Sex Differences in Desire for Sexual Variety

Another sex difference predicted by evolutionary psychological theories is a dif ference in the desire for sexual variety (Figure 8.7). This prediction stems from parental investment and sexual selection theory . The members of the sex that invests less in offspring, according to this theory, are predicted to be less discriminating in their selection of mates and more inclined to seek multiple mates. In ancestral times, men could increase their reproductive success by gaining sexual access to a variety of women.

If you were given your ideal wish, how many sex partners would you like to have in the next month? How about the next year? How about over your entire lifetime? When unmarried college students were asked these questions, the women indicated that they wanted about 1 in the next month and 4 or 5 in their entire lifetimes (see Figure 8.7) (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). The men, in contrast, thought that 2 would be about right in the next month, 8 over the next couple of years, and 18 in their lifetimes. In terms of expressed desires, men and women dif fer in the ways predicted by the evolutionary account.

1 mo. 6 mos. 1 yr. 2 yrs. 3 yrs. 4 yrs. 5 yrs. 10 yrs. 20 yrs. 30 yrs. Life

Time

Figure 8.7

Number of sex partners desired at different time intervals, ranging from one month to a lifetime. Men and women differ at every time interval, showing the largest difference in lifetime partners desired. Source: From Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). "Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating," Psychological Review, 100, 204-232, figure 2, p. 2 1. Copyright © 1993 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.

1 mo. 6 mos. 1 yr. 2 yrs. 3 yrs. 4 yrs. 5 yrs. 10 yrs. 20 yrs. 30 yrs. Life

Time

Figure 8.7

Number of sex partners desired at different time intervals, ranging from one month to a lifetime. Men and women differ at every time interval, showing the largest difference in lifetime partners desired. Source: From Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). "Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating," Psychological Review, 100, 204-232, figure 2, p. 2 1. Copyright © 1993 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.

The sex differences in number of partners desired has now been replicated in a massive cross-cultural study. David Schmitt and his colleagues (2003) studied 16,288 individuals from 10 world regions, representing 52 dif ferent nations from Argentina to Slovakia to Zimbabwe. They used instruments identical to those used for Figure 8.7, translated into the appropriate language for each culture. For the time interval of the next 30 years, men worldwide expressed a desire for roughly 13 sex partners, whereas women expressed a desire for roughly 2.5 partners. The sex dif ference in the desire for sexual variety , in short, appears to be lar ge and universal. The sex dif ference extends to how often men and women think about sex. One study found that women, on average, think about sex 9 times per week; men, on average, think about sex 37 times per week (Regan & Atkins, 2006). This sex dif ference in desire deserves a closer look.

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Anxiety and Depression 101

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