I know, it sounds silly—or like an already proven fact—but blame it on evolution. A new study to be published in Evolution and Human Behavior from the University of Texas–Austin explored what they called the sexual exploitability hypothesis based on the idea that for ancestral women, casual intercourse with an emotionally unattached man who you weren’t sure would stick around to raise any potential offspring was not a good move. But for men, with what seems like an unlimited number of sperm cells, wasting a few on women you have no intention of being with isn’t a big deal. Already sounds like not much has changed, but the researchers wanted to see specifically if whether any indication that a woman’s guard is lowered is a turn-on for the average man.
To explore this, they asked a large group of students (103 men and 91 women) to identify some “specific actions, cues, body postures, attitudes, and personality characteristics” that might indicate receptivity or vulnerability to advances, then they found photos displaying the 88 cues of sexual exploitability that were identified. After that, a new group of 76 male participants was presented with these images in a randomized sequence and asked what they thought of each woman’s overall attractiveness, how easy it would be to “exploit” her using a variety of tactics (everything from seduction to physical force), and her appeal to them as either a short-term or a long-term partner.
The final results were actually mixed. Physical cues of vulnerability—for instance pictures of short women or heavier ones—had no effect. These women weren’t necessarily seen as easy in bed, nor were they judged as being particularly appealing partners for either a casual fling or a lifelong marriage. On the other hand, the more psychological and contextual cues, like pictures of dimwitted or immature-seeming women—or women who looked sleepy or intoxicated—did have an effect. Men not only rated them as being easy to get in bed, they were also perceived as being more physically attractive than female peers who seemed more lucid or quick-witted. When it came to judging these women as long-term partners, it was a no-go. They lost their entire attraction when it came to their potential as a prospective girlfriend or wife. In other words, can’t turn a heaux into a housewife. Not sure why science keeps trying to prove otherwise, evolution shows it’s been that way from the very beginning.
The good thing is the researchers did a follow-up study that dove a little bit deeper into these men’s personas—we wouldn’t want to blanket all men as only thinking with their little heads. The more promiscuity-minded men (or fellas on the prowl) who happened to also be a bit deficient in the personal empathy and warmth department were the ones who were most responsive to these female “exploitability” cues. Men who weren’t only focused on getting the panties tended to miss their opportunities altogether. So the moral of the story is don’t let a man with women’s issues try to sweet talk the panties off of you when you’ve had too much to drink. But you knew that already, right?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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