Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Negative feelings after one-night stands

The sexual and feminist revolutions were supposed to free women to enjoy casual sex just as men always had. Yet according to Professor Anne Campbell from Durham University in the UK, the negative feelings reported by women after one-night stands suggest that they are not well adapted to fleeting sexual encounters. Her findings1 are published online in the June issue of Springer’s journal, Human Nature.

Men are more likely to reproduce and therefore to benefit from numerous short-term partners. For women, however, quality seems to be more important than quantity. Also for women, finding partners of high genetic quality is a stronger motivator than sheer number, and it is commonly believed that women are more willing to have casual sex when there is a chance of forming a long-term relationship.

Professor Campbell looked at whether women have adapted to casual sex by examining their feelings following a one-night stand. If women have adapted, then although they may take part in casual sex less often than men because of their stricter criteria when selecting partners, they should rate the experience positively. To test the theory, a total of 1743 men and women who had experienced a one-night stand were asked to rate both their positive and negative feelings the following morning, in an internet survey.

Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. Men were more likely than women to secretly want their friends to hear about it and to feel successful because the partner was desirable to others. Men also reported greater sexual satisfaction and contentment following the event, as well as a greater sense of well-being and confidence about themselves.

The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been “used”. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships.

According to Professor Campbell, although women do not rate casual sex positively, the reason they still take part in it may be due to the menstrual cycle changes influencing their sexual motivation. Indeed, during the ovulatory phase (between days 10 to 18 of their cycle), women report increased sexual desire and arousal, with a preference for short-term partners.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Society = little impact on choice of sexual partner

A unique new study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institute (KI) suggests that the attitude of families and the public have little impact on if adults decide to have sex with persons of the same or the opposite sex. Instead, hereditary factors and the individual's unique experiences have the strongest influence on our choice of sexual partners.

The study is the largest in the world so far and was performed in collaboration with the Queen Mary University of London. More than 7,600 Swedish twins (men and women) aged 20-47 years responded to a 2005 - 2006 survey of health, behaviour, and sexuality. Seven percent of the twins had ever had a same-sex sexual partner.

"The results show, that familial and public attitudes might be less important for our sexual behaviour than previously suggested", says Associate Professor Niklas Långström, one of the involved researchers. "Instead, genetic factors and the individual's unique biological and social environments play the biggest role. Studies like this are needed to improve our basic understanding of sexuality and to inform the public debate."

The conclusions apply equally well to why people only have sex with persons of the opposite sex as to why we have sex with same-sex partners. However, the conclusions are more difficult to transfer to countries where non-heterosexual behaviour remains prohibited.

Overall, the environment shared by twins (including familial and societal attitudes) explained 0-17% of the choice of sexual partner, genetic factors 18-39% and the unique environment 61-66%. The individual's unique environment includes, for example, circumstances during pregnancy and childbirth, physical and psychological trauma (e.g., accidents, violence, and disease), peer groups, and sexual experiences.