Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 785–791 | Cite as

Self-Reported Sexual Desire in Homosexual Men and Women Predicts Preferences for Sexually Dimorphic Facial Cues

  • Lisa L. M. Welling
  • Kevin Singh
  • David A. Puts
  • Benedict C. Jones
  • Robert P. Burriss
Original Paper


Recent studies investigating the relationship between self-reported sexual desire and attraction to same- and opposite-sex individuals have found that homosexual men’s sexual desire is positively correlated with their self-reported attraction to own-sex individuals only, while homosexual women’s sexual desire is positively correlated with their self-reported attraction to both men and women. These data have been interpreted as evidence that sexual desire strengthens men’s pre-existing (i.e., dominant) sexual behaviors and strengthens women’s sexual behaviors in general. Here we show that homosexual men’s (n = 106) scores on the Sexual Desire Inventory-2 (SDI-2) were positively correlated with their preferences for exaggerated sex-typical shape cues in own-sex, but not opposite-sex, faces. Contrary to the hypothesis that sexual desire strengthens women’s preferences for sexual dimorphism generally, homosexual women’s (n = 83) SDI-2 scores were positively correlated with their preferences for exaggerated sex-typical shape cues in opposite-sex faces only. Together with previous research in heterosexual subjects, our findings support the proposal that sexual desire increases the incidence of existing sexual behaviors in homosexual and heterosexual men, and increases the incidence of sexual responses more generally in heterosexual women, although not necessarily in homosexual women.


