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PERSONALITY PROCESSES AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES

Perceived Proposer Personality Characteristics and Gender Differences in


Acceptance of Casual Sex Offers
Terri D. Conley
University of Michigan
In a highly influential paper, Clark and Hatfield (1989) demonstrated that, whereas men were quite likely
to accept a casual sexual offer from a confederate research assistant, women never did so. The current
research provides a more in-depth explanation of gender differences in acceptance of casual sex offers
via 4 (quasi-) experiments. First, using a person-perception paradigm, I assessed peoples impressions of
women and men who proposed a casual sexual encounter in the same manner that confederates in Clark
and Hatfield did. Women and men agreed that female proposers were more intelligent, successful, and
sexually skilled than men who made the same proposals. Second, I demonstrated that the large gender
differences from the original Clark and Hatfield study could be eliminated by asking participants to
imagine proposals from (attractive and unattractive) famous individuals, friends, and same-gender
individuals. Next, I assessed factors associated with likelihood of agreeing to the casual sex proposal. The
extent to which women and men believed that the proposer would be sexually skilled predicted how
likely they would be to engage in casual sex with this individual. Finally, I examined these factors in the
context of actual encounters from the participants previous experiences, and the results were replicated
in this context. Overall findings suggest that the large gender differences Clark and Hatfield observed in
acceptance of the casual sex offer may have more to do with perceived personality characteristics of the
female versus male proposers than with gender differences among Clark and Hatfields participants and
that sexual pleasure figures largely in womens and mens decision making about casual sex.
Keywords: gender differences, casual sex, pleasure, sexual strategies theory

no previous research has examined the thoughts and perceptions


that women and men have about the Clark and Hatfield paradigm.
In the present set of studies, I examined the ways in which
characteristics of the casual sex proposers, such as the perception
of the proposers dangerousness or the perceived sexual prowess
of proposer, can explain gender differences in likelihood of accepting a casual sex proposal.

Gender differences in sexual behavior are consistently found to be


among the largest and most robust psychological gender differences
(Peplau, 2003). For example, Peterson and Hyde (2010) found moderate and large gender differences in sexual attitudes and behaviors, including attitudes toward casual sexual encounters and sexual behaviors such as masturbation. Consistent with this basic
trend, Clark and Hatfield (1989) demonstrated that, whereas men
are fairly likely to agree to sex with a stranger, women are
exceptionally unlikely to do so. This widely cited study has been
utilized to demonstrate that there are large gender differences in
responses to casual sex and, often, specifically to illustrate that
these differences are likely to be biologically determined (e.g., Li,
Cohen, Weeden, & Kenrick, 2010; Parker & Burkley, 2009;
Schmiege, Levin, & Bryan, 2009; Schmitt et al., 2009). However,

The Clark and Hatfield (1989) Studies: A Review


In the Clark and Hatfield (1989) studies, which were conducted
in 1978 and 1982, college student confederates (female and male)
approached people who were attractive enough that they would
be willing to actually sleep with them (p. 49) and said, I have
been noticing you around campus and I find you to be very
attractive. Confederates then asked the participants one of three
questions: (a) Would you go out with me tonight? (b) Would
you come over to my apartment tonight? or (c) Would you go to
bed with me tonight? No gender differences emerged in likelihood of agreement to date the confederate, but the question about
coming to the confederates apartment produced large differences.
The question concerning going to bed with the confederate yielded
absolutely no responses of yes from women, whereas 75%
(1978) and 69% (1982) of men agreed to have sex with the female
confederate. I refer to this encounter as the Clark and Hatfield

This article was published Online First December 20, 2010.


I thank Lynn Carol Miller for her help in developing the original idea
for this project, my undergraduate research assistants for scenario
development and assistance with participant recruitment, and Alice
Eagly, Peter Hegarty, Sara McClelland, Denise Sekaquaptewa, Abby Stewart, and Sari van Anders for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Terri D.
Conley, Departments of Psychology and Womens Studies, University of
Michigan. E-mail: conleyt@umich.edu

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011, Vol. 100, No. 2, 309 329
2010 American Psychological Association 0022-3514/10/$12.00
DOI: 10.1037/a0022152

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sexual proposal (CHSP). In a follow-up study, Clark (1990) found


that 69% of men agreed to go to bed with the female proposer;
again, no women agreed to the sexual encounter (for replications
with similar results, see, e.g., Hald & Hgh-Olesen, 2009; Voracek, Hofhansl, & Fisher, 2005). Because the direct sexual proposition yielded the largest gender differences (and the differences
that are most influential in the field of psychology; Clark &
Hatfield, 2003), it is the focus of the current research.

for casual sex. Therefore, from a sociocultural perspective, many


fewer women than men agreed to sex with the confederate because
women are socialized, in various ways, to be sexually conservative
(Clark & Hatfield, 1989; Helgeson, 2004; Sprecher & McKinney,
1993). For the current research, I considered the role of socialized
gender differences in risk perception.

Socialized Gender Differences in the Perception


of Risk

A Major Confound in Clark and Hatfield (1989)


A major confound is inherent in the Clark and Hatfield paradigm: Female participants were judging whether they would want
to have sex with men, but male participants were judging whether
they would want to have sex with women. Thus, gender of the
confederate and gender of the participant were fully confounded.
But partnered sexual behavior, of course, takes place in a social
context. By considering the gender of the participants independently of the gender of the proposer, one may overlook crucial
information about the reasons behind the gender differences in
casual sex. I suggest that the large gender differences found by
Clark and Hatfield may have less to do with the gender of the
participants and more to do with the gender of the confederates
(i.e., the sexual proposers).
There are many reasons why an individual of either sex would
be less likely to agree to a sexual encounter with a man than with
a woman, based on popular perceptions of the two genders. For
example, men are perceived to be more aggressive and violent than
women (a stereotype that is supported by crime statistics; Geen,
1998) and are perceived as having fewer positive personal traits
(Eagly, Mladinic, & Otto, 1991), as well as a higher degree of risk
for sexually transmitted infections (Conley & Collins, 2002). In a
sense, the casual sexual proposal deck is stacked against heterosexual women: The gender to which they are attracted has perceived liabilities that manifest themselves in a casual sex situation.
Scholarly examinations of the Clark and Hatfield paradigm have
assumed that women rejecting casual sexual offers from men is
functionally equivalent to men rejecting casual sexual offers from
women. In the current research, by contrast, I argue that the gender
of the proposer is a factor worthy of greater consideration.

Perspectives on the Gender Differences in Clark and


Hatfield (1989)
Clark and Hatfields (1989) article has been deemed a new
classic in the field of social psychology and is widely cited in
articles and textbooks (Baumeister & Vohs, 2003). Two main
perspectives have been utilized in research and theory explaining
the large gender differences in the Clark and Hatfield paradigm:
sociocultural explanations and evolutionary explanations (Clark &
Hatfield, 2003). I have argued that the gender of the proposer can
be an important factor explaining differences in acceptance of
casual sex. These theoretical perspectives point to dimensions on
which male and female proposers may be perceived differently,
suggest contexts in which gender differences may disappear, and
indicate theoretically derived predictors of casual sex acceptance.
Sociocultural perspectives emphasize the extent to which the
different socialization experiences and social constraints of women
and men could determine their relative freedom to accept an offer

Women see far greater risk in the world than men do (Conley &
Peplau, 2010; Gustafson, 1998) and receive many more safety
messages than men do; therefore, the danger of a sexual encounter
seems more likely to be on womens mind than on mens. For
example, women are socialized to be a great deal more concerned
about their physical safety than men are (and especially about
sexual assault; see Burt & Estep, 1981). According to Gustafsons
(1998) gender role perspective on gender differences in risk perception, girls are protected against and warned about potential
threats to a greater extent than boys are. Women consistently
receive more precautionary advice from the media, police, friends,
and public officials about the danger of men (Burt & Estep, 1981;
Gustafson, 1998), which results in women ascribing greater risk
and being more cautious in the way they navigate the world than
men are.
To explain gender differences in casual sex proposals, risk
perception theory suggests that female and male proposers are
perceived differently, with male proposers being perceived as
more risky than female proposers. Further, risk perception predicts
that perceived safety of the proposer would be a strong predictor of
acceptance of a casual sex offer. In particular, women should be
relatively more likely to agree to a casual encounter with a familiar
person than with an unfamiliar person, because familiar people are
generally deemed safer than strangers. Finally, risk perception
theory suggests that differences between women and men in acceptance of casual sex offers would evaporate to the extent that
differences in perceived risk of the proposer were eliminated.
Next, I consider two perspectives that employ evolutionary
arguments: pleasure theory and sexual strategies theory.

