A lek is a physical space where typically males of a species congregate to display sexual signals meant to impress the discerning females (see Fiske, Rintamäki, & Karvonen, 1998 for a review of such species across many taxa). Click here to see a male Greater Sage-Grouse engaging in lekking behavior. In a few rare role-reversal species, it is the females who engage in lekking behaviour as a means of attracting prospective male suitors (cf. Funk & Tallamy, 2000). In my work, I have long argued that many consumer phenomena are nothing more than forms of lekking behavior. In the human context, men and women use sex-specific products as sexual signals. For additional details see my books The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption, and The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature; also see one of my earliest Psychology Today posts here on the use of Porsches as a lekking signal; and Lycett & Dunbar, 2000 for the use of cell phones as lekking signals).
In today’s post, I’d like to briefly discuss a 2009 study published in Behaviour and authored by Colin A. Hendrie, Helena D. Mannion, and Georgina K. Godfrey wherein they investigated lekking behaviors in a nightclub. For other evolutionary-based studies that have taken place in the context of nightclubs, readers might wish to check out Grammer, Renninger, and Fischer (2004), and Salter, Grammer, and Rikowski (2005). Nightclubs are uniquely interesting in that they serve as the proverbial “meat market” where both men and women meet up and engage in various forms of sexual signaling. Interested readers might wish to check out my earlier posts on men’s perceived attractiveness of women’s dance movements across the menstrual cycle (see here), and the relationship between men’s dancing abilities and their body symmetry (see here). The bottom line is that dancing carries evolutionarily important information, which is on conspicuous display at nightclubs around the world.
Returning to the Hendrie et al. study, the researchers conducted an unobtrusive observational study at a nightclub in Leeds (England). For details regarding the coding scheme, I encourage the readers to access the article. Some of the phenomena of interest included the extent to which patrons who arrived alone would be partnered up upon existing the nightclub; the extent to which men versus women approached the opposite sex to initiate a mutual dance; and the likelihood of being approached by a man as a function of a woman’s dancing style and clothing. Here are some of the key findings, none of which are particularly surprising (but certainly worth confirming via a scientific study):
1) Of the total clientele that entered the nightclub on a specific Saturday night (n = 1,014), 19.3% did so as couples. This serves as a good indication that nightclubs are indeed a haven for single folks wishing to mingle. Three separate observational days revealed that whereas 98, 104, and 49 couples entered the nightclub, the number of couples who left the club were 148, 161, and 80 respectively (all changes are statistically significant). Bottom line: Nightclubs are indeed a “hook up” place.
2) Of 126 observations of approaches meant to initiate mutual dancing, 105 of these were of men approaching women (p < .05). Not surprisingly, the overwhelming onus is for men to muster the necessary courage to approach women. If anything, I am somewhat surprised that 21 women (16.7% of all approaches) were bold enough to approach men!
To explore how women’s clothing and dancing styles might be linked to men’s likelihood to approach, the researchers coded the relevant metrics for 90 women in total. While numerous data splits are discussed in the article, the key findings include:
3) Men were more likely to approach women who wore tight clothes (correlation = 0.24, p < .05), who wore clothes that exposed a greater amount of flesh (correlation = 0.47, p < .05), and who wore clothes with greater breast exposure (correlation = 0.42, p < .05). This is hardly earth shattering news. Men are more likely to approach women at a nightclub engaging in various forms of sexual signaling via the clothes that they wear.
4) Men were more likely to approach women who spent a greater proportion of their time dancing in a suggestive and sexual manner (correlation = 0.53, p < .05).
5) The 20% of women who exhibited the most vigorous combination of sexual signaling (clothing and dancing) elicited nearly 50% of all male approaches.
Bottom line: Nightclubs serve as a lek in which women utilize sexy clothing and lascivious dancing to attract male attention. Who knew? ☺
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