Flirting: American women have lots to learn from the French

Lava Click -- Oh, those women from France.

They don't get fat. You know that right? There's a book about it called French Women Don't Get Fat (fitting) by Mireille Guiliano. You know what else? They also get more sex.

And, I recently read that French Canadian women have more orgasms than their English speaking counterparts (read: me), which is weird because, despite speaking something akin to the same language, the Quebecois actually have more cultural similarities to the Irish than to the French. So we're going to leave that alone. Back to French women from France.

Jamie Callan, author of the book French Women Don't Sleep Alone, writes on her website, "American women have been missing out on a few secrets when it comes to the opposite sex. French women believe that the gift for attracting men has nothing to do with beauty, work, or even motivation. There are no Rules…

They don't worry about the care and feeding of their boyfriend. And they certainly don't travel to Mars to communicate with men…French women's love lives are romantic, sensual, playful, and intense. They conduct their relationships with the same unique sense of originality and artfulness that they choose their clothes and accessories.

But there's more to it. The whole "more sex" thing isn't really fair but it doesn't surprise you, right? What might surprise you is that the French are actually more monogamous than Americans. This was discovered in a 2003 study titled, "A Comparative Study of the Couple in the Social Organization of Sexuality in France and the United States."

It certainly surprised the study authors John Gagnon, a sociologist and sexologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Alain Giami, Research Director at the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm).Giami says on the phone from a hotel in Sweden, "We were surprised, especially about the women. We didn't expect to find that young American women had more partners than the French.

This is the major difference. Men are quite similar but the women are different. "Their social interaction is different too.In a Salon article from a few years ago, Giami refers to "the eroticization of social relations in France." I like how this sounds, and also don't. Giami says, "In the U.S. it's impossible to make romance outside of private relations. If a man speaks to a woman, for example in a professional environment, with a smile and says that she is well dressed or that she has good perfume, that can be considered as sexual harassment, which is not the case in France.

It's a non-sexual part of the erotic." Yes, see, I'm not sure that I want my social relations "eroticized." On the other hand, in many places in North America, if you even wear perfume to the office, some precious vegan with a "wheat sensitivity" (so trendy right now) is going to claim you gave them an allergic reaction. Then there'll be a memo. Ours is neither a particularly sexy nor a particularly romantic culture.Is the fact that we don't go around casually sniffing each other's butts, so to speak, ruining our sex lives? Maybe a little.

Giami offers a compelling metaphor. "If you go to the Latin countries [actually, he says "zee Lateen countrees"] like Greece or Spain or Italy, on a summer evening, you are going to sit [seet] on a terrace and have tapas -- the hors d'oeuvres, the antipasto. You start having a drink and you eat small food, appetizers. And you can have appetizers and drinks all night until the point that you don't need to have the main course.

"In the U.S. you sit in the restaurant and they bring you the main course immediately. It's all in the same plate. You have the meat, the vegetables, you may have the fruits also in the same dish. And you have to eat it very quickly before the waiter comes and takes your plate away."

This is the difference, he says. Flirting in France, "does not necessarily lead to sexual intercourse. In the U.S. when you start a thing like that it is a threat or a harassment because people think it will lead immediately to bed or to wherever else." So, what can we learn from this? That not all eye contact, flirting, and even just plain social warmth has to lead to sex. And if we weren't so afraid of it, we might get some satisfaction out of it. And yes, as noted earlier, the French have way more sex than we do. In the U.S. there is more multi-partnership and yet, more people are getting none.

In France, says Giami, there are more monogamous people and everyone is getting more, including those over 50.Giami also points out that the French are less concerned with marriage than North Americans. "In France," he says, "you don't have to get married to have a relationship. In the U.S. when you have a relationship you get married, at least, at the time the study was done." And he thinks this has something to do with the French getting more.

Still, if there is anything to learn from this it's that monogamy and romance actually get you more sex than philandering and disdain. Flies in the face of convention, doesn’t it?

So, if France isn't the most promiscuous country on the planet, what is? Are you ready for this? It's Finland. Wait…what? No, that's right. In a 2008 study by David Schmitt at Bradley University, researchers surveyed 14,000 people in 48 countries, asking them to number their sexual partners and list one-night stands. People were given rankings between 4 and 65 -- the higher the score, the sluttier -- sorry, more liberal the respondent. Finland scored highest, with an average of 51, but the country didn't technically nab the title of sluttiest country because it didn't qualify as industrialized enough to be an official part of the study. Out of the qualifying countries the winner was the UK, with an average score of 40. So much for "No sex please, we're British" eh?


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