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Aligning Mars and Venus: The Social Construction and Instability of Gender Differences in Romantic Relationships

Abstract

An evolutionary approach to gender differences in romantic relationships has pervaded the scientific literature, a trend mirrored in popular culture by Mars-Venus stereotyping. Three studies tested the accuracy of the popular notion that gender differences would emerge for the behaviors women and men want and receive from romantic partners in a sample of 375 students at a southeastern U.S. public university. Across the three studies, only one stable and robust gender difference emerged (desires regarding relationship support), as did several unstable gender differences. However, gender-role identity significantly accounted for nearly half of the variance in this one stable gender difference, challenging the viability of some evolutionary conceptualizations of gender differences and instead providing support for social constructionist and feminist perspectives.

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Correspondence to Paul B. Perrin.

Appendix A

Appendix A

Desired Loving Behavior Scale

While considering your current relationship or while considering your most recent previous relationship, please answer the following questions. What do you want your partner to DO or SAY to make you feel loved?

Use the following scale to indicate how often you would like your partner to do or say the following things in order to make you feel loved.

1 = Never

2 = Rarely

3 = Sometimes

4 = Often

5 = Always

1. Tell me that I make them happier than anyone else.
2. Make our relationship a mutual project.
3. Say to me, “You mean so much to me.”
4. Do my laundry every once in a while.
5. Tell me what he/she likes and dislikes in bed.
6. Put a note on my car.
7. Seduce me.
8. Be a good listener to me.
9. Spend time talking with me.
10. Be open to trying new sexual positions.
11. Leave a rose on my pillow.
12. Help me through rough times.
13. Be a good communicator.
14. Take a more active role in sex and foreplay.
15. Say that he/she wants to marry me.
16. Create a feeling of security between us.
17. Cook a special meal just for the two of us.
18. Say, “I love you with all my heart and soul.”
19. Accept my imperfections.
20. Remember my birthday.
21. Good sex.
22. Say to me, “Let’s make love.”
23. Be supportive of me and my decisions.
24. Make a mix tape or CD of songs for me.
25. Talk about our future together.
26. Say to me, “I enjoy spending time with you more than any other person.”
27. Say to me, “I want to be with you forever.”
28. Take walks with me during the day.
29. Write poems.
30. Be sympathetic to my feelings.
31. Have sex in strange places.
32. Oral sex.
33. Make me cookies and brownies.
34. Encourage me to keep going during sex.
35. Say to me, “You are the best thing that ever happened to me.”
36. Say to me, “I’ll always love you.”
37. Change his/her religion.
38. Say to me, “I think that we make a great couple.”
39. Initiate sex.

Scoring:

Relationship Support subscale items – 2, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 19, 20, 23, 30.

Scripting subscale items – 1, 3, 15, 18, 25, 26, 27, 35, 36, 38.

Sex subscale items – 5, 7, 11, 14, 21, 22, 31, 32, 34, 39.

Caring Actions subscale items – 4, 6, 10, 17, 24, 28, 29, 33, 37.

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Perrin, P.B., Heesacker, M., Tiegs, T.J. et al. Aligning Mars and Venus: The Social Construction and Instability of Gender Differences in Romantic Relationships. Sex Roles 64, 613–628 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9804-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9804-4

Keywords

  • Gender roles
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Romantic relationships
  • Stereotypes