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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

More on Men, Women and Sexual Differences

"Sexual motivation in the ovulatory cycle

Wilcox et al. (2004) found that around ovulation pairs copulate more frequently, but Thornhill and Gangestad (2008) provide a rich discussion of the otherwise mixed results on the link between ovulation and in-pair sexual frequency. There is clear evidence for an oestrus-like increase of sexual desire around ovulation in human female behavior (Thornhill & Gangestad, 2008), although women are unable to detect ovulation consciously (Sievert & Dubois, 2005). Men too seem to be able to respond to the ovulatory phase of a woman while not being consciously aware of the stimulus: they prefer the body odor of women during ovulation to body odors in any other phase of the cycle (Singh & Bronstad, 2001)...

Male mate quality and female orgasm

The role of the female orgasm is still contended. Some researchers think of it as a byproduct of the evolutionary design for the ejaculatory response in males (Lloyd, 2005; Symons, 1979), whereas others conjecture adaptive function, notable to bias conception in favor of high quality males and perhaps to signal attachment and assure paternity (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1996). In a study relating men’s fluctuating asymmetry (FA) to the frequency of their partner’s copulatory orgasm, Thornhill, Gangestad, and Comer (1995) found support for this hypothesis. Women paired with males high in FA, which indicates low developmental stability and therefore inferior mate quality, reported proportionally fewer orgasms than women with partners low in FA. This relationship prevailed when other variables were controlled, including men’s age, men’s facial attractiveness, duration of the relationship, and frequency of sexual activity. In another study (Shackelford, et al., 2000), female assessment of male sexual attractiveness was positively related to female orgasm at the most recent intercourse. A study with a sample of several thousand Chinese women revealed a strong relationship between a women’s reported proportion of copulatory orgasms and her partner’s wealth (Pollet & Nettle, 2009). Taking wealth as a proxy for mate quality, this result was interpreted as support for a functional view of the female orgasm. However, in a reanalysis of these data (Herberich, Hothorn, Pollet, & Nettle, 2010), the wealth-orgasm relationship decreased after controlling for female education and age and it disappeared after female happiness, education difference, region, and health were additionally controlled. The authors reappraise the results as best explained by the fact that women with higher-income partners are healthier, happier, younger, and more educated than women with lower-income partners. Perhaps this is not the last word, since educational difference within a couple might not be considered as a control variable, but as another measure of male mate quality (high, if male education exceeds female education). Female happiness and health may reflect an effect of male mate quality. If these variables are controlled, a meaningful part of the variance of the measure of male mate quality is shed...

Mate value and attachment

Women who rated their partners as lower in sexual attractiveness reported more expressed love and attention from their partners than women who rated their partners as higher in sexual attractiveness (Pillsworth & Haselton, 2006). This suggests that male loving care and attention may function as a means to compensate for lower sexual attractiveness and because of this nexus it may not be correlated as strongly with sexual desire of the female partner as is often expected. In a study of German students, female sexual motivation was stronger when male commitment as perceived by the female partner was lower than her own commitment at every stage of the relationship (Klusmann, 2002).

Female sexual reluctance and the time course of mateships

Analogy between ovulatory cycle and time course of a mateship

Dual-mating theory (Thornhill & Gangestad, 2008) predicts that women will display greater interest in extra-pair sex near ovulation, especially when mated to a male low in sexual attractiveness. This prediction has been supported by a host of studies...

Female sexual reluctance, male mate value, and time

In a survey study of women and men aged 45 years, mate value was operationalized as the contrast in educational achievement between partners (Klusmann, 2006). If one partner had a higher educational degree than the other, this may indicate high mate value perceived relative to own mate value. This rough measure was related to the time course of sexual motivation (see Figure 1). Female sexual motivation continued to stay on a fairly high level when the male´s educational level exceeded the female´s and it sloped most steeply when the female´s educational level exceeded the male´s...

Mate retention

Mate retention behaviors are enacted to counter the threat of mate poaching (Schmitt & Buss, 2001). Buss and Shackelford (1997) identified 19 mate retention tactics in married couples: vigilance, concealment of mate, monopolization of time, jealousy induction, punish mate's infidelity threat, emotional manipulation, commitment manipulation, derogation of competitors, resource display, sexual inducements, appearance enhancement, love and care, submission and debasement, verbal possession signals, physical possession signals, possessive ornamentation, derogation of mate, intrasexual threats, violence against rivals. For women, mate retention efforts increased with the income and status striving of their husbands; for men, mate retention efforts increased with the youth and physical attractiveness of their wife. The performance frequency of most tactics did not differ between the sexes. However, males more than females used resource display and debasement and threats, and females more than males used appearance enhancement and signals of possession...

