Guys Just Want One Thing

Guys want just one thing?Guys just want one thing.

The belief is so widespread that we needn’t say what the one thing is.

Yet the truism isn’t true.

You may have heard that since there are more women than men on college campuses these days, women are pressured to do sex the way men like it: No strings attached. 

Yet the effect is small. And hookup culture turns out to be a myth, with the average student having only seven new partners over four years.

“Okay With” ≠ “Preference”

Research has shown that, on average, men are indeed more okay with casual sex, and they’re less likely to experience distress after indulging. (Some think it’s biological. Others — like me — suspect it’s sociological, due to things like slut-shaming that punishes and represses women’s sexuality.)

But “being more okay with” is not the same as “preference.”

Actually, 3/4 of guys prefer relationship sex. And 90% of them will get married, instead of spending their lives playing the field. Even after a partner’s death or divorce, men remarry more quickly than women.

Why date instead of just hook up?

Psychologist, Andrew Smiler asked young men why they date. He says the same three things come up repeatedly, whether they’re talking about ideal relationships, actual relationships, or their motives for dating. Sexual orientation and age don’t matter, either.

Here are their three reasons:

Companionship and connection

Typically, guys date because they like their partners and enjoy spending time with them. And they value the intense feeling of passion and connection.

Emotional support and intimacy

Guys also value emotional support. They may talk about how their partners boost them up, and make them feel good about themselves. And how they are more supportive than friends or parents.

Or, they like having someone with whom they can share their deepest secrets, dreams and worries.

Physical intimacy

And of course physical intimacy is important, but it’s not the only thing.

Surprisingly, Dr. Smiler adds:

When asked why they’re dating, only a minority of boys tell us that physical intimacy is a factor in their decision, making this a secondary reason to date.

Sure, guys want sex. But most of them want a whole lot more, too.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 25, 2014, in men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. I can guess about how those stereotypes work. I think it is related to how media and entertainment have worked since long time ago. For example, Hollywood movies are often about alpha male who sleeps with so many girls whom are not in relationship. Compared to female characters who are often described as just being beautiful and passive, male characters are usually masculine, strong and aggressive. So during his adventure, he finds many girls, and “get” them as the part of his victory. People just take it for granted and start to believe that all guys are like that.

    • Yes. And evolutionary psychology, which has two contradictory Schools of thought (+ one school contradicts itself) adds to the stereotype by saying that women are naturally monogamous and men are naturally promiscuous.

  2. After I read this article, I realize males are not the enemy of women, and the unequal status of women and men does not only hurt women, but also hurt men, although some people may not care about the bad reputations of men. And it’s good to find that both women and men prefer relationship sex. I totally agree that “being more okay with” is not the same as “preference.” And I also agree that the reason behind is sociological, related with how women are educated and repressed by the society in the aspect of sex, like “be sexy but not sexual”.

  3. I think this stereotype of men is very active in todays society but I agree that it is only a stereotype. Both men and women are human and as a humans we both seek intimacy. I think the idea that men only want sex stems from the idea of a stereotypical man being dominant and emotionless, yet both men and women actively seek and explore sex, especially in college. I think that the reason men feel more okay about casual sex is due to the gender roles in society, women are more likely to play the role of the one being used and men simply just feel “manlier” after the act. Alot of men like to belittle women due to this fact and act like they aren’t emotionally affected or dependent on a women. I think that the statistics in this post really breaks this stereotype and shows how deeper emotion is an equal factor in both men and women when it comes to companionship

  4. masscommblogproject

    Hearing that guys prefer companionship over hooking up with girls again and again does not surprise me whatsoever. Sure, I’ve known a lot of guys who have “played the field”. But women do also. I’ve also known plenty of men who have played the field, and decided to settle into a relationship. However, the belief that guys only want one thing is partially true — but it depends on the guy, and obviously depends on whether or not that guy is single. From my experience, most people in their younger twenties (male and female) play the field. It’s just what they do. And as fun as it may seem, as humans, we long for a deeper connection, and I think as we grow up, we realize that more and more. As we get older, we mature and seek companionship, emotional support, and a physical relationship with just one person. There will always be the select guys (and girls) that enjoy playing the field and hooking up, which is totally fine. But I definitely think once most people meet someone they connect with, they have zero desire to be single just so they can be promiscuous.

  5. Emotions are more stronger than just having a sex in the relationship. There are a few men who still believe in true love and don’t perceive women as a mere sex object.

