Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're alright; But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night
October 6, 2011 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research

Dr. Terri D. Conley at the University of Michigan has been doing some research into "the large differences between women and men in preferences for casual sex." Her research suggests that the difference in promiscuity is because "male proposers were perceived (by women) as more dangerous and less likely to provide them sexual satisfaction than women were perceived (by men)."

Nominated one of the best blog posts of 2011.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse (144 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
tl;dr: women thoughtful enough to be selective, men horny enough not to be.

That said, this was interesting and well written. Thanks.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:46 AM on October 6, 2011


This seems like excessive footwork on the part of the researchers and a lot of synthesis by the author for what seems to be a fairly obvious (though worth repeating) takeaway:

"[...]as long as there is a lot of rape and not a lot of remedy, as long as there is slut-shaming and double-standards, as long as the denial of the technologies women need to mitigate the risks of unintended pregnancy and disease, then they’re going to look askance at us, and they’re going to act like they have more risk and less to gain from sex with us, because in fact they do."
posted by MangyCarface at 9:47 AM on October 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


tl;dr: women thoughtful enough to be selective, men horny enough not to be.

This is precisely what the post concludes is not the case.
posted by RogerB at 9:52 AM on October 6, 2011 [26 favorites]


tl;dr: women thoughtful enough to be selective, men horny enough not to be.

This is perhaps a good riposte to the suggestion that the takeaway is fairly obvious. I'd suggest:

tl;dr: What is stopping men from getting more sex with women they dont know is the fear of rape or violence, and the expectation that the sex will not be good.

Thus, if men want to have more sex with more women, we need to really get on top of violence against women and get better in bed.

Can we action this, guys?
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:53 AM on October 6, 2011 [62 favorites]


It's not obvious to the people who rape, those who crack rape jokes to people they don't know intimately, those who slut-shame and generally hold women to stricter standards of sexual "morality," or those who are putting their often theologically-based morality into legislation regulating medical procedures. ie, that's a lot of people.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:53 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


That was an interesting article. My favorite sentence:

Men were almost as interested in the random stranger as Angelina Jolie.
posted by Forktine at 9:55 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Men were almost as interested in the random stranger as Angelina Jolie.

Man, Angelina Jolie's life is going to suck now that we all know about her love of random strangers.

What? Dangling modifier jokes are always funny.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:57 AM on October 6, 2011 [33 favorites]


RogerB : This is precisely what the post concludes is not the case.

Not quite - I'd call this more a case of auto-NLP, demonstrating that women have better imaginations when it comes to potential partners.

The method reads like "imagine someone so attractive you'd have sex with them". Take what you will from that, but the men just start from a baseline of "yes", while the women have to work their way there.
posted by pla at 9:58 AM on October 6, 2011


MangyCarface it's excessive for a reason. Compare and contrast with evolutionary reasoning for promiscuity:

Males that fertilize more females will contribute more to the genetic makeup of the next generation, and so males will generally evolve to become competitively promiscuous. Early evolutionary theories also suggested that females generally evolve to be more selective about their sex partners.

To me at least, this research refute a lot of the "we're programmed that way" reasoning, revealing logical risk/reward thinking underneath both the male and female decisions.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Great study. Great article. Great conclusion on both parts.
posted by cthuljew at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2011


men just start from a baseline of "yes"

Sometimes I feel so alienated from my gender.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


re: imagination, I got tripped up on one apparent inconsistency the first time through. We get this statement:

In sum, when women conceptualized the unknown proposer, they appeared to be thinking of someone like Carrot Top. When men conceptualized the unknown proposer, they appeared to be thinking of someone like Jennifer Lopez

and yet the original "stranger" formulation instructed the subject to imagine an "attractive" stranger. The blogger says "Conley also reformulated the scenario slightly differently to involve an unknown proposer". This reformulation must have omitted the word "attractive" or the observation above would not make sense.

As interesting as all of this is, I intend to refer to it far more vaguely as "that sexual research involving Carrot Top."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


men just start from a baseline of "yes"

Well to be fair, men are just ~ 2.5 times more likely to say yes than women. No reason to be completely alienated.
posted by stratastar at 10:14 AM on October 6, 2011


This scholarly article just sucked all the fun out of casual sex.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:15 AM on October 6, 2011


This scholarly article just sucked all the fun out of casual sex.

With Carrot Top.
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fear takes the fun out of gettin' it on.
posted by emjaybee at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is another interesting point in study 2c which said "Women thought their men friends were less sexually capable than men thought their women friends were" but that men and women perceived equal danger from their friends.

We might rephrase this along the lines proposed by running order squabble fest as simply : guys better get better in bed.. or even get help.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:26 AM on October 6, 2011


and yet the original "stranger" formulation instructed the subject to imagine an "attractive" stranger. The blogger says "Conley also reformulated the scenario slightly differently to involve an unknown proposer". This reformulation must have omitted the word "attractive" or the observation above would not make sense.

No actually the exact formulation Conley used was:
An attractive member of the opposite sex approaches you on campus and says, “I have been noticing you around campus and I find you to be very attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?”

So attractive was still used. However, attractive in a physical sense doesn't always mean attractive in general. I would imagine that a guy who randomly propositioned me for sex without knowing anything else about me must have an unattractive personality, and thus not a desirable sex partner -- hence he ranks about the same as Carrot Top.
posted by peacheater at 10:28 AM on October 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the blog post.

likelihood of giving gifts.

What?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:29 AM on October 6, 2011


I have to say that the Clark-Hatfield Sexual Proposal sounds like the event that set off the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.

In a slightly more serious vein, just a bit more evidence how the Patriarchy and sexist double-standards keep everyone down.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's also interesting to me that the one factor that was most strongly correlated with likelihood of accepting an offer of casual sex was the perceived sexual prowess of the asker. This lines up with my own experience, ahem, as the one time I did something like this was when the guy (an acquaintance) had a reputation of being really good with women and in bed. To me this makes perfect sense, you're doing a slightly crazy thing, there are some risks, you have to weigh that against the chance of getting a lot of pleasure out of the encounter.
posted by peacheater at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2011


An attractive person you say? No bleeding way. First thing to pop into my head would be, "This is a scam. They're going to roofie me and harvest my kidneys."

An unattractive person, on the other hand...
posted by porpoise at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


We should also mention that Conley big conclusion after the 4th more 'realistic' experiment is : women just think men suck in bed.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:41 AM on October 6, 2011


We should also mention that Conley big conclusion after the 4th more 'realistic' experiment is : women just think men suck in bed.

I think it's more like, "Men, like the one who is currently propositioning me, who engage in casual sex/one night stands (as a large % of their entire sexual experience) receive little honest performance feedback and are unlikely to have become good at it as a result." Which is probably accurate
posted by MangyCarface at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


there are some grammar/wording errors in the blog post, which is unfortunate, it is distracting from an otherwise concise review of good research.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:47 AM on October 6, 2011


I would love to see a study like this done that controlled for social factors, too, like that the hypothetical stranger-encounter would be done in total secrecy and no one would ever, ever know. Who's more likely to accept then? Because one of the major factors influencing casual sex in female eyes, at least in my very limited anecdata experience is that men get viewed as studs if someone wanders up and says "wanna bone" and they say yes, whereas women get viewed as slutty and irresponsible and that behavior may have serious effects on their dating lives in the future if word gets around.

That was a huuuuuge run-on sentence but I think you know what I mean. I would be interested in redoing this study and controlling for slut-shaming and the social perception of close friends, etc.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The writer of the posted article is one to badmouth science writing.
posted by Postroad at 10:53 AM on October 6, 2011


attractive in a physical sense doesn't always mean attractive in general. I would imagine that a guy who randomly propositioned me for sex without knowing anything else about me must have an unattractive personality, and thus not a desirable sex partner -- hence he ranks about the same as Carrot Top.

