What do women think men and women want in relationships?
January 31, 2013 7:47 AM   Subscribe

"Men want sex" and "women want romance" -- so the stereotypes go. To what extent does the average woman believe (or not believe) in these stereotypes? Does anyone know if there is research on this? I've been searching for hours, but haven't turned up anything yet.
posted by tybeet to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Mod note: Folks let's be clear off the bat, to make this not a deletable chatfilter question, please have your comments include links to resources not just "well I think..."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:54 AM on January 31, 2013

There was a recent Metafilter post that's related to this subject.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:11 AM on January 31, 2013

If you can get access, you might find the answer in "The Journal of Sex Research."

For example, academic Terri Fisher has done a lot of work on the issue of male and female attitudes towards sex and her research indicates that due to male expectations of what they are supposed to be/do/think they don't self report accurately. More recent research by her looks at the myth that men have sex on the brain constantly. Her conclusions: "the empirical evidence in this area is fairly weak [...] the results suggest that, although there may be a sex difference in sexual cognitions, it is smaller than is generally thought, and the reporting is likely influenced by sex role expectations."

It doesn't answer your question directly about what women believe, but it does show that what men (and women) report about sexual behaviour is strongly influenced by sex role expectations.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:21 AM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Brandon: Interesting, and relevant. However, I'm less interested in research on what men and women actually want from relationships, and more interested in what men and women believe men and women want -- and particularly interested in the beliefs of women. Thanks though!

Muffinman: Thanks I will have a look.
posted by tybeet at 8:22 AM on January 31, 2013

Are Women as Driven by Sexual Desire as Men? Part I: New Research Says “Yes” (Psychology Today)

".... both men and women are motivated by an equally strong interest in the physical pleasures of sex. It is just that men anticipate that casual sex will usually be pleasurable, while women do not anticipate that casual sex will be physically pleasurable unless a number of conditions are met (she must feel safe; she must have reason to believe her partner will be good in bed)."
posted by bunderful at 8:24 AM on January 31, 2013

This article on dominant heterosexual discourse may be of some interest.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:47 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have a poke about on JSTOR. I can't find anything that directly answers what you need. From a brief scan of some articles, the short but indirect answer is that stereotypes abound but also that there is a whole subsection of research devoted just to the question of how to research in a non biased way given the problems of self-reporting, sexual expectations and stereotypes, and bias of self-selected study participants.

For example (about attitudes towards extramarital sex, 1992): "The data supported the observation that men separate sex and love; women appear to believe that love and sex go together and that falling in love justifies sexual involvement."

And (about college students' views of influence in sexual encounters, 1980): "As expected, students stereotyped all strategies for having sex as being used predominantly by men and all strategies for avoiding sex as being used predominantly by women. Unexpectedly, however, both men and women also reported behaving and being influenced according to these same stereotypic patterns, regardless of their personality (locus of control) or type of strategy considered. [...] The present study's findings suggest that this sexual script thrives, even in an era of increasingly liberal sexual attitudes."
posted by MuffinMan at 8:50 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! Your input is very helpful. I will continue to follow the bread-crumb trail.
posted by tybeet at 9:13 AM on January 31, 2013

There was a study done by Wendy Hollway (I think that's her name, but I can't find it on Google - hopefully it will prompt someone's memory) into men's attitudes toward relationships in the early 90s. She interviewed men in heterosexual relationships about their experiences and found that to an extend there is a myth of an insatiable male sex drive - rather than having an urge to put it about a bit, many men find relationships satisfying and useful. I can't find this online, but if you have access to academic journal search (or someone else does) then it's worth a read.

An interesting example about women and sex is the anonymous blogger Belle De Jour - before she was outed, many people thought her blog about working as a call girl (which was often frank about sex in her personal life as well as paid encounters) was written by a male author, because 'women don't write about sex that way'. She later wrote a book (under her real, academic name) about cultural attitudes to sex which may be interesting for you.
posted by mippy at 9:24 AM on January 31, 2013

Response by poster: So far this is the closest I've found: Men's and Women's Beliefs, Ideals, and Self-Concepts, however it's looking at general sex-role beliefs, whereas I'm interested in sex-role beliefs in context of relationships specifically. Not "what do women think a man wants in a woman", but "what do women think a man wants from a relationship with a woman".
posted by tybeet at 11:12 AM on January 31, 2013

Hmm. This looks interesting:

Women and men make sense of personal relationships: "Riessman looks at the ideology of the companionate marriage: husband and wife should be each other's closest companion, and in marriage one should achieve emotional intimacy and sexual fulfillment. These beliefs imply a level of equality that rarely exists. In reality, most wives are subordinate to their husbands, most husbands want neither "deep talk" nor small talk that women want, and many husbands resent their wives' ties to kin and friends. To explain divorce, women and men construct gendered visions of what marriage should provide, and at the same time they mourn gender divisions and blame their divorces on them."
posted by misha at 1:37 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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