Dr Raj Persaud discusses research exploring why women have better sex with men other women fancy
A team of psychologists from Oakland University, in the United States, have just published new research which showed that psychologists might be able to predict what kind of man a woman is more likely to achieve an orgasm with.
The research, published in the academic journal, ‘Personality and Individual Differences’, explains why men found attractive by other women are more likely to deliver better sex, and this is because the study argues that women want to have sons who are also eventually found more desirable by the opposite sex.
This theory is referred to as the ‘sexy sons’ hypothesis of sexual selection (within evolutionary theory), and explains a major yet hitherto hidden factor in women’s desire for certain men, and women’s experience of sex with these men.
Evolutionary psychology argues that the female orgasm may have evolved as a sexual response designed for women to retain sperm during certain sexual encounters.
The two main hypotheses about the evolutionary purpose of the female orgasm is that it is designed to increase relationship satisfaction (this is referred to as the ‘‘Pair-Bond’’ Hypothesis) or to retain preferentially the sperm of men with higher genetic quality (‘‘Sire Choice’’ Hypothesis).
The achievement of an orgasm, evolutionary psychologists contend, therefore makes it more likely that an egg will be fertilised.
If this hypothesis about the sire-choice role of the female orgasm is true, then natural selection would have shaped the female body (and brain) to be more likely to achieve an orgasm during sex with a more desirable man.
‘Desirable’ in this context refers to evolutionary desirability, which means that men whose genes women, consciously or unconsciously, chose to pass on to their sons for the son’s future reproductive success.
It makes sense, from an evolutionary standpoint, that if women want their own genes to be successfully passed on through generations that they would be motivated to produce sons who are found physically desirable by the opposite sex. The more desirable these sons are, the more likely they are to be successful in the mating game, by either having sexual access to more women and/or securing higher quality mates—thus achieving evolutionary reproductive success.
This new study is entitled ‘Female copulatory orgasm and male partner’s attractiveness to his partner and other women’, and involved recruiting 439 women, each in a committed, sexual, heterosexual relationship.
Intriguingly, the study excluded 32 women from the analysis, because they were unsure or could not remember whether they had an orgasm the last time they had sexual intercourse with their partner.
The authors of the study, Yael Sela, Viviana Weekes-Shackelford, Todd Shackelford and Michael Pham obtained women’s assessments of the sexual attractiveness of their male partners to other women. They found that women who perceive that other women find their partner to be more attractive, are more likely to report orgasm at last sexual encounter.
What is most intriguing is that while assessments of how attractive the women themselves find their partner to be—perhaps unsurprisingly, predict how likely women are to achieve an orgasm during sex with their male partner, it is how attractive the women believe other women find their partner to be that appears to be a better predictor of how likely they are to have an orgasm.
In other words, it is not so much how intensely you fancy your male partner that predicts how likely you are to achieve an orgasm, but more how much you think other women fancy your male partner which seems to predict orgasm during sexual intercourse with him.
This is exactly what the ‘sexy sons’ hypothesis would predict.This hypothesis claims that women find certain men more physically desirable because they possess markers of good genes (those which build a desirable man) which, if passed on to their sons, will contribute to these sons desirability to other women.
Basically, this hypothesis argues that women are motivated to retain genes that build ‘sexy fathers’ in order to have ‘sexy sons’.
One problem with the study and the theory behind it is that it seems silent on a ‘sexy daughters’ hypothesis. But perhaps that is because the theory might be arguing that the female characteristics a woman passes on to her daughters, has more to do with her herself, than the man she picks, whose male features are being chosen because these are going to end up being shown more in her sons.
Another problem with this kind of evolutionary psychology argument is that it seems a bit stuck in the past—that it seems to endorse the view that men are, on average, less discriminating about mating opportunities than women.
However, it does fit in with another well-known finding in attractiveness research, which is that when men find a woman physically desirable, they tend to be uninfluenced by the view of other men. So, for example, whether a man finds Megan Fox fanciable or not will be based almost completely on his own reaction to her, and very little on knowledge that she is found ‘hot’ by lots of other men.
On the other hand we also know from psychology research on this topic that women’s assessment of how drawn they are to a man, is much more influenced by how desirable they notice other women find that man.
The theory behind this finding is that for women, the assessment of a good quality male mate is more complex, and women therefore use the assessments of other women to guide their choice.
Another way of putting it is that if people are like hotels, then women need ‘Trip Advisor’, or its equivalent, before making a choice, while men are happy to settle for bed and breakfast.
Dr Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist and joint podcast editor for the Royal College of Psychiatrists with a new free to download app entitled ‘Raj Persaud in Conversation’