#121 When Men Misinterpret Why Women Have Sex with David M. Buss
1) Why women have sex / when and why they desire sex?
2) When women are interested in sex or not / when they're interested in you or not.
We're looking at this subject from a scientific research perspective today with one of the most recognized scientist working in this area. This is an interview I've been wanting to do for quite a while now, so I'm really happy to have this guest on today’s show.
Today's guest is Professor David M. Buss. He's one of the founders of the field of Evolutionary Psychology. He has authored or co-authored over 250 studies in the area. David has taught at Berkeley, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas. His primary research focus is on strategies of human mating, including studies on mate selection, tactics of male attraction, infidelity, tactics of mate retention (e.g. keeping the girl), tactics of mate poaching (e.g. stealing the girl), and the mating emotions of jealousy, lust, and love.
He's also the author of several well-known books looking at the mating dynamics. All of these books are a really thorough look at the subject, so a good place to start also. I've read all of them, in some cases many years ago. These books are: Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between), another one is The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, and another one is The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is Necessary in Love and Sex.
There are some great "ah ha" moments from this interview and takeaways that will probably make you rethink some of your past experiences with women, and see them in a new light, a clearer light. One of my takeaways was that men may need to pay a lot more attention to remaining objective about things when they’re around beautiful women.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- How David became interested in this topic and area (04:25)
- David's current view of the whole area of mating, sexual strategies, etc. Is the view from a combination of the evolutionary / psychology aspect or is there a different view considering all of David's work? (07:15)
- An explanation of EPC - Extra Pair Copulation (12:00)
- David's current relationship and social lifestyle, and his personal perspective (12:55)
- Common misunderstandings about Evolutionary Psychology and how it applies to sex and mating strategies in the media, publications, etc. (14:05)
- A trend in low testosterone and the modification of testosterone levels in men to improve their libido and psychology (18:25)
- The most uncomfortable research conclusions David has come across (20:00)
- Long term mating relationships versus short term mating relationships (23:38)
- The most common or biggest misperceptions of sexual interest (e.g. when women are showing interest, or not, in men): sexual overperception bias (25:08)
- Underlying sexual motivations of women (30:10)
- Is diversity and the sexual motivations of women driven by psychological differences, biological differences, situational differences, or social economics? (36:54)
- The variability of a woman's sexual motivations from day to day (41:14)
- Sexual exploitability cues regarding short term and long term mating (45:38)
- How men misinterpret signals from women that lead to misunderstanding (51:09)
- How to connect with David to learn about more about him and his work (55:14)
- Recommendations for quality advice and knowledge in dating, sex, and relationships (56:30)
- Recommendations for guys wanting to improve this aspect of their lives - quality satisfaction (57:56)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating (David M. Buss)
- Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (David M. Buss)
- The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is Necessary in Love and Sex (David M. Buss)
- Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind (David M. Buss)
- www.davidbuss.com: David's website and the Buss Lab - Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Texas.
- The Mate Switching Hypothesis: David referred to his published paper and how the media misinterpreted the message of the paper. This was used as an example while discussing the misunderstandings about Evolutionary Psychology.
- The Misperception of Sexual Interest (Carin Perilloux, Judith A. Easton, David M. Buss): David referenced this study regarding misperceptions of sexual interest.
- Nathaniel Branden: Angel mentioned Nathaniel Branden while discussing the underlying sexual motivations of women. In a seminar, Branden noted the number of women who had sex, although they didn't really want it, but did not assert themselves to say "no".
- Sexual exploitability: observable cues and their link to sexual attraction (Cari D. Goetz, Judith A. Easton, David M.G. Lewis, David M. Buss): David noted this article / study about the cues women give to men that signal sexual exploitability.
- Geoffrey Miller: David recommends Geoffrey for his knowledge and expertise in Evolutionary Psychology.
- Helen Fisher: David also recommends Dr. Helen Fisher for her knowledge and expertise in Evolutionary Psychology.
Books, Courses and Training from David M. Buss
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]:David, thank you so much for joining us today.
[David M. Buss]:Hey, happy to be talking to you.
[Angel Donovan]:Great, I wanted to jump straight into why you do you what you do. What kind of triggers it because, you've been pursuing this research for a long time? So, was there a time in your life when you got triggered and took an interest in this topic in particular? Had something happened or why do you take sure a great interest in this area?
[David M. Buss]:Well, I guess it started when I was an undergraduate at university and I wrote a paper as an undergraduate for small undergraduate seminar called Dominant/Access to Women where I reviewed some of the criminological data on status and mating and some of the human data, read some ethnographies of traditional societies. Somehow, the topic just gripped me as an undergraduate.
Then when I went to get my PhD, I kind of did a little bit of... I did a fair amount of reading on the side but, the topic didn't gain any resonance but, I was interested in not just mating but, human nature and what are the causal origins of human nature. I wasn't getting good answers in my graduate classes that or my undergraduate classes for that matter and it kind of lead me to evolutionary theory and what I wanted to is to integrate evolutionary theory with psychology and in my case with the special focus on human mating strategies because, that's what interests me.
I noticed that a lot of social activities seemed to revolve around mating. Status seemed to be related to mating. Mating seemed to permeate everything including, conversations I was having with my friends, conversations everyone else was having, movies, TV, literature, plays, everything. I mean, mating permeates everything but, it was almost entirely untouched in the field of psychology. So, I started dabbling a little bit, doing a little bit of research and then, one thing lead to another and it just took over my life.
[Angel Donovan]:It snowballed.
[David M. Buss]:It snowballed, exactly. Fortunately integrating an evolutionary perspective, really shed a lot of light on our sexual psychology and our mating psychology. So scientifically, it started to pang off and at the time I started doing it, there was really no one else who was doing it. At the time, I mean... there was I guess Aleta Cosmeties [phonetic] [00:06:44] was starting to apply it to cooperation and social exchange but, there was almost no work on applying evolutionary theory to human mating strategies.
