In 1990, my good friend Bruce Ellis and Donald Symons published a classic paper in the Journal of Sex Research wherein they investigated sex differences in sexual fantasies via an evolutionary lens. This was a clever way to demonstrate the evolved sexual dimorphisms in human sexuality using novel data. Some of their key findings included that men fantasize more frequently than women; about a larger number of partners; and involving more strangers. Furthermore, men were less focused on emotional issues and on touching but more so on visual imagery. Finally, in men’s fantasies getting to the sex occurred more rapidly (no need for long preludes!). I describe this study in my trade book The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, when discussing how the content in pornographic movies targeting men is congruent with their evolved fantasies. On a related note, see my earlier post here about ‘money shots’ and men’s sperm motility.
In today’s post, I’d like to cover key findings of a recent study by Petri Nummi and Jani Pellikka published in Annales Zoologici Fennici in which they investigated women's preferred sexual fantasies, and whether these vary as a function of where a woman is in her menstrual cycle. Four types of fantasies were covered: one female with one male (FM), one female with two males (FMM), two females and one male (FFM), and two females and two males (FFMM). Of course, in each of the latter four scenarios, the female participants were presumed to partake in the fantasy. Some of the researchers’ predictions were that women would find the FMM fantasy more arousing than the FFM and FFMM counterparts; Furthermore, they would find the FFMM fantasy more arousing than the FFM one; Finally, the FMM fantasy would be more arousing when women are in the maximally fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. Women were asked to provide rank-ordered preferences of the four fantasies (n = 119). The theoretical argument is based on sperm competition, namely women’s sexual fantasies are in part shaped by the desire to promote such competition (from multiple men) when pursuing a short-term “shopping for good genes” mating strategy.
Here are the key findings: (1) While the FM fantasy was the overall preferred one, FMM was preferred both to FFM (p < .001) and FFMM (p < .001); (2) FFMM was preferred to FFM (p < .001); (3) Depending on which days were used to denote the fertile window of the menstrual cycle (days 12 through 18; days 13 through 19), the FMM fantasy was preferred to a greater extent during that phase (p = .056) but only for women who were not using hormonal contraception (as would be expected).
The bottom line: Short of the one-on-one scenario, women seem to have a penchant for multiple male partners (at least when fantasizing) and especially so when maximally fertile. The Weather Girls and Miquel Brown captured this preference quite vividly in their respective classic disco hits “It’s Raining Men” and “So Many Men So Little Time”!
This study once again dispels the ignorant notion that evolutionary psychologists presume that women are virginal and chaste while men are out to spread their seeds far and wide. Both sexes have the capacity for monogamous unions, and both sexes can let loose given the right conditions!
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