You’re at a bar with some friends and end up chatting with a girl sitting at the table next to you. The conversation goes great and you spend the whole night talking. What’s more, she even laughs at all your jokes. When you say goodbye you go in for the kiss but she dodges it and gives you a quick hug. You thought the two of you really hit it off but now you’re not so sure. What did she think, you wonder?
It turns out she thought you were sweet and funny but romance or sex didn’t cross her mind. You’d make good pals, she told her friends, if you see each other again.
Sex or friends?
If this sounds familiar, rest assured: you’re far from the first guy and girl to misinterpret each other’s intentions. And this scenario – where he thinks ‘sex’ and she thinks ‘friends’ – is about as common as it gets. It’s not just a cliché, there’s research to prove it.
But why is it that men and women get the wrong idea about whether sex is on the menu? To understand more, Norwegian researchers quizzed 308 young adults. The participants filled in a questionnaire about miscommunication with members of the opposite sex. They were asked things like “Have you ever been sexually attracted to someone and shown interest, and had the other person misinterpret your signals as friendliness?” The study’s author then compared the answers of guys and girls.
Men are way more likely to have their sexual advances misinterpreted as friendliness by the gal they’re interested in, the questionnaires showed. Women, on the other hand, said that men are frequently mistaken in thinking they want sex.
Why he gets it wrong?
But why are men so quick to want sex when a woman is just being friendly? Can this difference be explained by cultural cues, like movies or music videos that show guys who have sex on the brain and girls who are less interested? Or have years of evolution led to these kinds of psychological differences between the sexes?
The fact that gender equality is about as strong as it can be in Norway helps prove the latter, the author says. Men have evolved to think ‘sex’ whenever a girl is being friendly because their best chance of passing on their genes is to have sex as often as they get the chance. But there’s a lot more at stake for women since getting pregnant and raising kids is a pretty big commitment.
Is she downplaying her interest?
But another recent study has put a spin on the idea that men have evolved to think sex when women are not interested. It’s not that guys are mistaken in believing gals want sex, the study concluded. Instead, what might be going on is that women tend to downplay their interest, which is why men have evolved to act in a way that overestimates it, conclude the study’s researchers.
More research that looks at real-life scenarios where a man and woman do or don’t end up having sex after that great conversation in the bar will help shed more light on why it can be so difficult to decode signals.
Source: Evidence of Systematic Bias in Sexual Over- and Underperception of Naturally Occurring Events: A direct Replication of Haselton (2003) in a more Gender-Equal Culture, Mons Bendixen, Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Do you think guys get it wrong about whether girls want sex or not? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.