Kevin Lewis

August 12, 2017

Majority Rules: Gender Composition and Sexual Norms and Behavior in High Schools
Kristen Harknett & Stephen Cranney
Population Research and Policy Review, August 2017, Pages 469-500

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we examine the relationship between the gender composition of high schools and sexual ideals, attitudes, and behaviors reported by 12,617 students. Theory predicts that a surplus of females in a dating market gives males greater bargaining power to achieve their underlying preference for avoiding committed relationships and engaging in casual sex. We find relationships between the gender composition of a high school and sexual norms and behaviors that depart from this theoretical prediction: In high schools in which girls outnumber boys, students report a less sexually permissive normative climate and girls report less casual sex compared with their counterparts at schools in which boys outnumber girls. Our results inform predictions about social consequences following from the feminization of school institutions.

Causes and consequences of adult sex ratio imbalance in a historical U.S. population
Ryan Schacht & Ken Smith
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 19 September 2017

The responsiveness of individuals to partner availability has been well-documented across the literature. However, there is disagreement regarding the direction of the consequences of sex ratio imbalance. Specifically, does an excess of males or females promote male-male mating competition? In an attempt to clarify the role of the adult sex ratio (ASR) on behaviour, here we evaluate both competing and complimentary expectations derived from theory across the social and biological sciences. We use data drawn from a historical, nineteenth century population in North America and target several life-history traits thought to be affected by partner availability: age at first birth, relationship status, completed fertility and longevity. Furthermore, we assess the role of various contributors to a population's ASR. We find that both the contributors to and consequences of sex ratio imbalance vary over time. Our results largely support predictions of greater male pairbond commitment and lesser male mating effort, as well as elevated bargaining power of women in response to female scarcity. After reviewing our findings, and others from across the literature, we highlight the need to adjust predictions in response to ASR imbalance by the: (i) culturally mediated mating arena, (ii) variable role of demographic inputs across time and place, (iii) constraints to behavioural outcomes across populations, and (iv) ability and accuracy of individuals to assess partner availability.

Persistent effect of sex ratios on relationship quality and life satisfaction
Pauline Grosjean & Robert Brooks
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 19 September 2017

Convict transportation to Australia imposed heavily male-biased sex ratios in some areas, altering the convict-era mating market and generating long-running cultural effects that persist to the present day. We test whether convict-era sex ratios have altered marital and overall life satisfaction today, through their persistent effects on gender norms and household bargaining. We find that both women and men are happier, and the happiness gap within married couples is smaller in areas where convict-era sex ratios were heavily male-biased than in areas where sex ratios were historically more even. We discuss our results in light of household bargaining theory, evolutionary sexual conflict theory and the well-documented relationship between conservative attitudes and self-reported happiness.

Adult sex ratio and social status predict mating and parenting strategies in Northern Ireland
Caroline Uggla & Ruth Mace
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 19 September 2017

Evidence from animal species indicates that a male-biased adult sex ratio (ASR) can lead to higher levels of male parental investment and that there is heterogeneity in behavioural responses to mate scarcity depending on mate value. In humans, however, there is little consistent evidence of the effect of the ASR on pair-bond stability and parental investment and even less of how it varies by an individual's mate value. In this paper we use detailed census data from Northern Ireland to test the association between the ASR and pair-bond stability and parental investment by social status (education and social class) as a proxy for mate value. We find evidence that female, but not male, cohabitation is associated with the ASR. In female-biased areas women with low education are less likely to be in a stable pair-bond than highly educated women, but in male-biased areas women with the lowest education are as likely to be in a stable pair-bond as their most highly educated peers. For both sexes risk of separation is greater at female-biased sex ratios. Lastly, our data show a weak relationship between parental investment and the ASR that depends on social class. We discuss these results in the light of recent reformulations of parental investment theory.

Sexual diversity in the United States: Results from a nationally representative probability sample of adult women and men
Debby Herbenick et al.
PLoS ONE, July 2017

In 2015, we conducted a cross-sectional, Internet-based, U.S. nationally representative probability survey of 2,021 adults (975 men, 1,046 women) focused on a broad range of sexual behaviors. Individuals invited to participate were from the GfK KnowledgePanelR. The survey was titled the 2015 Sexual Exploration in America Study and survey completion took about 12 to 15 minutes. The survey was confidential and the researchers never had access to respondents' identifiers. Respondents reported on demographic items, lifetime and recent sexual behaviors, and the appeal of 50+ sexual behaviors. Most (>80%) reported lifetime masturbation, vaginal sex, and oral sex. Lifetime anal sex was reported by 43% of men (insertive) and 37% of women (receptive). Common lifetime sexual behaviors included wearing sexy lingerie/underwear (75% women, 26% men), sending/receiving digital nude/semi-nude photos (54% women, 65% men), reading erotic stories (57% of participants), public sex (?43%), role-playing (?22%), tying/being tied up (?20%), spanking (?30%), and watching sexually explicit videos/DVDs (60% women, 82% men). Having engaged in threesomes (10% women, 18% men) and playful whipping (?13%) were less common. Lifetime group sex, sex parties, taking a sexuality class/workshop, and going to BDSM parties were uncommon (each <8%). More Americans identified behaviors as "appealing" than had engaged in them. Romantic/affectionate behaviors were among those most commonly identified as appealing for both men and women. The appeal of particular behaviors was associated with greater odds that the individual had ever engaged in the behavior. This study contributes to our understanding of more diverse adult sexual behaviors than has previously been captured in U.S. nationally representative probability surveys. Implications for sexuality educators, clinicians, and individuals in the general population are discussed.

A mere holding effect: Haptic influences on impression formation through mobile dating apps
Jaime Banks, David Westerman & Liesel Sharabi
Computers in Human Behavior, November 2017, Pages 303-311

Tandem advances in mobile technologies and social networks have given rise to app-initiated romantic relationships. Little is understood, however, about the role of the device in this initiation. This experimental study explored the impact of "mere holding" of mobile devices on impressions formed when consuming dating app content. Mere holding (compared to no-touch viewing) was associated with reductions in attraction, ascribed personhood, and psychological ownership. Findings suggest that holding may be experienced as a false realization of potential relationships through physical engagement of devices; theoretically, this realization may be understood as an inversion of interpersonal haptic nonverbals, as holding is less about interpersonal intimacy and more about heuristic engagement with the other as an object.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.