Interview with Judy Dutton, Author of “How We Do It”


Comedian Billy Crystal once said: “Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.” This stereotypical depiction of human sexuality has always been been ripe for comedy, but could it be backed by science? Are men really from Mars, and women from Venus? Or do we share some common ground? What makes people attracted to each other? And how do we distinguish love from lust? I sought out the answers to these eternal questions in an enlightening new book called “How We Do It”, written by Judy Dutton. The book analyzes relationships and sex by following a fictional couple (John and Jane), from courtship to marriage. The author, a former women’s magazine editor, turns an exhaustive research thesis on sex into an easy, and fun summer read (just watch out for the random explicit illustrations…not exactly rush-hour-train-friendly. I learned that the hard way).

Termeh Mazhari: What prompted you to write this book?

Judy Dutton: As a magazine editor at Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Redbook I’d heard my fair share of surprising stories about sex, but nothing shocked me quite as much as hearing about an anesthesiologist who’d invented an orgasmatron—a device that, with a few well-placed electrodes, can give people orgasms with the push of a button, like in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper. That’s when it hit me that scientists were studying sex and coming to some pretty fascinating conclusions. Scientists were forging new sex positions like the Coital Alignment Technique, even creating new orgasms like the Blended Orgasm. And yet, scientists being scientists, they weren’t always getting the word out to all the people who would like to know about these things. So, I wrote this book to bring all these great scientific discoveries out of the laboratory and into the bedroom.

Termeh Mazhari: Your book talks about the myriad reasons why people have sex. Do you think the reasons have evolved over time? Have you discovered any recent additions to that list?

Judy Dutton: Scientists have tabulated a total of 237 distinct reasons why people have sex. Some reasons were obvious (“I was in love”), others less obvious (“I wanted to burn calories”), still other reasons were Machiavellian (“I wanted to get a promotion”) or for bragging rights (“The person was famous”). Since this list was the first attempt ever at gathering together a comprehensive list, it’s probably not complete, and more reasons may roll in. For example, a New York Times columnist pointed out that this list does not include Joan Crawford’s reason for having sex (“I need sex for a clear complexion”). Still, 237 reasons is a lot of reasons, far more than I thought existed. For me, this list drove home that sex is much more complex than meets the eye.

Termeh Mazhari: What are some things within our control that we can do to attract a mate?

Judy Dutton: The easiest thing you can do is become a better flirt. Studies show that people who attract the most interest aren’t the best looking, but the best flirts. On average, if you send out 35 flirtatious signals per hour, you will be approached by four romantic prospects during that time period. Granted, 35 signals per hour might sound like a lot, but flirting can be as simple and subtle as tilting your head to the side or holding someone’s gaze for a beat longer than usual. Scientists have also tabulated that humans have a total of 52 flirtatious gestures at their disposal, all of which are listed in my book. Studies also show that you’ll need to make eye contact with someone at least three times before they’ll take the hint and approach. So if at first you don’t succeed, lay it on thick and look again.

Termeh Mazhari: To what extent do you believe that sex and love can be explained by science?

Judy Dutton: I think sex and love will always have its mysteries, but science has the power to explain a whole lot more than people might think. For example, if you’re not sure if you’re in love with someone or just in lust, an MRI scan of your brain can actually reveal the answer (MRI scans can also reveal if someone’s cheating). Or, you know how most people love how their partner smells? That’s because someone’s scent actually contains information about their DNA. So when you sniff someone, your nose is testing whether you two are genetically compatible. If someone smells good to you, that’s a sign that you’ll have healthy offspring. If someone’s scent doesn’t do it for you, that’s a sign you should search elsewhere.

Termeh Mazhari: Do aphrodisiacs really exist?

Judy Dutton: Yes—but they’re probably not the ones you might think. Oysters, for example, certainly look sexually suggestive and they’re loaded with zinc, a mineral that’s proven to increase libido when taken in pill form. The problem is, the levels of zinc in a pill are much higher than the amount found in dozens and dozens of oysters. So unless you eat a ton of oysters, you won’t feel any amorous effects. Same goes for chocolate, which contains phenylethylamine, a chemical released in the brain when we’re in love. Still, you’d have to eat boxfuls of chocolate before your phenylethylamine levels would rise high enough to affect your libido. Meanwhile, Spanish Fly, the most legendary aphrodisiac of all, can cause kidney damage. But all is not lost on the aphrodisiac front. Ginseng, coffee, and vitamin C supplements have all been shown in studies to boost libido. So, there are options.

Termeh Mazhari: What is the most striking difference between men and women when it comes to sex?

Judy Dutton: The biggest difference that’s become a sore point in many relationships is that many men want sex all the time, while women want it less often. The problem may not be a libido issue, but more about how we think sex should happen. Many people assume they should wait for the mood to strike. For men, this is easy. The mood strikes every time they see their girlfriend step out of the shower. For women, though, it’s not always that easy. If a woman waits for the mood to strike, she might be waiting a very long time. The solution may be that women, rather than wait for the mood to strike, should try to make the mood strike. For example, they can try to jump-start their mental engines by envisioning a fantasy they enjoy. Or, they can adopt the “just do it” approach where initiate sex even when they’re not jonesing for it and trust that once things get rolling they’ll get into it. These techniques are helpful not only for women, but for men, too, and any couple who’s been together long enough that they’re no longer spontaneously ripping each other’s clothes off.

Termeh Mazhari: What was the most memorable study you came across while researching for this book?

Judy Dutton: I was highly amused by one study where they’d created a cheating vaccine that works wonders on rodents called meadow voles. Meadow voles are incredibly promiscuous, and hop from mate to mate. There was even one particularly promiscuous vole named Clinton, which goes to show that scientists do have a healthy sense of humor! Anyway, once Clinton had been injected with this vaccine, he became a hopeless romantic who settled down with one mate. Perhaps one day there will be a similar vaccine for humans, and we’ll have a vole name Clinton to thank for it!


Buy Judy Dutton’s “How We Do It” on Amazon.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 24th, 2009 at 1:36 pm and is filed under Interview, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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