Attachment style and relationship

Attachment style in adult life has been studied extensively with the general result that a secure style sets the stage for mutually rewarding relationships (Belsky, 1999). Securely attached men engage in more supportive interactions with their spouses than insecurely attached men, and they also display more concern for their partner’s well being. Securely attached women compared with insecurely attached women experience less conflict with their husbands, their feelings of love are stronger, and they experience their partners as more trustworthy and supportive. Conflict and negative affect are most frequent in couples in which both partners are insecurely attached (Kirkpatrick & Hazan, 1994). Avoidantly attached persons compared with securely attached persons are more unrestricted in their sexual behavior, report lower levels of trust and more often break up relationships (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991). The anxious pattern of attachment is characterized by a tendency to exaggerate one’s need for care and attention. In a mating context, this style is associated with compulsive caregiving — “mothering” the partner (Belsky, 1999). Women with an anxious or anxious ambivalent style of attachment fall in love very intensely and are often unable to protect themselves against exploitation (Feeney & Noller, 2004).

Sexual desire and attachment

In a correlational study by Davis, Shaver, and Vernon (2004), high attachment anxiety was associated with high sexual motivation and high attachment avoidance was associated with a manipulative use of sex. A study of relationship break-up (Davis, Shaver, & Vernon, 2003) showed that the desire to have sex with the partner was activated by insecurity and a posing threat to the relationship, but only if attachment anxiety was high. Gangestad and Thornhill (1997) found attachment anxiety in women to be positively related to the number of extra-pair partners. The authors interpret this relationship as indicating an attempt to hedge against being abandoned by the primary partner.

Relationship satisfaction was generally negatively related to measures of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance in a study by Little, McNulty, and Russell (2010). However, among couples reporting a high frequency of sex, this relationship disappeared. Frequent sex seems to compensate for the negative implications of an avoidant attachment style for relationship satisfaction...

Sex as a road to attachment

In Western societies, one important step toward a committed relationship is cohabitation. If female sexual motivation functions as a means to achieve commitment, if it responded to the acceleration of commitment instead of its absolute level as Baumeister and Bratlavsky proposed (1999), higher sexual motivation would be expected when the couple still lives separately and the relationship has not yet reached the stage of cohabitation. This actually was found (Klusmann, 2006).

In a study of medical students (Townsend, 1987), women reported intense feelings of being used and that something was wrong when they attempted to maintain a sexual relationship and perceived the emotional commitment of their male partner as insufficient. These feelings acted as an emotional alarm and often led to termination of the present relationship and increased sensitivity to commitment in later relationships. Males with corresponding experiences intended to avoid female demand for commitment in their future relationships. Many women reported that even when they did not want to become emotionally attached, sexual intercourse made them feel emotionally vulnerable and contemplate issues of investment and commitment (Townsend, 1995). Townsend conjectures that sex elicits attachment more strongly in women than in men...

Attachment and mate choice

In contrast to mate choice, divorce risk is strongly determined genetically (Mc Gue & Lykken, 1992)...


Bereczkei, Gyuris, and Weisfeld (2004) showed in a study of adopted daughters and their rearing families that the facial traits of a daughter’s husband resembled those of her adoptive father, which gives support to an interpretation of sexual imprinting as opposed to phenotypic matching (resemblance with self). Facial resemblance between husband and adoptive father was greatest in daughters who described their adoptive fathers as emotionally warm and supportive...

Attachment and mating strategy

Attachment does not fade quickly after the prospects of reproductive success have disappeared. A grey goose may mourn after the death of a partner for a long time and may not seek replacement (Bischof, 1989) and a chimpanzee mother has been observed carrying her dead infant with her for weeks (Goodall, 1990). Perhaps attachment is so important for reproductive success that the power of its emotional repertory evolved to paramount strength, and if attachment emotions are dysfunctional for reproduction in some situation, this cannot counteract strong positive selection or introduce complicated conditionality. Another example is provided by an analysis of the customers of a DNA-test service in Germany (Haas & Waldenmaier, 2004). Doubtful fathers only make a third of all requests; new female partners of these fathers and even more the mothers of these new female partners take the largest share. Most fathers who feel attached to a child simply do not want to know if the child is not genetically their own. Attachment seems to overrule mating strategy in this case, perhaps because male psychology is adapted to the futility of sorting out paternity and not prepared for the advent of genetic testing."

--- Sexual Motivation in Mateships and Sexual Conflict / Dietrich Klusmann
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