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Mars vs. Venus?
The difference in men's and women's attitudes toward sex are often taken for granted. Men want sex, women want commitment; men look for attractive mates and women go after social status.
But not all psychologists are on board with these gender-essentialist statements.
In a new review, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues sift through psychology studies and find gender differences aren't always as black-and-white (or pink-and-blue) as they seem. Here are six gender differences that may not be innate after all.
Men Think About Sex More Than Women DoSlide 2 of 13
Men Think About Sex More Than Women Do
The cliché that men think about sex every seven seconds is not true. And while it's true that men think about sex more often than women do, they also think about other bodily needs, such as food and sleep, more than women do.
In a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Sex Research, psychologists asked research participants to record their thoughts throughout the day. They found that men pondered sex 18 times a day to a woman's 10 times a day, but men also thought about food and sleep proportionately more than women. That suggests sex doesn't hold as vaunted a position for men as you might expect.Slide 3 of 13
Men Want More Sex Partners Than WomenSlide 4 of 13
Men Want More Sex Partners Than Women
If you ask a lot of men and women how many sex partners they'd want in a given period of time, the numbers provided by men average higher than the women's numbers. But it seems that a few randy fellows at the top are skewing the results as a whole.
Calculating an average does not always give you the clearest view of the data. (If, for example, researchers asked 10 men how many sex partners they wanted in the next year and nine said "one," while one said "20," the average would be 2.9, and you might expect that any given man wants about three sex partners in a year.)
If you look instead at the "typical" response to the question of how many partners people want, you find that the majority of both men and women offer the same answer: one.
Again, survey responses may be more about what people believe they should say, rather than what they really want, Conley said. That issue may be exacerbated because most sexual preference studies are conducted using college students, she added, and the young men are eager to conform to expectations of masculinity.
How about how many sexual partners men and women actually have? Studies generally find that men report more partners than women. But in 2003, researchers reported in the Journal of Sex Research that if you trick research participants into believing that they are hooked up to a lie-detector test, men report the same number of sexual partners as women.Slide 5 of 13
Men Want 'Sexy' & Women Want 'Status'Slide 6 of 13
Men Want 'Sexy' & Women Want 'Status'
An underpinning of evolutionary psychology is that men look for sexy women who are likely to provide them with attractive, healthy offspring, while women are more concerned than men about getting a high-status mate who can be a good provider.
When psychologists ask research subjects (mostly college students) to imagine their ideal mate, that is indeed what they typically find. But when people in an actual speed-dating event rated the importance of attractiveness and status, these gender differences evaporated, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
When the research participants met potential dates face to face, there was no difference in the way they rated their romantic interest based on those people's attractiveness and earnings. So it seems real-world attraction may go beyond simple stereotypes. [10 Things Every Woman Should Know About a Man's Brain]
"Thinking about 'ideal' elicits more stereotypical thoughts about women and men — and what women and men 'should' do," Conley wrote in an email to LiveScience. "When someone evaluates a real person, it is a little different."Slide 7 of 13
Women Have Far Fewer Orgasms Than Men DoSlide 8 of 13