Women Are More “Visual” Than Men

Casual sex?

Casual sex?

They say “men are visual” but women are not.

After all, the “women’s magazine,” Playgirl went bankrupt even as sales for “men’s magazines” like Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, Barely Legal… were through the roof.

And men are much more likely to watch Internet porn.

Yet when it comes to visual stimulation and casual sex there is an irony, says one of my readers, Jean Claund:

We say that men care about looks but that women don’t really care. But when it’s about causal sex it’s actually the other way around.

Men are so eager to have sex that they are happy with “whatever they can get.”

But women won’t usually have casual sex unless the guy’s pretty attractive.

Research says he’s right.

With casual sex, women can be more visual

How much sex a woman has is not related to how attractive she is, say sociologists, Jeremy Uecker and Mark Regnerus in their book, Premarital Sex in America.

Or, in a couple of different studies women were either approached by strangers with offers for casual sex, or were given various scenarios of men offering casual sex. Either way, things turned out the same.

All sorts of factors were considered: assumed sexual capability, status, warmth, faithfulness, likely gift-giving. Or worries about danger, STDs or mental illness.

Nothing much affected female desire other than worries about violence or, most especially, sexual capability.

If a man seemed both sexy and nonviolent — think Johnny Depp or Brad Pit — then YES!!! women were VERY interested.

Which sex is more visual, then? 

So which sex is more visual? It depends.

Men are more visual when it comes to pornography. But then, women’s bodies are more eroticized and fetishized.

We are bombarded by sexy women’s bodies from practically the time we are born. The camera hones in on women’s breasts and butts. And women’s breasts and butts are selectively hidden and revealed, creating mystery and sexual tension.

We pretty much ignore male bods. (That’s just starting to change.)

But what about women? Why are they so visually picky when it comes to casual sex?

Evolutionary psychology says men are naturally promiscuous and women are naturally monogamous since men have a lot of sperm to spread willy nilly, but women have a small number of babies (leaving them more picky).

Yet women aren’t so picky in every society. Must be something else, then.

Our culture strongly represses women’s sexuality via slut-shaming, which can get so bad that some girls commit suicide, or think about it. So a lot of women dampen down their sexual feelings to protect themselves. When you constantly do that, sexual interest begins to fade on its own — helping to explain why nearly half of American women have low sexual interest.

When you have low sexual interest, it takes a lot to get excited. Like a super hot guy for casual sex. Or feeling in love with someone who may not be so superhot — partly explaining why women are more likely than men to have no interest in sex at all unless there is a strong emotional connection.

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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 June 27, 2016, in men, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Yes there’s also evidence that women are more likely to orgasm with handsome men.
    Men and women are both “visual” but in different ways.
    It seems to me that women can be even more “visual” than men, but the thing is, there generally needs to be other prerequisites fulfilled in addition to the visual. Whereas a man can get aroused just by a visual, a woman needs other senses to be fulfilled in addition to that, in order to get aroused. Generally speaking.

    • Men and women are socialized differently, valued in different ways, which plays a role in all this.

      For women, feeling desired is the orgasm. Likely because women are taught that they are the sex objects, not men. If he’s really good looking — or whatever else creates high status, gaining his lust seems like a bigger achievement.

      But ultimately both men and women are harmed by all of this ranking.

      And in long term relationships looks are less important and more well rounded aspects more more important. So that’s the good news.

  2. “But women won’t usually have casual sex unless the guy’s pretty attractive.”

    Yes but attractive for women doesn’t mean physically only. Which is why you see young women with old rich guys or powerful guys.

    And that men will settle for a lower standard doesn’t mean they are oblivious to the fact they are settling. It just means they have lower standards if options are limited. Give the guy the option of the hot woman and the homely one and then you’ll see what they are thinking.

    • Some truth there, yet the study found women exceedingly uninterested in casual sex with Donald Trump. Maybe they’re only interested in sex with him if they think they can marry his $. Or gain the perks of being a gf — gifts, travel, meeting famous people. One night stand — not so much.

      This ranking of men and women (regardless of wealth or beauty) does damage, lowering self esteem, when unnecessary. Cultural and individual taste vary. Self-confidence is the highest draw.

      • “Some truth there, yet the study found women exceedingly uninterested in casual sex with Donald Trump.”

        Because you can’t visualise money and power! Put the same women in the room with Trump, and see them change their tune. Put men in the same room with Hilary Clinton and see them remain unmoved.

