Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 405–412 | Cite as

Sex Differences in Sexual Psychology Produce Sex-Similar Preferences for a Short-Term Mate

  • Todd K. Shackelford
  • Aaron T. Goetz
  • Craig W. LaMunyon
  • Brian J. Quintus
  • Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


We explored aspects of men's and women's short-term sexual psychology as a function of a potential short-term partner's relationship status. A total of 209 men and 288 women reported how likely they would be to pursue a casual sexual relationship with an attractive member of the opposite sex who was (1) married, (2) not married but has casual sexual partners, or (3) not married and has no casual sexual partners. Guided by sperm competition theory, we predicted and found that men prefer short-term sex partners who are not already involved in relationships and hence present a relatively low risk of sperm competition. Because women sometimes use short-term sexual relationships to acquire long-term partners, we predicted and found that women prefer short-term sexual partners who are not already involved in relationships and hence present relatively greater promise as a potential long-term partner. Finally, across each of the three levels of the imagined partner's relationship status, men reported a greater likelihood than did women of pursuing a casual sexual relationship. Discussion addressed methodological limitations and directions for future work.

short-term mating sexual psychology sperm competition evolutionary psychology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker, R. R., & Bellis, M. A. (1993). Human sperm competition: Ejaculate adjustment by males and the function of masturbation. Animal Behaviour, 46, 861-885.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, R. R., & Bellis, M. A. (1995). Human sperm competition: Copulation, masturbation, and infidelity. London: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Birkhead, T. (2000). Promiscuity: An evolutionary history of sperm competition and sexual conflict. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  4. Buss, D. M. (1989a). Conflict between the sexes: Strategic interference and the evocation of anger and upset. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 735-747.Google Scholar
  5. Buss, D. M. (1989b). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1-49.Google Scholar
  6. Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-232.Google Scholar
  8. Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., Westen, D., & Semmelroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology and psychology. Psychological Science, 3, 251-255.Google Scholar
  9. Cashdan, E. (1996). Women's mating strategies. Evolutionary Anthropology, 5, 134-143.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 2, 39-55.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Daly, M., Wilson, M., & Weghorst, J. (1982). Male sexual jealousy. Ethology and Sociobiology, 3, 11-27.Google Scholar
  13. Dixson, A. F. (1998). Primate sexuality: Comparative studies of the prosimians, monkeys, apes, and human beings. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Ellis, B. J., & Symons, D. (1990). Sex differences in fantasy: An evolutionary psychological approach. Journal of Sex Research, 27, 527-556.Google Scholar
  15. Gallup, G. G., Burch, R. L., Zappieri, M. L., Parvez, R. A., Stockwell, M. L., & Davis, J. A. (2003). The human penis as a semen displacement device. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 277-289.Google Scholar
  16. Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (1990). Toward an evolutionary history of female sociosexual variation. Journal of Personality, 58, 69-96.Google Scholar
  17. Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behavior and Brain Sciences, 23, 573-587.Google Scholar
  18. Goetz, A. T., Shackelford, T. K., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., Euler, H. A., Hoier, S., & Schmitt, D. P. (2004). Mate retention, semen displacement, and human sperm competition: A preliminary investigation of tactics to prevent and correct female infidelity. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  19. Gomendio, M., Harcourt, A. H., & Roldán, E. R. S. (1998). Sperm competition in mammals. In T. R. Birkhead & A. P. Møller (Eds.), Sperm competition and sexual selection (pp. 667-756). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  20. Greiling, H., & Buss, D. M. (2000). Women's sexual strategies: The hidden dimension of women's short-term extra-pair mating. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 929-963.Google Scholar
  21. Hrdy, S. B. (1981). The woman that never evolved. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  23. Klusmann, D. (2002). Sexual motivation and the duration of partnership. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 275-287.Google Scholar
  24. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  25. Okami, P., & Shackelford, T. K. (2001). Human sex differences in sexual psychology and behavior. Annual Review of Sex Research, 12, 186-241.Google Scholar
  26. Parker, G. A. (1970). Sperm competition and its evolutionary consequences in the insects. Biological Reviews, 45, 525-567.Google Scholar
  27. Pound, N. (2002). Male interest in visual cues of sperm competition risk. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 443-466.Google Scholar
  28. Schmitt, D. P., Alcalay, L., Allik, J., Ault, L., Austers, I., Bennett, K. L., et al. (2003). Universal sex differences in the desire for sexual variety: Tests from 52 nations, 6 continents, and 13 islands. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 85-104.Google Scholar
  29. Schmitt, D. P., Shackelford, T. K., & Buss, D. M. (2001). Are men really more oriented toward short-term mating than women?: A critical review of theory and research. Psychology, Evolution, and Gender, 3, 211-239.Google Scholar
  30. Schmitt, D. P., Shackelford, T. K., Duntley, J., Tooke, W., & Buss, D. M. (2001). The desire for sexual variety as a tool for understanding basic human mating strategies. Personal Relationships, 8, 425-462.Google Scholar
  31. Shackelford, T. K., LeBlanc, G. J., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., Bleske-Rechek, A. L., Euler, H. A., & Hoier, S. (2002). Psychological adaptation to human sperm competition. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 123-138.Google Scholar
  32. Short, R. V. (1979). Sexual selection and its component parts, somatic and genital selection, as illustrated by man and the great apes. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 9, 131-158.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, R. L. (1984). Human sperm competition. In R. L. Smith (Ed.), Sperm competition and the evolution of animal mating systems (pp. 601-660). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  34. Smuts, B. B. (1985). Sex and friendship in baboons. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  35. Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Townsend, J. M. (1995). Sex without emotional involvement: An evolutionary interpretation of sex differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 24, 173-206.Google Scholar
  37. Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man (pp. 136-179). Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  38. Wyckoff, G. J., Wang, W., & Wu, C. (2000). Rapid evolution of male reproductive genes in the descent of man. Nature, 403, 304-308.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
  • Aaron T. Goetz
    • 1
  • Craig W. LaMunyon
    • 2
  • Brian J. Quintus
    • 1
  • Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida Atlantic UniversityDavie
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia State Polytechnic UniversityPomona

Personalised recommendations