May 8, 2015
Women like casual sex – under the right circumstances
By Arena Thomson
In 1989, Clark and Hatfield published their seminal study concerning gender differences in receptivity to sexual advances. The study was conducted on a university campus, and consisted of students approaching people on campus with invitations like “Would you go out tonight?” and “Would you go to bed with me?”. The study’s results found that women were more likely to reject the advances of men and that, in fact, zero women agreed to have sex with the strangers who approached them. While both men and women consented to going on dates with the same frequency, three quarters of the men took up the offer of casual sex, bolstering the hackneyed idea that men possess higher sex drives than women.
There has been much speculation and controversy about the results of the study, with emphasis on how the outcomes should be interpreted. Some argue that the study’s results should be viewed through an evolutionary lens, claiming that women are more inclined to care about the quality of their sexual partners, as their biology limits them to having a certain number of children. Men however, do not necessarily benefit from choosiness. The number of offspring a man can have is limitless, so they are more readily inclined to accept sexual advances. While this train of thought provides a consistent explanation for the study’s results, it focuses solely on biology, when the factors that impede women from saying yes are more than likely sociological.
Researchers Andreas Baranowski and Heiko Hecht recently completed a new version of the study where sexual advances were made in a nightclub in addition to a university campus. Hecht and Baranowski found their results consistent with the initial study, but speculated that women’s reluctance may be the product of fear; fear of both damage to their reputation and of actual physical violence. A study conducted by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey claims that 45% of US women have experienced sexual violence of some kind. Looking at this disturbing statistic, it’s no wonder women are less likely to heedlessly hop into bed with a complete stranger.
In order to ensure that the results were not swayed by their subjects’ fear of societal repercussions or physical harm, the scientists conducted their study under the guise of being a dating company seeking feedback on their compatibility rating. Women were shown photos of men who already agreed to meet up with them for sex or a date, and then asked whether they were interested. The results were drastically different; there was no disparity between men and women’s desire for sex and dating. The study showed that 97% of women and 100% said they would meet up with at least one of the people whose photos were shown to them; both men and women almost equally seized the opportunity to hook up with a stranger!
The outcomes of Hecht and Baranowski’s study clearly indicate that women’s sex drives are actually very much in alignment with those of men, and that women are not necessarily picky or reserved when it comes to casual sex. Societal attitudes about sexuality put a lot of pressure on women to be selective and self-restraining when it comes to sex. Women are also taught fear from a young age, and to be wary of strangers and their intentions. For many of us, each new interaction with a man is an incredibly loaded one; is a chance to be made to feel objectified, uncomfortable, unsafe. While most men are encouraged to be sexually seeking and to jump at the chance to have sex when offered, female sexuality is strictly policed and often vilified.
It is evident that when sexual advances are made in the right context – wherein women feel safe from violence and judgment – women are nearly as receptive to them as men. It is time we do away with antiquated ideas that women don’t want casual sex and begin normalizing female sexual desire.
Arena Thomson is a freelance writer for Sex with Dr. Jess and an aspiring sex educator. She is endlessly fascinated with human sexuality in all its manifestations, and wants to provide sex education that is queer and trans inclusive with an increased awareness around pleasure and consent. A Toronto native, she has recently left the smog of the city to embark on a country adventure with her partner and cat. She enjoys cycling, vintage dresses, subversive cross-stitching and Marvin Gaye.
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