It probably takes a certain type of person. Quite a bit of evidence suggests that, at least when it comes to eagerly having sex with strangers, it might also take being a man.
Let's look at the evidence. This is especially true when it comes to desires for short-term mating with many different sexual partners Schmitt et al. In a classic social psychological experiment from the s, Clark and Hatfield put the idea of sex differences in consenting to sex with strangers to a real-life test. They had experimental confederates approach college students across various campuses and ask, "I've been noticing you around campus. I find you to be very attractive.
Would you go to bed with me tonight? In terms of effect size, this is one of the largest sex differences ever discovered in psychological science Hyde, Several scholars have modified the experimental "ask for sex" method to see if they could tell why men, but not women, agreed to sex with strangers. Clark was among the first to address the issue of physical safety.
He had college-aged confederates call up a personal friend on the phone and say "I have a good friend, whom I have known since childhood , coming to Tallahassee.
You two are just made for each other. Surbey and Conohan wondered whether worries of safety, pregnancy , stigma, or disease were holding women back from saying yes to sex with a stranger. In a "safe sex" experimental condition, they asked people, "If the opportunity presented itself to have sexual intercourse with an anonymous member of the opposite sex who was as physically attractive as yourself but no more so and who you overheard a friend describe as being a well-liked and trusted individual who would never hurt a fly , do you think that, if there was no chance of forming a more durable relationship, and no risk of pregnancy, discovery, or disease, that you would do so?
So, sex differences in agreeing to sex with strangers are not just a matter of safety issues, pregnancy concerns, stigma, or disease avoidance. Controlling for all of that, researchers still find large sex differences in the willingness to have sex with a stranger.
In terms of research on sexual attitudes, nearly all studies conducted have found that men have more positive attitudes toward casual sex than women, have more unrestricted sociosexuality than women, and generally relax their preferences in short-term mating contexts whereas women increase selectivity, especially for physical attractiveness.
Is Patriarchy to Blame? Many of these sex differences are culturally universal, having been observed in dozens of samples around the world Lippa, ; Schmitt, One might claim universal features of "patriarchy" or "sex role socialization" are primarily responsible for this sex difference universality, and this is certainly partly true though that doesn't make these sex differences a "myth" and merely adds more to be explained.
Moreover, there are serious questions as to patriarchy and sex role socialization being the only explanations. This is exactly the opposite of what we would expect if patriarchy and sex role socialization are the prime culprits behind sex differences in consenting to sex with strangers. How can this be? Why are these sex differences larger in gender egalitarian Scandinavian nations?
So much for blaming patriarchy and sex role socialization. Below I explain why two particular studies commonly used in this manner do not refute the mountain of evidence supporting sex differences in willingness to have sex with strangers. In fact, they are very much a part of the mountain. Sex With Strangers at a Party and in a Lab Baranowski and Hecht conducted two experiments relevant to assessing whether men and women differ in willingness to have sex with a stranger.
In Experiment 1, they had confederates approach participants at a "party" at the bar, dance floor, or a smoking area at night. Would you like to have sex with me? In contrast, only one woman 4 percent agreed to have sex with a stranger and she was not in a relationship. Clearly requests at parties are more conducive to stranger sex than requests on campus at least for men. Also clear from this first experiment is that men are more receptive to requests for sex from total strangers.
In a second experiment, Baranowski and Hecht presented participants with a complex sequence of "dating study" experiences over time. Eventually, participants were brought into a university lab and were shown pictures of 10 people who presumably had previously reported they wanted to either "date" or "have sex" with the participant. If the participant then chose any of the pictures to date or have sex with in return, the researchers said they would then film an hour discussion between the interested individuals and then leave them to have a date or have sex in a safe laboratory environment.
This is legal in Germany where the study was conducted. What were the amazing "there are no sex differences in desires for having sex with a stranger" findings? From the original article: This rate did not differ from the female consent rate 97 percent. Those results were for "date or sex. It's unbelievable that these results were published in this form, or that serious scholars would claim this published study is definitive proof that sex differences in consenting to sex with strangers are a "myth" Rudman, Well, the Baranowski and Hecht published data specifically cited by Rudman were about the "date or sex" with a stranger findings.
So sex differences in consenting to sex with strangers did not disappear in this research study: Baranowski and Hecht clearly found sex differences in consenting to sex with strangers in both of their experiments. Converging lines of evidence, indeed. Sex With Strangers vs. This study did not involve actual real-life requests. Although her theoretical portrayal of evolutionary psychology was highly flawed see Schmitt et al.
Most importantly, Conley found in an "unknown stranger" condition there were very large sex differences in willingness to have sex with strangers. This is a key confirmation, of course, when it comes to directly testing whether there are sex differences in willingness to have sex with strangers.
But it is often missed given the study's celebrity findings. Within the highly attractive celebrities condition, Conley found women were much more likely to agree to a brief sexual encounter with a high-profile celebrity e.
As a result, sex differences in reactions within the celebrity requests for sex condition were minimal. However, these findings with celebrity requests for sex did not disconfirm or deem a "myth" that there are evolved sex differences in short-term mating psychology and desires for sex with strangers. In fact, these findings confirmed evolutionary perspectives on short-term mating psychology in several ways.
Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp are extremely attractive, as are Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez, but as predicted by an evolutionary perspective, women's short-term desires for sex with strangers were more profoundly affected by this extreme attractiveness. The Conley study also used participants who were only 22 years old on average to consider sex with much older celebrities, celebrities who also were married. In short, the Conley research method was highly contrived to provide a special set of conditions within which men and women would appear not to differ in choosing to agree to casual sex celebrities who are attractive, older, married, etc.
But the sex-similar results within this special condition are expected from an evolutionary perspective. Just not designed in the same way as men. So these special contextual factors utilized by Conley do not demonstrate that men and women have identical desires underlying their seemingly similar choices. The similar-looking choices result from a foundation of women but not men having specialized desires for short-term mating with highly attractive, older, and perhaps even married people; whereas men are interested in short-term mating regardless of these particular factors.
In the end, this is the key point of the Conley study: It takes Johnny Depp to get women to even consider agreeing to casual sex. For men, the difference between agreeing to sex with Jennifer Lopez versus a total stranger was minimal. The Baranowski and Hecht study clearly found sex differences in consenting to sex with strangers in both of their experiments.
These facts should tell you a lot about the reality of sex differences in short-term mating psychology and willingness to have sex with strangers. Footnote 1 I have been contacted by the first author of Baranowski, A. Baranowski, personal communication, July, 24, It is perhaps possible Rudman had come to know the sex-specific data in some other way e.
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