Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 631–651 | Cite as

Sex Differences in Sex Drive, Sociosexuality, and Height across 53 Nations: Testing Evolutionary and Social Structural Theories

  • Richard A. LippaEmail author
Original Paper


By analyzing cross-cultural patterns in five parameters—sex differences, male and female trait means, male and female trait standard deviations—researchers can better test evolutionary and social structural models of sex differences. Five models of biological and social structural influence are presented that illustrate this proposal. Using data from 53 nations and from over 200,000 participants surveyed in a recent BBC Internet survey, I examined cross-cultural patterns in these five parameters for two sexual traits—sex drive and sociosexuality—and for height, a physical trait with a biologically based sex difference. Sex drive, sociosexuality, and height all showed consistent sex differences across nations (mean ds = .62, .74, and 1.63). Women were consistently more variable than men in sex drive (mean female to male variance ratio = 1.64). Gender equality and economic development tended to predict, across nations, sex differences in sociosexuality, but not sex differences in sex drive or height. Parameters for sociosexuality tended to vary across nations more than parameters for sex drive and height did. The results for sociosexuality were most consistent with a hybrid model—that both biological and social structural influences contribute to sex differences, whereas the results for sex drive and height were most consistent with a biological model—that evolved biological factors are the primary cause of sex differences. The model testing proposed here encourages evolutionary and social structural theorists to make more precise and nuanced predictions about the patterning of sex differences across cultures.


Evolutionary theory BBC Internet study Sex differences Sex drive Sociosexuality Social structural theory 



I am grateful to BBC TV Science for commissioning this research, and to the BBC Science and Nature website for programming and hosting the study.


  1. Archer, J., & Mehdikhani, M. (2003). Variability among males in sexually selected attributes. Review of General Psychology, 7, 219–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baugh, F. (2002). Correcting effect sizes for score reliability: A reminder that measurement and substantive issues are linked inextricably. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 62, 254–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347–374PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F., Catanese, K. R., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Are there gender differences in strength of sex drive? Theoretical views, conceptual distinctions, and a review of relevant evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 242–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bobko, P., Roth, P. L., & Bobko, C. (2001). Correcting the effect size of d for range restriction and unreliability. Organizational Research Methods, 4, 46–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bond, N. W. (2005). Who’s zooming who? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buss, D. M. (2005). Sex differences in the design features of socially contingent mating adaptations. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 278–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deary, I. J., Thorpe, G., Wilson, V., Starr, J. M., & Whalley, L. J. (2003). Population sex differences in IQ at age 11: The Scottish mental survey 1932. Intelligence, 31, 533–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of sex differences in human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. American Psychologist, 54, 408–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2005). Universal sex differences across patriarchal cultures ≠ evolved psychological dispositions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 281–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gaulin, S. J. C., & Boster, J. (1985). Cross-cultural differences in sexual dimorphism: Is there any variance to be explained? Ethology and Sociobiology, 6, 219–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 573–644.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gosling, S. D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S., & John, O. P. (2004). Should we trust web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about Internet questionnaires. American Psychologist, 59, 93–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Guttentag, M., & Secord, P. (1983). Too many women? Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Lazarus, J. (2002). Human sex ratios: Adaptations and mechanisms, problems and prospects. In I. C. Hardy (Ed.), Sex ratios: Concepts and research methods (pp. 287–311). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Lippa, R. A. (2005). Gender, nature, and nurture (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  18. Lippa, R. A. (2006). Is high sex drive associated with increased sexual attraction to both sexes? It depends on whether you are male or female. Psychological Science, 17, 46–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lippa, R. A. (2007). The preferred traits of mates in a cross-national study of heterosexual and homosexual men and women: An examination of biological and cultural influences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 193–208.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ostovich, J. M., & Sabini, J. (2004). How are sociosexuality, sex drive, and lifetime number of sexual partners related? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 255–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Paoletti, J. B., & Kregloh, C. (1989). The children’s department. In C. B. Kidwell & V. Steele (Eds.), Men and women: Dressing the part (pp. 22–41). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  22. Pedersen, F. A. (1991). Secular trends in human sex ratios: Their influence on individual and family behavior. Human Nature, 2, 271–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Reimers, S. (2007). The BBC internet study: General methodology. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 147–161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schmitt, D. P. (2005). Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: A 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 247–311.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1991). Individual differences in sociosexuality: Evidence for convergent and discriminant validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 870–888.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Spector, I. P., Carey, M. P., & Steinberg, L. (1996). The Sexual Desire Inventory: Development, factor structure, and evidence of reliability. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 22, 175–190.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Voracek, M. (2005). Shortcomings of the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory: Can psychometrics inform evolutionary psychology? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28, 296–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2002). A cross-cultural analysis of the behavior of men and women: Implications for the origins of sex differences. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 699–727.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zucker, K. J. (2005). Measurement of psychosexual differentiation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 375–388.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCalifornia State University, FullertonFullertonUSA

Personalised recommendations