Men: More Likely to Separate Love & Sex?

sex v love

sex v love

Men are more likely than women to separate love and sex, right?

Men are more interested in no-strings sex, and they are less likely to be distressed the next day.

A while back a New York Times piece advocating open relationships discussed how it’s typically easier for gay men, compared with straight or lesbian couples, to open their relationships — for that reason.

But is it true? 

A national survey asked people whether they agreed with the statement, “love and sex are two different things,” and women were actually more likely to concur.

Yet social psychologists, Roy Baumeister and Brad Bushman, say men are indeed more likely to enjoy sex without love. And there are plenty of statistics to back them up. (Even though most men prefer relationship sex.)

It turns out that women are perfectly adept at separating the two, as well. Women just tend to do it in an entirely different way. They are more likely to enjoy love without sex.

Evolutionary psychology says it’s biological. Others point to the social punishments that sexual women receive, which so often leads to sexual repression/lack of  interest — but which leaves them open to love.

Obviously “more likely” doesn’t include everyone. A female friend of mine has wanted to open her marriage to sex without love. But her husband is just fine living with love without sex.

Yet most often both genders think love combined with sex is best.

It’s a holiday. This is an edited rerun.

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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 September 1, 2014, in men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I found myself browsing through the different blog posts earlier this week because how relevant the blog postings are in my own very young marriage. One of the things about being young, gay and married I found are the different takes on sex. I grew up very liberally with divorced parents who were very much open about sex. That made me extremely conservative in regards to sex and has made it fairly difficult to detach emotion from sex. My spouse on the other hand is the complete opposite and looks at sex as just sex. Something I have a hard time understanding considering the emotional importance I put on it. He did agree though that relationship sex is far better than hook up sex and if it weren’t for the occasional distance issues that we face – he’d much rather just have me. All in all, I think I’m in the minority for this static and I think that’s something some men would probably find it a lot easier to find someone who values sex the same way they do.

  2. I would also say, it is person specific, but I believe there on average is a difference between women and men in personality structure. For whatever reasons that might be. I do think that women like sex more when there is some kind of emotional connection. And that this is less true for men. I don’t know if this connection always has to be love, I guess for some it does and for others it doesn’t.

    • Yeah, it’s pretty much always a a mix of person-specific + social patterns that are affected by culture. And you’re probably right that the connection needn’t necessarily be love.

  3. I think that when statistics reinforce an hypothesis, we are not just talking about stereotypes… I would say that men are more accurate when it comes to separate love and sex, but in this case I am talking about my own statistics (i.e / thus personal experiences).
    Best wishes and thanks for sharing. Great post!,
    Aquileana 😀

  4. This was interesting and I’m not so surprised, just from my own observations in my own little corner of the world men (in general) do seem to find it easy to have sex with someone they don’t have a lot of connection with just because it feels good. I’m not sure women necessarilly need ‘love’ though, but at least some sort of connection and mutual like and respect.

    • “I’m not sure women necessarily need ‘love’ though, but at least some sort of connection and mutual like and respect.”

      I think that might be because women are more likely to be disliked and disrespected for engaging in sex. If they have sex with someone they barely know, just because it feels good, there’s a greater chance (at least from what our culture dictates) that man won’t respect her or like her after. Whereas the man participating in the same act doesn’t have to fear that, since a man’s sexuality is seen as just one part of who he is and he would be judged for things far deeper than that, like who he is as a person. Unfortunately women are often still defined by their sexuality alone or at least as the most important part of who they are. So I don’t think it’s that women don’t find it easy but the fact that it’s actually not easy for women to engage in that behavior because of the consequences they may face from their sex partner or other people.

  5. I think it’s more complicated than that. Men and women separate love & sex in different ways.
    Some thoughts on that.

    If a man cheats on his girlfriend/wife, it’s more likely that she will forgive him if it was a meaningless one night stand than if it was a love affair. She’s more likely to be worried if he actually loves his mistress and has feelings for her. Cheating is wrong in any case but if feelings are involved then I guess it’s even worst for the woman.
    I a woman cheat on his boyfriend/husband, I don’t think it will make any difference if she loves or not her lover. The man will be worried about her affair, regardless if feelings are involved or not.
    In that way, women separate love from sex more than men do.

    On the other hand many many many men pay prostitutes to have sex with. Meaningless, emotionless sex. They don’t care for love feelings in these cases.
    How many women are willing to pay men to have meaningless, emotionless sex?
    In that way, men separate love from sex more than women do

  6. I agree – it’s not gender-specific it’s person specific. Although cultural conditioning definitely can make the stereotypes feel real. I am an advocate of having both in one when one is lucky enough to find them together.

  7. I think most people prefer relationships, period. It gives us that human and emotional connection. Just because there is a relationship does NOT mean there is going to be sex!!

    I further believe that men and women alike can separate romantic love and sex. Where I see a fundamental difference is women need a greater degree of an emotional connection to really enjoy sex. This connection could be as basic as friendship. intellect, safety etc. Women, like men, do not need romantic love to enjoy sex.

    There are hordes of women today who have FWBs, casual and regular lovers, booty call partners. These are the guys they call to “scratch their itch.” Most of these guys are viewed as just that: sex partners. While these guys are great for sex, they are not perceived as relationship material..The women have developed a level of comfort (safety, friendship, connection) with these men which makes the sex enjoyable.

    In summary, people prefer relationships. Men and women alike can separate love from sex, equally. Women simply need more of a connection to enjoy sex than we men. Clearly, there are men and women who need neither love nor an emotional connection to enjoy sex.

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