That doesn't square with the quotation: In sum, when women conceptualized the unknown proposer, they appeared to be thinking of someone like Carrot Top. When men conceptualized the unknown proposer, they appeared to be thinking of someone like Jennifer Lopez
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:01 AM on October 6, 2011


Durn, how does that not square? It seems in fact to be exactly in line with your quote.

Ad hominen - you should really just read the article. The question about gift-giving is in response to the evo-psych suggestion that women are seeking wealthy mates to provide for their larvae. I want to quote part of the article for you, but there's no easy to chop it up into a morsel that adequately conveys the extent to which this study discredits evo psych/sexual selection theories.
posted by kavasa at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks that women might be wary of strange men who approach them for sex/dates/coffee should go read this long, contentious thread, and also the meTa it spawned. This study came up a few times in one or both threads.
posted by rtha at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, just when I thought there wasn't any way you could make me feel bad for Carrot Top...
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2011


Women also are worried a stranger may not care what they want sexually. For example oral sex, a lot of women do not like doing oral sex. A stranger may push the issue.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:16 AM on October 6, 2011


Well, unless I'm way off base about Carrot Top, "an attractive member of the opposite sex" either means physically attractive, in which case peacheater's point about personality may be valid but the following quote "picturing Carrot Top" is not meant as literally as it sounds (especially in contrast to JLo) or else "attractive" was meant to encompass more, in which case I can't make sense of peacheater's comment at all.

Maybe personality factors, real or imagined, causes the ratings to reflect Carrot-Top-like lows, but the original formuation asks you to imagine an attractive member of the opposite sex, so "thinking of someone like Carrot Top" doesn't follow.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2011


If the rejigged formulation simply says "a member of the opposite sex", then a conclusion that women were "picturing someone like Carrot Top" in contrast to men picturing JLo, then that makes perfect sense.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, it's "thinking of someone like" not "picturing". But unless someone here knows something about Carrot Top's personality that I'm missing, it seems far-fetched to conclude this particular element is not about looks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2011


Thus, if men want to have more sex with more women, we need to really get on top of violence against women and get better in bed.

There's also the signaling problem: signaling a non-violent nature can be tough depending on your counterparty's experiences but is not impossible; signaling that one is good in bed (other than by being physically fit, having good hygiene and manners, etc.) stands a good chance of in fact making the guy look like a sleazeball. Also I don't know how much a change in societal norms would carry over to the evaluation of any particular case.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:25 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


i love the concept of 'signalling that one is good in bed' -- perhaps there ought to be some sort of Boy Scout style 'badges'..

"oh hi! why yes, that IS a level 3 cunnilingus patch on my shoulder."
posted by modernnomad at 11:40 AM on October 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


Single male data point.

Would like to be confident enough to suggest casual sex to women: isn't.
Would like women to suggest casual sex to him: too unattractive for that to ever happen.

Something makes me suspect that this single data point may not be alone, but I'm too useless and lazy to pursue the matter.
posted by Decani at 11:43 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Durn - I'm trying to think of a way to rephrase peacheater's comment. She's explicitly saying that no matter how ripply your abs are and no matter how thrilling your jawline is, when you walk up to someone you don't know and say "let's fuck," it makes you unattractive.

Stated differently, "imagine someone has randomly propositioned you for sex" overpowers "imagine someone hot".

Decani. :/

Dot dot dot.

Did you read the article? Going "let's fuck" is highly unlikely to work, ever, regardless of how physically attractive you are, all for good reasons. Why would you want the "confidence" to do that?

Gadget - FWIW, that concluding sentence is sort of disingenuous, I feel. The reality is that the sort of sex that comes from "let's fuck" is just very unlikely to be good, which is a calculation that you can see happening when the researcher repeated the study with gay men and women. I have had a few casual encounters (none so casual as the CHSP study), and they've never really been worth it, especially compared to sex with a committed boyfriend. Thus the following quote:

"Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable (i.e., would be “good in bed”)."

So it's not really about being able to say "hey I'm a good lay, let's fuck" as much as it is realizing that hyper-casual sex isn't really worth it for most people, even in a stereotypically casual-sex friendly subgroup such as gay men.
posted by kavasa at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I dunno, this is just bad reasoning:

Also, men were very positively disposed to Angelina Jolie (past peak childbearing age) and Christy Brinkley (well past childbearing age), whom they thought attractive, but not interested in Roseanne, whom they thought unattractive. These are interests that can’t be squared with an evo-psych imperative to reproduce, but are perfectly consistent with an evolutionary imperative to seek pleasure.

Jolie and Brinkley, whatever their ages, still give every outward signal of fertility. The evo-psych theory isn't "men make rational sexual decisions based on reproductive potential", it's "men's irrational sexual decisions are driven by evolved responses to physical cues". It may be wrong, but this isn't evidence of that – and to draw that definite conclusion looks forced and desperate.
posted by nicwolff at 11:58 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


i love the concept of 'signalling that one is good in bed' -- perhaps there ought to be some sort of Boy Scout style 'badges'..

You're thinking too small, dude. A rising tide lifts everyone. We need all men to get better in bed, and also start taking protecting women from assault more seriously. Essentially, we have to de-risk sex for women.

It's a big ask, but, frankly, my ability to have a lot of anonymous sex depends on it, so I want a big push on this. We are in crunch until it's resolved.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:02 PM on October 6, 2011 [24 favorites]


Something makes me suspect that this single data point may not be alone, but I'm too useless and lazy to pursue the matter.

The data sort of validated my whole approach to initiating casual sex with women. Be as damned charming as you can, signal as best you can, and let them (or make them, depending on your mesmerizing skills) make the first actual physical move, then react appropriately (whatever that entails) if you want to have sex.

It doesn't work very well, of course, but I think it's better than immediately failing and dooming yourself.

men just start from a baseline of "yes"

Sometimes I feel so alienated from my gender.


Ditto. Seinfeld put it at what, 5% (actually 4-6%)? It's even less for me, and that's after I get to know you a little while (which usually makes the percentage go up).

JERRY: Elaine, what percentage of people would you say are good looking?
ELAINE: Twenty-five percent.
JERRY: Twenty-five percent, you say? No way! It's like 4 to 6 percent. It's a twenty to one shot.
ELAINE: You're way off.
JERRY: Way off? Have you been to the motor vehicle bureau? It's like a leper colony down there.
ELAINE: So what you are saying is 90 to 95 percent of the population is undateable?
JERRY: UNDATEABLE!
ELAINE: Then how are all these people getting together?
JERRY: Alcohol.


However, attractive in a physical sense doesn't always mean attractive in general.

Amen. I can't tell you how many cute women have become so less (or more) attractive to me after I know them for a while.

i love the concept of 'signalling that one is good in bed' -- perhaps there ought to be some sort of Boy Scout style 'badges'..

I've tried to use handkerchiefs, but women don't even look at them. I don't understand!
posted by mrgrimm at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Data point: I've known an awful lot of women who engage in random sex, but almost without exception they would much rather be the aggressors than have some jerkoff -- no matter how good looking -- ask them if they want to go screw.

Also, many of the conclusions reached depended more on discussion rather than observation. A basic tenet of (good) research is that what people say is often drastically different from what they do or actually believe. Social pressures within the interview often cannot be controlled for.

We need all men to get better in bed

The obvious(?) problem with this is that what I consider "good in bed" and what you consider "good in bed" can be vastly different. The world seems to be full of women who mistakenly think, "He came, so I must have been great!"
posted by coolguymichael at 12:16 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


To me at least, this research refute a lot of the "we're programmed that way" reasoning, revealing logical risk/reward thinking underneath both the male and female decisions.


