Romance in the Air

If a woman agrees to go to dinner with a man, does it mean she's interested in him sexually? Men answer "yes" to this and similar questions about dating more often than women, according to a new Air Force Academy study. But despite the recent military sex scandals, Air Force cadets may be a step ahead of civilians on this issue.

The researchers asked cadets to rate the sexual connotations of dating behaviors--such as accepting a dinner invitation, wearing tight pants, or offering a backrub--on a scale of one to 10. Male cadets saw all of these behaviors as more sexually charged than their female counterparts did, echoing a 1993 study of college students. But civilians only showed this gender gap when the target of a behavior was female, while cadets saw actions the same way regardless of whether a man or woman was making the moves.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

This unisex attitude may result from the 24-hours, seven-days-a-week professional environment at the Academy, says Steven M. Samuels, Ph.D., the psychologist who led the study. "Cadets are taught, `She's your superior, and it doesn't matter that she is female.'"

Still, the sex differences in cadets' perceptions show that more education is necessary, Samuels believes. "If we teach men, `Just because she waves at you doesn't mean she wants you,' and teach women that a friendly gesture may not be taken as pure friendliness, this could help defuse tense situations that can lead to harassment or even rape."

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.