circles of women who date other women. And, I gotta tell ya, there’s a whole lot of passivity going around when lesbians get together with other lesbians. No one wants to make the first move, everybody wants to be approached, and being someone who likes to do the approaching can be a massive boon, because while everyone else is being passive, I can swoop in and have a chance with whoever might interest me.

Now, I’m no scientist, and all of this is clearly anecdotal, but it seems to me that this suggests a biological basis for female passivity rather than a cultural one. The reason being lesbians have different cultural norms than heterosexual women. We wear our hair differently, we dress differently, we tend toward slightly larger body sizes, we play more sports, etc, etc. But while there are probably more active-type lesbians than there are among heterosexual women, it doesn’t seem to be the norm to me. Far from it. So I have always concluded that female desire tends to naturally be more passive and that I myself am just an incredibly lucky outlier.