Pleasure Theory
The central thesis of pleasure theory is that the pursuit of
pleasure is the central force that motivates sexual behavior
(Abramson & Pinkerton, 2002). According to this theory, sexual
reproduction is a by-product of sexual pleasure, rather than the
reverse. Pleasure theory asserts that pleasure itself is evolutionarily
favored; if humans are having pleasurable encounters, enough
instances of vaginal intercourse will occur to ensure the survival of
the species. Pleasure theory does not directly speak to the gender
differences between women and men in likelihood of responding
favorably to a casual sexual proposal. However, one can extrapolate from pleasure theorys premise that pleasure is the central
motivating factor in human sexuality. Because offers from women
are accepted more often than offers from men, pleasure theory
suggests that female proposers should be perceived differently
than male proposers, particularly in expectations about the proposers ability to provide sexual pleasure (i.e., his or her sexual
capabilities; see Armstrong, England, & Fogarty, 2010). Thus,

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

women should reject offers from men because they believe it is


unlikely that men will provide them with sexual pleasure. Likewise, pleasure theory clearly indicates that the sexual capabilities
of the proposer would be a strong predictor of sexual offer.
Further, according to pleasure theory, gender differences in the
CHSP can be explained by perceived differences in the amount of
pleasure that women and men expect to receive from the sexual
encounter. To the extent that women and men believe that the
sexual proposer would provide them with equal amounts of pleasure, they should be equally likely to agree to the sexual encounter.
On the basis of pleasure theory, I suggest that women actually see
men as less likely to provide them with sexual pleasure (see
Armstrong et al., 2010) and are therefore less likely to want to
accept a casual sex offer from a man. Thus, men see greater
opportunities for sexual pleasure with a female proposer and are
therefore more likely to accept the sexual offer.

Sexual Strategies Theory (SST)


From a sexual strategies perspective, women need to be
choosy in terms of sexual encounters because they have very
few ova (compared to the enormous amount of sperm that men
produce over a lifetime) and they make a great physical investment
in pregnancy and childbirth (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Miller,
Putcha-Bhagavatula, & Pedersen, 2002; Pedersen, Miller, Putcha,
& Yang, 2002). Therefore, women are motivated to find the sexual
partner most likely to support them and their children, as this
provides the greatest hope of ensuring the survival of their genetic
material over time. Men, by contrast, are motivated to impregnate
as many women as possible, because they have an almost unlimited supply of sperm and are not obligated to make additional
physical investments in the child after conception.
According to SST, women would choose a man because (a) he
provides them with protection and other status-related resources
and (b) he has good genetic material, which will be passed on to
the womens children. Mens desire for women stems from mens
desire (a) to spread their sperm indiscriminately and (b) to spread
their sperm to women who are likely to bear children. However,
although men may be somewhat choosy (i.e., they may avoid
women who seem less fertile), the theory argues that women
should be choosier than men. Therefore, on average, men should
be more likely to have sex with any given woman than women
would be to have sex with any given man. These motivations are
typically considered unconscious motivations that have evolved
over time but that still govern modern-day behavior. Notably,
however, these dynamics are most commonly measured by sexual
strategies theorists, including Buss and Schmitt (1993), through
conscious self-report measures.
Based on SST, the women in the Clark and Hatfield (1989)
study were being selective in their choice of sexual partners,
because their ova are a precious commodity. They did not want to
have sex with a person who would not be a suitable parent for their
child. By contrast, the men in the study saw the sexual encounter
as a way to distribute their sperm to as many women as possible
and transmit more of their genetic material to future generations.
Therefore, the findings of the CHSP are predicted by SST, and the
CHSP was been specifically provided as evidence in Buss and
Schmitt (1993) that women are choosier than men. Further, SST
predicts that a woman would be more likely to accept the CHSP to

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the extent that the male proposer is high status (so that the proposer
can support her and her children). A man would be more likely to
accept the CHSP to the extent that the female proposer would be
faithful to him, so that the paternity of his children can be assured.
A man should be especially likely to accept a casual sex offer from
a woman he perceives will be faithful to him, because a woman
who is faithful to him will give birth to and care for only his
children.

Methodological Approach
My perspective is that the gender differences demonstrated in
the CHSP and gender differences about casual sex more generally
may have as much to do with the gender of the proposer as the
gender of the participants. I have adopted a person-perception
technique to understand how women and men construe the CHSP
and related sexual proposals. I suggest, based on this approach,
that people have implicit personality theories about the types of
women and the types of men who propose casual sex (see Williams et al., 1992) and that these theories guide peoples decision
making about casual sex.
Of course, one of the reasons that the Clark and Hatfield (1989)
study is so appealing is that the authors used a naturalistic methodology. Participants, we assume, were not aware that they were in
a psychological study and therefore were likely to respond more
honestly to the situation than they might if a similar question were
posed to them in a laboratory setting. By contrast, the current study
necessarily utilized a pencil-and-paper version of the study. Thus,
participants were aware that they were in a psychology study from
the very beginning.
I adopted the paper-and-pencil technique for three main reasons:
1.

To understand participants perceptions of the sexual


proposer, after the initial encounter, I would have to
query participants about their opinions of the confederate. When participants are asked about their perceptions
of the proposer, they are made aware of the experimental
situation. Thus, even if I exactly replicated the original
CHSP, to obtain the critical theoretical measures, participants would have to be made aware of their participation
in a psychological study.

2.

The sexual proposal might be construed as an unwanted


sexual advance, which could be considered illegal sexual harassment.

3.

The CHSP could be a terribly embarrassing situation for


an individual who agrees to a sexual encounter only to be
told that she or he was approached as part of a psychology study.

In sum, the only ethical and feasible way to approach the CHSP
was to utilize a paper-and-pencil methodological approach.
However, I appreciate the importance of documenting the gender dynamics of casual sex in situations that better approximate
actual casual sex encounters. Therefore, I supplemented these
approaches with studies that departed from the Clark and Hatfield
study; I employed participants actual experiences of having been
propositioned for casual sex. Although employing participants
actual experiences reduces the amount of experimental control

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(i.e., because the time, place, and form of these casual sex proposals are not standardized across participants), these situations
would clearly have higher external validity than those of the
original CHSP. That is, I suspect that casual sex proposals probably very rarely happen in the middle of the day, completely out of
context, on a college campus. Thus, the CHSP itself may be an
exceptional event from which it is difficult to speculate about
casual sex more generally. In the studies presented here, I utilized
both experimentally controlled proposals and naturalistic proposals, which together can provide us with a firmer understanding of
the gender dynamics surrounding casual sex proposals in multiple
contexts.
In addition, I examined a broader range of responses to the
CHSP than was examined in the original studies. For example, the
original study assessed only whether the participant agreed to or
declined the sexual offer. In these studies, I variously measured the
personality traits of the proposers, the likelihood of acceptance of
the offer, the likelihood of engaging in a short-term relationship
with the proposer, and the appeal of the sexual offer.

