A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) entitled “How often should married couples have sex? What happens when he says ‘more’ and she says ‘no?” caused quite a stir this past week. The original piece told the tale of a married couple (Chris and Afton) that developed a sexual desire discrepancy (the clinical term for a case in which one partner wants more sex than the other). The couple communicated with each other about the discrepancy, read a self-help book together, and ultimately worked through it. That’s a positive outcome, right? Judging by the responses that appeared on Jezebel, The Week, New York Magazine, and several other websites, this is anything but a happy ending. The problem? The partner who desired more sex in this scenario was male and the one who wanted less sex was female.
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Entries in stereotypes (12)
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know whether sex research can or ever will reveal any universal truths.
Based on studies that say "Women [think/are like/view/feel] this" and "Men [think/are like/view/feel] that," or other generalizations across entire categories of people (straight, gay, etc. etc.), can it ever really be said that ALL [category] is one way and ALL [category] is another, with no exceptions to rules based on individual tastes, personality, etc.? (Ex: All straight men look at women's faces the most during porn-viewing.) Or can science only give a broad, generally-true correlation? There's always room for standard deviation and error, right?
As much as we might wish otherwise, looks matter in the workplace, and this is true for both men and women. Indeed, your physical appearance can affect everything from your likelihood of being hired to performance evaluations to promotions and pay raises. Several studies have found that, by and large, physical attractiveness is almost always an asset on the job, irrespective of gender.1 So being sexy is good, right? Well, not necessarily. It turns out that being sexy and dressing sexy are two completely different things. Specifically, having naturally good looks may take you places, but flaunting those looks with provocative outfits could wipe out some of the benefits of being attractive, at least for women pursuing high-powered jobs.
Society views women who appear in pornographic films negatively. For instance, both male and female college students rate porn actresses as having more negative traits and characteristics than mainstream movie actresses and women in general.1 The only group of women porn actresses are rated more favorably than is prostitutes. In addition, porn actresses are believed to come from dysfunctional home environments characterized by sexual abuse and drug use.2 Such findings suggest that women who have sex on film are thought to be damaged goods, meaning that they are seen as having traumatic backgrounds and poor psychological health. But is there any truth to this stereotype? A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests not.
Gaydar refers to the ability to categorize people as gay or straight on the basis of indirect information (e.g., a person’s speech patterns or movement). Gaydar is used by people of all sexualities for a variety of purposes. For instance, gays and lesbians may use it to decode flirtation, whereas heterosexual persons may simply use it to figure out who’s who. So how good are people at making these categorizations and what it is that people are actually paying attention to? A recent set of studies published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior indicates that gaydar judgments are reasonably accurate, and that judgments of sexuality are linked to sex role stereotypes.1
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader of the blog who wanted to know why society seems to treat single people so unfairly.
Why do people always ask “what’s wrong with you?” when they find out I’m single?
In the not too distant past, psychologists and other scientists could get away with almost anything because ethics boards did not yet exist and it was up to the researchers themselves to determine what types of risks were acceptable. This resulted in the publication of a number of studies that we look back on today as being somewhat ethically dubious. For example, a 1938 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology involved two psychologists surreptitiously hiding under college students’ dorm room beds in order to eavesdrop on their conversations.1 I’m quite sure that if a similar study were attempted today, the researchers would be called perverts and then thrown in jail. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questionable research ethics. What I would like to do in this article is share one of the most fascinating and ethically ambiguous studies ever conducted in the history of sex research so that you can better understand why sex researchers often have to jump through a bunch of hoops before carrying out their work.
There are several common stereotypes about the sex lives of gay men. One of the most prevalent is that anal sex is the primary (if not only) sexual activity that gay men practice. Another is that sex in public places (e.g., in parks a la singer George Michael) is a common occurrence. And yet one more is that gay men mostly have anonymous sex. Is there any truth to these widespread stereotypes? According to recent research, the answer is a resounding no.
Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week’s question hits on a topic many people are curious about: the origin of homosexuality. Although we don’t know with certainty why variations in sexual orientation exist, there is growing evidence that biology is one of the biggest contributors. In this article, we will explore some of the science supporting this point.
Is a homosexual’s brain different from a heterosexual’s brain?
A few weeks back, I posted a Top 10 List of Sexual Fantasies, which contained a set of fun fantasies people have anonymously submitted to me over the years. As you read through the list, you probably found that it was easy to identify which fantasies were written by men (e.g., “Hot tub filled with whipped cream, pudding, and multiple blondes”) and which were written by women (e.g., “We're out for a drive in the country and it starts to rain. We pull into the driveway at home and my partner pulls me into the barn, where we make love on a bale of hay as the rain continues outside”). A few fantasies were more challenging to place, but the majority of them were pretty simple because they largely conformed to gender stereotypes. So is this typically the case when it comes to sexual fantasies? Are men's and women's fantasies really that different?
The stereotypical picture of a heterosexual couple post-coitus depicts a frustrated woman who wants to talk and cuddle staring at a sleeping (and usually snoring) man. Such tension between the sexes is just a natural part of life, right? I mean, this scenario has played out time and again in movies and television shows, and there’s even a book out there written by a physician entitled Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?: More Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour. Despite how widespread this belief is, recent research does not back it up.1
“I’m not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to gaytown.”
– Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City)
Many of you are probably familiar with the popular stereotype that bisexual people are actually closeted gays who just aren’t quite ready to admit it to the world. Proponents of this stereotype were seemingly validated by a 2005 study published in Psychological Science, which found that most men who identified as bisexual exhibited stronger genital arousal in response to male pornographic imagery than female pornographic imagery.1 However, a more recent study published in Biological Psychology disputes this finding and presents convincing scientific evidence that "true" bisexuality (i.e., strong attraction to both men and women) does indeed exist.2