Sexual desire Attraction Sexual orientation Faces Sexual dimorphism 


  1. Ågmo, A. (2011). On the intricate relationship between sexual motivation and arousal. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 681–688.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey, J. M., Gaulin, S., Agyei, Y., & Gladue, B. A. (1994). Effects of gender and sexual orientation on evolutionarily relevant aspects of human mating psychology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1081–1093.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bailey, J. M., Kim, P. Y., Hills, A., & Linsenmeier, J. A. W. (1997). Butch, femme, or straight acting? Partner preferences of gay men and lesbians. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 960–973.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F., Catanese, K. R., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Is there a gender difference 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
  6. Bell, A. P., & Weinberg, M. S. (1978). Homosexualities: A study of diversity among men and women. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  7. Child, M., Graff Low, K., McDonell McCormick, C., & Cocciarella, A. (1996). Personal advertisements of male-to-female transsexuals, homosexual men, and heterosexuals. Sex Roles, 34, 447–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiu, R. K., & Babcock, R. D. (2002). The relative importance of facial attractiveness and gender in Hong Kong selection decisions. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 13, 141–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2005). A sex difference in features that elicit genital response. Biological Psychology, 70, 115–120.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chivers, M. L., Rieger, G., Latty, E., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal. Psychological Science, 15, 736–744.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Crawford, J. R., Welling, L. L. M., & Little, A. C. (2010a). The health of a nation predicts their mate preferences: Cross-cultural variation in women’s preferences for masculinized male faces. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 277, 2405–2410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Boothroyd, L. G., Perrett, D. I., Penton-Voak, I. S., et al. (2006). Correlated preferences for facial masculinity and ideal or actual partner’s masculinity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 273, 1355–1360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., Smith, F. G., & Little, A. C. (2010b). Are attractive men’s faces masculine or feminine? The importance of controlling confounds in face stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36, 751–758.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity, attractions, and behavior among young sexual-minority women over a 2-year period. Developmental Psychology, 36, 241–250.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diamond, L. M. (2003). What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire. Psychological Review, 110, 173–192.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gangestad, S. W. (1993). Sexual selection and physical attractiveness: implications for mating dynamics. Human Nature, 4, 205–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gangestad, S. W., & Buss, D. M. (1993). Pathogen prevalence and human mate preferences. Ethology and Sociobiology, 14, 89–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Giargiari, T. D., Mahaffey, A. L., Craighead, W. E., & Hutchison, K. E. (2005). Appetitive responses to sexual stimuli are attenuated in individuals with low levels of sexual desire. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 547–556.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glassenberg, A. N., Feinberg, D. R., Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., & Debruine, L. M. (2010). Sex-dimorphic face shape preference in heterosexual and homosexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1289–1296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hull, C. L. (1943). Principles of behavior theory. New York: Appleton-Century.Google Scholar
  21. Huston, T. L. (1973). Ambiguity of acceptance, social desirability, and dating choice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 9, 32–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Janssen, E. (2011). Sexual arousal in men: A review and conceptual analysis. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 708–716.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnston, V. S., Hagel, R., Franklin, M., Fink, B., & Grammer, K. (2001). Male facial attractiveness: evidence for hormone-mediated adaptive design. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21, 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Little, A. C., Conway, C. A., Welling, L. L. M., & Smith, F. G. (2007). Sensation seeking and men’s face preferences. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 439–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Main, J. C., Little, A. C., Welling, L. L. M., Feinberg, D. R., et al. (2010). Facial cues of dominance modulate the short-term gaze-cuing effect in human observers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 277, 617–624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Perrett, D. I., Little, A. C., Feinberg, D. R., & Law Smith, M. J. (2008). Effects of menstrual cycle phase on face preferences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 78–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Boothroyd, L., DeBruine, L. M., Feinberg, D. R., Smith, M. J. L., et al. (2005). Commitment to relationships and preferences for femininity and apparent health in faces are strongest on days of the menstrual cycle when progesterone level is high. Hormones and Behavior, 48, 283–290.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Watkins, C. D., Welling, L. L. M., & DeBruine, L. M. (2011). Reported sexual desire predicts men’s preferences for sexually dimorphic cues in women’s faces. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1281–1285.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kenrick, D. T., Keefe, R. C., Bryan, A., Barr, A., & Brown, S. (1995). Age preferences and mate choice among homosexuals and heterosexuals: A case for modular psychological mechanisms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1166–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. King, B. E., & Allgeier, E. R. (2000). The Sexual Desire Inventory as a measure of sexual motivation in college students. Psychological Reports, 86, 347–350.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  32. Lippa, R. A. (2006). Is high sex drive associated with increased sexual attraction to both sexes? It depends on whether you are male of female. Psychological Science, 17, 46–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lippa, R. A. (2007a). 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
  34. Lippa, R. A. (2007b). The relation between sex drive and sexual attraction to men and women: A cross-national study of heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 209–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Little, A. C., Burriss, R. P., Jones, B. C., & Roberts, S. C. (2007a). Facial appearance affects voting decisions. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 18–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Little, A. C., Cohen, D. L., Jones, B. C., & Belsky, J. (2007b). Human preferences for facial masculinity change with relationship type and environmental harshness. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 61, 967–973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., Penton-Voak, I. S., Burt, D. M., & Perrett, D. I. (2002). Partnership status and the temporal context of relationships influence human female preferences for sexual dimorphism in male face shape. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 269, 1095–1100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marlowe, C. M., Schneider, S. L., & Nelson, C. E. (1996). Gender and attractiveness biases in hiring decisions: Are more experienced managers less biased? Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 11–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miller, G. F., & Todd, P. M. (1998). Mate choice turns cognitive. Trends in Cognitive Science, 2, 190–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Penton-Voak, I. S., Jacobson, A., & Trivers, R. (2004). Populational differences in attractiveness judgements of male and female faces: Comparing British and Jamaican samples. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25, 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Penton-Voak, I. S., Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., Burt, D. M., Tiddeman, B. P., & Perrett, D. I. (2003). Female condition influences preferences for sexual dimorphism in faces of male humans (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 117, 264–271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Penton-Voak, I. S., & Perrett, D. I. (2001). Male facial attractiveness: perceived personality and shifting female preferences for male traits across the menstrual cycle. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 30, 219–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Peplau, L. A. (2001). Rethinking women’s sexual orientation: An interdisciplinary, relationship-focused approach. Personal Relationships, 8, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Perrett, D. I., Lee, K. J., Penton-Voak, I. S., Rowland, D. R., Yoshikawa, S., Burt, D. M., et al. (1998). Effects of sexual dimorphism on facial attractiveness. Nature, 394, 884–887.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Puts, D. A., Jones, B. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (2012a). Sexual selection on human faces and voices. Annual Review of Sex Research, 49, 227–243.Google Scholar
  46. Puts, D. A., Welling, L. L. M., Burriss, R. P., & Dawood, K. (2012b). Men’s masculinity and attractiveness predict their female partners’ reported orgasm frequency and timing. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rhodes, G. (2006). The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 199–226.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rhodes, G., Chan, J., Zebrowitz, L. A., & Simmons, L. W. (2003). Does sexual dimorphism in human faces signal health? Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 270, S93–S95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rhodes, G., Hickford, C., & Jeffery, L. (2000). Sex-typicality and attractiveness: Are supermale and superfemale faces super-attractive? British Journal of Psychology, 91, 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rhodes, G., Simmons, L. W., & Peters, M. (2005). Attractiveness and sexual behavior: Does attractiveness enhance mating success? Evolution and Human Behavior, 26, 186–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rowland, D. A., & Perrett, D. I. (1995). Manipulating facial appearance through shape and color. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 15, 70–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Scheib, J. E. (2001). Context-specific mate choice criteria: women’s trade-offs in the contexts of long-term and extra-pair mateships. Personal Relationships, 8, 371–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sell, R. L. (1997). Defining and measuring sexual orientation: A review. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 643–658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Singh, D., Vidaurri, M., Zambarano, R. J., & Dabbs, J. M. (1999). Lesbian erotic role identification: Behavioral, morphological, and hormonal correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 1035–1049.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Smith, F. G., Jones, B. C., Welling, L. L. M., Little, A. C., Vukovic, J., Main, J. C., et al. (2009). Waist-hip ratio predicts women’s preferences for masculine male faces, but not perceptions of men’s trustworthiness. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 476–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 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.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Spence, K. W. (1956). Behavior theory and conditioning. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (1999). Facial attractiveness. Trends in Cognitive Science, 3, 452–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thornhill, R., & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Facial sexual dimorphism, developmental stability, and susceptibility to disease in men and women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 131–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tiddeman, B. P., Burt, D. M., & Perrett, D. I. (2001). Prototyping and transforming facial texture for perception research. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 21, 42–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Welling, L. L. M., Jones, B. C., & DeBruine, L. M. (2008a). Sex drive is positively associated with women’s preferences for sexual dimorphism in men’s and women’s faces. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 161–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Welling, L. L. M., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Conway, C. A., Law Smith, M. J., Little, A. C., et al. (2007). Raised salivary testosterone in women is associated with increased attraction to masculine faces. Hormones and Behavior, 52, 156–161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Welling, L. L. M., Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Smith, F. G., Feinberg, D. R., Little, A. C., et al. (2008b). Men report stronger attraction to femininity in women’s faces when their testosterone levels are high. Hormones and Behavior, 54, 703–708.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation. Science, 149, 269–274.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa L. M. Welling
    • 1
  • Kevin Singh
    • 2
  • David A. Puts
    • 2
  • Benedict C. Jones
    • 3
  • Robert P. Burriss
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  4. 4.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

Personalised recommendations