So in a way, I was very fortunate. I got in on the ground floor and started doing stuff before anyone else was doing it. Then of course now, it's really exploded and there's a massive amount of research and of course, popular books on the topic.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, there is mountain. So, how do you look at it today? Do you have like little boxes like when you're looking at the whole area of mating and sexual strategies and so on? Do you look at it as just a combination of the evolutionary aspects and psychology aspect, like you were just explaining or do you have a different view of it today after all the work you've done and how do you kind of fit the pieces and other people's research in your head?
[David M. Buss]:Yeah okay, that's a big question. So, I'll try to take a stab at it but, I guess the way that I see it is I think the fundamental framework that I started with is still in some ways the fundamental framework that I use to understand mating strategies today and that's sexual selection theory. That really has two basic components which is, as Darwin identified which is mate preference. So, whatever qualities are desired by one sex in the other sex, that creates selection pressure because, those possessive the desired qualities get chosen. Those who lack the desired qualities get ignored, banished or left out of the mating scene. So over time, you see an increase in frequency of desired qualities, just simply as a function of these mate preferences. That's what evolution means, it's just change over time.
The other process is inter-sexual competition or same-sex competition and in same-sex competition, basically members of one sex compete with one another in various way, physically, socially, in terms of status hierarchies, in terms of verbal sparing or verbal derogation. The winners of these same-sex competitions have a mating advantage. In the case of males, they get preferential sexual access to women. Again, you see evolution which is change and the increase in the frequency of qualities associated with winning these same-sex battles, whether physical or social.
That's the fundamental framework, it's sexual selection theory that gave rise to our mating psychology that we all carry around with us today. Now to get to the other aspect of your question or another cut at your question, what is the mating psychology that evolution has given rise to? The way that I look at it is that we have a menu of mating strategies. We don't have just one mating strategy. We have a collection.
We do short-term mating. We do long-term committed mating. That one may seem obvious but, it's actually quite rare in the animal world. Only something like 3% of all mammal do long-term committed mating but, humans do. Then, we do infidelity or EPC mating. We do serial mating which is very common. So, we break up, mate with one person, break up and re-mate with another person, break up. So in studies in Western cultures, something like 85% of all people have been through at least one romantic break up. So, re-mating, serial is a very common mating strategy.
We have this collection of mating strategies and menu and which particular mating strategy we adopt or implement depends heavily on things like our own mate value. So, are a 9, a 7 a 5 or a 3 because, those higher in mate value can more easily implement their preferred mating strategy.
It also depends on things like the sex ratio in the mating pool. So, is there a surplus of women or is there a surplus of men because, that really changes the mating dynamics. The rarer sex tends to have higher mate value.
It also depends on various other kind of social input. Even things like social norms, cultural norms, what is legally permitted, etc. and so, I think many of these social and personal context influence the degree to which we pursue one mating strategy versus another and also influence the success of our pursuit of one mating strategy versus another.
That's sort of an overview of the skeleton of how I think about mating. Then if you're interested, we can get into the detail of, "Okay well, what about long-term mating? What about short-term mating? What are our adaptions to switch mates? What about infidelity? We can get into any of those topics if you're interested but, that's kind of an overview.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah absolutely and I wanted to dig into some of your more recent papers I've seen go up. You mentioned an acronym there. EPC was it?
[David M. Buss]:Yeah, it stands for Extra Pair Copulation. So the pair, meaning the main pair bound. Extra Pair meaning your copulating with someone outside the pair bond. It's a very common acronym used in the avian biology literature and it's been adopted in the evolutionary psychology. So, people refer to you know...
[Angel Donovan]:That's like affairs?
[David M. Buss]:But evolutionary conferences and people talk about EPC, it's sort of evo-speak if you will.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, right. For people at home, is that always infidelity or can it mean other things as well?
[David M. Buss]:Usually, infidelity. I guess when an open relationship, then it's not necessary infidelity. So, it can consensual.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, like the polyamory and the swinging cultures, communities.
[David M. Buss]:Yes, consensual non-monogamy, yeah which those would be two examples.
[Angel Donovan]:Great, great. Well, I thank you for that. I was just wondering how about where you are at today in your relationship and social life style. Where did you end up in this? Are you like married or how do you look at this from a personal perspective?
[David M. Buss]:Well, I prefer not to get too much into my personal life but, yeah basically... over time, one of the things you find out as you get to know yourself and I'm basically fundamental, there are individual differences, dispositional difference in the degree in which prefer pursuing short-term versus long-term mating and I have come to realize about myself that I'm just fundamentally a long-term mater. I have been in multiple relationship. So, I guess you'd say I'm a serial mater.
[Angel Donovan]:In this structure, well I think most people are today, right? With the divorce rate and everything it seems like there's a lot of relationships that last about ten years which is a pretty long relationship. A lot of people have seemed to have had 10 years, 10 years, 10 years or maybe 15 years and son on.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah or now in some cases, five or if you're in Hollywood, maybe 18 months is a long relationship.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, I've live in LA. There's a bit faster pace there. So yeah, I wanted to dive into a bit more some other stuff here. First of all, because your work has been published in many, many books now. It's been putting our there and some it's been taken by the media and popular and it's kind of been spread and carried out there and I was just wondering if there were some big or common misunderstandings about evolutionary psychology and how it applies to sex and mating strategies that you see a lot in the news or in other books or places like these?
[David M. Buss]:Yes well, there are a lot of misunderstandings. Translating the scientific work, when it gets translated into the media outlets, there's a fair amount of distortion. Just as one example, I published a paper recently that got some media attention in the UK. It was called The Mate Switching Hypothesis and I talked about adaptations for mate switching, one of which is infidelity or affairs. I focused on women, that women sometimes have affairs as a means of mate switching.