    • Actually, there are quite a lot of them.

      Though some men may objectify some women and fall in love with others.

    • Heta,

      There are far more than you think! I was one of those men who was emotionally available, loving, and affectionate to my ex wife. But, I was burned badly by her with sex having to endure a sexless marriage for over a decade.

      So, men such as myself either step back (celibacy in my case) or they conclude that an emotional relationship is simply not worth all the aggravation…..

      The entire purpose of a relationship or marriage is that both people should be better off emotionally, financially, sexually, romantically…than if they were single. There also religious motivations for relationships and marriage.

      What this meant for me was sacrifice and being unselfish. In essence, it should be about giving of yourself to the other person. Hopefully, the other person reciprocates! And no, for me it does not mean giving equally. It means making sure you give enough of yourself to the other person where they feel appreciated, fulfilled, validated, loved, and happy sharing their life.

      It has to work for BOTH partners. When it does not work for both partners, it is doomed to failure.

      Women as sex objects…….

      The problem with sexual objectification is on the one hand too many women are presenting themselves as sex objects. But, then turning around and blaming men for viewing them as sex objects. I am not convinced that sexual objectification is bad for either gender. Women do it as much as men. It’s just that women are more subtle about it.

      I recall the Duke U coed who became a porn actress to help pay for the $40K tuition at Duke. OK, so she is voluntarily being a sex object for $$$$. She then argues in the Huntington Post about how empowering this is for her. Since when is sexual objectification empowering? Further, she is annoyed at the guys “who want to f**k me. But, then call me a s*&t for f***ing. These same men who love to watch porn and me getting f***ked” OK, she has a valid point. But, is she not being a sex object as a porn actress? Is not an escort to be viewed and treated as a sex object? She is not being paid to recite the 10 commandments!

      Recently, We saw this double standard very clearly with Beyonce being lauded by the feminist community for her overly sexualized performance at the Emmys. It was viewed as female empowerment. But, Sofia Vergara was roundly criticized for allowing herself to become a sex object by the same community. Honestly, both could easily be construed as sex objects to varying degrees. Each woman voluntarily agreed to be sex objects.

      So, when it comes to sexual objectification women cannot have it both ways. If you present yourself as a sex object, then you cannot complain if you are treated as such.

  6. I remember in high school, and friend of mine told me about a discussion she had with her mother. Her mother supported her having sex at some point before marriage because you want to know how good he is at sex. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life having bad sex?” she asked.

    Well, maybe having a connection of sorts is important, but I like to combine that with advice from my own mother. “You learn about each other and what each person likes.”

    I think this is why sex is important but not the most important when it comes to relationships. We want that connection, built out of the emotional support we get. So long as that is in place and people are open and honest with each other, they can learn what the other wants in a physical relationship.

    • Everything you say makes perfect sense to me. Plus, you can find out whether someone can emotionally connect with you during sex, which I think is really important.

    • “So long as that is in place and people are open and honest with each other, they can learn what the other wants in a physical relationship.”

      So long as the person is open to learning. That can be dicey with a lot of men. Egos, confidence, feeling etc. If he is not willing to take the time to learn what pleases his woman, then he is not worth the time.

  7. But yes, I do think men want more than one thing meaning sex. I think many girls say this and feel this unfortunately from being hurt by players and see all or many men in that light. Guy’s are more complicated and motivated more than girls think, can want more than sex and want many other things like intimacy, relationship. And even the player guys who just have sex and seem to use girls. It’s not so simple as their motivation and some girls may see and think it’s because these guy’s simply don’t care about girls or lack emotion and can just be pigs and just want sex for nothing but the physical pleasure. I think the garbage reality show, only gives impression of that where the male cast was having one night stands left and right and looking for girls who were “dtf”.

    I think you know what that means, but I can say if you aren’t sure. While there are guys like that, it can be more complicated. Some guys going that rout can be insecure and thinking they can’t get anything better than sex from a girl. Some guys having been hurt from girls, might be jaded unfortunately and don’t trust girls and refuse to open up and allow for another relationship, so just have sex or non comitted relations and fun with women. Or other guys are loving, caring and sensitive, but regret and didn’t sow their oats when younger and wish they had and want to have the fun they feel they missed and other guys had before they try a relationship. But are older and don’t want to waste anymore time, which relationships would do, so having fun and memories and being ready but also getting it out of the way, in case they are lucky to meet a great girl. They can commit to her instead of getting cold feet and making a big mistake and pushing the great girl away.

