New Scientist has an article on the psychology and biology on sleeping around – which has been given the wonderfully gentle and inviting name of ‘sociosexuality’ in the research literature.
Rather predictably, the article contains the rather tired ‘men spread their seed, women look for long term partners’ evolutionary psychology explanation, but also does a good job of countering this with some interesting and sometimes surprising studies from the sex research literature.
One of the most interesting bits is where it notes that foetal testosterone exposure is correlated in men with masculine facial features and number of sexual partners in adulthood, and exactly the the same holds for women:
Another factor with strong links to sociosexuality is masculinity. Boothroyd found men with more masculine-looking faces scored higher on sociosexuality, and it seems to be the same story for women. Sarah Mikach and Michael Bailey of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, examined how women’s sociosexuality related to the degree to which they looked, felt or behaved in a masculine way. They found that heterosexual women who had high numbers of sexual partners were more likely to show higher levels of masculinity.
The researchers argued that these women behave in a way that is more typically male and this could be due to early – probably prenatal – exposure to androgens, such as testosterone, that organise typically “male” brains differently from typically “female” brains (Evolution and Human Behavior, vol 20, p 141). Supporting this idea, Andrew Clark of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, found a higher rate of sociosexuality in women with a smaller ratio of index to ring finger length – which some researchers believe corresponds to higher prenatal androgen exposure (Evolution and Human Behavior, vol 25, p 113).
If you want to rate your own sociosexuality, they’ve also put the questionnaire online.
Unusually for the normally rather coy New Scientist, the article is open-access. Is this a sign that New Scientist are realising that science is like love – it’s better when it’s free, or are they just using sex as a way of getting short-term affection?
We’ll see how we feel in the morning.
Link to NewSci on ‘The dizzying diversity of human sexual strategies’.