I don't think these two need be mutually exclusive.
posted by skinnydipp at 12:19 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


nic:

First, I think your defense isn't as stirring as you seem to think it is. Age is an outward signifier of fertility. You've also ignored the fact that all of the evo psych stuff about material success is strongly contra-indicated by this study. This is (again) why she asked the questions about gift-giving and why she used the question about Donald Trump: if anyone can buy shoes for your kid, it's Trump.

You also ignore the fact that that the results held true for gay men and women. Under evo psych, am I looking for a man to provide for the offspring of my nonexistent womb? Or am I trying to get other men pregnant? The same questions apply for lesbians, of course.

You picked one thing that doesn't seem intuitively persuasive to you, but that's not really what it's about. It's "does theory X successfully predict what actually happens?" The researcher provided a variety of situations where evo psych predicts an outcome that did not occur. That's pretty good evidence.

FWIW, sexual selection theory also doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of actual human history. We never existed in a Malthusian state. Humans, like other social primates, have always formed groups with complex webs of relationships.

coolguy - what are your specific criticisms? By which I mean: what conclusions do you think are likely to be skewed by social pressures, and which pressures are you thinking of?
posted by kavasa at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're thinking too small, dude. A rising tide lifts everyone. We need all men to get better in bed, and also start taking protecting women from assault more seriously. Essentially, we have to de-risk sex for women.

I think the idea is more that we need to stop assaulting women, not begin to "protect" them better. Since we're speaking of men as a group.
posted by clockzero at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've tried to use handkerchiefs, but women don't even look at them. I don't understand!

mrgrimm you need to come wave your handkerchiefs in front of me. Every time I see someone with a handkerchief of a color that signifies something they would probably be mortified to know about, I giggle and speculate.

Bring hanky code to the masses!
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:32 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


clockzero: Point taken - although, in the absence of a way to wipe out all behaviours that lead to the assault of women straight off the bat, I think people could also usefully challenge assault-friendly behaviours and assumptions in others, avoid slut-shaming assault victims and all the other things that really come with the package. Not personally assaulting women is a good start, and nobody assaulting women is the endgame, but I think we're talking about a team effort being necessary to get there.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:38 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to think of a way to rephrase peacheater's comment. She's explicitly saying that no matter how ripply your abs are and no matter how thrilling your jawline is, when you walk up to someone you don't know and say "let's fuck," it makes you unattractive.

Unless you're a good-looking celeb (status alone: no change).

I don't disagree with peacheater's explanation; what I disagree with -- if the otherwise-good-looking person is reduced to Carrot-Top "attractiveness" if they are both a stranger and the aggressor, is the description that women may be "thinking of someone like Carrot Top" while men are thinking of someone like JLo. There's no way you get from being asked to visualize a physically attractive person hitting on you in a way that doesn't make you want to accept as "thinking of someone like Carrot Top" unless people's imaginations are far stranger than I ever imagined -- translating an unappealing situation directly into physical ugliness, even though you're directed to imagine someone "attractive". Again, if the reformulation simply asks you to imagine a member of the opposite sex, period, and the situation connotes ugliness to you, then sure, maybe your imagination reaches for someone like CT.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:43 PM on October 6, 2011


It was interesting to finally read both a study, and a popularized summary of that study, that both tested GLB participants, while acknowledging the cis(sexual)-normativity of the study. Not that the study indicates trans people would be "stupider" about accepting casual sex than both cis-women and men. But the study backs up my own anecdata that it's just as difficult to pair up with women of any sexual preference - even though I'm small (unlikely to harm them), female (can't get them pregnant), and women rarely share STDs. It explains why I have roughly equal numbers of dyke and non-dyke previous partners. And why gay men are more likely to respond to me, even when they know I'm female. I'd still like to see similar studies for trans folk, if for no other reason than to assist in creating transfolk-dating harm-reduction trainings.
posted by Dreidl at 12:51 PM on October 6, 2011


"[...]as long as there is a lot of rape and not a lot of remedy, as long as there is slut-shaming and double-standards, as long as the denial of the technologies women need to mitigate the risks of unintended pregnancy and disease, then they’re going to look askance at us, and they’re going to act like they have more risk and less to gain from sex with us, because in fact they do."

Ok men, this is what we're gonna have to fix in order to get to have random casual sex. Let's get cracking!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"oh hi! why yes, that IS a level 3 cunnilingus patch on my shoulder."

Sure brings new meaning to "Grinding" and "Leveling Up"...
posted by mikelieman at 1:03 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sexual assault is a serious and pervasive social problem and I fear it's being somewhat trivialized in this discussion, when its prevalence and the caution that creates in women are treated as impediments to casual sex.
posted by clockzero at 1:49 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the 'good in bed' signal was being a good dancer?

Durn, I don't really understand your confusion. Are you envisioning some woman thinking of James Bond and then when he asks to sleep with her, he morphs into Carrot Top in her imagination?
posted by hydrobatidae at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2011


"Also, many of the conclusions reached depended more on discussion rather than observation. A basic tenet of (good) research is that what people say is often drastically different from what they do or actually believe. Social pressures within the interview often cannot be controlled for. "

If you'll notice, they mention that replicating the observed study with questionnaires got almost the exact same results, giving a good indication that discussed results in this case were reliable.

Unfortunately, J. Lo and Johnny Depp's agents haven't gotten back to me about fucking a whole lot of strangers.
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 PM on October 6, 2011


And I'm just glad that this study was done, having gone round and round with dgaicun about why the original wasn't reliable — it turns out that my social science spidey sense is backed by actual statistics!
posted by klangklangston at 2:01 PM on October 6, 2011


> Ok men, this is what we're gonna have to fix in order to get to have random casual sex. Let's get cracking!

Maybe don't hold your breath. Vaccines ("the technologies women need to mitigate the risks") for a long list of sexually transmitted diseases simply don't exist. Condoms cut down the risk some, but "some" isn't going to be enough for anyone not in the throes of helpless rut (i.e., generally guys.)
posted by jfuller at 2:03 PM on October 6, 2011


Women's fear of sexual assault is not something men can fix by doing anything other than not committing sexual assault. We have to be self-policing, through example, peer pressure or whatever it takes but until something changes that fear will never go away.
posted by tommasz at 2:05 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


other than by being physically fit, having good hygiene and manners, etc

Yeah, other than that.
posted by spitbull at 2:29 PM on October 6, 2011


Damn, right after the day I decided not to click on anymore links about how men and women differ in their sexuality.

Hope I didn't miss anything too ground-breaking.
posted by JLovebomb at 2:33 PM on October 6, 2011


Can anyone explain this to me?

Toward the bottom, the paper is quoted as saying, ¨gender differences in the original Clark and Hatfield study are due more to the gender of the proposer than to the gender of the study participants. ¨ But that´s after they found that women are just as unlikely to accept propositions from other women than from men. Aren´t those two contradictory facts? In any case, I´m glad to have some skepticism over the deduction, from the Clark-Hatfield study, that men are interested in sex with any consenting woman.
posted by Buckt at 2:37 PM on October 6, 2011


This is the kind of research that would be really interesting to see in a cross cultural context.
"Men, like the one who is currently propositioning me, who engage in casual sex/one night stands (as a large % of their entire sexual experience) receive little honest performance feedback and are unlikely to have become good at it as a result."
I think you're way overthinking it. A much more likely scenario is "based on my experience, a lot of men suck in bed"
Sorry, it's "thinking of someone like" not "picturing". But unless someone here knows something about Carrot Top's personality that I'm missing, it seems far-fetched to conclude this particular element is not about looks.
The celebrities were chosen by picking people who lots of respondents said were unattractive. From my personal perspective, even though carrot top is all buff now he's not what I think of when I think of an attractive man. He has a 'dorky' persona and red hair and freckles aren't really considered attractive on a guy
Did you read the article? Going "let's fuck" is highly unlikely to work, ever, regardless of how physically attractive you are
Unlikely to work on an individual basis but not necessarily. The women rated the 'chance' of accepting the offer as 1.37 +- 0.97 It's not really clear how that translates to an actual probability. If you can signal that your going to be good in bed and safe.
posted by delmoi at 2:48 PM on October 6, 2011


I think the idea is more that we need to stop assaulting women

in terms of assault from strangers ... isn't it a relatively small number of men doing the assaulting? sure, cat-calling would be the most prevalent but what's the percentage of men who ever rape a woman who they don't know? I'd imagine it would be small, so i don't think "we" is the most appropriate pronoun there. if it's a relatively small part of the population, i'm not optimistic about ways to fix it.

another thing that's interesting is how low women perceive risk from a partner they know, given that we know many (most?) rapes are committed by people the victim knows. so maybe the implicit risk estimation is biased?
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:54 PM on October 6, 2011


Does this mean that, in more egalitarian societies like, say, Scandinavia, there is more casual sex?