The Current Research


My purpose in the current research was to explore the factors
underlying womens and mens decisions to accept or reject casual
sex offers like those of Clark and Hatfield (1989). I predicted that
because men are perceived to be more unpleasant casual sexual
partners than women, people should be more likely to agree to
casual sex with women than with men.
We explored the theoretical mechanisms (based on risk perception theory, pleasure theory, and SST) underlying the wellestablished gender differences in the CHSP in four sets of studies.
Studies 1 a, b, c, d, and e established that male and female casual
sex proposers are perceived differently and are not equivalent
experimental stimuli. Studies 2 a, b, c, and d addressed whether
gender differences in the CHSP can be diminished by having
participants consider proposals from individuals who would be
perceived as less risky to women (i.e., familiar, famous, and
same-sex proposers). Study 3 examined the predictors of agreement to the CHSP as well as to a short-term relationship with the
proposer. Study 4 examined these processes among actual casual
sex offers that the participants had experienced in their own lives.
Alternate explanations drawn from the theories are discussed more
thoroughly in the General Discussion.

Study 1: Are Female Proposers Perceived Differently


Than Male Proposers?
In Study 1, I employed paper-and-pencil versions of the CHSP
and asked participants to indicate both their likelihood of acceptance of the sexual offer and their perceptions of the person who
made the sexual offer (hereafter, the proposer). I was interested in
how participants would perceive proposers on personality characteristics related to the theoretical premises of the current research.
I considered the sexual proposers status and sexual faithfulness
(SST), dangerousness and mental stability (risk perception theory),
and sexual prowess (pleasure theory).

Study 1a
Method
Participants and procedure. The sample consisted of 516
participants, of whom 62% were women. The sample was 14%
African American, 6% Asian American, 58% European American,
and 16% Latina/Latino. In this study and all subsequent studies,
the remaining participants identified as other ethnicities or failed to
state their ethnicity. The mean age was 21.9 years. Some individuals participated in the study to receive credit for their psychology
courses. They came to a designated laboratory room in groups of
three to five. Other participants were recruited in public areas of
campus and completed the questionnaire on the spot. In those
cases, the participants completed the questionnaire while a research assistant waited (providing enough physical distance to give
them privacy) and then returned the questionnaire to the research
assistant in a sealed envelope. Nonheterosexual participants were
excluded from the analyses.1
Materials.
Scenario. The scenario was worded to be as similar as possible to the script utilized by the confederates in Clark and Hatfield
(1989). First, participants were asked to please imagine the following situation. The basic scenario read as follows:
An attractive member of the opposite sex approaches you on campus
and says, I have been noticing you around campus and I find you to
be very attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?

In the version of the scenario presented above, the word attractive


was included to describe the proposer; in another scenario, that
word was omitted. Because this factor did not influence the results,
I do not discuss it further.
Likelihood of acceptance of the sexual offer. First, participants indicated whether they would accept the sexual proposal:
Assuming you were free that night, how likely would you be to
agree to a sexual encounter with this person?2 Participants indicated their response on a 7-point scale (1 Not at all Likely and
7 Extremely Likely).
Perceived personality traits of the proposer. The next set of
measures addressed the participants impression of a person who
would make a casual sexual offer. The participants rated all of the
1
When possible, I excluded participants of nonheterosexual orientation
from the studies (except for those studies specifically examining sexual
minority participants). However, I was sometimes disallowed by the institutional review board from collecting information concerning the participants sexual orientation. Due to the small number of college-age participants identifying as nonheterosexual in the studies in which I did collect
information on sexual orientation, this factor likely adds minimal noise to
our data. Moreover, the fact that I found results in the expected direction
despite this noise suggests that the results are robust.
2
After this initial assessment of the likelihood of accepting the CHSP,
participants were asked if they were currently in a relationship. Those who
were currently in a relationship were further asked, If you were NOT in
a relationship, how likely would you be to agree to the sexual encounter?
However, the pattern and significance/nonsignificance of responses were
identical regardless of whether I adjusted for the presence of a relationship
partner. Therefore, I retained the original question as the key measure
throughout these studies.

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

dependent measures on 7-point scales (1 Not at all Likely and


7 Extremely Likely). I developed these items to address the
theoretical approaches of interest. The scales reflected the themes
of the sexual capabilities of the proposer (based on pleasure
theory), the danger posed by the proposer, the potential mental
illness of the proposer, and the likelihood that the proposer has a
sexually transmitted disease (STD; based on risk perception theory).
The first scale addressed the amount of pleasure that participants
expected to receive from the proposer, based on pleasure theory.
According to pleasure theory, sexual pleasure itself (rather than,
for example, reproductive success) is the central motivating factor
in sexual choices. Two items related to the sexual capabilities of
the proposer (i.e., the proposer would be a great lover? and would
provide you with a positive sexual experience?) were combined
into a sexual capabilities scale with an alpha of .81.
Two scales and one single-item measure assessed the perceived
threat of the situation and its association with agreement to the
CHSP, based on gendered risk perception theory. Three items
related to the perceived danger posed by the proposer (i.e., would
try to physically hurt you? would try to rob you or mug you? would
try to sexually assault you?) were averaged into a danger scale
with an alpha of .88. As a separate facet of risk, a scale was
developed to address the possibility that the proposer was psychologically unwell, a state that is also widely perceived as dangerous.
Two items concerning mental illness (i.e., is psychologically unstable? is mentally ill?) were averaged to create a mental illness
scale with a reliability of .83. Finally, the item has an STD,
representing a third facet of risk, was analyzed separately.3
In addition, I utilized 35 items drawn from SST research on
gender differences. These items were adapted from previous research concerning sexual strategies explanations for sexual behaviors and in particular address the status and the faithfulness of
potential sexual partners (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). The items were
adapted to be appropriate for the person-perception technique that
I utilized (i.e., participants answered the items about the proposer
described in the scenario). To my knowledge, sexual strategies
researchers have not combined these items into scales but have
instead relied on individual items. This seemed unwieldy and
statistically inappropriate. Therefore, the sexual strategies items
were subjected to a principal-components factor analysis with
varimax rotation and were confirmed by a maximum likelihood
factor analysis with varimax rotation. Varimax rotation was utilized to provide maximally distinct factors, which assisted in the
creation of scales.
Four factors emerged from the analyses of the SST items: status,
sexual faithfulness, warmth, gift giving, and a fifth factor comprising the reverse-scored items concerning status. Thus, the first
and fifth factors were collapsed for the purposes of scale construction. There was a precipitous drop in eigenvalues and portion of
the variance accounted for between the fifth and sixth factors. The
five-factor solution was more interpretable than the four- or sixfactor solutions. This solution yielded scales that had considerable
face validity and were high in reliability. Items that did not load on
any factor, that loaded relatively weakly on a single factor, or that
loaded moderately on more than one factor were excluded from the
scales and were retained separately as single items.
Thus, based on the factor analysis, the four scales were (a)
Status (i.e., has good financial prospects, has a good financial

