Or (Heterosexual) Male privilege, not evolution or innate female frigidness, explains the gender difference in accepting random propositions for casual sex.
[M]ost of the gender difference in women’s and men’s propensity to agree to a broad-daylight, out-of-nowhere proposition for casual sex is driven by women’s perception that their risks are higher, and their likely enjoyment is lower from the proposer.
In the actual paper, Conley (2011) concludes:
First, male sexual proposers (who approached women) are uniformly seen as less desirable than female sexual proposers (who approached men). Therefore, gender differences in the original Clark and Hatfield study are due more to the gender of the proposer than to the gender of the study participants. Moreover, the idea that these gender differences reflect broad, evolved differences in women’s and men’s mating strategies was not supported. Across studies involving both actual and hypothetical sexual encounters, the only consistently significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual proposal, both for women and for men, was the perception that the proposer is sexually capable (i.e., would be “good in bed”). The perceptions of sexual capabilities also mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of casual sex offers. Finally, indirect evidence suggests that perceptions of risk may play a role in gender differences in casual sex attitudes.
Jill of Feministe writes:
Quit using that study where strangers walked up to people on college campuses and offered sex as “proof” that men desire sex more than women. Perhaps consider that women may want sex just as much, but have spent their entire lives hearing about how sex with strangers is a terrible, dangerous idea, leading to the (probably correct) understanding that the only kind of men who would approach you in broad daylight offering sex are men who are either serial killers or sex offenders or at least total fucking creeps?
There is also an insightful criticism of the study by Jenn:
What I hypothesize is that participants (with the probable exception of women propositioned by women) likely assume that “go to bed”, in this case, implies penetrative sex, simply because this kind of activity is considered a priori the default definition of sex whereas all others may or may not be considered “sex” as such, and many are considered mere foreplay.
I think the results would differ greatly if the propositions included the exact nature of the encounter in question. What I mean is that penetrative sex, for women with male partners and receiving men with male partners, is both risky (higher likelihood of STDs, and in the former, pregnancy) and less likely to result in mutual satisfaction in partners unsuited to the others whims. Penetrative sex can be performed between men or a man and a woman with the receptive partner remaining completely unmoved and unsatisfied (or even harmed) while the penetrative partner has a much higher likelihood of finding sexual satisfaction. This is because penetrative sex is centered around the performance and enjoyment of the penetrating partner — sex begins when their arousal is sufficient to perform penetration and ceases when their arousal is satisfied by orgasm. The initiation and completion of this kind of sexual act does not depend upon the enjoyment of the receiving partner, and wholly on the state of the penetrating partner.
Of course, I do agree that there are social perceptions of the performance of men and women that differ greatly, but what I am saying is thus: men are almost always more likely to be evaluated in terms of their sexual dominance, i.e. their ability to pleasure someone else. Whereas, with the probable exception of homosexual encounters, women are almost always more likely to be evaluated in terms of their sexual passivity, i.e. their ability to be receptive and passive to the sexual whims of a penetrating partner who is much more likely to be satisfied by the default sexual encounter and faces much less risk.
I’m not arguing that the rape culture and the stigma against women who engage in casual sex doesn’t have any effect on the results. What I am saying is that I think a huge factor in this study is the social perception of what constitutes sex, and how incredibly centered it is on the penis and the enjoyment of the penetrating partner, to the wholesale exclusion of the status, enjoyment, and agency of the non-penetrative partner. In short, penetrative partners are evaluating whether or not they could be sufficiently aroused by a random partner to have a pleasing experience, where receiving partners are evaluating whether they will wind up with an STD, pregnant, in pain, or achieve any sort of satisfaction at all.
(The post title is inspired by the one at Feminist Philosophers: Women uninterested in casual sex with those they consider likely to be dangerous and bad in bed.)