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Relationships

How Sociosexuality Influences Our Relationships

The pros and cons of being restricted or unrestricted.

Key points

  • Sociosexuality examines the willingness to engage in sex in the absence of affectional bonds or emotional involvement.
  • Those who are unrestricted in their sociosexuality place greater importance on attractiveness and social visibility attributes.
  • Knowing one's sociosexuality may be important, as relationship-related behaviors are tied to this construct.

Sociosexuality examines the willingness to engage in extradyadic sex in the absence of affectional bonds or emotional involvement (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991; Banai & Pavela, 2015). Sociosexuality involves behaviors and attitudes such as the actual and preferred frequency of sexual intercourse, number of desired partners, presence of extramarital affairs, attitudes toward engaging in sexual relations without commitment, and the likelihood of having sexual fantasies about partners outside of the current relationship (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991).

Related Constructs

Sociosexuality has been studied in relation to many constructs involving sex, love, and relationships. Neto (2015) conducted a study on 475 participants (58 percent male, 42 percent female) between the ages of 18 and 80 to examine the links between sociosexuality, love relationships, and psychological maladjustment.

Participants were given the Sociosexuality Orientation Inventory (SOI) to measure sociosexuality, the Love Attitudes Scale to assess their love styles, the Satisfaction With Love Life Scale, the Compassionate Love for Partner scale, and measures to examine commitment, romantic loneliness, and negative affect. Results demonstrated that sociosexuality was significantly positively correlated to Ludus (likes many partners and enjoys sex), romantic loneliness, and negative affect. It was negatively correlated with Eros (exclusive focus on a partner), mania (forces commitment from a partner), agape (selfless and concerned about a partner’s welfare), love satisfaction, compassionate love, and commitment.

In another study focusing on mate preferences, Simpson and Gangestad (1992) demonstrated that those who are unrestricted in their sociosexuality place greater importance on attractiveness and social visibility attributes. Individuals who are restricted placed greater importance on attributes relating to personal/parenting qualities. Results demonstrated that the latter participants preferred partners who were kind/affectionate, responsible, and loyal/faithful.

Researchers have also examined sociosexuality concerning infidelity and dating behaviors. In a study with 550 undergraduates (169 men and 373 women) from a large, public southwestern university, the relationship of sociosexuality to relationship-related behaviors was examined (Weiser et al., 2018). It was shown that those who were unrestricted were more likely to spend time with someone they met on Tinder while in an exclusive romantic relationship and also had greater intentions to engage in infidelity. In addition, having sex with someone on Tinder while in an exclusive relationship was also associated with unrestricted sociosexuality (Weiser et al., 2018).

Also related to dating behaviors, research has demonstrated that those who use picture-based mobile dating apps tend to be less restricted in their sociosexuality. Additionally, the more unrestricted a person was, the more likely they were to seek a casual sex partner and were more comfortable picking up strangers (Botnen et al., 2018). Sevi and Eskenazi (2018) found similar results in a study of 163 Tinder users, in that people with higher sociosexuality reported a greater motivation to use Tinder for casual sex.

Implications

Knowing one's sociosexuality may be important, as this construct relates to relationships' behaviors. Simpson and Gangestad (1991) stated,

…it appears that restricted individuals typically become involved in long-term relationships characterized by greater commitment and stronger emotional ties, whereas unrestricted individuals tend to become involved in short-term relationships defined by less commitment and weaker affectional bonds.

Those who are restricted may seek out relationships that lead to stability and closeness. At the same time, those who are unrestricted may focus more on other aspects of an individual when choosing a partner.

Facebook image: New Africa/Shutterstock

References

Banai, B., & Pavela, I. (2015). Two-dimensional structure of the sociosexual orientation inventory and its personality correlates. Evolutionary Psychology, 13(3), 1-7.

Botnen, E. O., Bendixen, M., Grontvedt, T. V., & Kennair, L. E. O. (2018). Individual differences in sociosexuality predict picture-based mobile dating app use. Personality and Individual Differences, 131, 67-73.

Neto, F. (2015). Revisiting correlates of sociosexuality for men and women: The role of love relationships and psychological maladjustment. Personality and Individual Differences, 83, 106- 110.

Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1991). Individual differences in sociosexuality: Evidence for convergent and discriminant validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(6), 870.

Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1992). Sociosexuality and romantic partner choice. Journal of Personality, 60(1), 31-51.

Weiser, D. A., Niehuis, S., Flora, J., Punyanunt-Carter, N. M., Arias, V. S., & Baird, R. H. (2018). Swiping right: Sociosexuality, intentions to engage in infidelity, and infidelity experiences on Tinder. Personality and Individual Differences, 133, 29-33.

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