Want to Hookup?: Sex Differences in Short‑term Mate Attraction Tactics

From Evolutionary Science:

* While a great deal of psychological research has been conducted on sex-specific mate choice preferences, relatively little attention has been directed toward how heterosexual men and women solicit short-term sexual partners, and which acts are perceived to be the most effective. The present research relied on an act nomination methodology with the goal of determin-ing which actions are used by men and women to solicit a short-term “hook-up” partner (study 1) and then determine which of these actions are perceived as most effective by men and women (study 2). Using sexual strategy theory, we hypothesized that actions that suggest sexual access would be nominated most often by women whereas actions that suggest a willingness to commit were expected to be nominated most often by men. Additionally, men and women were predicted to rate actions by men that suggest a willingness to commit as most effective and actions by women that suggest sexual access as most effective. The results were consistent with these hypotheses.

* One of the most noteworthy sex differences that has been documented in the evolutionary psychological literature is men’s tendency to pursue short-term, primarily sexual rela-tionships, while women are thought to preferentially pursue longer-term relationships with emotional commitment…

* Hookups are popular among young adults; one study doc-umented that 53–80% of college students in the USA engage in hookups (Garcia etal., 2012; Stinson, 2010), with simi-lar rates among university students in Canada (69% of men, 67% of women; Fisher etal., 2011). Despite this popularity, experiences within hookups are often not positive. Fisher etal. (2011) reported that in their sample of Canadian uni-versity students, 72% of men and 78% of women experienced regret, with higher-quality sex leading to less regret. In their qualitative examination, Paul and Hayes (2002) reported that the most common feelings following an uncommitted brief sexual interaction were ‘regret and disappointment’ (35%) followed distantly by ‘good or happy’ (20%). In their sample, women were significantly more likely to report feeling ‘regret and disappointment’ afterwards, whereas men were more likely to feel ‘satisfied’…

* men regret missed sexual opportunities more while women’s regrets are more frequently focused on sex that they wish they had not had.

* The most effective tactics for men in promoting a sexual encounter involved communicating love and commitment and investing time and attention in a woman.

* One may wonder why women would solicit short-term sexual encounters given that they could incur reputational damage from doing so. Greer and Buss (1994), Greiling (1994), and Greiling and Buss (2000) report that women can receive benefits from engaging in short-term mating relationships such as receiving resources in the form of jewelry, money, free dinners, or clothing, advancing one’s career, becoming friends with high status people, clarifying long-term mate preferences, having someone to spend their free time with, testing out back-up mates, and protection. Additionally, de Jong etal. (2018) report that women engage in hookups for sex and pleasure reasons and due to a desire to make an emotional connection. Therefore, while women engage in casual sex at a lesser rate than men, doing so may be an adaptive strategy.

* Men’s behaviors that were considered most effective by women are related to investment and long-term interest, in that it involves invitations to dinner and movies, or spending time with her presumably to get to know her, while women’s most effective behaviors according to men involve behaving in a manner that promotes or suggests sexual accessibility. These actions were perceived as most effective because they are consistent with female and male sexual strategies. For example, our finding comports with Schmitt and Buss’s (1996) research showing that men display immediate investment of resources as a means of strategic self-promotion to attract short-term mates, whereas women display sexual availability to attract short-term mates. They also align with the hypothesis that women often engage in short-term mating in the pursuit of long-term mate acquisition goals and as a result, are more responsive to men’s tactics associated with women’s long-term mate preferences.

* The male tactic of asking her out to dinner or a movie may be perceived as most effective due to such action conveying a willingness to immediately invest resources, and being related to altruistic actions. A man asking a woman out to dinner or a movie leads to an assumption that he is going to pay for the dinner or movie (Paynter & Leaper, 2016), i.e., he is giving her some of his resources. Schmitt and Buss (1996) report that giving a woman resources is an effective way for a man to attract a short-term mate. Also, women are attracted to, and prefer, male mates who are altruistic (Phillips etal.,2008). A man who pays for dinner or a movie may be perceived as altruistic. Additionally, a dinner date allows for courtship feeding which can enhance attraction (Alley etal., 2013; Morris, 1994). Lastly, a dinner or movie date request could suggest that, deceptively in this case, the man is willing to spend time with the woman which may suggest he is interested in more than short-term mating even though in this instance his goal is to secure a hookup. The male tactic of conversing with her may be very effective because it could indicate a willingness to get to know the woman. Such an action may indicate more than a desire to have short-term sex. This explanation is supported by Garcia and Reiber’s (2008) and Shukusky and Wade’s (2012) research on hookups which shows that both men and women who engage in hookups hope the hookup will turn into a long-term relationship.

* The male tactic “he flirts with her” is highly effective, possibly because it signals other characteristics, such as emotionality. For example, prior research shows that men who indicate a willingness to commit emotionally are most effective at flirting. The male tactic of asking her to dance or kiss may be very effective because women rate men who can dance as warmer and less dominant than men who cannot dance (Wade etal., 2015) and women find men who are overly masculine unappealing (Johnston etal., 2001). This tactic may also be very effective due to kissing playing a role in mate assessment. Hughes etal. (2007) and Wlodarski and Dunbar (2013) report that women use kissing to perform a chemosensory analysis of men’s genetic fitness. Thus, if a woman consents to give a male a kiss she may be able to make a more informed decision about the male’s genetic quality possibly removing any doubts she may have about this man’s genetic fitness. Men, being more opportunistic maters, can use kissing to stimulate a woman’s libido via the introduction of additional testosterone into her system (Hughes etal., 2007; Wlodarski & Dunbar, 2013). Additionally, both sexes use kissing to facilitate bonding with mates since oxytocin is released during kissing (Hughes etal., 2007; Wlodarski & Dunbar, 2013). It is possible that a woman may view a man who asks for a kiss as being respectful since he is asking rather than just taking the kiss, which often occurs in hookup contexts (see Flack etal., 2007), and per- ceived as warm, which women usually find appealing.

* The male tactic of asking to walk her home may be effective because it comports with research indicating that a male’s ability to protect a woman from physical harm is desirable (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Li, 2007; Li & Kenrick, 2006). Additionally, a man may assume that going to a woman’s home increases the likelihood that sex will occur, a possibility supported by Clark and Hatfield (1989). Related to that explanation, in a systematic replication of that classic research, Hald and Høgh-Olesen (2010) found that both men and women equally acquiesced to the “come to my place” request from a stranger.

* The female tactic of going home with him may have been rated as very effective because participants assume that sex is more likely to occur if she goes home with him. This finding is similar to Hald and Høgh-Olesen (2010) who found that both men and women equally acquiesce to a request to go home with a requestor.

* The female tactic of “she gets a drink with him” may be perceived as very effective because a woman who drinks can be perceived as engaging in risky behavior, which may be used a cue of potential sexual exploitability by men (Goetz, etal., 2012) facilitating a man’s short-term sexual strategy. Additionally, this action may be perceived as effective by women because women who consume more alcohol rate themselves as more attractive (Brenman & Wade, 2020) and men favor attractive women for sex. This action may be effective because individuals who drink have a stronger intention of having sex than those who do not drink.

* college women engage in sexual activity most often with friends (47%), fol-lowed by acquaintances (23%) and then strangers (23%)…

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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