When it comes to engaging in sexual intercourse, women hold the keys.
Earlier this year, the University of Chicago Press published a study on the gender differences and attitudes toward sex in advertising. As I reviewed the research and prepared to write about that topic, I discovered something else: Sexual Economics Theory (SET). SET “argues that because women possess greater negotiating power than do men when it comes to sex, they are in a position to ask for additional resources to make the exchange equitable.”
In other words, according to SET, women are in control of if and when sex takes place. This idea has been around for decades.
In 1978, for instance, Edward O. Wilson, a well-known biologist, reported that a “study of teenage girls revealed that a requirement before engaging in sexual activity was a declaration of love or dating commitment from the male partner.”
Little seems to have changed.
In fact, 42 percent of women reported having engaged in sexual relations without involvement, compared to 84 percent of men. Because women engage in less sexual intercourse without commitment than men, this places them in a position of power — their power stems from wanting sex less, and this allows them to determine if and when the act takes place.
That left me wondering: when is it appropriate to have sexual intercourse after first meeting someone?
Answer: Men believe that the second date is an appropriate time to have sex, whereas women report that sexual intercourse ought to take place much later.
This supports the abovementioned idea that women are the gatekeepers of sex, possessing more of a relationship orientation to sexuality; moreover, men’s recreational attitude toward sexuality puts them at a disadvantage. Any man who has put his game on at the bar in order to “Get Lucky” (to use Daft Punk’s song title) knows what I am talking about.
And, like most things in this realm, an evolutionary explanation seems appropriate.
According to researchers, “because females in the human species must invest far greater resources to produce offspring than do men, they tend to be correspondingly more selective in their mate choice of sexual partners.” Moreover, this means that women select mates who can offer more long-term resources and commitment. Men, on the other hand, tend to “benefit reproductively by taking advantage of opportunities to engage in sexual intercourse with a large number of women, with little regard to long-term consequences.”
To conclude, theoretical foundations such as SET and quantitative data both support the idea that women — not men — are the gatekeepers to sexual intercourse.
Source: “Sex in Advertising: Gender Differences and the Role of Relationship Commitment,” Darren W. Dahl, et al., The University of Chicago Press, 2013.