New analysis suggests that men and women have broadly similar priorities in their preferences for sexual attraction, but vary in the degree of preference for certain traits. Preferences also seem to change with age. Stephen Whyte of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues present these findings in the open access journal PLOS ONE on May 19, 2021.
People’s sexual attraction preferences lead them to make decisions about sex, relationships, and reproduction that ultimately influence other facets of society, such as gender roles, gender equity , fertility rates, politics, etc. However, it is not known how preferences for certain traits vary between men and women and at different stages of life.
To shed new light on sexual attraction, Whyte and colleagues surveyed 7,325 Australian dating users, aged 18 to 65. Participants were asked to rate on a scale of 0 to 100 the importance of nine traits of potential mates. These traits fell into three categories: aesthetics (age, attractiveness and build / physical characteristics), resources (intelligence, education and income) and personality (confidence, openness and emotional connection).
Statistical analysis of responses revealed similar priorities for men and women, with both rating physical build, attractiveness, and all three personality traits as very important, while income was of much less importance. However, women rated the importance of age, education, intelligence, income, confidence, and bonding about 9 to 14 points higher than men. Additionally, compared to all other traits, men place a higher priority on attractiveness and physical build than women.
The analysis also showed that the differences between male and female preferences changed with age. For example, while men generally placed a higher relative importance on aesthetics than women, this gap narrowed with age. Meanwhile, younger women placed higher relative importance than younger men on personality, but older men and women placed greater importance on personality.
Overall, these findings are consistent with the predictions of existing theories of attraction, including those that consider mate choice in the context of parenthood. The authors note the limitations of their study and highlight potential directions for future research towards an even more nuanced understanding of sexual attraction.
The authors add, “Both sexes tend to find the same sexy things in a potential partner, but at different stages of life from 18 to 80 years old, men and women can differ quite significantly in terms of sex. importance they attach to these same special characteristics. ”
Citation: Whyte S, Brooks RC, Chan HF, Torgler B (2021) Sex differences in sexual attraction to aesthetics, resources and personality through age. PLoS ONE 16 (5): e0250151. https: /
Funding: The authors did not receive any specific funding for this work.
Competing interests: The authors have stated that there are no competing interests.
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