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earning capacity, would be able to financially support you, has a


promising career, earns or will soon earn a lot of money, has
already or will graduate from college, is likely to succeed professionally, has good heredity [i.e., good genes], is intelligent, has a
reliable future career, would be a good housekeeper, is uneducated [reverse scored], lacks ambition [reverse scored], is financially poor [reverse scored]), with a reliability of .89; (b) Sexual
Faithfulness (i.e., would be sexually faithful to you, is sexually
loyal, wants a relationship commitment from you, would be unfaithful [reverse scored], is promiscuous [reverse scored], sleeps
around a lot [reverse scored]), with .86 reliability; (c) Gift Giving
(i.e., would give you gifts, would spend a lot of money on you),
with an alpha of .73; and (d) Warmth (i.e., is emotionally warm, is
kind and understanding), with an alpha of .79.
The items has a low sex drive, is sexually experienced, has an
exciting personality, leads an extravagant lifestyle, wants to have
children, is easygoing, is healthy, and is stingy were also included
as individual items, not scales (either because they did not load
strongly on any factor or because they loaded moderately on more
than one factor). Because these items lacked any unique theoretical
significance to SST beyond the already established scales and did
not yield theoretically interesting findings, I do not consider them
further. Note also that the SST variables were excluded from one
wave of data collection to reduce the length of the survey.
Interest in a short-term relationship. I also tapped the likelihood that the participant would be interested in a short-term
relationship with the proposer (even if the prospect of an immediate sexual encounter was unappealing). I again drew on sexual
strategies research and utilized Buss and Schmitts (1993) item for
the current research: How interested would you be in having a
person like this for a short-term relationship partner (i.e., a fling
or affair)? This item was included partially to combat specific item
effects. In addition, this item is theoretically significant to SST, a
point that requires some additional explanation. The short-term
relationship question is nearly theoretically equivalent (in the
context of SST) to the CHSP. According to SST, the central
motivating force in a womans decisions about whether to have sex
with a particular man is his resources (and, in particular, his ability
to increase the womans reproductive potential by providing for
her and her children). In both the CHSP and the short-term
relationship question, the assumption is that the relationship will
not have a long duration. Therefore, a woman should not generally
expect from either the CHSP or the specified short-term relationship that she would be getting a provider as part of the sexual
encounter. That is, based on SST, women should be equally as
likely to accept/reject a man for a short-term relationship as they
are to reject the same man for a casual sex offer; there is no
commitment from the man in the short-term relationship, just as
there is no commitment in the CHSP. In fact, although the time
3

I included two additional sets of variables in several of our studies. One


was a scale that tapped the extent to which participants believed that the
proposer approached them as a joke (i.e., that the offer was insincere). A
second scale assessed how socially skilled/socially competent the participants assumed the proposers to be. These concepts produced nonsignificant
and/or theoretically uninteresting results. They do not appear to play a large
role in womens or mens agreement to the CHSP. I have eliminated them
from this report, and they will not be discussed further.

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314

frame of the classic CHSP is open ended (i.e., the women might
assume that a relationship could continue indefinitely, even though
the first encounter was spontaneous), the short-term relationship
question actually specifies that this is a short-term relationship.
Thus, embedded in the question is the assurance to participants that
the relationship will not continue in the future. If anything, women
should be less likely to accept the short-term offer than the casual
sex offer according to SST, given that casual sex experiences
frequently do become relationships (see Armstrong et al., 2010).

Results and Discussion


First I determined if women were less likely than men to accept
a sexual offer (cf. Clark, 1990; Clark & Hatfield, 1989). Then I
examined if male proposers (rated by women) were perceived
more negatively than female proposers (rated by men). I also
examined reactions to the possibility of a short-term relationship
with the proposer. Note that I examine predictive and mediational
effects of these data in Study 3.
Offer acceptance. I conducted initial analyses to determine
how closely these research findings replicated those of Clark and
Hatfield (1989). In the current study, 82% of women reported that
they would definitely not agree to the sexual offer (i.e., they chose
the option of 1 on a 7-point scale). By contrast, 74% percent of
men indicated that they would entertain the possibility of the
sexual offer (i.e., they chose an option of 27 on the 7-point scale).
These findings reflect somewhat less consensus than the original
studies but seem to be a reasonable representation of the original
Clark and Hatfield findings.
Are male proposers perceived more negatively than female
proposers? A clearer picture of womens and mens representation of the situation is evidenced by responses to the questions
concerning perceptions of the traits of the proposers. As shown in
Table 1, male proposers were perceived (by women) as more
dangerous and less likely to provide them sexual satisfaction than
women were perceived (by men). Male proposers were perceived
(by women) to have lower status and to be less warm than the
women proposers were perceived to be (by men). There were no
gender differences in perceptions of the proposers sexual faithfulness, mental capacities, gift giving, or risk of STD.
In summary, Study 1a showed that women and men had very
different perceptions of the opposite-sex hypothetical proposers

who approached them. In essence, this study demonstrated that


male participants were responding to a very different proposer than
were female participants. The confound inherent in this study (i.e.,
the fact that women are rating men but men are rating women) has
to be teased apart if one is to understand why such large gender
differences emerged in the original CHSP studies. That is, how
would men perceive a man who approached them for sex, and how
would women perceive a woman who approached them for sex?
To the extent that people perceive (both homosexual and heterosexual) male proposers in general as less desirable relationship
partners than (both homosexual and heterosexual) female proposers, this would suggest that concerns about the confound between
the gender of the proposer and the gender of the participant are
warranted.

Study 1b
In Study 1b, I sought to understand how participants perceived
members of the opposite sex and members of the same sex who
approached them to propose a sexual encounter. If female participants are less likely than male participants to agree to casual sex
offers because of properties of the female participants, then women
should perceive male and female proposers equally negatively.
However, if womens reluctance to have casual sex in the CHSP
has to do with properties of the proposer (and particularly with
negative aspects of the perceived personality of male proposers), I
would expect women to perceive female casual sex proposers
more positively than male casual sex proposers. Moreover, consistent with Study 1a, I would also expect male participants to
perceive the female proposers more positively than the male proposers (independent of their desire for a sexual encounter with this
person).
The main goal in this study was to assess womens and mens
perceptions of the personality traits of the proposer, independent of
participants desire for a sexual encounter with the proposer.
However, for consistency with Study 1a, I also assessed likelihood
of acceptance of the casual sex offer.

Method
Participants and procedure. The sample (n 212) was
78% female and was 8% African American, 11% Asian American,

Table 1
Significant Participant Gender Differences in Response to the CHSP and Tests of Significance, Study 1a
Dependent variable
Would you have sex with this person?
How interested would you be in this person as a short-term
partner (e.g., a fling, an affair)?
Danger Scale
Sexual Capabilities Scale
Mental Illness Scale
Item: Has an STD
Status Scale
Sexual Faithfulness Scale
Warmth Scale
Gift-Giving Scale

Female (Male proposer) Male (Female proposer)

Test of mean difference

1.37 (0.97)

3.74 (2.16)

t(513) 14.46, p .0005, d 1.28

2.43 (1.83)
4.19 (1.62)
2.82 (1.25)
3.77 (1.69)
5.17 (1.62)
2.99 (1.07)
2.19 (1.16)
2.62 (1.37)
2.86 (1.34)

4.03 (2.10)
2.75 (1.52)
3.83 (1.14)
3.57 (1.84)
5.00 (1.78)
3.34 (1.13)
2.31 (1.26)
3.30 (1.40)
3.05 (1.36)

t(514)
t(514)
t(514)
t(476)
t(476)
t(302)
t(302)
t(476)
t(302)

Note. CHSP Clark and Hatfield sexual proposal; STD sexually transmitted disease; n.s. nonsignificant.

9.08, p .0005, d 0.80


10.03, p .0005, d 0.89
9.21, p .0005, d 0.81
1.20, n.s., d 0.11
1.14, n.s., d 0.11
2.65, p 009, d 0.31
0.85, n.s., d 0.10
5.43, p .0005, d 0.50
9.21, p .0005, d 0.14

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

24% European American, 37% Latina/Latino, and 8% Middle


Eastern/Arabic. The mean age was 19.5 years. The procedure was
fundamentally the same as in Study 1a.

