I Want You to Want Me

Feeling desired is a turn-on—especially, it seems, for women.

By Colleen Park, Rachel Uda, published on March 8, 2016 - last reviewed on June 10, 2016

What's more important in a sexual fantasy—having a sexy partner, or being seen as sexy yourself? Women are more likely than men to emphasize the latter, according to a recent paper in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The perception of oneself as "hot" or desirable to others—dubbed "object of desire self-consciousness"—was evaluated in several ways. Whether via sex-related questionnaires, sentence-completion tasks, or open-ended descriptions of fantasies, this self-consciousness figured more prominently in women's responses than in men's, Brock University psychologist Anthony Bogaert and colleagues found.

"In the men's fantasies, they're talking about the other person," says study co-author Beth Visser, a psychologist at Lakehead University. "When it's a female's fantasy, she's describing what she's wearing and how she looks." A typical one, Visser says, might start with a subject's lacy lingerie.

Self-focus may be stronger in women's fantasies in part because they "tend to be more receptive with regard to sexuality: Arousal and interest start to occur, to some degree, after initiation from others," says Bogaert. Cultural objectification may also play a role: "There are tons of examples in the media where women are projected as objects of desire and their bodies are more relevant than anything else shown," Bogaert says. "It's not surprising that this concept would find its way into women's sexual scripts and fantasies." —Colleen Park

Shopping Around

When women hit peak fertility each month, they're more likely to flirt and dress sexily and consider more options on the dating market, research suggests. Findings in the Journal of Consumer Research indicate that they may seek diversity in what they buy, too.  Among women asked to choose sets of items (from a menu of candy bars, lipsticks, and other goods), those who sought the most variety, on average, were both involved in a relationship and ovulating.

"Ovulation may create a general variety-seeking mentality," says Rutgers University researcher Kristina Durante. Diversification could be a legacy of our distant ancestors: Being open to options when conception was likely would have helped females find the most suitable mate. —Rachel Uda

Image: A Stock-Studio/Shutterstock