The way that this got translated though... and I talked about the circumstance in which it would occur, various nuances and contextual features. The way it gets translated into some is "Women genetically programmed to cheat." That's not really what the message is. Do we have adaptations that come on line for infidelity in certain circumstance? Absolutely but, it's sort of different. So, that's one of the misunderstanding is this sort of genetic program language which implies that we're these robots that can't do otherwise and that are oblivious to social context to reputation to social and environmental influences and it's simply not true.
That's sort of one cut and a related one is this distinction, which is a false dichotomy that people bend things into two categories. Things are either evolved or environmental, genetic or social or there are these two categories and there aren't these two categories of causes. I mean, one of things that evolutionary does is it breaks down this artificial dichotomy. We have an evolved mating psychology that is designed to be sensitive to social conditions, like our own mate value, like the sex ration, like the cultural norms around mating.
There aren't these two separate causes. All we have is our evolved psychology that's designed to be responsive to those social conditions. ThatÕs a difficult thing to get across to people. So, sometimes I use... to try to clarify some of these misunderstanding, I use physical examples which are overly simplified but, sometimes help to get across the point.
One I use this callused-producing mechanism. So if I say, "You have calluses on your hands," and you say, "Well, is that environmental or is that biological?" Well that's in a way a nonsensical question because, in order to get calluses, it requires the environment of repeated friction to the skin and it requires an adaptation, a callus-producing physiological adaptions that is designed to be responsive to that repeated friction that says, "Grow new skins in this area of your body."
If you apply that to human mating, one example I use there is jealousy. As people, we have an evolve psychology of jealousy when it comes to long-term mating but, we don't wake up in the morning with this blind robotic jealous instinct that causes us to go out and do weird stuff. What is, it's an evolved adaptation that's responsive to certain social input.
Namely his partner displaying cues to infidelity or "Is there a mate value discrepancy between me and my partner such that my partner can do better elsewhere and that trips my jealousy adaptation." So, the framework is fundamentally an interactionist one and so, the media questions that say, "Well, is this... are you saying it's biological rather than social?" It's a nonsensical question from that perspective.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, so it sounds like it's often reduced to nature versus nature and try to single those out?
[David M. Buss]:Right.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, right, right. I understand. Just on that, something that we've spoken about often on the podcast previously, we also do in our coaching programs is talking to guys about testosterone levels because, what we do is get a lot of them to get tested and they tend to be relatively low in some cases for the guys we're coaching. So like, lower than 400 ng per desilted, for example. The average is like 500 or something.
Personally what I found is that, if we basically naturally modify that through diet, exercise and some other things, their libidos change a little bit and also, they're psychology tend to change a little bit, more focused, more driven and things like this. I don't know if you've ever seen this kind of stuff treated or you've looked at that yourself because, it seems to be a trend of testosterone going down. Not actually sure why for guys, even younger guys say in their 20s or early 30s even.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah, I have read some of that and I guess the causes are unknown. I mean, I know that there are certain estrogenic compounds in plastics that potentially could be one of the causes of that. My understanding is that testosterone acts as kind of threshold when it comes to sexuality anyway. That you need a certain amount but, above that amount that there isn't necessarily a relationship between testosterone and sex drive but, if you're below that amount, then it can kill the sex drive.
[Angel Donovan]:Okay, excellent. The other thing I wanted to get from your perspective is what has been the most uncomfortable research conclusions you've come across over time?
[David M. Buss]:Well, I guess there are a few. Well, I'll mentioned two and they're kind of related. One is the desire for sexual variety and it's clear that there are large sex differences in that. I mean, there's overlap in the distributions and I know plenty of women who have very strong desire for sexual variety and are "male like" in their sexuality but, if you look at the distributions and things like sex drive, how many partners do you want to have, how many sex partners do you want to have, how turned on are you by novelty of someone you haven't slept with.
All of these indicators indicate massive sex differences and we're not talking about small effects. In psychology, these dwarf the standard effect sizes in psychology and I think it's something that... it's interesting because, it's something that women don't fully understand and I've talked to many thousand of women by this point about mating and they said things like, "Well, I have a desire for sexual variety too" but, I don't think that they understand that a man could walk down two city blocks in a major city and pass half a dozen women and have perhaps fleeting sexual thoughts about all six of them. Where as, I think most women wouldn't experience that.
So, there's this large sex difference and from a male perspective, it's almost like evolution has played a nasty trick in that it's created in us a desire that can never be fulfilled. Perhaps, if you're a king or a despot or Hugh Hefner or someone who has enormous access to sexual variety, sexual access that then, you could perhaps fill but, for most men, it's a desire that can never be fulfilled. It's unquenchable, if you will.
That's something that's uncomfortable and women don't, as a general rule don't... women fell uncomfortable with those findings and related to that is that people worry about that this work give people an excuse to cheat. So, they say, "Oh Honey, I couldn't help it. My genes made me do it or my evolved desire for sexuality variety forced me to sleep with the next door neighbor's wife. I couldn't help it." So, people worry about the kind of moral justification or excusing what some perceive as bad behavior.
Those are kind of uncomfortable. I think men would be uncomfortable if they fully understand women's sexual desire. The fact is, even though their women tend to have a lower desire for sexual variety, women in relationships are still attracted to other men. They do have an evolved psychology of infidelity, of affairs and of using infidelity sometimes to get out of a bad relationship or to trade up. So, I think that's kind of... I think it would be disturbing to men if they knew the full extent of women's sexual psychology.
[Angel Donovan]:I know that as I've learned more over time. I've been doing this for 15 years now and I've read a lot of books including yours and other people's, there's been definitely periods of discomfort reading new things. You have to kind of assimilate it, especially if you're in a long-term relationship and that's your interest. I guess, it's something you kind of need to get over and start to work with.