Materials
Scenario. The scenario was the same as in Study 1a, with the
following crucial addition. Instead of receiving the questionnaire
reading that participants should imagine a member of the opposite
sex, both male and female participants received questionnaires
that indicated that either a woman or a man proposed a sexual
encounter to them.
Personality traits of the proposer. The measures were identical to those utilized in Study 1a. Scale reliabilities were as
follows: Sexual Capabilities ( .71), Danger ( .90), Mental
Illness ( .87), Status ( .94), Sexual Faithfulness ( .81),
Warmth ( .52), and Gift Giving ( .82). The individual item
concerning STDs was also included.

Results and Discussion


The results were analyzed with 2 (Gender of Participant) 2
(Gender of Proposer) analyses of variance (ANOVAs) and followed up with t tests, as necessary, for clarity.
Offer acceptance. First I considered the question of how likely
participants would be to agree to sex with male versus female proposers as an indicator of how positively the female and male proposers were perceived. The means are displayed in Table 2.
Of course, given that these were heterosexual participants, it is
not surprising that the men were significantly more likely to agree
to the proposal and to desire a short-term relationship with the
female proposer than the male proposer. What is of greater interest, however, is the lack of differences among women in the male
proposer versus female proposer condition. Women were equally
as likely to agree to a sexual encounter with a man as with a
woman, t(163) 0.10, n.s., d 0.02. Given that the means were
extremely low, however, the complete lack of interest in either the
female or the male proposer may be chalked up to floor effects.
That led me to additionally consider the question of short-term
relationships. When women responded about their desire for the
proposer as a short-term relationship partner, the means across
conditions were higher (just over 2.0), but the women still showed
no preference for the male versus the female partner, t(163)
0.43, n.s., d 0.07. In other words, heterosexual women were just

315

as likely to want a short-term relationship with the female proposer


as they were to want a short-term relationship with the male
proposer. Even though agreeing to have sex with a woman
would mean engaging in an encounter with someone to whom
they are presumably unattracted physically, this was equally as
unappealing as having sex with a man who approached them to
propose casual sex. These findings show just how undesirable
the male proposer is to the female participants, a question I
explore further below.
Are male proposers perceived more negatively than female
proposers? I addressed whether female proposers were perceived more positively than male proposers on the dimensions of
risk (i.e., mental illness, dangerousness, risk for STD), warmth,
status, gift giving, sexual faithfulness, and sexual capabilities.
Although I initially conducted ANOVAs, t tests for the two separate main effects are reported below because no interactions
emerged. As shown in Table 3, both women and men agreed that
the female proposer would be better in bed, thought the female
proposer was warmer and had higher status, and thought the
female proposer would be more likely than the male proposers to
give them gifts. Men and women also believed that female proposers were less likely to be dangerous than male proposers. In
sum, both men and women agreed that the male proposers are less
desirable than female proposers on dimensions of relevance to
sexual encounters.

Study 1c
In Studies 1a and 1b, I hypothesized (and found) that female
sexual proposers are perceived more positively than male sexual
proposers. In this study, I assessed that hypothesis more directly;
participants provided their reactions to a person who has proposed
casual sex to a third party. To the extent that male proposers are
perceived more negatively than female proposers, this study provides further evidence that the gender differences in the CHSP can
be attributed not to the gender of the participants but to the gender
of the proposer.

Method
Participants and procedure.
Participants (n 64) were
recruited from psychology classes at a large urban university. The
sample was 66% female. Ethnically, the sample was 17% African

Table 2
Significant Participant Gender Proposer Gender Interactions in Likelihood of Accepting the
Sexual Proposal and Tests of Significance, Study 1b
Proposer gender
Participant gender

Female

Male

Likelihood of agreeing to the sexual proposal


Female
1.16 (0.52)
1.15 (0.56)
Male
3.52 (2.20)
1.50 (1.58)
Desire to have a short-term relationship with the proposer
Female
2.14 (1.76)
2.20 (1.78)
Male
3.59 (2.35)
1.76 (1.56)

Test of mean difference


F(1, 208) 32.63, p .0005, 2 .14

F(1, 208) 8.79, p .003, 2 .04

CONLEY

316

Table 3
Significant Differences in Perceptions of Female and Male Proposers and Tests of Significance,
Study 1b
Dependent variable

Female proposers
M (SD)

Male proposers
M (SD)

Sexual Capabilities Scale


Warmth Scale
Gift-Giving Scale
Danger Scale
Status Scale

3.05 (1.11)
3.01 (1.19)
3.09 (1.49)
3.64 (1.72)
3.17 (1.27)

2.51 (0.98)
2.55 (1.27)
2.53 (1.22)
4.28 (1.73)
2.82 (1.03)

American, 5% Asian American, 66% European American, and 8%


Latina/Latino. The mean age was 22.4 years.

Materials
Scenario. The scenario was patterned directly after those of
the previous studies. Female and male participants were asked to
imagine that a woman approaches a man
on campus at your university and says, I have been noticing you
around campus and I find you to be very attractive. Would you go to
bed with me tonight?

In the alternate version, a man approaches a woman.


Personality traits of the proposer. The measures utilized in
this study were fundamentally the same as in previous studies.
Minor wording changes made the items appropriate for the target
person in the scenario (e.g., the item was changed from would rob
or mug you to would rob or mug the woman). I used a subset
of the sexual strategies measures from the previous studies to
conserve space and time. In particular, I retained the highest
loading items from the Study 1a factor analysis to reduce the
length of the Status and Sexual Faithfulness Scales. The Status
Scale attained a reliability of .73 with the retention of the following
items: earns or will soon earn a lot of money, has already or will
graduate from college, has good heredity (i.e., good genes), and
has a reliable future career. However, the two sexual faithfulness
items I included (is sexually loyal, would be unfaithful) were
considered individually, because they displayed low reliability in
this sample. I included the original versions of the Gift-Giving
Scale ( .80) and the Warmth Scale ( .78). In addition, I
retained the original versions of scales addressing risk perception
theory (the Danger Scale, .67, and the Mental Illness Scale,
.91) and pleasure theory (the Sexual Capabilities Scale,
.76). The item has an STD was also included.

Results and Discussion


Are male proposers perceived more negatively than female
proposers? I hypothesized that male proposers would be perceived more negatively, by women and by men, than female
proposers. Consistent with that hypothesis, participants thought
that the male proposers were more dangerous (M 4.05, SD
1.32) than female proposers (M 3.03, SD 1.01), t(62) 3.37,
p .001, d 0.86. Male sexual proposers were perceived as less
sexually capable (M 2.83, SD 1.15) than female sexual
proposers (M 3.90, SD 1.00), t(62) 3.95, p .0005, d

Test of mean difference


t(209)
t(209)
t(208)
t(209)
t(209)

3.77,
2.73,
2.93,
2.70,
2.17,

p
p
p
p
p

.0005, d 0.52
.008, d 0.38
.005, d 0.41
.009, d 0.37
.04, d 0.30

1.00. Male proposers were also perceived as less warm (M 2.53,


SD 1.19) than their female counterparts (M 3.24, SD 1.21),
t(62) 2.37, p .02, d 0.60. Other than a theoretically
irrelevant interaction on the Status Scale, no significant differences
emerged.
This study provides more evidence for differences in the desirability of male versus female sexual proposers. Once again, male
proposers were perceived more negatively than female proposers
on a number of dimensions that would make them less desirable
casual sex partners. Next, I considered bisexual women to determine their relative likelihood of accepting a sexual offer from a
woman or a man.

