Theories of Short-Term Mating in Men

Imagine an attractive individual of the opposite gender approaching you on a college campus and stating, "I have been observing you around town recently and think you are gorgeous. Would you like to have sex with me?" How would you react? If you were like 100% of the ladies in one research, you would say emphatically no. You would feel outraged, humiliated, or perplexed by request.

However, if you were like the males in that survey, you would probably reply yes, as did 75% of those men. As a male, you would probably feel flattered by request. Several 25% of males who refused the sexual offer expressed regret, citing prior obligations. A subsequent study discovered that men are more willing to accept sexual offers from attractive women than from unattractive women (not surprising given the importance men place on appearance).

In contrast, women are more willing to accept sexual offers from men who are both high in socioeconomic status and attractive if the context involves some emotional intimacy rather than just pure sex. It may not surprise that men and women react differently to casual sex. However, evolutionary psychology theories give a rational basis for anticipating and understanding the degree of this difference.

Theories of Short-Term Mating

Short-Term Mating refers to engaging in short-term sexual activity with someone when the likelihood of cementing a long-term relationship is relatively low. It is clear that both men and women, when looking for a short-term or long-term mate, often look for various traits guided by parental investment and sexual choice. The short-term mating strategy is characterized by short-term mating with many mates, resulting in minimal investment in the mate and, at least in the case of males, in the female.

  • The male may have three adaptive traits in her that make her more likely to be 'swept' into short-term mating than the female.

  • Over time, men prefer more sexual partners than women.

  • Men take less time to consent to sex than women.

Socio-sexual orientation is an individual difference that indicates openness to short-term mating and thus influences aspects of mating strategy. Women with unrestricted socio-sexual orientation were more likely to engage in short-term relationships. They were more likely to receive undivided resources than women with restricted socio-sexual orientation. Therefore, it is wise to consider male masculinity an indicator of partner genetic superiority.

Sexual Strategy Theory

Sexual strategy theory states that males and females use short-term mating in their strategic repertoire. Short-term mating psychology distinguishes precisely in areas where genders suffer from different adaptation difficulties. Mating challenges have been repeated throughout evolutionary history. Males and females have different coping problems in short- and long-term mating situations.

This will unlock various partner girlfriend options from the strategy directory. SST typically supports results that bachelor men show traits related to their ability to save and provide money, status, and nurturing, while women show physical attractiveness. Socio-sexual orientation is an individual difference that indicates openness to short-term mating and thus influences aspects of mating strategy. Women with unrestricted socio-sexual orientation were more likely to engage in short-term relationships. They were more likely to receive undivided resources than women with restricted socio-sexual orientation is higher.

Therefore, they should evaluate a man's masculinity as a sign of their partner's genetic advantage. Sexual strategy theory postulates that certain qualities are highly desirable in women: female physical attractiveness, male dominance, and material resourcefulness. Potential mates because they are an evolutionary sexual advantage.

Dark Triad Theory

The association between dark triads and short-term mating is more robust in males than females. Dark Triads Partially Mediate Sex Differences in Short-Term Mating Behavior. Dark triad theory postulates specific traits associated with each personality trait. Thus, Machiavellianism is characterized by a propensity for manipulative behavior, narcissism due to conceit and excessive flamboyance, and psychopathy due to indifference, impulsivity, and thrill-seeking.

People with these traits tend to be insouciant and manipulative and will do or say anything to get what they want. They have exaggerated opinions about themselves and are often brazen in promoting themselves. Regardless, they can commit dangerous actions (and sometimes even crimes).

Many researchers consider psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism to be three distinct traits with overlapping traits, but researchers believe the similarities indicate that personality structures are under-explored.

The three recognized Dark Triad traits are −

  • Narcissism − Of the three Dark Triad traits that make up the dark Triad personality, Narcissism is perhaps the most commonly misdiagnosed trait. People often refer to people who exhibit selfish behavior as narcissists.

  • Asymptomatic Psychopathy − To understand asymptomatic psychopathy, we must first understand psychopathy. Psychopathy, like narcissism, is a word that gets used more often than necessary, at least in a clinical sense. Asymptomatic psychopaths and psychopaths may be close. Some psychologists even suggest that there is no qualitative difference between the two. In other words, psychopaths and latent psychopaths behave the same.

