Oversimplifying Gender Differences Obfuscates Issues

There’s this thing called the Sexual Strategies Theory.  This theory uses shallow evolutionary arguments to explain perceived differences in male and female behavior.  In 1989, a paper was published that seemed to support evo theory using a simple study.  An opposite-sex stranger walks up to a person and asks them to have sex.  All the women turned down the offer, while some men accepted. The simplicity of the original study was its downfall.  First, it positioned itself as having one variable – man hits on woman or woman hits on man.  But that’s really two variables, right there.  Both parties change.  Second, third, etc, etc…all the other variables that are ignored in that study strip the meaning from the results. There’s a new study.  (Isn’t there always?)  The great thing about this new study isn’t that it has all the answers.  The great thing is that it shows how complicated sexual decisions are.  The new study shows that people quickly and not always consciously weigh lots of factors in deciding whether or not to have casual sex. There’s a wonderful synopsis (not short but very well done) on the YesMeansYes blog.  It’s here: Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research. What I take away from reading Thomas’ synopsis is that everyone, male and female, makes the decision to have or not to have casual sex based mostly on two factors – how much pleasure they believe they’ll get and how much risk they will run.  The gender of the person who has been propositioned is not the element that introduces a change in the study results, as was posited by the previous study.  The element that changes the result is actually the gender of the person doing the propositioning.  And to be more specific – it’s the perception of[…]

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