greg (grysar) wrote,

The NY Times is sex crazy

First there's a wide ranging article on scientific studies.

John Tierney has a mostly silly piece on the way we spot flaws. Using studies from dating sites, it gets to how much more you have to make to compensate for differences in height. He also notes that a study found that we can accurately tell how picky someone is for speed dating. More picky tends to be more attractive. Desperate is bad. Who would have guessed. :P

Finally, there was "Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes." Among other things it argues that sexual orientation for males seems set before birth (see male babies with genitalia removed that stay attracted to women). “Whereas for females, some are probably born to become gay, but clearly some get there quite late in life.” Also, the name of the doctor in that study: Breedlove. Another study finds three stages of attraction: sex drive, romantic attraction (lasting 12-18 months), and long-term attachment (long enough to complete parental duties). There's a discussion of possible origins of homosexuality that goes over a range of possible explainations. My favorite quote comes from near the end: "It’s popular among male academics to say that females preferred smarter guys." This relates to the fact that brain formation is controlled by the X-chromosome. Since men don't have a backup X, this speed the process of natural selection for better brains. This may also explain why men get more neurological diseases and have greater variance in IQ test results.

Findings of note:

  • Physical or subliminal stimulus kicks in before desire. "the body’s entire motor system is activated almost instantly by exposure to sexual images, and that the more intensely sexual the visuals, the stronger the electric signals emitted by the participants’ so-called spinal tendious reflexes."
  • Arousal/desire/excitement has two distinct operating pathways in the brain: "one that promotes sexual enthusiasm, another that inhibits it." As with a car, “If you let go of the gas pedal, you’ll slow down... but that’s not the same as stepping on the brakes.”
  • In explicit pictures, men and women looked at genitals equally. Men looked more at faces, possibly because it's hard to tell arousal otherwise. (although I think I just saw a survey with the opposite result).
  • Differences may fade with age.<
  • Not much discussion of differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals. When mentioned it was typically to point out similarities.


  • Men with high sexual excitability were more aroused by any erotic film, regardless of content.
  • Men with low-scoring inhibitors didn't lose "maintained an enthusiastic physiological response when confronted with film clips of sexual brutality."
  • Low-inhibitors don't necessarily engage in "do not necessarily engage in more or kinkier sex than do their high-inhibition counterparts, but the odds are greater that they will forgo condoms if they indulge."
  • Consistently higher sex drive world-wide. Fairly constant from day to day.
  • Physiological and psychological states highly correlate.
  • Have more response in the "amygdala, the almond-contoured brain sector long associated with powerful emotions like fear and anger rather than with anything erotic."


  • The sexual excitement/inhibition survey didn't translate well to women: “They mentioned a heightened sense of awareness, genital tingling, butterflies in the stomach, increased heart rate and skin sensitivity,muscle tightness. Then we asked them if they thought the female parallel to an erection is genital lubrication, and they said no, no,you can get wet when you’re not aroused, it changes with the menstrual cycle, it’s not a meaningful measure.”
  • Sexual arousal in a survey linked to: “feeling connected to” or “loved by” a partner, and to the belief that the partner is “really interested in me as a person”; “feeling unattractive” was a turn-off.
  • Tastes vary on: male body odor, sex in unusual places, risk of being caught, as a way to ease anger/unhappiness.
  • Talent or intelligence can beat out physical appearance.
  • More diversity in sex drive with more at the low or high end.
  • Higher drive in heterosexuals often associated with some attraction to women, albeit less than attraction to men (not true for males).
  • Physiological and psychological states not highly correlated. Even repellent or animal sex films got physiological responses that the woman was sometimes unaware of. One hypothesis is that this protects the reproductive tract from the risk of damage by rape.
  • In erotic photographs, noticed fashion more gained more pleasure from pictures of men giving oral sex to women.
  • Sex drive more cyclical and strongest when most fertile.

Hat tip to Salon's Broadsheet which pointed out the latter two articles.
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