Study 1d
In this study, I recruited a sample of bisexual women and presented
them with a scenario in which they were approached by a woman or,
alternately, by a man. Bisexual women, by adopting a bisexual identity, have acknowledged their potential to be attracted to members of
either gender. To the extent that men are less appealing casual sex
partners than women, bisexual women should be more likely to agree
to casual sex with a woman than with a man.

Method
Participants and procedure. Ethnically, participants (n
103) were 77% European American, 8% Asian American, 5%
Latina/Latino, and 2% African American. The mean age was 20.5
years. Participants were recruited by writing to lesbian, gay, and
bisexual organizations and groups on college campuses and asking
them to post a link to the questionnaire in their newsletters,
websites, or listservs. The survey was administered online. Participants received the same scenario as in Study 1a; they received
either a version in which they were approached by a woman or a
version in which they were approached by a man. As in the
previous studies, participants indicated how likely they would be
to accept the sexual offer.

Results and Discussion


Bisexual women were significantly more likely to accept an
offer from a woman (M 2.37, SD 1.41) than from a man (M
1.39, SD 0.83), t(95.43) 4.35, p .0001, d 0.89. This
finding provides further evidence that gender differences in response to the CHSP can at least partially be attributed to differences in the perception of male versus female proposers. Women

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

who are attracted to members of either sex were significantly more


likely to accept an offer from a woman than from a man. This
study further demonstrates that being approached by a man (for
heterosexual women) is not equivalent to being approached by a
woman (for heterosexual men).

Study 2: Can Gender Differences in Casual Sex


Acceptance Be Eliminated?
In Studies 2a, b, c, and d, I set out to determine whether I could
eradicate the differences between women and men in the likelihood of accepting a sexual proposal. In these studies, I drew upon
on the Gustafsons theory of gendered risk perception and reasoned that familiarity likely contributes to perceptions of risk
(Gustafson, 1998). That is, women perceive unfamiliar others (but
not, presumably, familiar others) as more suspicious than men do.
Therefore, to the extent that the women perceive a proposer as a
familiar individual rather than a stranger, their likelihood of responding positively to a sexual proposal may increase. Gender
differences in response to the sexual proposal should, likewise,
decrease. Obviously, in our day-to-day lives, the people we consider familiar are idiosyncratic, and it is impossible to create a
scenario that would present all participants with a familiar sexual
proposer. I averted these issues in two ways in these studies. First,
Studies 2 a and b examined people who are famous. Famous
people are, by definition, familiar to us, and people often respond
to them as if they were friends or close others (Aron et al., 2005;
Kanazawa, 2004). Therefore, I encouraged participants to suspend
their disbelief for the purposes of the current research and to
imagine that they were being sexually propositioned by one of
several famous people. Second, in Study 2c, I asked heterosexual
participants to imagine a sexual proposal from a personally familiar person, their best opposite-sex friend. Finally, in Study 2d, I
conceptualized risk slightly differently. Because, according to
Gustafsons theory, women are especially concerned about threats
from unfamiliar men, a sexual proposal from a woman should
cause less concern. I found some support for this perspective in
Study 1b: Heterosexual women were as likely to accept a casual
sex offer from a woman as from a man. In Study 2d, I compared
gay mens to lesbians reactions to the CHSP. To the extent that
women are less likely to accept casual sex offers due to the
riskiness of the male partner, gender differences should be diminished in a lesbian and gay sample when participants are approached by same-gender proposers. That is, by reducing the risk
to women (by having them imagine a proposal from another
woman), I expected to reduce differences between groups.
In addition, the design of these studies allowed for examination
of hypotheses associated with pleasure theory and SST, which I
consider in turn below.

Method
Participants and procedure. The sample included 232 participants from a large urban university, of whom 43% were
women. The mean age was 21.7 years. The sample was 82%
European American.4 The procedure was the same as in Studies
1 a, b, and c.
Measures.
Scenario development. The first step in creating a scenario
was for a group of six research assistants to administer an openended survey to a convenience sample of acquaintances, colleagues, and coworkers. In the survey, participants were asked to
list five famous people of the opposite sex they found very attractive and another five people they found unattractive. Unattractive
personalities were elicited so that status and attractiveness would
not be confounded at all levels of the experiment. The names of the
10 most frequently mentioned attractive and unattractive individuals were developed into a questionnaire, with separate lists for
women and for men. The research assistants then each asked 10
women and 10 men to rate the attractiveness of each of the
individuals. Out of those 60 ratings, I developed survey materials
considering the four individuals who were rated (a) the most
attractive and (b) the least attractive, for each sex. Neither the
attractive man and the attractive woman nor the unattractive
man and the unattractive woman differed in their levels of
attractiveness. The final female personalities chosen by the 30 male
pilot study participants were actor Angelina Jolie (attractive) and
comedian Roseanne (unattractive). The two male personalities chosen
by the 30 female pilot study participants were actor Johnny Depp
(attractive) and real estate mogul Donald Trump (unattractive).
In addition, I included a condition in which male participants
responded to a sexual offer from former model Christie Brinkley.
This condition was included to determine if mens expected negative reactions to the unattractive proposer (Roseanne) could be
due to her older-than-procreational age, as would be suggested by
SST. Roseanne and Christie Brinkley are approximately the same
age and are past their childbearing prime. More important, a pilot
test of men in this population indicated that the two women are not
perceived to be of significantly different ages, as revealed by a
paired samples t test, t(11) 1.38, n.s., d 0.41. Moreover,
Christie Brinkley is actually perceived to be slightly older (M
55.6, SD 3.15) than Roseanne (M 52.4, SD 6.40), perhaps
because of Brinkleys longevity as a public figure. Therefore, if
men perceive either proposer (Roseanne or Christie Brinkley) as a
desirable sexual partner, this suggests that they are not overtly
influenced by the lack of reproductive capabilities in their decisions about whether or not to have sex with a given woman.
4

Study 2a
In this study, participants responded to the possibility of engaging in casual sex with a famous person. Pilot tests identified
attractive and unattractive public personalities and asked participants to imagine being approached sexually by one of these
people. Once the familiarity of the proposer is similar across
conditions, risk perception theory suggests, gender differences in
casual sex acceptance should dissipate.

317

African American women were excluded from this study because the
individuals they listed had very little overlap with those of other participants (in particular, many African American women put only African
American men on their lists of attractive individuals and did not rate
European American proposers, such as Johnny Depp, as particularly attractive). Therefore, a separate study would be necessary to develop a set
of attractive and unattractive proposers suitable for the African American
women in our sample. In addition, individuals who were unfamiliar with
the famous targets (e.g., those who were in the Johnny Depp condition but
did not know who Johnny Depp was) were excluded from the study.

CONLEY

318

Scenario.
Participants imagined a scenario in which they
were sexually propositioned by one of these individuals, again
using the wording of the sexual offer in the CHSP. For example:
You are fortunate enough to be able to spend your entire winter
vacation in Los Angeles. One day, about a week into your stay, you
decide to visit a trendy cafe in Malibu that overlooks the ocean. As
you are sipping your drink, you look over and notice that actor
Johnny Depp is just a few tables away. You can hardly believe your
eyes! Still more amazing, he catches your eye and then approaches
you. He says, I have been noticing you and I find you to be very
attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?