[David M. Buss]:What's your mating situation, by the way?
[Angel Donovan]:I've just recently got into a relationship but, I've been more focused on relationships for about five years. So, it's interesting. I see it as unproductive. I did short-term mating for a long time and dating multiple women and these kinds of things. I found it took all my time and it kind of like my energy too. It was a huge distraction in my life and I wanted to get other things done. I've a couple of businesses and other things and I want to get other things done in life. So at one point, I decided to change and focus on long-term and I've been much more satisfied.
[David M. Buss]:Right, yeah that's interesting because, one of things I... I mean, I supervised a lot of graduate students and have over the years and one of the things I kind of hope is that they get into a... or are in a stable long-term relationship because, if they're not then, it's like their mating psychology's activated all the time and they can't concentrate on their work.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, right, yeah, yeah. Absolutely, it stabilizes things and you see the best teams in the world is our president and his wife and these kind of power-couple and can get some... who achieve a lot in life. I think, a lot of the guys who achieve a lot in life, they've got stable relationships throughout their life. Not all of them but, I think it kind of leans more that way rather than having someone getting distracted all the time with new relationships and so on. Yeah.
[David M. Buss]:Yes.
[Angel Donovan]:Great, because I wanted to dive into more... because, you've done some work more recently looking at women's motivations and interest levels. What would you say the most or biggest misperceptions of sexual interest? When women are showing interest or not in men for example.
[David M. Buss]:The biggest misperceptions? I guess there are a few that we could talk about. One is the one thing I've published on a fair amount is what I call The Sexual Overperecption Bias and I first wrote about it in my... The Evolution of Desire, my first book. Then, Marty Hazelton and I have published several pieces on that where we looked at it in a laboratory and then, a bunch of other people has as well. We've done some laboratory studies. Karen Paralu [phonetic][25:47] is another one where a former grad student of mine did a really cool lab study on that topic.
What that is, The Sexual Overperecption Bias is basically that when confronted with ambiguous cues, like a smile or a touch on the arm, men tend to over infer sexual interest on the part of the woman. The tricky part of that is that a smile is probabilistically related to sexual interest. I mean, people don't tend to scowl at people they're sexually interested in but, a smile could also mean just friendliness or it could mean politeness or it could even mean nervousness. It's an inherently ambiguous signal or cue but, what we found is that men tend to over infer sexual interest.
What we found in the lab is one really cool twist on that is that this male Sexual Overperecption Bias is especially pronounced with physically attractive women. What's interesting about that is that these are precisely the women who are least likely to reciprocate that sexual attraction or least likely to have it because, high-mate value and sexually attractive women have their choice. So, they're going to be the most discriminating and it was an interesting finding that men are most likely to do it under conditions in which it's least likely to be accurate.
[Angel Donovan]:Do you have any ideas what that is? Is it because it's scarce and it happens to him once in his life and he's like, "Oh, this has to be right because, it's my chance"?
[David M. Buss]:Right yeah, I think it's... I mean, there's a lot of evidence on the effect of physically attractive women on male brains. So, even FMRI studies that show that it just lights up the nucleus acuminate which is one of the pleasure centers of the brain. So, I think it just... it literally, men feel this almost this high or pleasure or attraction of looking at sexually attractive women so... who tend on average to be the most reproductively valuable or fertile but also, I think there's a bit of this... part of the adaption is projection where men find it inconceivable that if they're so attracted to this woman, that she wouldn't experience the same reciprocal attraction to them. Even though cognitively, if you took a step back, they could say, "Oh yes, I know she's probably out of my league" but, in the moment, it's very hard to delink those two.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, in a way, it sounds like when he's more emotional effected because, she's prettier. When he's more effected, he can't maybe as rational about it.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah, yeah and I'll give you a personal anecdote about that. So, I've been teaching about this for a long time and this is a while back. I was teaching a small undergraduate seminar and as I was describing the Sexual Overperecption Bias, this one woman in the class is like a light bulb was going off in her head. She stayed after class and talked to me. She said that this explained why her relationship with her boyfriend broke up.
She was very attractive. She was also very friendly. So, she was like very smiley, very approachable. She said she and her boyfriend would go into these bars and guys would be hitting up on her constantly and her boyfriend was just... his jealousy adaption was constantly turning on and it just... they had to break up because, it was unsustainable but, here is the odd twist to this, as she's describing this to me, I think she's coming on to me.
[Angel Donovan]:Oh wow! Right.
[David M. Buss]:Even though, I just had taught about the Sexual Overperecption Bias, I know about it but, it was like she was attractive and she was smiling. I felt she was coming on to me. It was like... it was one of these things that cognitively you can delink it to but, in the moment you experience that adaptation coming on line.
[Angel Donovan]:Coming from you, that is really powerful. Yeah, given all the time you've spent looking at this.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah well, it's strange because, it's almost like putting sugar on your tongue, it's impossible not to experience that as sweet. Even though... I mean, you can do whatever cognitive machinations you want but, you will always experience that as sweet and I think the same is true for attractive women.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, that's really powerful thank you for the example. What would be some of the underlining sexual motivations of women that stand out most for you? Guys kind of want to understand where they're coming from. Is it the most common? Again, the most uncomfortable ones are interesting. You know, the things that guys might avoid understanding.
[David M. Buss]:Well as you know, I wrote this book with my colleague Cindy Meston called Why Women Have Sex and that's what we explored. What we were interested in and the reason that we titled it Why Women Have Sex rather than Why Women Want Sex or Why Women Desire Sex is because, women have sex, desire is only one motivations for why women have sex.
