When it comes to finding a mate, men may not be looking for charm and intelligence, but rather a woman who looks dumb – or drunk – enough for a one-night-stand, according to a new study.
In an article in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, University of Texas at Austin graduate student Cari Goetz and her team focused on the so-called sexual exploitability hypothesis – the idea that men are genetically programmed to look for ‘easy’ sex.
Tests on 76 male students found that they rated vulnerable-looking women as attractive – lending weight to the idea.
‘Male participants rated photographs of women who displayed varying levels of cues to exploitability,’ say the researchers. The ‘cues’ included being sleepy, stupid or inert – and thus easily exploitable.
‘We identified 22 cues indicative of sexual exploitability. Nineteen of these cues were correlated significantly with sexual attractiveness,’ say the researchers.
Men, the researchers think are ‘born’ to have little concern for the consequences of casual trysts, given that their bodies produce somewhere around 85 million sperm cells every day — per testicle.
Goetz began with the assumption that the brain of modern women is still sensitive to the pregnancy-related consequences of casual sex, making them more reluctant to engage in it than men.
The goal of the study was to test out the hypothesis that a woman who appears silly or inert, or in other words more ‘sexually exploitable,’ is a turn-on for the average straight man.
In the evolutionary psychology sense, the word ‘exploitable’ simply indicates that a woman is willing or can be more easily pressured into having sex, even if she is a prostitute or a nymphomaniac.
The researchers began testing their model by asking a large group of undergraduate students to nominate some specific actions, body postures, attitudes and personality traits that might signal vulnerability, such as exhaustion, intoxication, or low intelligence.
In the end, the participants of the study had produced a list of 88 signs that a woman might by especially receptive to a man’s advances.
Among the chosen red flags were: lip lick/bite; over-the-shoulder look; sleepy; intoxicated; tight clothing; fat; short; unintelligent; punk; attention-seeking and touching breast.
Next, Goetz and her colleagues scoured the Internet for publicly available images of women displaying each of these 88 cues.
Not marriage material: In the study, the men rejected the silly-looking and drunk women as potential wives or girlfriends
Once they had pictures of women licking their lips, partying, wearing sexy clothing, etc., the researchers cross-checked them with a separate group of students who presumed that the photos indeed matched the cues.
The researchers then invited a fresh group of 76 male students and presented them with the images of presumably ‘ripe-for-the-picking’ women, asking them what they thought of each woman’s overall attractiveness, how easy it would be to ‘exploit’ her using anything from a pickup line to physical force, and her appeal to them as either a short-term or a long-term partner.
The study has revealed that the images of fat or short women had no effect. The participants of the study did not view them as either easy to bed or appealing as partners.
But when it came to reading the more psychological and contextual cues—pictures of silly or childish-looking women, or of women who looked sleepy or drunk, men rated them as being easy to ‘score’ with.
More importantly, the dumb-looking and inert women were also perceived as being more attractive than their more lucid or intelligent-looking peers, but only when it came to short-term relationships.
When the men were asked to judge the same liquored-up, silly-looking women in the photos as potential girlfriends and wives, they had entirely lost their appeal on them.
In a follow-up study, the authors tried to add some nuance to their sexual exploitability hypothesis.
Graduate student David Lewis led a project to zero in on the specific type of man who would be most aware to the sort of ‘exploitability’ cues.
Lewis and his colleagues asked 72 straight men to evaluate the same photos as before.
But this time, the researchers also measured some key personality traits in the men themselves, as well as the extent to which they desired and pursued no-strings-attached sex.
This follow-up study has found that the more promiscuous men who happened also to have deficiencies in personal empathy and warmth were the ones most attuned to female ‘exploitability’ cues, which seems to indicate that not all men are sleazy when it comes to pursuing sex.