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24 June 2007
Relationships Equalize Sexual Attitudes
by George Atkinson

A new University of Florida (UF) study has found that being in a relationship tends to equalize the differing sexual attitudes that men and women have. Appearing in the journal Sex Roles, the study confirms that men are more preoccupied with sex than women are, but that relationships play an important role for both sexes in overcoming the traditional gender roles that society dictates.

"Men experience a lot of pressure in our society to have sex with a number of different partners, the opposite of what women experience as kind of the gatekeepers of sexuality," said UF's Paul Perrin. He noted that when sex was examined in an intimate relationship, men and women were more alike than different. "[In a relationship] the pressure on men to have sex is not as strong and the pressure on women to not have sex goes away. People in romantic relationships give more importance to their own feelings and their partners' than they do to social expectations about sexual behavior," he explained.

The biggest gender difference identified in the study was that men were much more likely to find sex personally and physically pleasurable. "Though not as frequently talked about, gender roles also restrict men to a narrow range of acceptable sexual behavior in the sense that others deem him immature and unmasculine if he doesn't have frequent sex," Perrin said. "Witness the popular 2005 film comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

Interestingly, Perrin said that men were more likely to consider sex to be "personally costly." He speculated that this may be because men engage in more risky sexual behaviors, making unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases more likely. "Men in our sample appear to walk a fine line between wanting the risky sex that society says they should have and paying the price for having had it," he observed.

Women, however, were more likely to believe that being sexually active had negative social ramifications. "Perhaps women are more interested than men are in waiting for the right person and the right moment to have sex," noted Perrin. But attitudes for both men and women changed when attention shifted to how they felt once they were in a relationship. "Because gender roles have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years, we kind of take them for granted and assume this is the way society is and the way men and women should act," he said. "The biggest implication of this study is that we aren't slave to the gender roles that society imposes on us but have a lot more freedom, especially sexually."

Related articles:
The Virginity Trap
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Can't We Just Cuddle?
Men In Relationships Happier

Source: University of Florida

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