Someone to kiss

Kevin Lewis

December 30, 2017

I Have, Therefore I Love: Status Quo Preference in Mate Choice
Gul Gunaydin et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Decades of research indicate that individuals adhere to existing states (“status quo bias”) and value them more (“endowment effect”). The present work is the first to investigate status quo preference within the context of trade-offs in mate choice. Across seven studies (total N = 1,567), participants indicated whether they would prefer remaining with a current partner possessing a particular set of traits (e.g., high trustworthiness, low attractiveness) or switching to an alternative partner possessing opposite traits. Preference for a given trait was highest when the individual representing the status quo (one’s romantic partner or an interaction partner) possessed that trait. Concerns about hurting the partner, ambiguity avoidance, and biased construal of the partner and the alternative predicted status quo preference, and disapproval of the current partner by network members eliminated this effect. These findings indicate that when it comes to matters of the heart, we tend to love what we currently have.

Exposure to male sexual scents (androstenone) influences women’s drinking
Robin Tan & Mark Goldman
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, December 2017, Pages 456-465

In a demonstration of a heretofore unknown motivational pathway for alcohol consumption, we recently showed that exposure to scents emitted by human females during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle could increase men’s drinking. The current study examined the reverse: whether exposure to male sexual scents (androstenone) would increase women’s drinking. One hundred three female participants were primed with either androstenone or a control prime (plain water) camouflaged as a men’s “cologne.” They then completed a laboratory assessment of beer consumption and related measures. (Nonalcoholic beer was used for methodological and safety reasons.) Results indicated that females exposed to the androstenone prime drank significantly more than those exposed to the control prime. Social and sexual expectancies taken subsequent to drinking (to avoid unwanted manipulation influences) were correlated with drinking in the primed group but not in the neutral group, supporting the idea that information-processing pathways related to alcohol use had been engaged in the primed group. Few females were ovulating, precluding assessment of the effects of fertility on this process. Because of the centrality of sexual signaling to fundamental evolutionary/biological forces, these results indicate a potentially powerful influence on alcohol consumption that calls for continued investigation.

The Relationship Between Online Pornography and the Sexual Objectification of Women: The Attenuating Role of Porn Literacy Education
Laura Vandenbosch & Johanna van Oosten
Journal of Communication, December 2017, Pages 1015–1036

Media literacy interventions partly aim at preventing undesirable media effects at a later point of time. However, longitudinal research on the interaction between media literacy education and media effects is lacking. In this longitudinal study among 1,947 13–25-year-olds, we started to address this lacuna by examining the potential of porn literacy education at schools to attenuate the longitudinal relationship between exposure to sexually explicit Internet material (SEIM) and views of women as sex objects. A two-way interaction effect emerged: The relationship between SEIM and sexist views became weaker, the more users had learned from porn literacy education. No gender or age differences occurred. This study thus provides some first evidence for the role of media education in reducing undesirable media effects.

Partner preferences in the context of concurrency: What Himba want in formal and informal partners
Brooke Scelza & Sean Prall
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Research on human mate preferences that distinguishes between short- and long-term partners has been conducted mainly in industrialized societies, where multiple mating and concurrent partnerships are stigmatized. However, cross-culturally, there is significant variation in the frequency and the level of acceptance of such relationships. Furthermore, the dichotomy between short- and long-term partnerships does not fully describe the diversity in actual extra-pair behavior, which ranges from single sexual encounters to multi-year love affairs. Here we present another comparison, between formal (marital) and informal (non-marital) partners, which we feel better captures this diversity. We assess the traits that men and women prefer in each type of partner among Himba pastoralists, where concurrent partnerships are common and accepted for both sexes. We situate our findings in relation to three main explanations for concurrent partnerships: dual-mating, trading-up and multiple investors. We find some similarities with the existing literature in the traits that are listed as important, including physical attractiveness, wealth and intelligence. Our evidence suggest that Himba men follow a dual strategy, preferring hard-working wives and attractive girlfriends. Women's preferences align most strongly with multiple investors explanation, most clearly articulated through their preferences for wealthy husbands and generous boyfriends Limited support is also found for a dual-mating strategy in women. These findings suggest that local cultural norms and ecologies modulate mate preferences in important ways.

Cues of upper body strength account for most of the variance in men's bodily attractiveness
Aaron Sell, Aaron Lukazsweski & Michael Townsley
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 20 December 2017

Evolution equips sexually reproducing species with mate choice mechanisms that function to evaluate the reproductive consequences of mating with different individuals. Indeed, evolutionary psychologists have shown that women's mate choice mechanisms track many cues of men's genetic quality and ability to invest resources in the woman and her offspring. One variable that predicted both a man's genetic quality and his ability to invest is the man's formidability (i.e. fighting ability or resource holding power/potential). Modern women, therefore, should have mate choice mechanisms that respond to ancestral cues of a man's fighting ability. One crucial component of a man's ability to fight is his upper body strength. Here, we test how important physical strength is to men's bodily attractiveness. Three sets of photographs of men's bodies were shown to raters who estimated either their physical strength or their attractiveness. Estimates of physical strength determined over 70% of men's bodily attractiveness. Additional analyses showed that tallness and leanness were also favoured, and, along with estimates of physical strength, accounted for 80% of men's bodily attractiveness. Contrary to popular theories of men's physical attractiveness, there was no evidence of a nonlinear effect; the strongest men were the most attractive in all samples.

General sexual desire, but not desire for uncommitted sexual relationships, tracks changes in women’s hormonal status
Benedict Jones et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Several recent longitudinal studies have investigated the hormonal correlates of both young adult women's general sexual desire and, more specifically, their desire for uncommitted sexual relationships. Findings across these studies have been mixed, potentially because each study tested only small samples of women (Ns = 43, 33, and 14). Here we report results from a much larger (N = 375) longitudinal study of hormonal correlates of young adult women's general sexual desire and their desire for uncommitted sexual relationships. Our analyses suggest that within-woman changes in general sexual desire are negatively related to progesterone, but are not related to testosterone or cortisol. We observed some positive relationships for estradiol, but these were generally only significant for solitary sexual desire. By contrast with our results for general sexual desire, analyses showed no evidence that changes in women’s desire for uncommitted sexual relationships are related to their hormonal status. Together, these results suggest that changes in hormonal status contribute to changes in women's general sexual desire, but do not influence women's desire for uncommitted sexual relationships.

Sexual Object or Sexual Subject Media Use, Self-Sexualization, and Sexual Agency Among Undergraduate Women
Monique Ward et al.
Psychology of Women Quarterly, forthcoming

Objectification theorists argue that repeated exposure to sexually objectifying media content leads to higher levels of self-objectification. Although consequences of self-objectification for women’s sexual health and sexual agency have been proposed, efforts to test these connections have been infrequent and have yielded inconsistent results. We used structural equation modeling to test connections between exposure to three media genres (women’s magazines, lifestyle reality TV, and situation comedies), self-sexualization, and four dimensions of sexual agency among 754 heterosexual and bisexual undergraduate women aged 16–23 (M = 18.5). Our assessments of sexual agency focused on sexual assertiveness, condom use self-efficacy, sexual affect, and alcohol use to feel sexual. Findings confirmed our expectations. More frequent consumption of women’s magazines, lifestyle reality TV programs, and situation comedies each predicted greater self-sexualization, which in turn predicted greater use of alcohol to feel sexual, less condom use self-efficacy, and more negative sexual affect. We discuss implications for women’s sexual well-being and for research on media sexualization. We also offer suggestions for practitioners, parents, and educators to disrupt the associations among media use, self-sexualization, and diminished sexual agency.

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.