By Liz Welch
Anna is sitting in a New York café, sipping an English Breakfast tea. Dressed in patterned tights and a black sweaterdress, the 20-something Smith College grad has auburn curls and big brown eyes. Pretty? Yes. Sexy? Sure. Sex addict? No way. But she's currently being treated for sex addiction, seeing a therapist once a week and attending daily support groups, after an affair last year almost ruined her marriage and landed her in sex rehab. "I always knew I focused too much on...
The theory that men's and women's sexual desires are hard-wired
isn't new. It's been controversial for decades. Now a central tenet of
evolutionary psychology, the theory holds that our sexual behavior evolved over
millennia and is encoded in our brains. We aren't doomed to act out these
programs. But they do shape our desires.
According to evolutionary psychology, men and women each
evolved their own strategies for seeking sex partners. If that's true, men's
sexual desires should be the same for men everywhere. And the desires of men
everywhere in the world should differ in the same ways from those of women. The
same would hold true for women.
Now there's convincing new evidence that this is so.
It comes from the International Sexuality Description Project,
led by David P. Schmitt, PhD, Bradley University, Peoria, Ill. The projects
findings appear in the July 2003 issue of the Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology. The title sums it up: "Universal Sex Differences in
the Desire for Sexual Variety: Tests From 52 Nations, 6 Continents, and 13
"Both men and women show signs of being programmed to be
monogamous in a certain way and promiscuous in a certain way," Schmitt
tells WebMD. "The main difference is in short-term mating strategies, or
how men and women go about being promiscuous."
Good Sex Partners vs. Lots of Sex Partners
"We don't say men and women always opt for short-term
strategies," Schmitt says. "What we are talking about is that when they
go for infidelity or promiscuity, men focus on large numbers and women focus on
What really irks Schmitt is that many people interpret this
finding to mean that women are designed to be faithful but men are predestined
to be promiscuous. That's not what the evidence shows. Instead, both women and
men are fully equipped for one-night stands and lifelong relationships.