I heard that casual ad-hoc sexual relationships are common in Sweden; the term used is KK, which translates roughly as "fuck-buddy".
posted by acb at 3:14 PM on October 6, 2011


I think you're way overthinking it. A much more likely scenario is "based on my experience, a lot of men suck in bed"

Your idea is not mutually exclusive from my phrasing IMO
posted by MangyCarface at 3:24 PM on October 6, 2011


So, the study shows that women are interested in:

- strange, but attractive men, whose status and reptation are unclear, not very much
- Donald Trump, a rich but unattractive man who is known as an unfaithful husband, with a reputation for being a greedy cretin, not very much
- Carrot Top, an unattractive has-been with a reputation for being awful at his profession and quite annoying, not very much
- Brad Pitt, a handsome, successful, well-liked leading man, very much
- Johnny Depp, a handsome, successful, well-liked and considerably well-respected leading man, very much

...and one of the key take-aways is that women are not attracted to social status?
posted by silentpundit at 3:30 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why does it seem like that take-away doesn't make sense? Donald Trump has an equal social status to Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt.

The difference there seems to me to be, the perception that we know Donald Trump and he's a dick, vs. the perception that we know Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp and they're nice and good in bed.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:40 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The girls I know seem more interested in casual sex then I am, but I'm more interested in casual cuddling.

Yep.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:44 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The biggest revelation is that you can be 'good' in bed. Is that like being good at eating?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:45 PM on October 6, 2011


The biggest revelation is that you can be 'good' in bed. Is that like being good at eating?

More like being good at cooking.
posted by Errant at 3:47 PM on October 6, 2011 [13 favorites]



"oh hi! why yes, that IS a level 3 cunnilingus patch on my shoulder."

Sure brings new meaning to "Grinding" and "Leveling Up"...


all joking aside does sexual experience work like this?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:05 PM on October 6, 2011


and one of the key take-aways is that women are not attracted to social status?

It's a response to Sexual Strategies Theory. There's a follow-up post on the blog concerning the implications for SST
posted by Danila at 4:32 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really understand your confusion. Are you envisioning some woman thinking of James Bond and then when he asks to sleep with her, he morphs into Carrot Top in her imagination?

I guess I'm not being clear. I'll lay it out as simply as possible.

Stranger scenario: "An attractive member of the opposite sex"

Conclusion stated later, however colloquially: "when women conceptualized the unknown proposer, they appeared to be thinking of someone like Carrot Top"

I do not for a moment think that "someone like Carrot Top" means someone with a bad personality, or someone forcing you into an awkward social position. We're talking about unattractive, physically. So yes, when the instructions are to imagine "an attractive member of the opposite sex", and the conclusion is "they appeared to be thinking of someone like Carrot Top", I'm confused, and looking to the reconfiguration mentioned as a possible explanation. Why this isn't clear is also confusing to me, but admittedly, it's been that kinda day. This is about all the time and effort I'm planning on devoting to this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2011


Sometimes I feel so alienated from my gender.

Chicks dig that.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"another thing that's interesting is how low women perceive risk from a partner they know, given that we know many (most?) rapes are committed by people the victim knows. so maybe the implicit risk estimation is biased?"

Yes but "that guy you went home with from the bar' counts as someone you know. Sober sex with strangers is about the most awful thing I could ever imagine in the whole world and I can't imagine why anyone would ever want it. Do guys brains work differently, or are there a lot of women who really like this kind of thing as well?

Or is the point that you get drunk or at least tipsy? What the?
posted by xarnop at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait... you can have random sex SOBER?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:00 PM on October 6, 2011


The biggest revelation is that you can be 'good' in bed. Is that like being good at eating?

More like being good at cooking.


More like being good at fucking.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:04 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


all joking aside does sexual experience work like this?

No. It works like any other human-centric skill, like being good at conversation. Don't think of video game words; use words like iterative, recursive, mutual. Your success in bed is measured in the other person's pleasure, not notches on your bedpost.
posted by Forktine at 5:04 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah but the more you do it, the better you get, yeah?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2011


Sober sex with strangers is about the most awful thing I could ever imagine in the whole world and I can't imagine why anyone would ever want it.

Depends on how hot she is and/or how good she might be.

Do guys brains work differently, or are there a lot of women who really like this kind of thing as well?

Based on my extremely limited experience, lots of recovering addicts become sex addicts because hey, what else can you do that gives you that sort of rush naturally?

Honestly, yes, I know men and women who enjoy sober sex with strangers. If I weren't married, I would enjoy it. I think the partner matters 100x more than whether or not my state of consciousness is altered.

Also, alcohol is a pretty horrible drug for sex. I prefer a marijuana/caffeine blend, but any psychedelic is fun as well. Meth seems to be a popular choice for a lot of people.

Yeah but the more you do it, the better you get, yeah?

Yeah. Ain't that always the way?
posted by mrgrimm at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2011


another thing that's interesting is how low women perceive risk from a partner they know, given that we know many (most?) rapes are committed by people the victim knows. so maybe the implicit risk estimation is biased?

What xarnop said. Most rapes are acquaintance rapes as opposed to getting jumped on the street/in a dark alley, yes. So, for myself at least, I am certainly a bit careful about who I become acquainted with in that sense.

Also, yeah: as Shakespeare pointed out as far back as Hamlet, drunk sex isn't the best. There's little enough quality assurance in bringing a stranger home - and then if they're drunk on top of that? I can probably have more fun on my own.

Re: how to telegraph the quality of being good in bed: of course everyone enjoys different things, but in general, being thoughtful and respectful of the other person in basic conversation, respecting their personal boundaries, being generous - these are all qualities that tend to make for a good sexual partner too. Being too focused on your own goal of getting laid - not so much.
posted by eviemath at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2011


Yeah but the more you do it, the better you get, yeah?

In all seriousness? Not necessarily.

Intelligence and empathy appear to have a lot to do with it. Though intelligent, empathetic individuals tend to be better to begin with, after a little time/experience with you, suddenly they're a lot "better", by virtue of being able to figure out what you like, and giving a damn about it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"you can have random sex SOBER?"

Apparently you can. I didn't believe it either, but this guy told me it was going to be awesome and it was totally not. It was lame. you hear that christmas dinner guy, it was lame!!
posted by xarnop at 5:14 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why does it seem like that take-away doesn't make sense? Donald Trump has an equal social status to Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt.

The difference there seems to me to be, the perception that we know Donald Trump and he's a dick, vs. the perception that we know Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp and they're nice and good in bed.


