Do you prefer women or men? Research shows that it is possible to not be aware of who we are attracted to. Straight men and gay men are able to detect their sexual attraction towards women and men. However, straight women and lesbians might not be able to do the same.
Researchers Chivers et al. Researchers Chivers et al. (2004) showed straight men and women as well as gay men or lesbians with three different films. One featured two women, one had one man and one female and the third involved two men. The researchers measured participants’ self-reported sexual arousal as well as genital arousal. Results for men were simple: Gay men showed more subjective and physiological arousal when watching a film with two men, while straight men showed more arousal when watching a film with two women.
The authors’ findings regarding women, however, were surprising: Although lesbians thought they were more aroused by the film with two women, and heterosexual women thought they were more aroused by the film involving one man and one woman, both lesbian and heterosexual women were physiologically aroused by all three films, regardless of the gender of the actors.
Researchers believe that women’s sexuality is more fluid or flexible than men’s. And although they do not believe that women are inherently bisexual, they believe that women’s sexual attraction can shift more easily than men’s. This fluidity may have served an evolutionary purpose. Women whose male partners did not invest in their offspring might have benefited by forming partnerships and collaborating with other women.
We are subconsciously attracted to our own parents (and ourselves)
Are you attracted to yourself? It may surprise you to discover that people are attracted to themselves or to partners who look similar to us. Fraley and Marks (2010) showed that people expressed more sexual attraction to composite photographs when their own photograph was morphed into the composite image (versus a control condition in which another person’s photograph was morphed into the composite image). Importantly, the participants didn’t know that their own photos were included in the composites. If they had realized that the composites were meant to look like themselves, they rated them less appealing.
These results indicate that we are attracted to people who look like us unconsciously. Actually, our partners are more likely to be of the same hair and eye color as us (Little, et. al. 2003). In addition to this intrigue, our partners are more likely to look like our opposite-sex parents than we do, which raises the possibility of us being unconsciously attracted (Little and al., 2003). Read more about attraction to your parents and other interesting facts about sexual attraction.
Why are people drawn to people who look like them? Marks and Fraley suggested that stimuli, such as images of parents or ourselves, are easier to process. They may also be more attractive because they are less common. Alternately, it could be that our attraction for people who look like we is indicative of self-love.
Attractive Today, but not Tomorrow
Women’s attraction varies with their menstrual cycles. In heterosexual relationships, heterosexual women are attracted to men with more masculine looks and more symmetrical features when they have the most fertility (Roney, Simmons, 2008; Thornhill, Gangestad, 2009). Women’s attitudes toward their own partners can also change across their cycles. If the women are fertile, those who view their partners as more sexually appealing rate them more positively. According to Larson et al. (2013), women who consider their partners less attractive than they are when they’re fertile rate them negatively.
Additionally, women who are in the most fertile period of their cycles and have high estrogen levels tend to be more interested in having sex other than with their primary partners. Women who are in the more fertile section of their menstrual cycles, and have high progesterone levels, are more inclined to sex only with their primary partners (Grebe, et al. 2016,).
Why would women’s attraction to men change over time? Gangestad and Simpson 2000, stating that women should be attracted only to men with good genetics, while men who are more attractive may not be as inclined to invest in their future offspring. Researchers suggest that women could choose a mixed mating strategy. They might seek out a long-term, supportive mate who can care for and provide for their offspring and pursue men with good short-term sexual relations.
With 16 years in the adult industry, including many years at LELO, it’s fair to say Stu has been around the sex toy block a few times. As LELO’s resident sex geek, he’s been featured in the Independent, the Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and anywhere people talk about sex. In a regular op ed, he shines his light on the key events that are affecting sex today. His views are his.