Monday, August 09, 2010

What Do Women Want?

‘The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'’ – Sigmund Freud

The above quote comes from Sigmund Freud, perhaps the most influential and recognisable figure within the school of psychology. With accomplishments as impressive as discovering the unconscious, Freud still never made any claim to understanding women, leaving Mel Gibson as perhaps the only man alive to have ever achieved such a feat. Despite this, let’s take a stab at unearthing what little we know and viewing it through a pseudo-scientific lense in an attempt to construct a multi-layered facsimile of what women want; from us, from life and from the fridge.

Well the last point is easy – most women want chocolate and wine from the fridge. But what can this tell us about them? On the one hand we know they have expensive taste – they like to be looked after (the chocolate in question should be Thornton’s while the wine should be from the Champagne region of France preferably). They also like to feel warm and comforted. We all like that, but women perhaps want it even more and you will find few who would turn down an indulgent bath or any form of pampering. Chocolate also produces the same hormone as does love, which suggests a craving for love? And for the feeling of comfort that comes with that. Start with expense, safety and unconditional love then and your pretty safe.

Women also have a slightly sweeter tooth than do men as we can tell from this selection from the fridge and are far less partial to steak. This could be an evolutionary feature of then having less muscle mass and so requiring less protein. This could also explain their need for comfort and protection by the more muscular men who do have that muscle mass.

When asking what women want from life things become a little less tricky. Particularly as what a woman says she wants is very rarely in fact what she actually wants. Again let’s start with what we know. First of all, we know women like shiny things, and they include pearls and diamonds, with diamonds being the preferred option. This again betrays woman-kind’s expensive taste, as well as their desire to sparkle. The sparkling can initial be seen as an attempt to attract a mate, though this can’t fully describe the process as a happily married woman will still enjoy to sparkle. In fact giving a woman something shiny can often be one of the best ways a boyfriend or husband can please them, perhaps as a physical gesture to suggest financial security? In such cases the shiny item can then be worn to display how that woman’s man can provide for her. To who though, competition? Women may also enjoy receiving such gifts as they represent a financial investment, and so some form of long-term commitment. This again provides the feelings of safety provided by the pampering, unconditional love and the chocolates. Another reason a woman may enjoy wearing such jewellery and thereby ‘sparkling’ could be that it makes them feel more attractive and so acts a massage for the self confidence, again helping them feel that sense of unconditional love.

So what does a woman want from us? From a man? So far we have deduced that they want chocolate, wine and diamonds, but that these represent security, long term commitment, unconditional love and safety. If we think about how this sits when taken alongside Mel Gibson’s view that women want ‘no games, just sport’ (the women-centric advertising campaign Gibson devices when reading women’s minds to discover what they want in the film of the same name) then it fits quite well. What Gibson is conveying here in his usual charming fashion, is that women want to trust a man and to feel they can be themselves around him, without feeling that he will leave them for a misstep, or that he will only love her for as long as she stays young and beautiful. This way the woman can let her guard down and stop playing ‘games’. This might shed light onto the ‘game playing’ we men often accuse women of indulging in, suggesting that it is in fact a pre-emptive defence against what they perceive to be our ‘game playing’, or our elaborate schemes to get sex ala-carte then cut and run. To give a woman what she wants then, we should consider showing to her that we have only honourable intentions and that she can thus drop her guard (though if she could stay beautiful that would be nice).

The views of Dr Gibson also seem to concur with the works of some other important (albeit less esteemed) scholars, notably those of Joseph Campbell and Freud’s fellow psychodynamic theorist Carl Gustav Jung. Jung points to the underlying ‘archetypes’ in our dreams and artistic pursuits that point towards an underlying ‘truth’ in all human nature. Joseph Campbell took this theory and wrote his masterwork ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces’ that pointed out the similarity in all stories that sees a hero go on a quest to save a ‘damsel’. Often this damsel would require rescuing from captivity, often in a tower and by another male or dragon. Here the enemy male or dragon is supposed to represent the Father, from whom the daughter requires rescuing in order to enter woman hood. How this translates to real life is that the woman requires rescuing from her current situation into one that offers more emotional and financial support while allowing her to be a woman. The handy thing here is that as we can see, most men also want to fight dragons and be heroes meaning we’re more than happy to ‘save’ our damsel making it a pretty perfect match.

So all we have to do is to rescue our women from their current hum-drum existence and then cradle them in our cocoon of emotional, financial and physical safety and bliss. So far so good. So what often goes wrong?

Well the differences in men and women are evolutionary and designed to ensure that we each are able to carry out our prime directives. For both of us that means making children, but the problem is that women take a lot longer to do their part of the child making process while men can make several during a day if they get particularly lucky. This again explains why women look for long term security from their fellas, but creates the problem of the men being far more promiscuous.

There are also hormonal differences in men and women, the main one being that men produce more testosterone while women produce more oestrogen (though a woman’s menstrual cycle means that her hormone levels, and so what she wants, also changes throughout the month). The areas of the brain also differ leaving women with improved ability to empathise and more language areas while men are better at spatial awareness and conceptualising ideas. These differences are again to help the men in their role as hunter gatherer, to build tools and to stalk lions and to help women in their ability to care for the emotional and physical needs of their child. Today this combination makes men more goal driven and more focussed on end results, whereas the woman is more focussed on the emotional element of a situation. This again creates problems in the bedroom as well as in long term planning and problem solving that can lead to arguments.

However by understanding these differences men should be better able to cater to the needs of their women and to give them what they want. To make a woman happy we need to focus on creating a secure emotional environment of love and trust, and to attempt to focus more on their emotional well being than on tactile results.

By no means is this a complete portrait of what a woman wants, rather it is more of a caricature or an overview. This is still a very young Science and far more research needs to be done before we can reach Mel Gibson levels of competency.

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