Studs And Nymphos: An Irritating Distinction


By Elizabeth Shore

Dark haired womanIn conducting background research for a story I’ve been considering, I needed to have the actual definition of a “nymphomaniac” so I turned to several dictionaries to see what they said. Here’s what I found:

A woman with inordinate sexual desire.

A woman who has abnormally excessive and uncontrollable sexual desire. 

Of or relating to a neurotic condition in women in which the symptoms are a compulsion to have sexual intercourse with as many men as possible and an inability to have lasting relationships with them.

So by definition a nymphomanic cannot be a man; it’s strictly a female “condition.” And yes, that’s what it sounded like to me from these definitions. It’s something that happens to the woman, a compulsion over which she has no control. The helpless female – a victim, really – who’s subject to her base impulses to have lots and lots of sex, none of which results in establishing a lasting relationship with her partner. At least according to definition #3 above. What struck me about these definitions is that there’s in no way anything to be admired about being a “nympho.” If you are so afflicted with these “abnormal” desires it’s apparently a life of sexual frustration you’ll be dealing with. You’re not a woman who owns her sexual needs and seeks to fulfill them, you’re a hapless victim relegated to excessive abnormal sexual desire without hope of a lasting relationship with any of your countless partners. Oh, and about those Tattooed manpartners. They may be having lots and lot of sex with you, but that’s OK. They’re studs.

Stud: A man who is thought to have sex a lot and be good at it.

A man who is admired for being sexually attractive and good at sex.

A virile or sexually active man.

But wait, what about the abnormal part? The “neurotic condition” part? Where’s that in the definition of “stud”? As we all know, it’s nowhere. Men labeled as studs are just good with the ladies, or rather really good with the ladies. A stud is a guy women lust after and non-stud men secretly admire, wishing that they, too, could be labeled as studs. No victim mentality here, no siree. A stud’s just a dude who has lots ‘o sex.

We women have no counterpart to stud. The closest word I could think of is “vixen.” According to the OED a vixen is “an ill-tempered, quarrelsome woman; a shrew.” However, in today’s times and in romance novels vixen is used more to mean a sexy, possibly aggressive woman with a bit of a bad girl side. But fair warning, if she’s having a lot of sex she could easily cross over into “slut” territory, and if she’s having lots and lots of sex she might well be . . . well, you guessed it. A  nympho.

This entire exploration got me a little down as I always am when faced with overt misogyny. A “nympho” according to the Urban Dictionary might be applied to a “horny” girl, but that girl’s a slut (or a whore!) if she’s getting laid too often or with too many men. No such worry for the guys (sigh). However, there is good news. Nymphomania’s not a medically relevant definition because there’s no specific criteria of “abnormal sexual desire.”  What’s too much for one person may be not nearly enough for another, but neither desire has an attached scientific definition of being “abnormal.” What the medical community does treat is sexual addiction, which is sexually related behavior that has a destructive effect on one’s life. And good news, it applies to both women and men, Tiger Woods being the most recent prominent person to have sought treatment.

If sexual drive is causing destruction in your life, by all means seek treatment. Otherwise, especially for the ladies, if you just like having lots and lots of sex and it’s healthy and not harmful, forget about jerks with mysogynistic labels. Just have fun and enjoy the ride. Literally. Heh. 🙂

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5 Comments

  • LizEverly
    June 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I wonder about that line sometimes and what defines normal, you know? I guess that with sexual addiction, like any addiction, you know it because sex starts to rule your life. You base all of your expectation of getting laid, or having time to troll for internet porn, or whatever the format. But as far as the stud/nympho thing, I sometimes wonder how far we’ve actually come versus where we used to be. That seems so outdated. But I know in my own life, I see that attitude a lot, despite what we are led to believe. Have we come a long way? I am shrugging.

  • madelineiva
    June 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    So many things I want to respond to with this post!

    I wonder how the stud/nympho distinction works when you apply it to erotic romance? I’ve often put down a book where the heroine’s having a lot of sex, but not any strong emotional connection.

    Of course, real life is different from fiction.

    I’m hearing more male sexually repressive negative terms than I used to. Man whore being the big one. Also lip slut (works for all genders to describe people who are kissing away with others–and saying to their partner that it’s not really cheating perhaps?)

    Meanwhile, I heartily endorse the right of women everywhere to get out there and boink away. I’m glad that there’s a sex positive or even a “slut positive” activist community out there. (They’re trying to use the name slut to take away the sting of the connotation or reshape it and make it more benign).

    Though some (perhaps from the asexual community) would say that there’s as much if not more pressure to be sexual/have sex with SOMEONE than there is repression against women being too sexual in our society. They say everyone should just back off with the sex stuff, and that they don’t want to be sexual and have sex at all.

  • emmanuel
    January 11, 2014 at 7:09 am

    such is the different expectations in western society on the behaviour and men an women that these definitions derive from. It is an irritating distinction, but men also are held to unfair standards in other aspects of life.

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