What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire

Summary / Reviews / Interviews

Translated into 15 languages, reviewed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and picked as a NYTBR Editor's Choice


When it comes to sex, common wisdom holds that men roam while women crave closeness and commitment. But in this provocative, headline-making book, Daniel Bergner turns everything we thought we knew about women's arousal and desire inside out. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with renowned behavioral scientists, sexologists, psychologists, and everyday women, he forces us to reconsider long-held notions about female sexuality.

This bold and captivating journey into the world of female desire explores answers to such thought-provoking questions as: Are women perhaps the less monogamous sex? What effect do intimacy and emotional connection really have on lust? What is the role of narcissism—the desire to be desired—in female sexuality? Are political gains for women ("No means no") detrimental in the bedroom? And is the hunt for a "female Viagra" anything but a search for the cure for monogamy?

Bergner goes behind the scenes of some of the most groundbreaking experiments on sexuality today and confronts us with controversial, sometimes uncomfortable findings. Incendiary, profoundly insightful, and brilliantly illuminating, What Do Women Want? will change the conversation about women and sex, and is sure to spark dynamic discussion for years to come. 


"In accessible and entertaining prose, What Do Women Want? details everything from individual women’s fantasies to the search for a “female Viagra.” More important, though, it represents a complete paradigm shift. … This book—how do I put this without sounding hyperbolic? This book should be read by every woman on earth. It should be handed out to pubescent girls right alongside Our Bodies, Our Selves and be required course reading for Human Sexuality 101. It is a must-read for any person with even a remote erotic interest in the female gender. It deserves to be listed on bridal registries—gay and straight. It could single-spine-edly replace at least a quarter of the sexual self-help section and the world would be better for it. It is a revelation, a story of redemption. I laughed, I almost cried—with joy. I was turned on, even. You want a female Viagra? This book is as close as we have to it."
Salon  (read review and interview)

"Shatters many of our most cherished myths about desire."
 —The Atlantic  (read review)

"Fascinating… Threatens to disrupt all the modern stereotypes of female sexuality." 

"Totally engrossing... A reexamination of everything we think we know about sex and female biology."
 —New York   (read review)

"At last, we have a new perspective on the wilds of female desire, in rousing tableaux, as women, men, sexologists, researchers, bonobos, erotic gurus, paraplegics and many others provide frank, vivid answers to the burning question that has haunted the field for far too long: What do women want? The answer will surprise many and fascinate all."
—Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of Love

"Astounding... A fascinating and controversial book." 
Sunday Times of London 

"One of the summer's hottest books…adds both steam and explosives into the national conversation about what it means to be a woman today."

"Stylishly written... An adroit translation of technical material into entertaining and erudite reading."
Kirkus Reviews 

"Everything you wanted to know about sex but didn't know to ask."
New York Post 

"This page-turning book will have readers questioning some of their most ingrained beliefs about women, men, society, and sex."
Publishers Weekly 


Daniel Bergner on The Colbert Report

Reading at Politics and Prose

Harper Collins Studio Interview with Daniel Bergner

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3