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What Attitudes Toward Sex Do People Want In Lovers?

Take this quiz with your honey—and then discuss your responses.

Here’s a list of personal characteristics. How much do you want them in a lover?

Use this scale:

1. Strongly disagree.

2. Disagree.

3. Slightly disagree.

3.5. Neutral.

4. Slightly agree.

5. Agree.

6. Strongly agree.

 

Now, how much do want a lover to:

1. Be open to discussing sex.

2. Be sexually uninhibited.

3. Be physically attractive.

4. Be knowledgeable about sex.

5. Pay me complements during sex.

6. Clearly communicate sexual desires.

7. Be easily sexually aroused.

8. Experience orgasm easily.

9. Enjoy erotic books, videos, and Web sites.

10. Be assertive during sex.

After you’ve finished, take the quiz again, but this time, use the same scale to estimate how important your lover would say these traits are.

Done?

Kerry McGuirl and Michael Wiederman, both psychologists at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, gave this quiz to 429 heterosexual college students (185 men and 244 women) aged 18 to 22. They discovered that young men and women have remarkably similar opinions of the importance of the 10 characteristics. But when it came to predicting the views of the opposite sex, while not exactly clueless, they were pretty far from the bull’s eye.

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What Respondents Said They Wanted

1. Be open to discussing sex. Both sexes placed a high premium on this, but the women (5.50) rated it somewhat more important than the men (5.19).

2. Be sexually uninhibited. Both sexes wanted this, but didn’t value it all that much. Men’s and women’s responses were almost identical (4.36 for the men, 4.37 for the women).

3. Be physically attractive. Not surprisingly, in a culture fixated on female beauty, the men expressed much more interest in physically attractive lovers (5.21) than the women (4.75).

4. Be knowledgeable about sex. Another trait both sexes solidly wanted, though the women (5.21) wanted this more than the men (5.01).

5. Pay me complements during sex. Both genders had approximately the same desire for this (4.41 for the men, 4.72 for the women).

6. Clearly communicate sexual desires. Both sexes valued this almost identically (5.10 for the men, 5.11 for the women).

7. Be easily sexually aroused. Another generally shared desire, and another virtual tie (4.59 for the men, 4.57 for the women).

8. Experience orgasm easily. The men wanted this (4.32) more than the women (3.73). In fact, the women were almost neutral on this.

9. Like erotic media. The men didn’t care if their lovers liked it (3.48), and the women were somewhat down on it (3.08)—not surprising since many women hate the idea that their lovers might view pornography.

10. Be assertive during sex. The men tilted slightly in the direction of wanting sexually assertive women (3.91). The women were more into this (4.19).

Overall, the researchers were impressed by the “notable similarity” of men’s and women’s responses. This finding agrees with several other previous surveys. How close were you and your honey?

Then the researchers asked each sex how they thought the other would rate each characteristic. Here the responses diverged markedly.

What The Women Thought The Men Would Say

1. Be open to discussing sex. The men (5.19) were more committed to this than the women gave them credit for (4.84).

2. Be sexually uninhibited. The women came very close on this one, but thought the men wanted it (4.45) slightly more than the men said they did (4.36).

3. Be physically attractive. Again, the women were close (5.36), but thought the men wanted foxy babes slightly more than they actually did (5.21).

4. Be knowledgeable about sex. The women guessed that the men wanted them to be less informed (4.85) than the men actually did (5.01).

5. Pay me complements during sex. The women thought the men wanted this (5.06) more than they actually did (4.41).

6. Clearly communicate sexual desires. The women thought the men wanted this less (4.86) than they actually did (5.10).

7. Be easily sexually aroused. The women thought the men wanted them to get hot (4.98) a little faster than they actually did (4.59).

8. Experience orgasm easily. The women thought this was a little more important to men (4.60) than it really was (4.32).

9. Like erotic media. Here, the women over-estimated the men’s interest considerably. Despite the ubiquity of porn, the men were actually neutral on erotica (3.48), but the women believed they were more into it (4.22).

10. Be assertive during sex. The women came very close on this one, rating men’s interest (3.98) almost exactly how the men rated themselves (3.91).

What the Men Thought the Women Would Say

1. Be open to discussing sex. The women (5.50) were more committed to sexual discussions than the men gave them credit for (4.95).

2. Be sexually uninhibited. The men (4.11) thought the women wanted this slightly less than they actually did (4.37).

3. Be physically attractive. This was a little more important to the men (4.96) than the women thought it was (4.75.).

4. Be knowledgeable about sex. The men underestimated the women on this one. They guessed the women would want a reasonably knowledgeable lover (5.05), but the women were actually more interested in sexually knowledgeable men (5.21).

5. Pay me complements during sex. Here the men came very close. Their guess (4.77) was almost identical to the women’s actual desire for complements (4.72).

6. Clearly communicate sexual desires. The men (4.83) didn’t think the women were as interested in this as they actually were (5.11).

7. Be easily sexually aroused. The men came close (4.32) to what the women said (4.57).

8. Experience orgasm easily. The men (3.33) thought the women (3.73) valued ejaculatory control more than they actually did.

9. Like erotic media. The men (3.06) guessed correctly that the women were down on erotica (3.08).

10. Be assertive during sex. The men (4.24) came close to estimating women’s feelings (4.19).

So each gender misunderstood the other, and each was about as far off the mark. The most glaring disagreement concerned openness to discussing sex. The men thought the women were significantly less open than they were, and the women thought the men were less open than they were. Perhaps that’s why sexual communication is such a sore point in so many relationships. Both men and women really want openness, but both are convinced that the opposite sex doesn’t. Guess what: Both genders value it.

The study: McGuirl, K.E. and M.W. Wiederman. “Characteristics of the Ideal Sex Partner: Gender Differences and Perceptions of the Preferences of the Other Gender,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2000) 26:153.

San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, M.A., has written about sexuality for 36 years. more...

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