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Surprising Science

French Women Have Great Sex, But No Big “O”

French women today experience their sexuality in a more open way. “This is a huge change.”

What is the Big Idea?

French women seem to have it all. They raise the most well-behaved children. They get to enhance their marriages with extramarital affairs. They’ve even cracked the code on how to stay thin on a diet that includes wine and bread. 

It’s no wonder that a country with such exemplary women also cultivates a gender that is expressive and authentic about their sex lives. Philippe Brenot, a French psychiatrist, sexologist and president of the International Observatory of Couples published a 300 page report that includes statistics and anecdotes from French women about their sexuality. 

Among the many testimonials is 23-year-old Lucia: “I love raunchy sex and feelings expressed through words and tenderness.” Karine, 28, says: “I like being taken completely, to surrender my body to my companion, I like it when he sees me lose control under his caresses.” What turns 46 year-old Anaïs on? “Alternating between sex that is tender and savage.” As for Laurence, 30, she confesses:” I would like to live our sexual union more intensely. “

Brenot surveyed 3,404 heterosexual women, aged 15 to 80 (with an average age of 35) in a married or in a civil union and living with their partner. With answers to 200 questions, the report was published as Les Femmes, le sexe et l’amour (Women, Sex and Love).

What is the Significance?

The main lesson the survey teaches us that cuts across all particularities and preferences is that French women are free, according to Le Monde

“They speak more easily of desire, of pleasure, of their private practices,” writes Brenot. “They experience their sexuality in a more open way. This is a huge change.”

This is the survey’s second lesson: in spite of all the changes in women’s sexuality, pleasure is not always achieved. Although 74 percent of women say they have no trouble experiencing desire and pleasure, only 16 percent climax every time, 55 percent often, 21 percent rarely and 5 percent never.

While 76 percent of men previously surveyed say they have an orgasm the first time they have sex, 42 percent of women say “it went well.” For some women, it’s a painful memory.

“It is painful for them because the first time is a moment they tend to idealize, and it can turn out to be very disappointing, thus, for one-third of women at least, it affects their sexual lives,” says the psychiatrist. “When sex is linked to performance, when orgasm becomes a priority, women feel guilty for not climaxing with the man they love, they feel guilty for not being one of these satisfied women magazines talk about. It makes them feel bad about themselves.”

This is worrisome because not climaxing could lead to more divorces because men want to please their partners, according to Brenot. 

So what arouses women?

Kindness, tenderness and caresses that brings them to a state of relaxation makes them more prone to arousal. Every women feels desire, but the desire is sometimes hampered by partners who are too agressive, moody or indelicate. 

Masturbation is also an important component to a healthy sex life, says Brenot.  Sixty eight percent of the women surveyed say they have already tried it.

“It is through autoeroticism that a woman will be able to be on the same wavelength as her partner and thus have lasting relationships,” he says. “The problem is, women are wondering whether they are allowed to masturbate if they have a partner!” Roughly 26 percent masturbate only once a month, while 15 percent never do.


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