I'm unaware of any good-in-bed reputation surrounding Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. Nor do I know of any bad-in-bed reputation surrounding Donald Trump or Carrot Top. It does seem intuitive, though, that it would be the case; but I'm positing that has to do with their social statuses and the tendency to equate a man's social status with his quality as a lover. It's most likely nonsense; Donald Trump may, in fact, be a much better lay than Brad Pitt. My interpretation is that a well-known, well-liked, attractive man reads to a woman as 'probably good in bed,' even though there's no evidence to support it, specifically because what attracts an average woman to men is their social status--which includes their reputation as being dependable, honorable, and likable, not just their wealth.

It's testable, though. All's we'd need to do is poll women on whether or not they'd say 'yes' to a casual encounter with a well known porn-star. If as many women agree to John Holmes as they do Brad Pitt, then this conclusion has legs. I sort of doubt it, though, don't you?

It's a response to Sexual Strategies Theory. There's a follow-up post on the blog concerning the implications for SST

I understood that. What I'm saying is, the results of this study in no way illustrate that women disregard social status in favor of pure sexual pleasure in matters of casual sex. The very fact that the study pretty conclusively shows that women are less interested than are men in any casual sex, no matter with whom, indicates that the sexual strategy of women is a more long-term calculus, which lines up perfectly fine with SST.
posted by silentpundit at 5:17 PM on October 6, 2011


My wacky sense of humor aside, I really don't understand casual sex at all, are men and women really equally interested in it?

What about the whole "women like emotional stuff, guys like physical stuff" bit? Is there any weight to that at all? I recognize it's not a universal and maybe men and women are exactly the same, but I sort of doubt there aren't trends towards women wanting more of a commitment in order to feel more comfortable emotionally when having sex.

But then again I'm like 200 years old... let me get my walking stick...
posted by xarnop at 5:22 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think one thing that wasn't sort of explicitly stated was that nothing is a bigger turn off than worrying about your personal safety. So not only would it make a woman say no right off the bat, it also would likely make her predict that she would enjoy it less because there would always be that worry and need to be vigilant.

Which probably explains my anecdotal experience with female friends who are open to casual sex. Very rarely is it with complete strangers. Almost always with what I would call "known" strangers, such as a friend of friend, someone that goes to the same school as them, someone on their dodge ball team, whatever. They may have only met them three hours ago, but there is some assurance they aren't violent because they essentially have had someone or a community vouch for them by association. So personal safety isn't a big concern that's going to distract from the sex.
posted by whoaali at 5:22 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I also love that the script they use is almost verbatim the lyrics from the Touch n Go song.
posted by whoaali at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


xarnop: here is my two cents. Most women are more interested in sex with some sort of emotional commitment. But that is damn hard to find. And a lot of women would take casual sex as their second choice if it probably wouldn't suck or put them at risk to violence. And while you may be able to get adequate assurances of safety in some situations, finding someone your attracted to who you think will be good in bed are very low.

And from personal experience. I always think of myself as pretty liberal and have no problem with casual sex in theory, but I can't say the stars have ever aligned in such a way that I ever followed through. If Johnney Depp is offering though...
posted by whoaali at 5:36 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm unaware of any good-in-bed reputation surrounding Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp.

Well, I think the perception comes from the fact that Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp have been in a ton of romances where they've been shown having a lot of romantic, woman-centric sex. Very convincing romantic sex. That's what we've seen them doing. When we've seen DT, he's been pointing and yelling at people that they're fired.

what attracts an average woman to men is their social status--which includes their reputation as being dependable, honorable, and likable, not just their wealth.

I think when most people use the phrase "social status" they're referring to wealth, fame or power. I've never heard that phrase to include character traits before. But sure, I definitely think reputation around those character traits matters.

It's testable, though. All's we'd need to do is poll women on whether or not they'd say 'yes' to a casual encounter with a well known porn-star. If as many women agree to John Holmes as they do Brad Pitt, then this conclusion has legs. I sort of doubt it, though, don't you?

What's testable, whether perception of whether or not a man is good in bed is part of what attracts women? If so, I wouldn't pick John Holmes or any mainstream porn star to test that. The kind of sex depicted in mainstream porn is often really unappealing to a lot of women, and looks unpleasant, painful, etc. Yeah, John Holmes has a huge schlong, but that doesn't make up for the other things.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:39 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


signaling that one is good in bed (other than by being physically fit, having good hygiene and manners, etc.) stands a good chance of in fact making the guy look like a sleazeball.

Actually, I think that IS the way for guys to signal that they're likely to be good in bed.

Healthy/fit + considerate and good at perceiving comfort/discomfort of others and making them comfortable.

Plus confident/decisive, if the woman is looking for someone who will take the lead in bed.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:56 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think people might be overlooking the obvious with the celebrity thing. Merely being extremely physically attracted to the person is likely to make a one off sexual encounter pretty exciting and good even if they are fairly mediocre sexual skill wise. And even if it is ultimately disappointing, it's pretty natural for people to assume that high level of attraction = good sex. Even if reality doesn't always bear that out.
posted by whoaali at 5:58 PM on October 6, 2011


And I think if you asked women if they'd have casual sex with a handsome pediatrician, you'd see really different answers than if you asked them the same about a handsome big-dicked porn star.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:02 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Definitely the pediatrician. He at least wouldn't be trained by work to expect unrealistic sexual encounters that aren't especially focused on my pleasure or interests. At least, for your mainstream porn star - that could vary (in either direction) depending on genre if the porn star worked in some non-mainstream area. Plus, I'll bet pediatricians would have a higher probability of giving good foot rubs.
posted by eviemath at 6:06 PM on October 6, 2011


"And a lot of women would take casual sex as their second choice if it probably wouldn't suck or put them at risk to violence."

This is kind of sad to me. I wonder what percent of women having casual sex would fit into that category? Something about that strikes me as sad if there really were a really large cultural phenomenon in which guys decided to stop listening to what women really want and only want interaction on their terms--- sex only-- no neediness!!

That's why I don't have sex. I realized that it wasn't fair to me to just go into it on guys terms when I don't even get anything out of uncommitted sex. I want the looove... got to have all your lovin... doo doo doo something lovin....

Or rather I got nuthin, but you know, whatever. Hmmm, random sex with a pediatrician... naughty doctor? That sounds very very naughty. My naughtometer... is.. exploding!!!!!

I promise I'm not drunk guys, I don't drink, I've really got quite a case of the sillies tonight. Perhaps I should to bed. ; )
posted by xarnop at 6:08 PM on October 6, 2011


Most of the guys that I know are not really all that interested in completely casual sex - I mean, sure, they'd take it over nothing, but they'd rather have a relationship with emotional support. This seems to be particularly true of the heterosexual men that I know, who don't form close, emotionally supportive friendships with their male buddies. I seem to recall that research on happiness versus marriage status for heterosexual men versus women shows similar results.
posted by eviemath at 6:13 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm looking for a relationship too, but OTOH casual sex can blossom into a relationship I guess. But is it even possible to have totally casual sex? Most of the people I've hooked up with I still like... I don't see them that much, but I think of them positivity.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:16 PM on October 6, 2011


Most of the guys that I know are not really all that interested in completely casual sex - I mean, sure, they'd take it over nothing, but they'd rather have a relationship with emotional support.

Of course this needn't be an either/or proposition. It often is, but it doesn't have to be.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:21 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is to say, I agree that if forced to make a choice, many men (a majority?) would choose the relationship. But that doesn't indicate anything at all about not being "really all that interested in casual sex".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:24 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


But is it even possible to have totally casual sex? Most of the people I've hooked up with I still like... I don't see them that much, but I think of them positivity.