  8. “They tend to feel like college is the time to explore and have experiences.”

    I think this explains the short relationships right here, where guys are going to want to explore and have experiences while in college. They can’t really do that if they have the same girlfriend from the beginning of college till they graduate during that 4 year span.
    Yeah and I get not wanting random sex with people you don’t know, that’s why the short relationships, they are casual, but with someone a guy still knows and likes. It can still kind of show that guys aren’t just about sex only, but guys seems to like the casual stuff, which is very sex, fun related than girls.

    • And during college a lot of women are in that same place of wanting to explore, usually within the context of some sort of relationship, connection, caring, as opposed to straight sex with someone you don’t know.

  9. Well it’s not like the college guys are having serious relationships either. The girlfriends are only lasting a semester, as 4 years of college is I believe 8 semesters. So they have their sexual, girlfriend companion to be with them, watch and cuddle with for movies and have out to parties and clubs with them. Then break up happens, and the next girlfriend that semester or the fall or spring semester. If it was all about relationships, then the relationships wouldn’t be short ones.

    The short one’s actually sound ideal for men, as it’s the best of both worlds for men. They are getting regular sex or more regular than if they were single, a person they like and company, and to go out and do stuff with. But obviously, not stay committed. Obviously its more than men preferring a relationship as the number would be less, well if the guys are faithful. But me thinks, that well, the temptation of so many girls gets to even the many other guys who want a serious relationship but they can’t stick with it and have to and want to date a little but. Otherwise, the relationships would last a year or two, but 7 partners though definitely low for what I expect with college, would still be short term relationships, which seem casual to me, because there isn’t the commitment to it.

    • Seven partners over four years is average. So that is including the people who do have a lot of hookups. Probably be more helpful to look at the median.

      Still, college relationships are short-lived because people in college, both men and women, generally want to graduate and have some financial security before getting married. They tend to feel like college is the time to explore and have experiences.

      At the same time, neither men nor women are typically interested in having random sex with people they don’t know or care about. Even a six-month relationship is immensely different from that scenario.

      • “Seems like an awful lot of people believe the myths of hookup culture — whether they think it’s all the rage with women or men — but statistics show that only 10% of the student population actually enjoy it.”

        Just because only 10% enjoy it does not explain why nearly 60% engage in it. I am referencing your link to the Wade and Halderman piece called “Hooking Up and Opting Out.” Table 6.1.

        I am just not sure what your point is here. We only interdict 10% of the drugs entering America. But, people still use a hell of a lot drugs,

        “But wait. A new study found that women were as likely to accept casual offers as men. So long as the possible partners were Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp.”

        This is from,

        Again, it would seem to me that your are ignoring a lot of facts. Women don’t mind casual sex so long as the guy is attractive and safe, stranger or not.

        Here is an interesting unscientific piece I came across,

        Also, I followed this woman’s dating experience(s) for a year. Very interesting indeed…

        I am not trying to be a pest about this. But, like yourself I too am a well educated researcher/professional just in the field of finance and economics. So, I have to consider ALL the data…

      • re:
        Just because only 10% enjoy it does not explain why nearly 60% engage in it. I am referencing your link to the Wade and Halderman piece called “Hooking Up and Opting Out.” Table 6.1.

        Interestingly, this comes from Lisa Wade, who talks about surveys showing that only about 10% of the student body actually enjoys hooking up. And if you look at the breakdown, even while 64% of women and 55% of men try it, only 9% of women and 18% of men were enthusiastic about it. Overall, only 11% of the student body were enthusiastic. 55% of women and 36% of men were reluctant. And about a third of each gender opted out.

        Meanwhile, if people have only seven partners after four years, hookup culture is hardly widespread — as once believed. That’s just less than two partners a year. And not all of those are hookups.

        Young people go to college and hear that hooking up is expected, So it’s not surprising that a lot of people try it. Especially since college is seen as a time to experiment. But most don’t like it.

        And “We only interdict 10% of the drugs entering America. But, people still use a hell of a lot drugs,” doesn’t parallel my point. It says nothing about the percentage of Americans who use drugs or how they experience it. It’s not like 10% of sex is entering America but people still have a lot of sex.

        And yes, women will easily have sex with Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. The study found that women were willing to have sex if they thought that the men would be really good sexually — but that they couldn’t see any point in bothering, otherwise. That’s hardly going to lead to widespread hooking up. Or enjoying random sex.

