In 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 partners. 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. 🙂