Expert Q&A: Sex Talk with Cindy Meston

Photo courtesy of Cindy Meston.

Cindy Meston is a tenured professor in the department of psychology. Along with teaching the undergraduate human sexuality course, Meston also conducts research in one of the most sophisticated sexuality labs in the world. Longhorn Life asked Meston to share her expertise with us, hoping she could help separate the fact from the fiction of typical dating advice.

Longhorn Life: Clear up some myths for us: scientifically, how are women and men different sexually or romantically?

Cindy Meston: I would say the biggest difference that we find in the whole psychophysiology literature is the connection between genital arousal and psychological arousal is very close for men and it’s not close for women… There’s a very close connection between how aroused a man says he is, and what his genitals are doing. Whereas for women, this is not the case.

LL: What do you think are some of the reasons for that difference?

CM: I mean it’s all speculative, but I think one reason is just anatomically the male sexual response is a much greater response… He kind of can’t miss it; it’s out there. Women, on the other hand, the response is much more subtle … and I don’ t know about your generation, but certainly in my generation and before a lot of women were told, “Oh no, don’t touch down there; that’s dirty,” or, “That’s bad.” So as women we are kind of socialized not to pay as much attention, and anatomically we don’t learn to, so I think that explains some of it. 

LL: What love or relationship trends have you seen develop since being a professor at UT? How have you seen the culture change here?

CM: Just from my undergraduates in my class, certainly there’s much more casual sex … now it seems many more women seek that, as well … I think there are a lot of women out there who want a sexual relationship without the commitment, and they’re not afraid to say so. On one hand I think it says something very good about women’s sexuality, which is that women are saying, “I want sex because it’s pleasurable, not because I’m necessarily trying to capture the man or have a long-term relationship.” 

LL: Do you think sexuality is accurately portrayed in the media? 

CM: Not really. I mean, I think that it’s hard for me to say among [the college] age group, but I would say my impression still is in the media sexuality is just so much. You’re given this impression that everybody’s having sex, and it’s really good sex … so a lot of people are kind of, “Gee, my sex life isn’t that great, something’s wrong with me….” I think it a little bit perpetuates some sexual dissatisfaction with one’s own life, and kind of bad sexual self-esteem.

LL: What is something that you think romantically active college students should know about love or sexuality that is not commonly taught to them? 

CM: Well, this is kind of boring, but it’s really the truth: the huge importance of communication in a happy sex life. I mean, it sounds so basic, but I guess one thing that men really need to know about women is that every woman is different in what turns her on sexually, and something that may have worked very well with the last partner isn’t necessarily going to work with the new partner. And it will be the open-minded men who are willing to listen, who don’t get their backs up at a little bit of advice, who make the really good lovers. Not the ones who think they already know everything. 

And for women, I think what women need to know is that guys need to be taught, and they need to appreciate that if the guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, it’s because you’re different from the other women he’s been with. If you’re not willing to say something or guide him somehow, then it’s your problem that you’re not sexually satisfied. 

The most basic issue is just to talk about it, communicate your needs, give feedback and be open to it.