Getting Creeped Out to Fit In
Sometimes we’re confused about what’s “normal” and end up doing uncomfortable things — that may even creep us out — just to fit in.
Take wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am (or sir) sex. Plenty of us are really into it. But usually, we think others are more comfortable with random sex than we are, ourselves.
University of Texas sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, studied sex on college campuses and found that many young people feel conflicted between their private preferences and their public behavior because they think everyone else — most importantly, “the popular” — want hookups. To not join in — or at least act like you want to — would be social suicide.
That, in turn, creates its own reality: a hookup culture that everyone thinks is real, but which is a figment of the collegiate imagination. Because while most say they’re for it, most don’t actually do it.
Researchers, Chris Reiber and Justin Garcia asked college students how comfortable they felt doing acts ranging from “first base” to “home run” (you might say) with someone they barely knew. Their findings were reported in “Hooking Up: Gender Difference, Evolution and Pluralistic Ignorance” In the journal, Evolutionary Psychology (2010).
Turns out, women and men, alike, tend to think that men are more comfortable in random carnal intimacies than they, themselves, are. AND, everyone seems to think that women and men are very much alike — with that alikeness tracking what is, in reality, more common for men.
The gap between women’s comfort level, and what men think it is, is especially striking. Also interesting that women believe men are more comfortable with all of this than they actually are — and that even men overestimate other men’s comfort.
The first graph below shows 1) how comfortable women say they’d be at various levels of physical intimacy, 2) how comfortable women guess that other women would be, and 3) how comfortable men guess that women would be. The second graph does the same for men. You can find more accurate renderings (labeled “Figure 2”) along with a discussion of the study here.
Women’s comfort levels
scale -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5
Touch, above s wm
Touch, below s wm
Oral, give s wm
Oral, receive s w m
Intercourse s w m
s: a woman’s comfort level (self)
w: women guessing other women’s comfort level
m: men guessing women’s comfort level
And here are assessments of men’s comfort levels:
Men’s comfort levels
scale -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5
Touch, above s m w
Touch, below s m w
Oral, give s m w
Oral, receive s m w
Intercourse s m w
s: a man’s comfort level (self)
m: men guessing other men’s comfort level
w: women guessing men’s comfort level
Feeling like we’re not “the norm” can leave us feeling weird, and like we should engage in behavior we want little part of.
And why assume we are all exaggerated versions of men, anyway? Besides the chatter on college campuses, porn as sex ed may “help.” We watch porn and believe what we see. And what we see are porn starlets acting out what we think of as male sexuality — on steroids.
Meanwhile, a feminist desire to squelch sexual repression is commonly misunderstood as promoting random and uncaring sex. Sexuality is best when it’s not repressed. That doesn’t mean everyone must do it just one way, or do things that are uncomfortable.
The chart can be misunderstood, too. Some mistake, men’s “comfort” for their “preference.” Men may be more comfortable than women with hookup sex, but most prefer relationship sex.
Turns out, hookup sex isn’t for everyone. But neither is relationship sex. And no one should feel pressured to be inauthentic to who they are.
Posted on January 13, 2014, in feminism, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged feminism, hookup culture, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.