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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, May 08, 2015

Are Women Are Just As Into Casual Sex As Men Are?

Provocative Huffington Post headline I read today:

Women Are Just As Into Casual Sex As Men Are, Unsurprising Study Suggests

"Turns out, when you remove societal judgement and safety risks, women are just as DTF as men are. Who knew safe, sex-positive environments were such a turn on for women? Well, hopefully everyone now"


Unsurprisingly, the paper reports something rather different from what the Huffington Post summary does:


Gender Differences and Similarities in Receptivity to Sexual Invitations: Effects of Location and Risk Perception

"Subjects were recruited by announcing online that the psychology department was looking for participants in a dating study. The ad mentioned a cooperation with a large online dating site developing and validating a novel match-making process. Subjects would have the chance to meet people and learn more about their dating behavior...

Of all male subjects, 100% agreed to have a date or sex with at least one woman. This rate did not differ from the female consent rate (97%). Men chose on average to meet 3.67 (SD=1.45) women for a date and 3.57 (SD=1.16)women to have sex with. Women chose on average to meet 2.80 (SD=1.21) men for a date and 2.73 (SD=1.87) men to have sex with...

Results of both experiments can be explained with both evolutionary and social theories. Sexual strategies theory (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) predicts that women are less likely to engage in casual sex than men. This was found in the first experiment. However, women do engage in casual sex as a means to evaluate or attract potential long-term partners or to mate with males who have highly desirable traits, genes, positions, and/or resources (Hald & Høgh-Olesen, 2009). This would explain the findings of the second experiment.When given the chance to choose from a range of males, women did not hesitate to select the most attractive. Thus, the high consent rate to casual sex might be explained in evolutionary terms as a high consent rate to evaluate a potential partner through short-term mating. Alternatively, the result can be explained by the sexy son hypothesis, stating that females engage in short-term mating with attractive males as a mean to get physically attractive sons, who in turn will produce more grandchildren (e.g., Dawkins, 1976)...

It is very likely that only subjects who were interested in meeting potential partners applied for Experiment 2. This might lead to a limitation of the generalizability to the general population...

We also found that women were rated as significantly more attractive than men by the subjects in both studies. This was not due to poor sampling but represents the actual population. Men are generally perceived as less physically attractive than women by both sexes (Grammer, 1994; Symons, 1979)."

[Addendum: The most important flaw of this study (which I unfortunately missed) is highlighted by Professor David P. Schmitt of Bradley University on the Huffington Post article:

"In the second study, from the original article…“Of all male subjects, 100% agreed to have a date or sex with at least one woman. This rate did not differ from the female consent rate (97%).” Nowhere in this second study is it reported what the percentages are of men versus women specifically agreeing to date, and what the percentages are of men versus women specifically agreeing to have sex. Why? What are they hiding? How could the authors possibly think it’s OK to skip over that rather important detail?

As it stands, it might be that men agree to a date 100% of the time and to sex 100% of the time, whereas women agree to a date 97% of the time and to sex 1% of the time. We can't know this from their reported results, though. It's unbelievable that this got published.

Regarding the claim by the authors about "the same proportion of men and women consenting to a date or sex" in the abstract, this was actually not about sex differences in consenting to sex disappearing. It was about the difference between dating and sex being the same within men compared to within women in the second experiment. Sex differences are still there in consenting to sex with strangers in terms of the only reported data that could evaluate that question, which is number of strangers chosen (d = .58). Very tricky wording. Suspicious slight of hand."]

The fact that the standard deviation for the number of men women chose to (meet to) have sex with shows that the skew is high - most women probably chose 1 or 2 men to have sex with. In contrast the standard deviation for the number of women men chose to (meet to) have sex with was only a third, which shows that there's a lot more consistency there - men are indeed much more interested in casual sex than women.


Other points to note:

- "The majority of subjects were students at the University of Mainz." (sometimes, the unrepresentativeness of the sample is used when people want to dismiss results they don't like - but not when they like them)
- Only 30 men and 30 women were involved (sometimes, the small sample size is used when people want to dismiss results they don't like - but not when they like them)
- Maybe I should move to Germany

"men were more liberal in their choice in either condition, compared to the female subjects. We conclude that while gender differences remained in both experiments, women were more liberal in a subjectively safer situation"
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