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Promiscuity Differs by Gender

Men and women are hard-wired for short-term sex -- but must we obey our brains?
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Good Sex Partners vs. Lots of Sex Partners continued...

Schmitt and colleagues asked men and women all over the world about what they wanted from long-term and short-term sexual relationships.

"What we found is that when men opt for short-term mating, they pursue larger numbers of partners than women," Schmitt says. "When women go short-term mating, they don't go for large numbers. They are a little more discriminating. They look for physically attractive men who have masculine facial features. Women look for men who are symmetrical, who are high in social dominance. This doesn't mean all women will be short-term maters. But when they opt to do so, they show these desires."

Another big difference: Men are ready to say "yes" to sex much more quickly than women. They say they'd need to know a person only a relatively short time before consenting to sex. Women want to know their potential partners significantly longer before sex.

Yet another difference points to the origin of the dumb-blonde stereotype: The minds of men.

"Men's preference for intelligence in short-term mates drops off the scale," Schmitt says. "If you look at what men want in a short-term mating partner, a sexual partner as opposed to a marriage partner, they prefer below-average intelligence."

These different desires hold true regardless of whether women or men are married or single, heterosexual or homosexual. And they hold true across six continents.

Different Desires for Marriage Partners

Schmitt's findings also support basic differences between men and women in what they want in a marriage partner.

"These differences aren't as conspicuous as those for short-term desires, but they are still quite distinct," Schmitt says. "Long term, men prefer youth and physical attractiveness while women prefer men who are somewhat older, intelligent, and ambitious. Men prefer women who are intelligent, too, but not as much."

These differences really shouldn't surprise anybody, says Helen E. Fisher, PhD, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J. Fisher is the author of First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World and Anatomy of Love: The Mysteries of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, among other works.

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