28 January 2011

Penile presence makes for abominable affairs

by Kate Melville

Men are more than twice as likely to continue dating a girlfriend who has cheated on them with another woman than one who has cheated with another man, say University of Texas bonk boffins. But for women, it's the opposite. They are more likely to continue dating a man who has had a heterosexual affair than one who has had a homosexual affair.

The researchers say the study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, provides new insights into the evolution of human mating psychology, particularly the adaptations behind men's desire for a variety of partners and women's desire for a committed partner.

"A robust jealousy mechanism is activated in men and women by different types of cues - those that threaten paternity in men and those that threaten abandonment in women," opined evolutionary psychologist Jaime C. Confer, the study's lead author.

The study involved 700 subjects who were told to imagine they were in a committed romantic and sexual relationship and then asked how they would respond to infidelity committed by the imagined partner.

Some of the participants were told their partners had been unfaithful with a man, others with a woman. Some were told their partners had an affair with one person, others with multiple partners. Some were told the infidelity happened once, others twice.

Regardless of the number of episodes or partners, the study found that:

The researchers speculate that men are probably more distressed by the type of infidelity that could threaten the paternity of their offspring. They add, somewhat saucily, that men may view a partner's homosexual affair as an opportunity to mate with more than one woman simultaneously, satisfying men's greater desire for more partners.

"These findings are even more remarkable given that homosexuality attitude surveys show men have more negative attitudes toward homosexuality and to be less supportive of civil rights for same-sex couples than women. However, this general trend of men showing lower tolerance for homosexuality than women is reversed in the one fitness-enhancing situation- female homosexuality," say the researchers.

Conversely, women objected to continuing a relationship following both types of affairs, but especially so for a boyfriend's homosexual affair. Such an affair, notes the study, may be seen as a sign of dissatisfaction with the current relationship and a prelude to possible abandonment.

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Source: University of Texas at Austin