Sex, Men, Women & Darwin

Darwinian theories of survivability and “spreading speed” have long dominated the thinking on male and female sexual attitudes.  However, there have been some recent studies that have challenged traditional thinking on these matters and these were noted in a recent article in the New York Times (Dan Slater, January 13, 2013).

For example, the idea that women desire fewer sex partners than men over a lifetime was studied using a non-traditional methodology. Psychologists Michele G. Alexander and Terri D. Fisher published their results from using a fake lie detector and questioning participants about their sexual behavior.  They found that when men and women were not attached to the detector, the males reported having more sex partners than the women.  But when the participants believed that lies about their sexual history would be revealed by the detector, the male/female difference disappeared. In fact, the women reported MORE sexual partners (a mean of 4.4) than did the men (mean of 4.0).

Another widely accepted tenet of male/female sexuality that ascribes to women a far lower likelihood of engaging in casual sex was also recently challenged.  Traditionalists cite a 1989 study of men and women on college campuses who were approached by “confederates” who said, “I have been noticing you around campus and I find you to be very attractive.”  They were then asked one of three questions:

  1. Would you go out with me tonight?
  2. Would you come over to my apartment tonight?
  3. Would you go to bed with me tonight?

Roughly the same numbers of men and women agreed to the date, but women were much less likely to agree to go the confederate’s apartment.  And none of the women agreed to have sex (although 70% of the men did!).  But Terri D. Conley, a University of Michigan psychologist, found the methodology of that survey to be far from ideal. “No one really comes up to you in the middle of the quad and asks, ‘Will you have sex with me?’”  She argued that there needed to be a better context than that to get more realistic responses.  In her study, she asked men and women to consider offers of casual sex from famous people or from close friends whom they were told were good in bed.  Her results?  The gender differences in acceptance of casual sex evaporated to almost zero.

In our Suddenly Solo survey, we asked women if they would have sex just because “they wanted to” and 35% of them said they would.  So, the bottom line for us is that you should not necessarily let any dated behavioral assumptions prevent you from entering the dating scene because you think a “No” is automatic based on evolution!


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