Women have sex sometimes, they feel obligated to, sometimes because they feel it's socially appropriate or they want to fit into their peer or everyone else is doing it or to get drugs or to get money or women have sex for a variety of reasons. So, we separate out the question of what causes women to desire sex from what causes women to have sex, if that makes sense. So, those are kind of distinct things for the reasons I explained.
I guess on of the things that surprised me... so, there's a whole psychology around when women do desire sex. So, we know for example, a fair amount about sexual attraction, like what guys women are attracted. As a general rule, women are turned on by guys who have high self confidence, not arrogance necessarily or narcissism but, who are confident, who have status, who are well-respected by their peer group, who have an engaging personality. So, personality characteristics play in. A sense of humor is important, I think for a variety of reasons because, humor signals both verbal adeptness, a perceptive taking because you have to understand would cause someone else experience that as funny.
[Angel Donovan]:It's nuanced.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah, it's very nuanced and context specific. So, it requires a bunch of interesting skills that women value and also typically, if you do it in a social group, it requires a certain amount of social verve or confidence. So, that's important.
In long-term mating, other qualities become really important like emotional stability. Is the guy dependable? Is he in good health, etc. and then, even physical characteristics. We know a fair amount that women are attracted to guys with the V-shaped, physical torso, a high shoulder to hip ratio, good fitness but, not necessarily muscle bound. So, this is one of the areas that make as they think that women like men more muscular than in fact they do.
[Angel Donovan]:So, they over estimate?
[David M. Buss]:They over estimate. Men over estimate that. So I mean, one of the things you can do is just look at men's magazine, magazines that geared toward men like Men's Health or any of those magazine, look at the men depicted on them. Those tend to more muscular or muscle bound than women typically want. They want a guy who's fit but, not necessarily spends eight hours in the gym because, that also can signal narcissism which is a big turn off for women, especially in long-term mating.
Now, we have to distinguish between... in my work, I distinguish between short-term mating and long-term mating and I think that's critical because, the types of guys women are attracted to in short-term mating tend to be somewhat different than in long-term. There's a lot of overlap. So, status is important in both but, in long-term mating, as I mentioned things like dependability, stability, kind, understanding, nice-guy qualities, good dad qualities are more important in long-term.
In the short-term, those are somewhat less important and so, women tend to in short-term for more cocking, slightly arrogant, more bad-buy, risk-taking kind of guys. Those are more attractive in short-term mating. There's some difference but, there's still a fair amount of overlap.
Then, there's the issue of why women have sex and one of the things that jumped out at me is when I wrote this book with Cindy Meston, Why Women Have Sex is how many women have unpleasant sexual experiences. That is, they feel degraded or they feel used or the guy wasn't interested in their pleasure, their sexual pleasure at all or wasn't interested in a relationship or pretended they were interested in a relationship, had sex and then, never called them again. I mean, just episode after episode after episode. We had different samples in different studies but, one qualitative study where we got women to describe their actual sexual experiences, there were about 1500 women in that study and it was just really an eye-opener how many sexual experiences for women are not that pleasant.
I don't know. If I were to offer tips to guys Boy, I mean I think a lot of men have a lot to learn about making sex good for women and making them good for women ultimately, it will be good for them because, women like guys who are good in bed or give them... who are about them who give them good sexual experiences and good mating experiences.
I think there is a lot of cross-sex misinformation that could be bridged. So, I think there's a lot of scientific knowledge where men could learn a lot more about women's sexual psychology and mating psychology in ways that would help both the women they're involved with and themselves to have better mating relationships.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, awesome. Really interesting stuff there. Have you heard Nathaniel Brandon? He was a writer, recently died.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]:I was listening to one of his programs just recently and he was talking in a seminar. He asked all the women who had had sex when they didn't really want but, they didn't really assert themselves to say they didn't want to. So, they didn't say no and they just had sex anyway because, he used to speak a lot about self-assertiveness and the importance and so on for confidence. There was like 20%, 30% of the women in the room which would put their hands up and all the guys would be looking at them like, "Wow. Like, that's crazy." It's not something they really didn't think about.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]:That it was a situation. Is diversity in the sexual motivations of women driven psychological different, biological differences? I know, you've kind of said these two things are basically from your perspective. Is it also situational differences, socioeconomics?
[David M. Buss]:Yeah, I would say all of the above and I would add age is another factor that plays into it but, all of the variables you mentioned are critical. I think there are fundamental individual differences among women in a variety of aspects of sexual psychology. One of the most important I think is libido or sex drive and they're just these shear individual differences.
I've known women who just have a very high sex drive and some women have an average sex drive. Some women have a low sex drive and for a long-term relationship, it's I think really important to try to be matched on that because, when there's a discrepancy... I mean, in the first few months of a relationship, they're in the what I call the "fuck like bunnies" phase and you don't necessarily notice that there is a fundamental baseline difference in sex drive but, that emerges. I mean, once you get out of that phase of the relationship, those differences can emerge and if you're really mismatched, it can cause problems because, the person who has the higher sex drive is always feeling frustrated or feeling like their imposing on the other.
So, that's one and I that includes I think even how easily orgasmic women are. Some women are very easily orgasmic and other women, it takes a long time and a lot of effort and attention to get there. I think there are individual differences among women and who their attracted to which is a good thing. I mean, if all women were attracted to exactly the same guys, that would problematic but, some women go for the more, I don't know what it's called these days but, it used to be called "metro-sexual" guys, slightly less masculine, sensitive, nice guy types. Other women go for more masculine kind of alpha, head-of-the-pack, kind of high status guys and that's an individual difference variable in what guys women are attracted to.
I think that there are also differences in how sexually assertive women are. So, some women want the guy to take all the initiative and make all the moves and so of dictate what goes on sexually and then, others are you know more dominant, more assertive, more comfortable initiating and telling the guy what they want. There are those fundamental individual differences, some of which are stable over time. Although sometimes, they interact with particular relationships. So, you can have a great sex life with one person and a lousy sex life with another person for example. Some people are good in bed together and some people aren't for one reason or another.
