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21 March 2011
Women and men's attitudes to casual sex not so different after all
by George Atkinson

A famous study by psychologists Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield 20 years ago determined that men are much more interested in casual sex than women, but new research shows that perhaps the researchers back then were asking the wrong questions.

Back in 1989, Clarke and Hatfield's study found that when a female college student asked a random group of male students if they wanted to have sex, nearly 80 percent said "yes," but when the roles were reversed and the males propositioned the females, there were no takers.

The new research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examines gender differences in the acceptance of casual sex in more detail and comes to some surprising conclusions - chiefly, that under the right circumstances, women are just as likely as men to accept an offer of casual sex.

The new study, authored by University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley, recorded some enlightening findings regarding who we might spontaneously jump into bed with. She posed the casual sex question by asking her female subjects to imagine the question coming from either Johnny Depp or Donald Trump.

The result? About the same percentage of women are happy to have casual sex with Johnny Depp as men who would have casual sex with Angelina Jolie (the other men's prospective partner choice was Roseanne Barr). Conley claims the results show that women were "about equally likely" to accept or reject the Depp/Trump offer as men the Jolie/Barr offer and that this shows "that women are more similar to men in their reactions to casual sex than would have initially been expected."

Another interesting finding from the study showed that bisexual women were more likely to accept a casual sex offer if it came from another woman. Conley says that this is because the women believe they will get more pleasure from a same-sex encounter. "Women orgasm only 35 percent as often as men in first-time sexual encounters," she explained.

Conley explained that women, like men, are motivated by pleasure-seeking when they enter the sexual arena but are less likely to be satisfied by a short-term encounter. Women's awareness of this affects their sexual decision-making, but "when women are presented with proposers who are equivalent in terms of safety and sexual prowess, they will be equally likely as men to engage in casual sex."

Conley concludes that that the large gender differences in the earlier casual sex study may have more to do with perceived personality characteristics of the female and male proposers than real gender differences. Additionally, she contends that sexual pleasure figures largely in women's and men's decision making about casual sex and strongly influences women's choice of casual sex parnter.

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Source: University of Michigan

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