      • There are cultural issues for sure. But I suspect the women who slept with Trump would be less turned on than social climbers.

    • “Put the same women in the room with Trump, and see them change their tune. Put men in the same room with Hilary Clinton and see them remain unmoved.”

      Ditto!

  3. I’d agree that it’s definitely cultural in terms of casual sex. But I’m inclined to think that when it comes to fantasising men are more visually stimulated instead of mentally. I’m probably wrong though!

    • I think you’re right, actually.

      But that’s because we fetishize women’s body parts, not men’s.

      In tribal cultures women’s breasts and butts aren’t fetishized, and in sex-positive tribal societies women’s sexuality isn’t repressed, so that neither men or women are likely to be more visual.

  4. It would be so interesting to unpack the gendered sex drive and see what it would be like unencumbered by society. Men are different fro women for sure – but how much and in what ways? Or is separating sex drive and society completely impossible?

  5. Society has the biggest role in this concept. Like mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, once we are born, there are ideas and conceptions of sexual body parts that are idolized for sizing or figure. Women tend to come across as sexual figures frequently depending on their waist size, their breast size, and their butt shape or figure. I would tend to agree, that men do have a higher casual sex ratio in comparison to women. I find that this is true, partially due to the media’s fault. The media sexualizes and focuses on almost every single topic of a women’s body making women very self conscious. The psychological impact on how a the social media impacts a woman’s sexual life or desire is completely interesting to me. I think that this is one of the main reasons why media believes that why women don’t like or even want to have casual sex.

  6. > Or, in a couple of different studies women were either approached by strangers with offers for casual sex, or were given various scenarios of men offering casual sex. Either way, things turned out the same.

    It is easy to be picky when you have a lot of candidates to pick from!

  7. While reading through this article my actual thoughts played out in the last paragraph lol. The entire time I kept thinking, why? Well, because we have been trained to repress our sexual desires. From the very beginning of time women have been represented as non-sexual beings who are only existing for the pleasure of man. Our preferences have never mattered. The act of sex has never been represented as a female-friendly activity; I believe this is partially due to the fact that pain can derive from it (when losing our virginity etc.) and for most of us it may take a little more work for us to feel the pleasure a man feels right away. If we as women aren’t as important as a man’s needs, what makes us think we are worthy of trying to be “figured out” sexually? Also, men aren’t the ones who bear the physical evidence of their sexual activities unless they’ve been burned (literally). As long as a man keeps quiet about his intimate life choices pertaining to casual sex, he is almost assured complete privacy. When it comes to a woman, not only do we risk having to showcase the result of our sexual proclivities, we also are the subject of ridicule for expressing sexual freedom (i.e. slut-shamed) and sometimes even from the very person we are sleeping with; I figure most women are thinking to themselves, “If I’m going to have to go through all of this just for a simple orgasm he might as well be hot.”

  8. FRANCHESKA DRAWSAND

    I found this article to be very interesting. Recently I read about the sexual script in my sociology class. Sexual scripts are norms or behaviors that women and men learn from our culture, family, friends and/or the media. According to Karen Seccomb in “Families and their Social Worlds”, women are supposed to be the pretty and attractive and women do not care about a man’s appearance. Well finally a someone conducted a study that proves women do appreciate the appearance of a man. That we prefer attractive men to have sex with. I also find it interesting that women are not as promiscuous as men because we have less eggs that are aging whereas men can produce sperm into their sixties. This gives us a right to be picky in the men we sleep with. I love that it mentioned that women with low sexual drive requires more to be excited. This should let men understand that if a woman chose you to be her casual partner that it should be looked to as a good thing and not looked to as a slut or just another number.

    • Ok, but I find flaws in the “I also find it interesting that women are not as promiscuous as men because we have less eggs” theory since you don’t find that behavior everywhere. You find it where women are slut-shamed. Which in turn represses women’s sexuality and makes them more picky.

  9. The image of women is seen everywhere but sometimes in the worse possible light. There was article where a studies showed many movie titles and ads where many women faces were cut off. This just showed that women bodies are more important than facial features and it leads to many people conflicting images about the female body. I was never realized this until reading that article about how these images influenced me. How the role of many women are not characters but props. Objects that influences mainly male characters for their quest or storyline but never to fulfill their dreams. Then leading to many women having very little credibilty and having many thinking to be considered a real women and being accepted is having a “perfect body”.

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