Men Desire Relationships, Not Casual Sex, Research Finds

Patrick Frye

Men desire relationships, not casual sex, a study has found. But this blows away the expectations Hollywood has taught us to believe. Everyone familiar with United States pop culture knows about the stereotypical white male who is endlessly trying to get in bed with multitudes of women. This stereotype has been perpetuated by movies like Porky’s, American Pie, and Superbad. (This stereotype apparently does not include shiny white males. Edward was quite the gentleman, if you recall.)

Psychologist Andrew P. Smiler is the author of Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male. Smiler calls the idea that men only want casual sex with multiple partners the “Casanova stereotype.” This stereotype “tells us that guys are primarily interested in sex, not relationships,” he writes. “This contributes to the notion that guys are emotional clods who are incapable of connecting with their partners because, hey, they’re just guys, and guys are only interested in sex." This results in the belief that “guys shouldn't be expected to achieve any type of ‘real’ emotional intimacy with their partners.”

Instead, Smiler found through his research that men inwardly desire a good, healthy monogamous relationship with a single woman. He spoke on this topic in an interview with Salon:

"All of the research that we have show that it’s only a minority of guys who have multiple partners per year, and I typically talk about this as three partners a year because that’s the Casanova average. It’s actually a minority of guys who want multiple short-term partners."

"The evolutionary argument basically goes that guys have the ability, theoretically, to produce hundreds of children per year, and they can never quite be 100 percent sure that any child is theirs, so they should spread their seed widely. But what gets left out of that is the fact that if you want your genes to go beyond that next generation — beyond your children to your grandchildren, then your odds are better if you actually stick around and help raise that kid until that kid is old enough to pass on his or her genes." This idea of seed-spreading "made it out of scientific circles and into popular culture in the 1980s as sociobiology, and parts of it got recreated as evolutionary psychology in the 1990s. So it’s gotten a lot of press attention as a new theory."

When asked about the Casanova stereotype he said that "[t]here is a percentage of guys that do that...research typically shows about 15 percent of guys have three or more partners in any given 12-month span. If you follow those guys over time the number of guys who have three or more partners a year for as long as three years, that drops to about 5 percent. So there are definitely some guys out there who are doing it — but it’s really a small percentage of guys. By contrast, if you look at guys who are very religious, that’s about 15 percent of guys, and most of them really are devoutly religious, really dedicated to their partner."

So his research seems to say that the ladies should be looking for guys who take God seriously. When asked what young men are looking for in a committed relationship, Smiler responded, "People who appreciate them for who they are. We know that a couple tends to be similar in age. More often than not folks match on ethnicity, political orientation and religiosity. The thing that ultimate grounds it are personality match, similar sense of humor, similar tastes in music, TV and movies, similar activities, because you want to be able to do things with your sweetie and you want someone who gets you. They want someone who’s honest, who’s not going to tell your secrets and who’s loyal. And, of course, those last are typically the reasons people break up — that or you’re emailing the FBI."

Smiler answers a variety of questions about relationships, but the highlight of his research is that men desire committed relationships. Does this conclusion fit in with your experience or is the stereotype all you have seen?