The remaining scenarios were the same, except that the famous
person referenced in the scenario varied. In addition, I included a
scenario in which participants responded to an unknown proposer.
That scenario was slightly different to accommodate the fact that
the proposer in the scenario was not famous.
Measures. I again utilized the dependent variable concerning
the likelihood of agreeing to the CHSP. In addition, I included two
items concerning the appeal of the sexual offer: Regardless of
whether or not you would actually agree to the sexual encounter,
how much would you LIKE TO agree to the encounter? and
Regardless of whether or not you would actually agree to the
sexual encounter, how APPEALING is the offer? These two items
were combined to form an offer appeal scale with an alpha of .93.
I also utilized four scales from the previous studies, Sexual Capabilities ( .79), Danger ( .80), and Mental Illness ( .83),
and the item has an STD. In addition, the four scales based on SST
were included: the abbreviated versions of the Status ( .72) and
Sexual Faithfulness ( .58) Scales and the Warmth ( .64)
and Gift-Giving ( .85) Scales.

Results and Discussion


First, I ran 2 (Gender) 3 (Attractiveness Level) ANOVAs to
determine if there were gender differences in reactions to the proposers. Then I compared specific conditions within the larger design.
Reactions to relationships with proposers of varying levels of
attractiveness. I first analyzed each dependent variable using 2
(Participant Gender) 3 (Attractiveness Level of Proposer: attractive, unknown, unattractive) ANOVAs. Significant interactions emerged for each of the dependent variables that addressed
desire for a relationship with the proposer, indicating that men and
women differed in their reactions to proposers of different levels of
attractiveness. An interaction emerged on the CHSP question, F(2,
192) 3.00, p .05, 2 .03, and on the short-term relationship
question, F(2, 192) 3.49, p .03, 2 .04. A significant interaction also emerged on the Offer Appeal Scale, F(2, 192) 3.17, p
.04, 2 .03. These general findings are not of tremendous
theoretical interest. Therefore, I compared the familiar proposers
(attractive and unattractive) to the unfamiliar proposer and conducted follow-up analyses by each level of attractiveness (unknown, unattractive, and attractive). Means and standard deviations are presented in Table 4.
Gender comparisons in reaction to famous vs. unfamiliar
proposers. Based on risk perception theory (Gustafson, 1998),
one of the main reasons that women eschew casual sex is the
unfamiliarity of the proposer. Therefore, I considered how participants responded to the familiar proposers (i.e., the attractive and

Table 4
Means and Standard Deviations in Desire for Sexual
Relationships With Famous Attractive, Famous Unattractive,
and Unknown Proposers, Study 2a
Attractiveness level
Participant
gender

Female
Male

Unknown

High

Likelihood of agreeing to the sexual proposal


1.86 (1.38)
4.09 (2.16)
3.52 (2.06)
4.16 (2.56)

Low

1.71 (1.61)
1.43 (0.84)

Desire to have a short-term relationship with the proposer


Female
2.86 (2.19)
4.48 (2.57)
2.57 (2.09)
Male
4.22 (2.00)
4.96 (2.07)
2.39 (2.10)

Female
Male

Appeal of the offer


3.32 (2.33)
5.38 (1.49)
5.02 (1.73)
5.66 (1.94)

2.24 (1.88)
2.20 (1.80)

the unattractive condition) versus the unknown proposers. This


analysis is of theoretical interest because of previous research
indicating that women generally perceive more risk than men and,
in particular, perceive more risk than men do from strangers and
more risk concerning sexual assault by men (Burt & Estep, 1981;
Gustafson, 1998). Therefore, when women are presented with
familiar (i.e., famous) proposers, the gender differences displayed
in the original CHSP should narrow.
To make comparisons suggested by risk perception theory, I
first considered gender differences in response to (both the attractive and unattractive) famous proposers. That is, I examined gender differences to the combination of Roseanne and Angelina Jolie
(for male participants) versus the combination of Johnny Depp and
Donald Trump (for female participants). The enormous gender differences demonstrated multiple times by Clark and colleagues and
others were eliminated in this analogous situation, t(88) 0.10, n.s.,
d 0.02. Women and men were equally likely to agree to the casual
sexual proposal with the respective famous heterosexual individuals.
Further, women were also just as likely as men to desire a
short-term relationship with the familiar proposers, t(88) 0.42,
n.s., d 0.09, and women and men also found the offer equivalently appealing, as demonstrated by their reactions to the offer
appeal scale, t(88) 0.71, n.s., d 0.15.
Gender comparisons in reactions to the attractive proposers.
No gender difference emerged in likelihood of agreeing to the
CHSP, t(44) 0.09, n.s., d 0.03; appeal of the sexual offer,
t(44) 0.54, n.s., d 0.16; or desire for a short-term relationship
with the attractive proposer, t(44) 0.81, n.s., d 0.24. Thus, the
large differences in the original CHSP were not evident in this
context. This is inconsistent with SST, which predicts that men
should accept offers more often than women do.
Gender comparisons in reactions to the unattractive proposers. No gender difference emerged in likelihood of agreeing to
the CHSP, t(42) 0.72, n.s., d 0.22; the appeal of the sexual
offer, t(42) 0.58, n.s., d 0.18; or desire for a short-term
relationship with the proposer, t(42) 0.78, n.s., d 0.24. Once
again, inconsistent with SST, women and men were about equally
likely to reject the sexual offer.

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

The lack of gender differences is particularly interesting with


regard to SST, given that the unattractive proposer for women was
Donald Trump. SST suggests that women select a partner on the
basis of the partners resources and ability to care for them and
their prospective children. It is indeed difficult to imagine a better
person to take care of a woman and her children than someone
with the enormous resources of Donald Trump, yet women rejected him soundly. This challenges the assumption that women
are driven to choose mates with great resources.
Specific comparisons between conditions. The argument
from SST regarding mens desire to widely disseminate their
sperm could be modified with the rejoinder that the woman has to
be fertile for men to even consider having sex with her; that is,
women past childbearing age have no possibility of reproducing
mens genes. Therefore, mens reluctance to engage in sex with
Roseanne could be a result of her perceived infertility. Roseanne
and the alternative proposer, Christie Brinkley, are approximately
one year apart in age and, as mentioned earlier, Brinkley was
perceived by men to be slightly older than Roseanne. I sought to
determine if men were rejecting Roseanne because they are averse
to sex with non-childbearing women, consistent with SST. Therefore, I compared their desire for Angelina Jolie to their desire for
Christie Brinkley, another woman who pilot participants recognized as being past childbearing years, using Scheffe post hoc tests
(thus, adjusted p values are presented below).
Probable fertility was certainly not a requirement for a woman
to be sexually desirable to men in this sample. They were just as
willing to have an encounter with Christie Brinkley as they were
with the younger (and more fertile) Angelina Jolie. A Scheffe post
hoc test indicated that men were just as likely to desire Christie
Brinkley for the CHSP as they were Angelina Jolie ( p .998).
Similarly, no preference for Angelina Jolie over Christie Brinkley
emerged in the appeal of the CHSP ( p .992) or mens desire for a
short-term relationship ( p 1.00). Therefore, mens reasons for
rejecting Roseanne do not appear to stem from her chronological age.
Next I compared perceptions of specific famous proposers to the
unknown proposers. A Scheffe post hoc test revealed that men
were significantly more likely to desire to have sex with the
unknown proposer as with Roseanne ( p .041) but were just as
likely to desire to have sex with the unknown proposer as they
were with Angelina Jolie ( p .97). Thus, when men think of a
woman who would approach them for casual sex, they appear to be
imagining someone with a level of desirability comparable to the
attractive proposer (Angelina Jolie). By contrast, women were
significantly more likely to agree to have sex with Johnny Depp
than with an unknown proposer ( p .016). They were equally
likely to have sex with the unknown proposer as they were to have
sex with Donald Trump ( p 1.00). Thus, womens evaluation of
an unknown proposer appears to be similar to womens perceptions of the unattractive proposer.
We found similar results on the Offer Appeal Scale. Scheffe
post hoc tests revealed that men found the CHSP from the unknown proposer significantly more appealing than the CHSP from
Roseanne ( p .0005) but just as appealing as the offer from
Angelina Jolie ( p .99). By contrast, women found the CHSP
from the unknown proposer as unappealing as the offer from
Donald Trump ( p .59). They found the CHSP from Johnny
Depp more appealing than the CHSP from the unknown proposer
( p .05).