Yeah, the linked study didn't go into it because it was looking at attitudes toward casual sex, but in my experience, people of all genders seem to prefer having sex with people whom they actually like as people; not complete strangers.
posted by eviemath at 6:25 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would I prefer a personal chef? Sure. But if someone offers me an amazing hamburger I'm not going to say no.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:26 PM on October 6, 2011


Durn, as I understand it, the commonly accepted definition of casual sex is sex between people who are not involved in a relationship with emotional support?
posted by eviemath at 6:28 PM on October 6, 2011


in my experience, people of all genders seem to prefer having sex with people whom they actually like as people

Ah, now that brings up an interesting little wrinkle: the person you find generally despicable but utterly sexually attractive.

It happens.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:28 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It happens.

So I've heard. Mostly second- or third-hand.

Of course, there is no doubt a selection bias in the people I associate with for long enough to have any sense of their preferences in sexual encounters, although I have associated with a large number of people from diverse backgrounds.

(I wouldn't want to discount the (first-) hand experience of anyone in the situation you describe. :P)
posted by eviemath at 6:39 PM on October 6, 2011


Imho, said definition is irrelevant, eviemath.

People have romantic relationships with various depths with all manor of constraints. No marriage. No kids. No living together. No discussing real spouses. Limits on non-sexual affection. Not longer than the three months we're both living here. Not longer than the week we're both staying in this hostel. Not too emotional when long distance. No being jealous about other affairs. etc. Hell, Islam conceptualizes prostitution as short term marriage.

There is a tendency for young people without much experience to employ well defined relationship titles, well they're exploring said titles. There is a more pernicious tendency for the media to latch onto easily packageable stuff. I think most regular fuckbuddy relationships have some emotional component, but the relationship is characterized by constraints more than longer term expectations.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:55 PM on October 6, 2011


I think people might be overlooking the obvious with the celebrity thing. Merely being extremely physically attracted to the person is likely to make a one off sexual encounter pretty exciting and good even if they are fairly mediocre sexual skill wise. And even if it is ultimately disappointing, it's pretty natural for people to assume that high level of attraction = good sex. Even if reality doesn't always bear that out.

But, the study controlled for that. The original 'stranger' who asks you for a casual encounter in the thought experiment is explicitly called out as attractive.

The study found that a woman is exactly as interested in casual sex with an attractive stranger as they are with an unattractive celebrity, and that interest only really gets close to male sex drives when the dude is not only attractive but highly socially successful (Brad Pitt).

So, mere physical attraction isn't enough. For women, that is. Men will screw anything, new study finds. Film at 11.
posted by silentpundit at 7:01 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: how to telegraph the quality of being good in bed: of course everyone enjoys different things, but in general, being thoughtful and respectful of the other person in basic conversation, respecting their personal boundaries, being generous - these are all qualities that tend to make for a good sexual partner too. Being too focused on your own goal of getting laid - not so much.

doing all of these things has not helped me
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:07 PM on October 6, 2011


so silentpundit, you're saying that this proves guys go for looks, girls go for status?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:13 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the linked study found that a significant percentage of men won't just screw anything.
posted by eviemath at 7:17 PM on October 6, 2011


"But the linked study found that a significant percentage of men won't just screw anything."

Did you even RTFA?

If you did, read it again. Jesus.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on October 6, 2011


So we'll amend the porn star hypothetical. We should, it sounds like, conduct the survey using the following hypotheticals:

- An attractive stranger of your desired sex
- An attractive acquaintance of your desired sex
- An attractive acquaintance of your desired sex that has a reputation among trusted sources as a really great lay
- Hot celebrity of your desired sex
- Donald Trump

(advanced, presented as an exercise for the reader) - Donald Trump that has a reputation among trusted sources as a really great lay
posted by silentpundit at 7:47 PM on October 6, 2011


Silentpundit: true, but it didn't control for safe attractive stranger. And really celebrity is attractive, safe stranger of high social status. Really handsome pediatrician or even handsome guy who lives in a van parked in his mother's driveway who is childhood friend of someone woman knows and trusts might be the more apt control.
posted by whoaali at 7:48 PM on October 6, 2011


Celebrity is safe?

Are we watching the same TV?
posted by silentpundit at 7:59 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope Stephen Fry reads this.
posted by jfwlucy at 8:00 PM on October 6, 2011


I think the key is that no matter how you parse out ways of rephrasing the questions, there is no way to make stranger sex safe for women. This is true to the point that heterosexual women find strange men and women equally attractive.

Anecdotally, it seems pretty obvious that women I know are happy to sleep with almost-strangers, like friends of friends or people in overlapping social circles. This answers a lot of the safety issues (mentally if not in reality); I don't know how you could get at this in a study but I see it all the time.
posted by Forktine at 8:02 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and most big name actors in leads? Yes. The ones that aren't, usually have a reputation. Obviously, nothing is foolproof. But I think when we are talking safety, we are asking do we know enough about this person's reputation and history to know if they have a history of violence or some other big red flag?
posted by whoaali at 8:10 PM on October 6, 2011


So, women evaluate men's status in determining their attractiveness along the lines of social commodity, and they're also being proactive in preserving their own safety and propriety.

The undercurrent to all this is whether women go through this process due to cultural conditioning, or fundamental biological processes.

This study, unfortunately, can't prove either hypothesis. But, it feels like further studies along the same lines can perhaps get closer in the future.

The answer, as it always is, is probably a little of both.

All we know for sure is that women don't take casual sex as lightly as men, and Donald Trump is a dick.
posted by silentpundit at 8:21 PM on October 6, 2011


Durn, as I understand it, the commonly accepted definition of casual sex is sex between people who are not involved in a relationship with emotional support?

Well sure, I'd say "...between people who are not involved in a relationship with emotional support with each other". Having a "romantic" relationship with someone where one derives both sexual and emotional satisfaction does not preclude casual sex with other people. Again it may, and often does, but it doesn't have to. So again I say, if forced to choose -- and this is pretty much the status quo -- many (perhaps most) men choose the relationship. And this is a fine choice, but it says not one thing about whether or not men would not also enjoy casual sex.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:59 PM on October 6, 2011


As a bisexual gentleman of liberal tastes, the idea of have sex with a random gentleman who is attractive to me is a hell of a lot more unappealing than sex with a random yet equally attractive woman. Why? Because men are on average much much scarier and much less in touch with their bodies than women, and thats gay men who are that much less scary and more in touch than straight ones. I don't see how the reasons why straight women report less desire for sex with random gentlemen could possibly be controversial, they are obvious and unavoidable.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:16 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


We were doing so well for a while there! We all read the study, paid attention to the bit where the cost/benefit of sex with a stranger for women is outlined very clearly. Sex with total strangers for women does not offer the same return for the risks involved that it does with men.

And then we slid a little. Women see strangers as less satisfying in bed than men do. Perhaps that's due to random past hookups being less than pleasing? Maybe they need the right wealth, and status! Maybe that's it!

And then there's the thing where women need emotional commitment, connection, romance! to get off. Where's the romance! Brad Pitt and Depp must score higher because they're romantic dudes!

Gotta reiterate folk. Really, it's the risk. If casual sex rates a five out of ten for both genders, the higher risk associated for women with getting into a car with some strange dude you've only just met drops the payoff a lot. And honestly, the guys who have just randomly asked me for a date, apropos of nothing, -and it does happen to women a hell of a lot more than it happens to men - have never been sterling examples of the human race, and certainly no one I'd want to go and give five star access to my genitals.

And this is well before factoring the impact sex with total random fucking strangers will have on my reputation. You want to talk about status? A woman's social standing is to drop like a fucking boulder out a bomber as soon as it becomes apparent that she'll fuck anything that wanders into her field of vision.

The famous guys aren't really that confounding if you factor in the bit where really, they aren't strangers at all. It's fairly resonable to assume that the two desireable male stars, given how rationally and sensibly they've behaved in the past, would continue to behave in a rational and sensible manner. If they'd thrown in a good looking nutter - Cruise or Sheen, for example - you would likely have had different results towards them.

