Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 1173–1181 | Cite as

Sexual Hookups Among College Students: Sex Differences in Emotional Reactions

  • John Marshall TownsendEmail author
  • Timothy H. Wasserman
Original Paper


The purpose of the study was to test four predictions derived from evolutionary (sexual strategies) theory. The central hypothesis was that men and women possess different emotional mechanisms that motivate and evaluate sexual activities. Consequently, even when women express indifference to emotional involvement and commitment and voluntarily engage in casual sexual relations, their goals, their feelings about the experience, and the associations between their sexual behavior and prospects for long-term investment differ significantly from those of men. Women’s sexual behavior is associated with their perception of investment potential: long-term, short-term, and partners’ ability and willingness to invest. For men, these associations are weaker or inversed. Regression analyses of survey data from 333 male and 363 female college students revealed the following: Greater permissiveness of sexual attitudes was positively associated with number of sex partners; this association was not moderated by sex of subject (Prediction 1); even when women deliberately engaged in casual sexual relations, thoughts that expressed worry and vulnerability crossed their minds; for females, greater number of partners was associated with increased worry-vulnerability whereas for males the trend was the opposite (Prediction 2); with increasing numbers of sex partners, marital thoughts decreased; this finding was not moderated by sex of subject; this finding did not support Prediction 3; for both males and females, greater number of partners was related to larger numbers of one-night stands, partners foreseen in the next 5 years, and deliberately casual sexual relations. This trend was significantly stronger for males than for females (Prediction 4).


Sexuality Evolution Sex differences Emotions 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Marshall Townsend
    • 1
    Email author
  • Timothy H. Wasserman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Office of Institutional Research and AssessmentSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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