I think, I'm just kind of rambling here through a potential. One of the things that guys... here's another potential misunderstanding. Guys are heavily visual and so, visual stuff matters a lot and it's probably the primary sense for guys in sexual attraction. For women, it's more distributed and olfactory cues, sense of smell is extremely important to women. I think guys don't know this.
For one thing, women have a more acute sense of smell and so, women notice things that guys don't but, the other is they're very sensitive to just how a guy smells. So, a guy can look good, he can sound good, he can be good on many things but, if he doesn't smell good to a woman, it's a huge turn off. It can literally go from... be a non-starter if he doesn't smell good. I think that's something guys don't fully appreciate is how different women are in that. It's not just sense of smell. It's how the guy sounds and how the guy feels, sense of touch and other aspects but, sense of smell, I think is one of those things that guys don't fully donÕt understand about women.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. It's the way guys are. They don't tend to focus on the smell a lot.
How variable is one woman's sexual motivations from day to day. So, there's differences between different women and stuff but, can a woman change a lot, day to day, month to month, year to year?
[David M. Buss]:Yeah absolutely and situation to situation and I'll give a couple examples. So, some of this stuff is probably well-known to you... well obviously well-known to you and probably to some of your listeners is menstrual cycle effects or ovulation cycle effects. So, women who are not taking the pill tend to be attracted to guys who are somewhat more masculine, somewhat more symmetrical, guys are a bit more dominant when they're in the ovulation phase of their cycle. Although, the effects sizes there are turning out not to be large.
But one things that is pretty clear and this is... so, it depends on whether the woman is on hormonal contraceptives or not because, that tends to flatten out the whole cycle in terms of sexual attraction and in terms of hormonal variation like testosterone, estradiol and so forth. But among women not taking the pill, it's pretty clear that sex drive, sexual motivation amps up just before and around ovulation in women. So, that's one thing but, this again, this is among women who are on hormonal contraceptives.
The other things, and I'll give you one anecdote on this and I think I described in one of my books but, this is a female colleague of mine who happens to be an evolutionary psychologist but, she described going to a professional conference where she found herself very sexually attracted to the conference organizer. Then, he saw him six months later... didn't do anything but, say him six months later and he was just a participant at the conference and she didn't find him at all attractive and she wondered like, "What was I thinking?"
She realized it was basically a status effect. That women are very attracted to a guy who's, in this case the organizer, or a high-status guy or the guy to whom everyone else is paying attention and listening to. That situation of sort of moving from a high status to a lower status position is really important in women's sexual attraction. Now, this is just one social context that influences it. One of the interesting aspects of that is that what it means is that guys when they move from one social environment to another, their mate value changes substantially because, we belong to multiple social groups.
So, even in my context, I got to an evolution conference, I have much more status than when I got to, I don't know a physics conference or something like that, just to pick a random example. I mean, I ride motorcycles. So, among my motorcycles group, I don't have as high a status as I do among my professional colleagues. Where as the head guy who has the coolest motorcycle, he has high status in that group.
So male status varies both moment to moment and social context to social context. Whereas, women's does not vary as much because, physical appearance is much larger component of women's mate value, they're mate value remains more constant across social context. So in a way, guys experience these massive fluctuations or can.
[Angel Donovan]:That's kind of the life of women. It's more wavy, right? They have to deal with more ups and downs. It could be more confusing. Like you say, you see someone one day, you see them another day in a different context and because, it's very status driven, you're like, "I kind of liked that guy yesterday. What's going on?"
[David M. Buss]:Right, yeah.
[Angel Donovan]:It must be quite disturbing.
[David M. Buss]:Exactly and this even translates into things that go on within relationships. We found this in our study. My studies with Cindy Meston where a guy comes home and he's gotten a promotion at work. Women say, "I know this shouldn't be like this but, I just feel more sexually attracted to him."
[David M. Buss]:Or you know, "He just got fired. For some reason, I'm not in the mood today."
[Angel Donovan]:Right, right, right. I mean, I think this is something that guys really struggle with in relationships. You see the ups and downs that they don't necessarily understand. So, I think just bringing up might give some of them some insights as to why women can be up at one point and a bit down at another point in terms of attraction and sexual interest and so on.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, it really stands out. Okay so, talking about more about how guys understand interest levels. One of the things you spoke about in some of your research is sexual exploitability cues?
[David M. Buss]:Yes, so... well, that gets to the issue of short-term and long-term mating. So, I think that men very clearly have a distinct short-term mating psychology that is distinct from their long-term mating psychology and gets denigrated. Sometimes, people will bemoan. They talk about men have viewed some women as madonnas and others as whores or whatever. I mean, there are these dichotomies but, I think it's an unpleasant truth that we do have an evolved psychology in my terms of short-term and long-term mating and guys do view some women as short-term mates.
If they're pursuing a short-term mating strategy or a short-term mating strategy with a particular woman, it's a different suite of psychological mechanism come on line. What comes on line in short-term mating is they basically want sexual access as quickly as possible to attractive women ideally, with as little cost, as little risk and as little investment of time, energy and resources as possible.
So what... we did some research and this is with Kari Goetz who's know a professor at Cal State, San Bernardino and Davis Lewis and Judy Easton, we have this little sub-group of... they were then graduate students and what we interested in is identifying what cues single to men sexual exploitability. That is, which women could be exploited for short-term sex with low risk, low cost, without getting entangled in an encumbering relationship.
We did it through photographs but, the photographs convey a bunch of information including things like inebriation. Is the woman drunk or does she seem on drugs or disabled in some way? Cognitively challenged, so if the woman doesn't appear too bright, then women who are not too bright are more easily sexually exploitable. I mean, the same with guys. Intelligence is one of things where part of intelligence is social intelligence and the ability to exploit and not be a victim of exploitation.