Basically:
Men: Cost: STIs, sex may be mediocre = meh, sure.
Women: Cost: STIs, rape, murdered in a ditch, pregnant to a stranger, complete loss of social standing, sex may be mediocre = Hell no.
posted by Jilder at 9:34 PM on October 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Oh, and I would totally bone a lot of male porn stars. They have a lower rate of STI, for a start, and the sex you see on camera in porn is not the product of some sort of bizarre jackhammer-and-DPDV style operant conditioning. It comes from listening to the director, the light guy, the sound guy, and their co-star. And still being able to maintain wood while taking instruction.

Oh, and LiB: Yeah, you can get better at sex with practice, provided you have some solid communication with the people you're fucking. Like basically every physical skill on the planet. Get them to tell you what they like, what they don't like, what they need to get off. And for fuck's sake, don't take it personally, either. No-one's born an Olympic athelete, they have to train for it, and if you want to fuck at an Olympic level you have to work at it as well.
posted by Jilder at 9:44 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Two things this study seemed to gloss over:
1. Timing
Women are only fertile a certain time every month, whereas men are always fertile. For maximum likelihood of pregnancy it makes sense for women to be more interested in sex at those times, and for men to always be horny. And, in fact, studies have shown that women are more likely to dress provocatively, or at least more decoratively when they are fertile.

So the researchers should have kept track of where these women were in their cycle. I bet the results would be interesting.

2. Directness
I have no studies to show for it, but I've always heard (and experienced) that women prefer indirect allusions to sex rather than the blunt approach. Instead of "will you have sex with me" women might respond better to "would you be interested in a late night coffee?" or maybe even "can I fix you a cheese sandwich?"
posted by eye of newt at 9:56 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


1. Timing

there's nothing to indicate that there was any bias in where these women were in their menstral cycles. these people are pro's, it's peer review ... i think they know what they are doing.

some people have criticized the study on the grounds that it didn't include trans people, that it was "cis" biased ... it's one thing to play "wouldn't it be nice if ..." but please keep in mind these things cost a lot of money, and they can't answer every question you might want to know.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:24 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


there's nothing to indicate that there was any bias in where these women were in their menstral cycles.

My point was that they were more likely to be biased by not keeping track of this information--biased toward men's view of the opposite sex.

As I said, for maximum likelyhoold of pregnancy, men need to be always horny, so they are ready the one time in a month that a woman is fertile. If a woman goes up to a man and asks for sex, the fact that she is attractive doesn't say nearly as much about whether or not she is fertile, as the fact that she just asked him for sex.

When a man asks a woman for sex, well, he's just another always-fertile man. It says nothing special about him. And if the woman isn't in her fertile cycle, she's even less likely to be interested.

By not keeping track of the cycles, the study would miss any affect these cycles would have on the outcome. You could say that the study is biased toward the male (non-cycle based) response to the opposite sex.
posted by eye of newt at 10:36 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


affect/effect
posted by eye of newt at 10:37 PM on October 6, 2011


Gotta reiterate folk. Really, it's the risk.

That's not what the study says.

Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable (i.e., would be “good in bed”). The perceptions of sexual capabilities also mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of casual sex offers.

Note that while the article linked by the OP which offers an interpretation of the study goes on at great length about this 'risk' factor, the actual study lists it merely as a footnote, using very cautious, non-conclusive language:

Finally, indirect evidence suggests that perceptions of risk may play a role in gender differences in casual sex attitudes.
posted by silentpundit at 10:51 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


if men want to have more sex with more women, we need to really get on top of violence against women and get better in bed.

On the contrary. If we want to discourage our mates from engaging in sex with random strangers we must contrive the impression that men are generally nasty, brutish, and short.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:58 PM on October 6, 2011


By not keeping track of the cycles, the study would miss any affect these cycles would have on the outcome. You could say that the study is biased toward the male (non-cycle based) response to the opposite sex.

ok, but in real life people don't ask other people for sex based on where a woman, when one is present in the exchange, is in her cycle. so, while there may be an effect it's irrelevant to the question they were trying to answer. since respondents were randomly assigned to treatment groups there should be no systematic difference between any particular group with respect to where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.
posted by cupcake1337 at 11:06 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable (i.e., would be “good in bed”). The perceptions of sexual capabilities also mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of casual sex offers.

Note that while the article linked by the OP which offers an interpretation of the study goes on at great length about this 'risk' factor, the actual study lists it merely as a footnote, using very cautious, non-conclusive language:
"

You're misreading that. What that statement means, and says plainly, is that the only factor that was predictive for both men and women was a sense of capabilities. This does not mean that the determinative factor for women was not risk; i.e. what the study says.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not what the study says.

Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable (i.e., would be “good in bed”).


For which the risk is not worth it.

By not keeping track of the cycles, the study would miss any affect these cycles would have on the outcome. You could say that the study is biased toward the male (non-cycle based) response to the opposite sex.

Menstral cycle? If you have a large group of women, the possibility that they are more suggestable during ovulation is going to be cancelled out by the proportion of women in the study who are at the other end of the cycle. All the women in the world don't ovulate at once. Besides this is a comparison study. They are comparing two sets of results. I don't see how "bias" is going to be the right word when you're comparing differences.
posted by Jilder at 12:20 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If women are more suggestible during ovulation, they are not cancelled out by women at the other end of the cycle. It appears in the data that women, compared to men, are less suggestible in general (because most women are not in ovulation at any particular time). That is, in fact, is what the study showed. But the study's analysis and conclusions could be missing the point.
posted by eye of newt at 8:15 AM on October 7, 2011


If women are more suggestible during ovulation, they are not cancelled out by women at the other end of the cycle.

What do you mean? If you take a random sample of women, about 25 % will be ovulating at any given point in time. Since women ovulate at random times, there's unlikely to be any inherent bias in the selection, so we can get an average likelihood of a woman doing something over the entire menstrual cycle. If you think there are differences to be found due to where in the menstrual cycle women are, this is indeed likely and would be an interesting experiment at a future date. I still think you can compare men and women just fine using the data, since we want to look at women on average, not just women who are ovulating here.
posted by peacheater at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2011


If you want to get really picky, eye of newt, they should have tracked whether women are on the pill or not because being in a cycle on the pill is completely different than off the pill. There's been studies that have shown women's attractiveness to men and choice in men are effected by whether they're on hormonal birth control or not.

Or, you know, they could have just pooled a whole bunch of women randomly into two groups which would have addressed this issue.

Also, I don't think the proper phrase is 'women get more suggestible'. That seems to suggest that women have to get tricked into having sex? Maybe I'm misunderstanding. Because you'd think that women would get more active about soliciting sex (in the animal behaviour sense) if they were fertile and wanted to get pregnant.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:55 AM on October 7, 2011


stats 101 ftw
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its really some interesting research and my hunch is that she is at least partially right. A couple issues, however as pointed out by Rob Kurzban:

1.Dr. Conley argues that Pleasure Theory is inconsistent with Buss's SST but it really isn't. Pleasure Theory is a proximate explanation and SST is an ultimate explanation. (I have some problems with Buss's work, but this paper does not do much to invalidate it.)

2. Conley also argues that Pleasure Theory "ensures the survival of the species" which is most likely not the level at which selection is working here, and she is not arguing for selection at the group level, rather she seems to be surprisingly ignorant of these basic evolutionary principles and distinctions.

3. The predictions that Dr. Conley claims would follow from SST are not really accurate from the literature.
posted by AceRock at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I said suggestible, I just meant that they would respond to the suggestion of sex, as given bluntly (my other complaint) in the study. And, going by my model of always-horny (a cruder but maybe less controversial word, I guess, than suggestible) men, and less frequently horny women, I'd predict that women don't have to solicit sex--they only have to somehow indicate that they are horny, and therefore fertile. The always-ready men will respond.

