Sex and dating: Women no different than men?

An op-ed in last Sunday's New York Times challenged the idea that physiology and evolutionary psychology can explain the differences between men and women.

Author Dan Slater took on three of the most prominent "differences" between the sexual behavior of men and women, beginning with promiscuity: 

Take the question of promiscuity. Everyone has always assumed — and early research had shown — that women desired fewer sexual partners over a lifetime than men. But in 2003, two behavioral psychologists, Michele G. Alexander and Terri D. Fisher, published the results of a study that used a “bogus pipeline” — a fake lie detector. When asked about actual sexual partners, rather than just theoretical desires, the participants who were not attached to the fake lie detector displayed typical gender differences. Men reported having had more sexual partners than women. But when participants believed that lies about their sexual history would be revealed by the fake lie detector, gender differences in reported sexual partners vanished. In fact, women reported slightly more sexual partners (a mean of 4.4) than did men (a mean of 4.0)

For those of us who like myth-busting, it gets even better. With research, Slater goes on to challenge the idea that women are choosier than men about who they will date, and even the idea that women are less interested in men in casual sex.  

Terri D. Conley, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, set out to re-examine what she calls “one of the largest documented sexuality gender differences,” that men have a greater interest in casual sex than women.

Ms. Conley found the methodology of [an often-cited] 1989 paper [researched on college campuses] to be less than ideal. “No one really comes up to you in the middle of the quad and asks, ‘Will you have sex with me?’ ” she told me recently. “So there needs to be a context for it. If you ask people what they would do in a specific situation, that’s a far more accurate way of getting responses.” In her study, when men and women considered offers of casual sex from famous people, or offers from close friends whom they were told were good in bed, the gender differences in acceptance of casual-sex proposals evaporated nearly to zero.

Slater wants to show that our attitudes about sex today may be spilling over into our assumptions about sex and gender, just as they did for Charles Darwin, who posited that for evolutionary reasons men wanted to go out and make money, and women wanted to stay home and raise children. 

In other words, the evolutionary psychology of its founder in l9th-century Britain miraculously reflected the Victorian era of his time. We must expect the same. And from right (orthodox religion) to the left (certain notorious feminists) there's a surprising consensus that women are less sexual than men.

But as Slater points out, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that in fact women are pretty much the same as men in this arena. Despite physiology.

A radical thought for all concerned to contemplate.   

Evolutionary Psychology

[Image from a Cranberries video labeled Evolutionary Psychology. Sexuality is complicated and dreamy– right? That much we should be able to agree on…]

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

One thought on “Sex and dating: Women no different than men?

  1. For sexual partners sometimes we are looking for how big they are and how beautiful they are that for me is not that important because what really matter is you are satisfied for what they can give and what they have.


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