        I suspect another reason why women would jump at having sex with those two celebrities is that it would be great for the ego. Ditto sex with attractive men.

    • Bob,

      “The short one’s actually sound ideal for men, as it’s the best of both worlds for men.”

      There are many men who are not interested in serial monogamy. I am one of those men. I have always been uninterested even since I was a teenager. But, to each his own. I cannot say what is good or best for anyone except myself.

      I would actually argue that this “ideal” you find for men is pretty much how the majority of single women behave today. This is especially the case for single, younger, well educated women. This is that privilege which women enjoy when it comes to dating and sex.

      I actually considered polygamous marriage a few years ago after my divorce. But, concluded that such ran contrary to my religious and moral beliefs. However, I do support polygamous marriage. If gay marriage is legal, I find no reason why polygamy should not be legal as well.

      • Seems like an awful lot of people believe the myths of hookup culture — whether they think it’s all the rage with women or men — but statistics show that only 10% of the student population actually enjoy it. And they’re more likely to be men than women. Women often have to drink a lot of alcohol to tolerate something they feel pressured into, but still don’t do all that much.

  10. “If food is scarce, it becomes important all the time; if readily available, it is just another part of life, and hopefully a delicious one.” Bob Berkowitz, PhD and Susan Yager-Berkowitz, (from He’s Just Not Up for It Anymore……….). Great book!

    Substitute sex for food and it explains a lot of the behavior of most men when it comes to sex. Most men find sex to be scare, including married men. Hence, it (sex) tends to preoccupy our thoughts and actions disproportionately.

    The opportunities for sex for men is drastically lower for men than women. This, in my view, explain why so many prostitutes exist that cater to men (even if the men are married). One of the most frustrating things for me has been trying to get women to realize that most men do NOT share sex lives that are similar to most women.

    I have a female friend I will call Robin. After my divorce, I commenced a FWB thingy with her. I was sex starved for over a decade!!! I have known her for 15 years. She knew of my sexless marriage and the whole thing…We were out for dinner on evening. She ran into this guy named Rob. Rob was a guy she briefly dated. She said the sex was good but nothing else. Well she then proceeded to share the sex prowess of Rob with her other girlfriends. This guy Rob ended up having sex with all four of them!!!!!! You see this is how things work in the real world.

    So, my point is some men (some!!!) find sex readily available in large part because a lot of women share these men. I have two sisters and what I experienced with Robin is NOT unique. Women are far more explicit and detailed in discussing sex with their girlfriends.

    Rob is in the minority of men. He is lucky, happy, and probably always in a good mental and emotional state. What man would not be? Clearly, he gets to enjoy lots of sex with lots of different women. Most men (MOST) never experience what Rob does. Why this is so difficult for women to see simply is beyond me. Are women just that ignorant or simply do not wish to admit they really only want to have sex with the Rob’s of the world?

    Yes, we do want an emotional connection with women. But we also want sex. Is it any different than women? Often, if there is no physical, then there will be no emotional. It’s just that the opportunities for sex for most of us men are much lower than for women. Women clearly enjoy sexual privilege when it comes to dating and sex. Just a fact.

    Lastly, you quoted a stat about the hookup culture being a myth. So, are you saying the following authors and researchers have it all wrong?

    Donna Freitas, “The End of Sex”
    Laura Sessions Stepp, “Unhooked……”
    Joe S. McIlhaney and Freda Bush, “Hooked……”

    What is your basis for such an assertion?

    Also, if the average college coed has seven NEW partners, these numbers are way out of alignment with others studies on sexual partners that show both men and women with a single digit number of partners over a LIFETIME. Men report more partners (lies and bravado) while women report fewer (also lies and fear of slut shaming). I am convinced that on average women clearly have far more sex partners than men.

    Anyhow, sorry to be so long winded here. But, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I just wish we here in America could be more like the French, Italians, Spaniards, Brazilians etc. Everyone, especially the men, would be a heck of lot happier in life.

    • What are the statistics of the authors you cite?

      My understanding is that they do qualitative studies of people who do hookup culture. Not quantitative studies of how prevalent it is, or what young people, generally, think about hookup culture.

      The survey data I’ve seen is very consistent, and comes from:

      Premarital Sex in America, by sociologists, Regnerus and Uecker
      Challenging Casanova, by psychologist, Andrew Smiler
      Survey data from Lisa Wade, of Occidental College, who runs the blog, Sociological Images:

      Click to access wade-talk-the-promise-and-peril-of-hook-up-culture.pdf

      Other research has found that the reason women aren’t that interested in having sex with random men is because they don’t think the sex will be very good, and they can’t see the point of having sex with someone unless it will be great.