To see this at a more basic level, have you ever seen a male dog respond to a female dog that is in heat? (I had a relative who's otherwise docile dog bolted, dragging him across the street--he ended up with many stitches). I think, being such an intelligent species that can easily live a life ignoring our instincts, we tend to forget that we have any instincts at all and think that these things don't apply to us. But, as I said, this timing of horniness leads to a greater chance of pregnancy.

These are, of course, vast generalizations--men are often not horny, and women are often horny many times in a month. I'm just saying that there are influences here that can (and have been) measured. This study didn't measure them, and as a result, I think its conclusions are incomplete. I consider them biased only in that there is an impllied assumption that men and women are generally equally horny throughout the month and it doesn't affect the results that 75% or more of women are not ovulating at any particular moment and therefore women are just not as likely to want casual sex.
posted by eye of newt at 7:50 PM on October 7, 2011


who's/whose UGH
posted by eye of newt at 7:51 PM on October 7, 2011


Umm, isn't pleasure overriding status pretty important, AceRock and Kurzban? In particular, that conclusion suggests that human psychological sexual dimorphism behaves rather differently from how evolutionary psychologists envision. Either it's experienced far more physically, or else it employs a far larger cultural component.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:54 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"These are, of course, vast generalizations--men are often not horny, and women are often horny many times in a month. I'm just saying that there are influences here that can (and have been) measured. This study didn't measure them, and as a result, I think its conclusions are incomplete."

what is this I don't even

This is the most crazy anti-hypothesis I've seen advanced in many a misapprehended social science discussion on MeFi.

Please explain how monthly variation randomly distributed would be a confounding factor for a sample size of roughly 100, selected randomly from a population which also has the same monthly variation distributed randomly?

And honestly, the "dogs in heat" analogy? Really fucking dehumanizing, man, and thereby kinda offensive. Even if there were these alluded-to-but-not-supported measurable monthly variations in horniness — or sexual interest, if you'd like to be more precise — influence the basic finding of this study, which is that women don't engage in casual sex because they think the risk isn't worth the reward? Even when they're horny, they're still saying no. That's what the data says. No matter what time of the month, still not interested in a dude bein' like, "Hey, lemme stick it in."

So what your comment's done in three strokes: Ignored the findings of the paper, posited a terrible bitch in heat appeal to nature (fallacy, dude), and reaffirmed your previous belief with an irrelevant dismissal of what the research said.

This paper doesn't say anything about women not wanting sex, or even not wanting casual sex. It does say that the traditional evo-psych justification for the theory of profligate male and frigid/choosy female can't be supported by one of the most long-cited social science studies. All of the results predicted by the previous study were found false.

So, no, the findings aren't incomplete. Monthly variation has nothing do with it. Bitch in heat has nothing to do with it. Stats 101 has a lot to do with it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 PM on October 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Really fucking dehumanizing" only if you think that humans, unlike other animals, don't have instincts (you've proved my point by saying that such a suggestion is dehumanizing).

"randomly distributed would be a confounding factor for a sample size of roughly 100"
You are missing my point. A factor that could significantly affect the results is not being accounted for. It is like doing a study on the affect of various foods on eyesight and not bothering to check anyone's vision before starting the test. If 10 of the 100 people in the study are blind, and you find that a significant number of people who eat bananas can't see, you've kind of missed something important.

But heck, if those 10 blind people are randomly distributed, then it's okay. Right?

"This paper doesn't say anything about women not wanting sex, or even not wanting casual sex. "
The study says:
"On the key question of likelihood of accepting the offer, women’s mean was 1.37 out of 7, with a standard deviation of .97 – generally not a chance with a smattering of not likely. Men were at 3.74 with an SD of 2.16, so in the middle and all over the range."

This is what I was responding to. I get what the study is saying, and how they explain (away) this difference. I'm just saying they missed something. You don't agree. I get that. Let's do a study and see who's right. Or we can just call each other crazy and offensive.
posted by eye of newt at 12:06 AM on October 8, 2011


""Really fucking dehumanizing" only if you think that humans, unlike other animals, don't have instincts (you've proved my point by saying that such a suggestion is dehumanizing).

Hi, this is called an "appeal to nature," and it's a fallacy. While humans have instincts, those instincts are not necessarily controlling, nor do all mammals have the same instincts. If they did, we'd see more mothers eating their young. So, your analogy to dogs in heat — which, again, is an insulting way to portray the menstrual cycle, and doesn't map at all to primates, let alone humans — is both logically flawed and an insultingly reductive view of women that not only denies their free will, but is also irrelevant.

"randomly distributed would be a confounding factor for a sample size of roughly 100"
You are missing my point. A factor that could significantly affect the results is not being accounted for. It is like doing a study on the affect of various foods on eyesight and not bothering to check anyone's vision before starting the test. If 10 of the 100 people in the study are blind, and you find that a significant number of people who eat bananas can't see, you've kind of missed something important.


No, you're missing basic stats knowledge and trying to make up a factor that doesn't exist. I asked you how that menstrual cycle would impact the results, and you come back with some nonsense about blindness. I don't know if you've ever lived with a premenopausal woman — for all I know, you were hatched — but women don't become either blind nor sex monsters during their periods. That's more nonsense, and it sounds like some bizarro version of a stats menstrual hut that you're insisting on lest the results be compromised by the unclean women. All of the women were of college age, and presumably able to have sex. They were not sex-blind.

But heck, if those 10 blind people are randomly distributed, then it's okay. Right?

"This paper doesn't say anything about women not wanting sex, or even not wanting casual sex. "
The study says:
"On the key question of likelihood of accepting the offer, women’s mean was 1.37 out of 7, with a standard deviation of .97 – generally not a chance with a smattering of not likely. Men were at 3.74 with an SD of 2.16, so in the middle and all over the range."

This is what I was responding to. I get what the study is saying, and how they explain (away) this difference. I'm just saying they missed something. You don't agree. I get that. Let's do a study and see who's right. Or we can just call each other crazy and offensive.


It's like you didn't even bother to read the part you quoted from me: "This paper doesn't say anything about women not wanting sex, or even not wanting casual sex."

That gender difference is already explained IN TFA as being a risk assessment and scenarios where the risk is higher or lower have been shown to be the determinant factor. So, no, we don't need another study to segregate the women by cycle, and again, suggesting that we do implies that you don't know how statistics work. They may have missed something, but it's not likely to be a factor, and it's certainly not menstrual cycles, and the suggestion that it is, is wrong-headed, ignorant and, again, a way for you to ignore results that prove something you don't like.

There's a simple way to prove me wrong: Demonstrate a statistically valid way that menstrual cycles would be a confounding variable and would invalidate the findings of the study. Until then, you're spouting sexist superstition in the face of science you don't like.
posted by klangklangston at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, these results could be interpreted as simply helping quash this silly notion of the subconscious that evolutionary psychology mistakenly inherited from Freudianism.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:42 AM on October 8, 2011


Ovulating women dress to impress.

Flaunting your fertility.
posted by eye of newt at 10:23 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


eye of newt: dude, you have no idea what this study was about, right? What it was trying to prove?

It's irrelevant whether or not women become more suggestable during ovulation. The study shows that women - at all points in their cycle - are almost always going to turn down a random offer for casual sex. It then illustrates the whys of this - that women assume sex with a stranger is going to be mediocre, therefore not worth the risk. Regardless of this bitch-in-heat theory you have going here.

I can tell you man, no amount of bursting follicles is going to make me bone some random stranger who trots up to me in the street.
posted by Jilder at 4:20 AM on October 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


"both women and men agreed that the female proposer would be better in bed"

I lol'ed.
posted by indifferent at 5:26 PM on October 11, 2011


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