Then also some women, even by the way they dress give off cues to sexual exploitability. Even things like, tight skirts, showing a lot of skin, low cut blouses and so forth, they don't invariably mean that women are sexually exploitable but, they're probabilistic cues that the woman's more likely to be into short-term mating.
So, really that's what the study was designed and what we found is, we asked... so we had like several different studies but, one of the studies was we asked, "How attractive are these women as a short-term mate versus a long-term mate," and we found a fairly large difference. So, some women... so like cue to intelligence, men view as very attractive in long-term mating but, not attractive as much in short-term mating. Cues to... you know, sometimes I joke that in short-term mating, the woman in terms of intelligence all she has to do is be able to mumble a little bit and that's okay with guys. They have very low minimum thresholds on intelligence in short-term mating. So really, that's what that's about and that guys who are pursuing a short-term mating strategy are more likely to be looking for women who are potentially sexually exploitable.
[Angel Donovan]:So, did you see a correlation with how sexually attractive the women were?
[David M. Buss]:Well, guys found sexually attractive women to be more sexually exploitable but, this is where I think there's a distinction between... and we found this in our other work as well between body and face. So for men, body tends to be much more important in short-term. Face tends to be more important in long-term. Whereas for women, body and face were both equally important in short- and long-term but, guys seem to show this distinction between body and face depending on whether it's short-term or long-term.
[Angel Donovan]:That's very interesting, yeah. Guys can probably ask themselves at home if they're... how interested in faces they are in general. Like them a gage on how motivated they are long-term wise versus short-term wise.1
[David M. Buss]:Yeah.
[David M. Buss]:But guys... I mean, as I kind of alluded to in the beginning, we sometimes pursue mixed mating strategies. So, I know a lot of guys who do short-term but, they say they're really hoping they meet the one and only and settle down to the long-term. Some people are in long-term relationship and do the occasional short-term on the side. So, it's not like people are in one or other although, there are some people who are.
[Angel Donovan]:Right and people go through phases. So, I was thinking earlier when you talking about the mismatch of libidos. I have some friends who have had a lot of difficulty in marriages and I think it could be down to mismatch of libido. You know, he has a high libido and his wife has lower libido. So, he tends to go and cheat. Probably to make up the difference and to kind of keep things stable because, he wants to stay in the marriage but, he doesn't seem able to do that. So, that could be one situation where that's playing out.
In terms of the guys themselves and how they may misinterpret signals, what kind of things could lead to that? We spoke about jealousy earlier. Is jealousy often correct or is self-esteem... like things about the guys and what they're going through currently or some aspect of him that could influence misunderstanding of cues or interest and so on?
[David M. Buss]: Well yeah, I think there's a lot of room for misunderstanding there. I mean, one of them we talked a little bit about. If a guy happens to be with a woman who's very friendly and very smiley, that's... you want to know about male Sexual Overperecption Bias, they're are going to be a lot more guys who are interested. So, that's one.
I think that jealous is a very complicated topic and if you're interested, we might want to do an entirely separate pod cast on that because, it's too complicated to get into in a short period of time but, I can just mention one or two things about it. That is that jealousy in my view is an evolved adaptation that's designed to be sensitive to potential infidelity and potentially defection, that is the woman leaving the relationship. It's triggered, jealousy is triggered not just by cues to infidelity or cues to mate poachers but, it's also triggered by things that are statistically predictive or potential future defection or infidelity.
I've already mentioned one earlier, like a mate value discrepancy. As a general rule, people are coupled up or pair up based on similarity on overall mate value. So the eights, go with eights, the sixes with the sixes but, over time sometimes, there's a change. So let's say, I don't know, the guy loses his job. All of sudden, he goes from an eight to a six or a woman all of a sudden starts making more money than the guy. She goes from an eight to a nine.
It changes over time. Nothing is static in mating. That's one of the fascinating and disturbing things about it. So, mate value discrepancy is going to open up or an alternative mate could present themselves. So, things could be going around quite well and then all of a sudden, there's a new potential mate that the woman is interested in or might be interested in.
Jealousy is designed to... it's like a smoke alarm. It's a signal detection mechanism that picks up on both actual threats and statistically predictors or actual threats. So, it's difficult to know when it's being... when it's accurate or when you're misfiring on it because, just like smoke alarms, smoke alarms go off often when there's no fire. So, it's difficult to know. That's why we have jealousy adaptations that are set so sensitively because, it's really bad to misfire in your relationship or in your house.
Jealousy, I think can have positive functions, if it doesn't get too extreme. A bit of jealousy is often good, especially early in the relationship because, women use it as a gage of how committed the guy is. So, if you go to a party with your girlfriend and the girlfriend starts sitting on someone else's lap and kissing and you have zero jealousy, that tells her maybe you're not very invested in the relationship. Maybe you don't love her. Maybe you don't care.
So women actually sometimes intentionally try to evoke jealousy as an assessment to gage how committed the guy is to her. It's a complicated mix of things.
[Angel Donovan]:That's interesting. So, I lived in Asia for a while and the girls there actually verbalize the need for their boyfriend to feel jealous about them. If you don't show jealousy, they'll bring it up and like, "Why don't you care that I'm doing this? I'm upset it because, you should feel jealous. I need to feel you're jealous. Otherwise, I don't feel safe." It's kind of funny they actually verbalize it over there. I think it's become recognized in culture. I'm talking about Shang Hi, China, for instance. They used to talk about it.
What are the best ways for people to connect with you and learn more about your work?