      Women Want Casual Sex? Yes and No

      And that, in turn, is because women’s sexuality is more repressed than men. It takes a lot more to get women going.

      Women: Climax Less Likely in Relationship Sex

      • “Other research has found that the reason women aren’t that interested in having sex with random men is because they don’t think the sex will be very good, and they can’t see the point of having sex with someone unless it will be great.”

        Yes, you are correct. It proves my point! Most of the women I have spoken with indicate that most men are poor lovers.Well, practice does make perfect. That’s why men like Rob I cited above get to have sex with lots of different women. He has good references.

        The work by Stepp in her book, “Unhooked……” is clearly at odds with the research you cited. Also, Bergner’s, “What Do Women Want?” cites a significant amount of research that refutes the notion that casual sex/hook up culture is a myth.

        Here is an interesting piece,

        It’s interesting how the student, Jayne Dallas maintains that only 20% of the guys are worth dating on campus. Again, we see the MAJORITY of men being excluded with very marginal opportunities for dating and sex. This is not just on college campuses. This mirrors life in general.

        I just got the book by Regnerus and Uecker. Smiler I have read. Also, I have read some of his pieces on The Good Men Project.

        Also, I am well aware of the nature of female sexuality. There are hoards of women who cannot achieve orgasm during intercourse. If the average sex act lasts a mere seven minutes, then men are failing at sex. This is must agree with because otherwise most women would not be saying most men are lousy lovers.

        Neither is it new that women experience fewer orgasms in relationships. I long maintained this and I am not even a sex researcher. I think it has to do with a lack of novelty. That novelty is best provided by different sex partners for most women. “Spicing things up”, …..have been shown to only have a fairly short term effect on female sexuality. Esther Perel mentions this in her book, “Mating in Captivity.” Bergner cites numerous cases in conversations with women that also indicate the same.

        So, what does all this mean? Well, unless you have moral constraints such as myself, then men should avoid relationships and/or long term relationships if they want sex.

        Also, men need to start conducting their dating and sex lives in a similar fashion as women. Date around and have sex with as many women as you deem necessary. But, men MUST improve their seduction skills. With improved seduction skills, men will get far more sex. With more sex, hopefully we men will become better lovers giving us more opportunities. This is why PUA is so popular with many men.

      • The article you linked to from the New York Times is from several years ago when people widely believed that hook up culture was real. It’s a qualitative and not quantitative “study.”

        I’ve read Daniel Berger’s book. And he doesn’t have any data on actual behavior and attitude to back up his claims, which are mostly theoretical.

        I plan to write some pieces talking about how his book relates the sorts of things I’m talking about here. So stay tuned.

    • About “Robs” and “Robins”.
      It’s interesting that many guys, when they are single they don’t get much attention by women, but if they have an attractive girlfriend, then suddenly they get attention by many women.
      It doesn’t matter if that guy is good looking or a good guy. When he is single, he gets less attention than when he is in a relationship.

      • I’ll have to check out the article you linked to.

        What you write makes a certain amount of sense. If a guy is with an attractive woman, women probably figure there must be something pretty great about him that he can attract her.

      • I think men just think they’re getting more attention when they’re in relationships. Men often misjudge and take women’s nice and polite behavior as a sexual come on. So when they’re in a relationship and there’s a girl simply being nice or she may even be slightly flirty, men will assume they could hook up with that girl but it won’t happen since they’re in a relationship. When in reality even if they were to end their relationship or their significant other allowed them to pursue other girls, those girls they thought were interested in them, wouldn’t actually hook up with them.

        In short, it’s most likely all in his head.

  11. I honestly think everyone buoys up the ‘physical’ issue to hide the ’emotional’ issue. Somewhere, we have made having sex an achievement, a conquest. Whereas admitting the need for emotions has been spit on or frowned on. Don’t you?

    • I don’t know if everyone does but an awful lot of people do. And there can be social pressure to exhibit physical over emotional, too. As you say, “admitting the need for emotions has been spit on or frowned on,” especially on college campuses.

  12. Interesting how men are subject to stereotypes too. While there are those (men and women) who embrace the hook up culture, I also think there are some that do so because personal issues prevent them from being able to receive/experience more. Thanks for dispelling what is clearly a gender generalization.

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