  • Machiavellianism − People with Machiavellianism are very charismatic. Society often sees them as skillful liars, but their deceptions are often much more profound.

Strategic Pluralism Hypothesis

The strategic pluralism hypothesis states that human reproductive strategies are arbitrarily invested in mating or parentage (or hybridization) depending on the expression of traits that depend on individual status. The strategic pluralism hypothesis attempts to explain differences between individuals and within human reproductive strategies based on trait expression as a function of an individual's state in interaction with the environment.

This hypothesis highlights the costs and benefits of the resources invested in finding a mate and caring for parents for both men and women. There was a 'trade-off' between spending time and energy that allowed males and females to evolve mating strategies that allowed their conditions to be guided by contextual cues. Multiple short-term matings can be successful in some males. Others may focus on finding and maintaining a single partner and raising children. These situations and the signals underlie the variation in short- and long-term mating strategies between and within sexes.

Individual Differences in Short-Term Mating

One way to look at short-term mating is to compare the perceived costs and advantages of women who actively pursue short-term mating vs. those who do not. Greiling and Buss administered the Sociosexuality Orientation Inventory (SOl) to a sample of women to measure individual variations in whether people adopt short-term or long-term mating strategies.

Women's SOl scores were then connected with their opinions of the advantages they would likely gain from short-term mating and their perceptions of the quantity of those benefits. Women who engage in short-term mating have significantly different opinions of the rewards than women who do not engage in short-term mating. One is about sexual resources. Women desiring short-term mating consider having a sexual partner who is eager to explore sexually, have orgasms with the sexual partner, and have great sexual pleasure because the partner is visually beautiful to be extremely helpful.

Such women also report more rewards from strengthening their attraction and seduction abilities, lending credence to the mate skill acquisition concept. Short-term mating also provides them with more significant resources, such as expensive designer clothing, professional development, jewelry, and using a partner's automobile. Women who desire short-term mating have differing opinions of the environments likely to encourage short-term mating.

Having a regular partner who gets fired, has their pay reduced, or becomes terminally sick is thought to increase the likelihood of such women mating in the short term. These findings support the mate-switching hypothesis: women who report having pursued short-term matings are more likely to blame an affair on issues with a relationship. Furthermore, encountering someone more attractive than one's regular partner is more likely to result in extra-pair mating.

Cultural Context in Short-term Mating

Polygamy is not outright banned in many (traditional) human societies, there are a limited number of men with more than one wife, and the number of wives is often limited. Strong norms of monogamy have become common in Western societies, possibly because cultural evolution has favored normative monogamy. Humans have smaller testicles than chimpanzees, which form promiscuous polyamorous groups, implying that human (apes) society has long been semi-monogamous.

In monogamous species, attractive (typical) males have a slight reproductive advantage because they mate with at most one female, thus limiting the number of females. Those that are picky do not suitable because they have to compete fiercely with other females for attractive males that can have multiple mates—candidates, suggesting that exaggerated masculine traits hardly develop through sexual selection compared with polygamous species.

Theoretical models have shown that exaggerated male traits can only evolve when more attractive males can mate earlier when there is a shortage of available mates. The tendency to favor essential reproductive traits is present in both Eastern and Western cultures. Despite cultural differences, the psychological mechanisms responsible for this process produce similar preference patterns.

Individuals at one end of this dimension—those with limited sociosexual orientation—usually emphasize commitment and closeness in a relationship before having sex with a romantic partner. For example, people with restraint say they need closeness before they feel comfortable having sex, that they have had little sex in the past year, and that they rarely have sex with their partner in a single year—times and only once.

In contrast, people at the other end of the spectrum—those with unrestricted promiscuity—tend to feel relatively comfortable engaging in intimate or non-binding sex.


Short-term mating (STM) studies demonstrate attractiveness preferences and social status. In addition, men often reported a stronger desire to participate in their STM than women. Moreover, in several cultures, short-term mating is moderately associated with insecure attachment, and insecure attachment is strongly associated with maladaptive personality.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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