[David M. Buss]:Through my books or my main articles. My website is http://www.DavidBuss.com and on that website, I have links to all of my books. So, The Evolution of Desire, The Dangerous Passion, Why Women Have Sex and if you're interested in mating and murder, I have a book called The Murderer Next Door and then also, the text book Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind.
On the website, I also have links to all of my scientific articles which can be downloaded for free and then, I also have links on the website to interviews. So, if you go to... or you can go to my website or you can go to http://www.YouTube.com and just type in my name, David Buss and bunch of interviews. Like I did an interview with Richard Dawkins or he actually interviewed me and there are some others. I did one recently with Gads Od who's... that turned out to be a pretty good interview.
So through http://YouTube.com but, the main thing is my website hhtp://www.DavidBuss.com. I think it's the main source.
[Angel Donovan]:Excellent, we'll put links to all of that in the show notes so guys can easily find it all. Thanks for that. It's great.
Who besides yourself would you recommend for knowledge in this whole area or advice?
[David M. Buss]:Jeffery Miller is certainly one. He's published a fair amount on the topic. Let's see, who else? Hellen Fisher has done some work on the topic. I guess, I think it depends on whether your listeners are interested in evolutionary psychology roughly speaking because, there's a fair amount of work on. I mean, there's the evolutionary psychology of status hierarchies, status, prestige, reputation, for example. Evolutionary psychology of cooperation, of aggression, other things and these things are all related to mating but, are also important topics in and of themselves.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, right, right. I think probably the majority of the listeners are more focused over... I can see how status... you know, that's going drive everything.
[David M. Buss]:Yeah for that, I have a whole chapter in my book Evolutionary Psychology Text on status, dominance and prestige and reputation. So, I do that's an extremely important topic. For mating, I mean given that that's one of the things that drives women sexual attraction and mating attraction, that's something that increases a guy's mate value tremendously. As we talked about earlier with those examples. So, it would probably help guys to know a lot about status and reputation.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah, yeah. That's very controllable, a lot more than other things, probably.
[David M. Buss]:Yes, yeah, you can't alter your height.
[Angel Donovan]:Right, exactly, yeah. What would be your top three takeaways to guys who just want to improve this aspect of their lives, just quality satisfaction. I know like from your research and everything, what would be the top three things you think guys could benefit from?
[David M. Buss]:Well, I think one is... they're probably more than three but, I'll just pick three that I think are important. One is I think it's important to know what you're mating strategy is. So, are you interesting in short-term mating or long-term mating or both and as you pointed out earlier, sometimes the life of a short-term mater can seem very glamorous but, as you pointed out, it's a lot of work and sometimes, it can chew up all your time. I mean, time is... that's all we have. We have a finite amount of time and there are opportunity costs as economists call them and time devoted to one thing is time you can't spend on another. So that's one thing.
And because of the types of women, the types of attraction tactics you're going to use are going to differ somewhat depending on whether you're going after short-term mates or long-terms mates. So, that's one thing. You have to know yourself, so to speak. Know you're mating psychology.
The second thing is I guess a deeper understanding of women's mating psychology and I think that this is one of these areas where... and I've done some research, some unpublished research on it. I'm going to publish it eventually on all the gaps that both sexes have. Like women don't fully understand males' mating minds and men don't fully understand women's mating minds. So, I think educating yourself about women's mating and sexual psychology really can give you a leg up on things. We've touched on couple issues like the importance of sense of smell, the importance of status and so forth, some of the misunderstandings like The Sexual Overperecption Bias.
So, know your mating strategy, knowing women's sexual psychology and let's see, a third point... yeah, a third point would be I guess the importance of mate value and I gets that's related to women's sexual psychology. I mean in essence, women's sexual psychology dictates what men's mate value is but also, one of the good things about mate value is that it is dependent on social context.
We talked about that a little bit with how a man's status varies with social groups. A man can increase his mate value by going to the right social group, going to a group that actually appreciates his assets, appreciates the qualities that he brings to bear on the situation. If you were on the totem pole in terms of your motorcycle prowess then, maybe you don't want to spend all of your time hanging out with a motorcycle group.
[Angel Donovan]:I think that's also an argument for not dabbling in life but, investing in certain areas that you're really interested and engaged and you tend to rise up and you enjoy it more. There's more women in that area that will attracted to you at the same time because, you spent some time in there. You haven't kind of dabbled in lots of different areas and not got good at any of them.
[David M. Buss]:I guess that I would add one more and it's kind of related to that and this is an area that's increasingly intrigued me. I've written about it a bit but, I think there's a lot more to do about that and that's the sex ratio imbalance. So, if you're a guy and you say, "Okay well, I'm a really good engineer. So, I'm going to go to an engineer's conference." Well, there are like 90% of the people there are guys. So, you're at a big disadvantage.
In a lot of colleges and universities nowadays, there are more and more and more women. So, there's a surplus of women, in part because, women tend to be more contentious and better at getting grades of going up through the ranks. So, they're better qualified to get into to good quality universities, except for engineering schools. So, there's that difference there.
Then certain places are better than other places. Manhattan, for example there's a surplus of women. As a general rule, larger cities have a surplus of women and certain college campuses. You know, I don't know how old your listeners are but, for those who are college age, you might want to look into the sex ratio of the college campus.
I gave a talk recently at a university where there's a 60% women, 40% men and the women spent all their time complaining about the guys saying, they meet a guy. He's like... he would be a four in other other context but, he's like an eight on this campus because, there's so many women. So, that social context can really work in your favor if you select the right social environments.
[Angel Donovan]:Or really work against you.
[David M. Buss]:Or really work against you, yes.
[Angel Donovan]:Yeah. Well David, thank you so much for all of your insight. There's been some really interesting stuff you've pulled out here and I think it's going to be really helpful for the guys.
[David M. Buss]:Well, thank you. It's been great talking to you and I hope we have a chance to chat again.
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