Helen Fisher's new, national survey of singles contains some provocative findings: unmarried men and women (women especially) are not desperate to marry and have children, men are quicker to fall in love, hooking up and one-night stands aren't necessarily meaningless sexual encounters; and singles in their early 20s and over 65 report the greatest level of happiness.
People don’t seem to have as much insight into their romantic preferences as they think they do. For example, say you have a friend who is looking to date someone who is very funny, and isn’t that concerned about their attractiveness. And you are more interested in finding a very attractive mate, and aren’t so worried about whether they’re funny. We’ve found that these stated preferences don’t tend match how people evaluate potential partners at a speed-dating event and in the ensuing month. For example, it’s likely that you and your friend valued attractiveness equally when it came to rating a person’s overall romantic appeal.
Close friends of opposite sexes—is it possible for it to be platonic? Or will there inevitably be some sort of uncomfortable subtext of attraction?
Researchers surveyed more than 80 man-woman pals. They found that men were more attracted to their female friend than vice versa. Men also consistently and mistakenly assumed that their female buddy was attracted to them more than they actually were.
A youth remembers a time when he was sitting in the family room with his parents watching the original 'Star Trek' televisoin series. He reports that he was 10 years old and had not yet developed any obvious signs of puberty. When 'Captain Kirk' suddenly peeled off his shirt, the boy was titillated. At 10 years of age, this was his first experience of sexual attraction, and he knew intuitively that, according to the norms of his parents and society, he should not be feeling this same-gender attraction.
The relationship between sex, gender, and sexuality, like the concepts themselves, is usually understood through developmentalism. These viewpoints believe that children are first born with a sex, then learn their gender, and finally become sexual. Biological and socialization theories are not the only ways to understand sex, gender, and sexuality. Postdevelopmentalism rejects the idea that gender is simply an expression of sex, or that gender and sex are biological or natural traits that are inside us. Feminist poststructuralism and queer theory are postdevelopmental perspectives that take a critical stance toward taken-for-granted ways of understanding the world, including sex, gender, and sexuality. Foucault (1978) argues that sexuality is neither a fact of life nor something that is natural. Instead, sexuality is considered a constructed category of experience that has historical, social, and cultural origins. By rethinking the relationships between sex, gender, and sexuality, it becomes possible to question the belief that children are born with a fixed gender or sexual identity. Butler (1990) argues that gender is the process through which different human cultures make sense of sexual identity. For Butler, gender is not a noun, but a verb.
It takes about 20 milliseconds for our brains to process whether a picture is sexual or not. That's about half the time it takes before we consciously process that a picture is even there. It's an example of the human hardwiring that has sex occupying our brains constantly from puberty until we die, according to Allessandra Rellini, assistant professor of psychology and director of the University of Vermont's sexual health and research clinic.
So she's bemused, at best, that while we understand a lot about sexuality in men, this topic that's integral to developing and maintaining healthy relationships as well as general wellbeing is largely out of bounds for study in women.
"Women are left untouched, a mystery," says Rellini, "because it's not appropriate to study them. It's a taboo topic."
She runs, in fact, one of only three laboratories in the U.S. that conducts sex research on women and her funding is almost nonexistent. That's why she agreed to take part in the Discovery Channel's documentary, The Science of Lust, to emphasize science in the conversation about sex.
This study found that women and men considered the same broad dimensions, yet when comparing differences in how men and women rated themselves on specific adjectives and across the three main dimensions, a pattern emerged. Men rated themselves slightly, but significantly, lower on the loving/warmth dimension and reserved/conservative factors. Thus, men see themselves as marginally less loving and warm and less reserved/conservative. It is difficult to know why these results were obtained. It may be that men may in fact be less loving/warm, perhaps because they conform to gender role expectations. Another explanation is that men may be less willing than women to express these emotions, yet have the same basic emotional experiences as women (Jansz, 2000), especially warmth and love (Alexander & Wood, 2000).