319

Perceived personality traits of proposers. Next I considered


whether there were gender differences in how proposers of varying
levels of attractiveness were perceived, based on theoretical analyses of pleasure theory, SST, and risk perception theory. There
were no Gender Attractiveness Level interactions in perceived
gift giving, warmth, status, sexual faithfulness, mental illness,
sexual capabilities, or danger.

Study 2b
In Study 2b I endeavored to replicate the most important finding
from Study 2a, namely, the elimination of the large gender difference in reaction to the CHSP when participants considered familiar
(be they attractive or unattractive) proposers. The scenarios I
utilized in this experiment were slightly different because of the
geographical location of the sample. I also developed a different
set of proposers in case the perceived unattractiveness or attractiveness of the proposers differed from that in the location of the
prior study.

Method
Participants and procedure. Research assistants approached
potential participants in public areas of college campuses and
asked them to fill out a brief survey. Participants put their questionnaires in sealed envelopes and returned them to the researchers.
The sample (n 118) consisted of 59% women recruited on the
campus of a large urban university. The sample included 20%
African Americans, 27% Asian Americans, 21% European Americans, and 16% Latinas/Latinos, with an average age of 22 years.

Materials
Scenario development. Attractive and unattractive famous
people were identified in much the same method as in the previous
study. The two women chosen by the male pilot study participants
were actress/singer Jennifer Lopez (attractive) and, as in the previous study, comedian Roseanne (unattractive). The two men
chosen by the female pilot study participants were actor Brad Pitt
(attractive) and comedian Carrot Top (unattractive).
Scenario. Next, I presented participants with a scenario in
which I asked them to imagine having an encounter with one of the
individuals chosen in the pilot study. For example:
One day for a change of scenery you decide to head over to Malibu
to study in a cafe that overlooks the ocean. As you are studying, you
look over and notice that actor Brad Pitt is just a few tables away. You
can hardly believe your eyes! Still more amazing, he catches your eye
and then approaches you. He says, I have been noticing you and I
find you to be very attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?

In addition, control conditions were again utilized whereby an


unknown man or woman proposed the sexual encounter.
Measures. Participants again indicated how likely they would
be to agree to a sexual encounter with this person and how
desirable it would be to have a short-term relationship with this
person. In addition, I investigated one pleasure variable and one
danger variable in a single-item form. In particular, I asked, How
likely is it that you would be harmed by this person? and How

CONLEY

320

likely is it that this person would be a good lover? (Once again,


participants responded to these questions on 7-point scales, on
which higher numbers indicate greater agreement.) I also asked
questions to assess the participants familiarity with the proposer.

Results and Discussion


Reactions to different relationships with proposers of varying levels of attractiveness. I first conducted a 2 (Participant
Gender) 3 (Attractiveness Level of Proposer: attractive, unknown, unattractive) ANOVA on each of the dependent variables.
Analyses revealed significant interactions for the main dependent
variables, indicating that men and women differed in their reactions to proposers of different levels of attractiveness. A Gender
Attractiveness Level interaction emerged on the CHSP question,
F(2, 112) 11.00, p .0005, 2 .11, and on the short-term
relationship question, F(2, 112) 6.76, p .002, 2 .16. I
again conducted follow-up analyses by each level of attractiveness
and by combining the familiar proposers (attractive and unattractive) compared to the unfamiliar proposer. I conducted some
additional planned comparisons between specific conditions to get
a better sense of mens and womens reactions to the different
scenarios. The means are presented in Table 5.
Gender comparisons in reaction to familiar vs. unfamiliar
proposers. The key finding from Study 2a, that the gender
differences in the CHSP were eliminated when considering familiar proposers, replicated in this sample with these proposers. No
gender difference emerged when asking participants to consider a
casual sexual proposal from a familiar person, t(57.04) 1.59,
n.s., d 0.42. Women were also just as likely as men to desire a
short-term relationship with the familiar proposers, t(78) 0.92,
n.s., d 0.20.
Gender comparisons in reactions to the attractive proposers.
When only attractive proposers were considered, the effects originally demonstrated in the CHSP narrowed considerably or were
eliminated. There was a marginally significant difference in the
likelihood that the women would agree immediately to have sex
with the proposer, with women being marginally less likely to
agree to the CHSP (M 3.63, SD 2.32) than men were (M
5.17, SD 2.38), t(34) 1.97, p .08, d 0.67. However, there

Table 5
Means and Standard Deviations in Desire for Sexual
Relationships With Famous Attractive, Famous Unattractive,
and Unknown Proposers, Study 2b
Attractiveness level
Participant
gender

Female
Male

Unknown

High

Likelihood of agreeing to the sexual proposal


1.50 (1.10)
3.63 (2.32)
4.57 (1.82)
5.18 (2.38)

Low

1.30 (0.61)
1.06 (0.24)

Desire to have a short-term relationship with the proposer


Female
2.08 (1.59)
4.79 (1.81)
1.52 (0.22)
Male
4.25 (1.94)
5.24 (2.22)
1.47 (1.28)

were no gender differences in desire for a short-term relationship


with the attractive proposer, t(34) 0.66, n.s., d 0.22.
Gender comparisons in reactions to the unattractive proposers. Women were actually marginally more likely to agree to the
CHSP with the unattractive proposer (M 1.29, SD 0.61) than
men were (M 1.06, SD 0.24), t(36.95) 1.81, p .078, d
0.59. There were also no gender differences in the desire for a
short-term relationship with the proposer, t(42) 0.14, n.s., d
0.04.
Specific comparisons between conditions. To get a better
sense of the participants perceptions of the unknown proposers
(i.e., the proposers that participants encountered in Study 1a), I
conducted post hoc analyses comparing the unknown proposers to
the famous proposers. A Scheffe post hoc test revealed that men
were more likely to agree to have sex with the unknown proposer
than with Roseanne ( p .0005) but were just as likely to agree to
have sex with the unknown proposer as with Jennifer Lopez ( p
.947). Thus, when men think of a woman who would approach
them for casual sex, they appear to be imagining someone with a
level of desirability comparable to Jennifer Lopez. By contrast,
women were equally likely to agree to have sex with the unknown
proposer as they were with Carrot Top ( p .999). They were less
likely to agree to have sex with the unknown proposer than with
Brad Pitt ( p .002). I found similar effects in participants desire
for a short-term relationship with the proposer. Men were as likely
to desire a short-term relationship with the unknown proposer as
they were to desire a short-term relationship with Jennifer Lopez
( p .991), though they were less likely to desire a short-term
relationship with Roseanne ( p .005). Women were as likely to
desire a short-term relationship with Carrot Top as they were to
desire a short-term relationship with the unknown proposer ( p
.924). They were more likely to desire a short-term relationship
with Brad Pitt ( p .0005).
In sum, when women conceptualized the unknown proposer,
they appeared to be thinking of someone like Carrot Top. When
men conceptualized the unknown proposer, they appeared to be
thinking of someone like Jennifer Lopez.

Study 2c
The findings from Studies 2a and b show that women and men
respond similarly to proposals from famous people. However, the
situation I presented to participants is fairly improbable. Perhaps
women and men are similar in their acceptance of a casual sex
proposal in a fantasy situation, but this situation does not translate
into their behavior in face-to-face encounters. Similarly, perhaps
the perceived gains in status afforded to individuals who have a
sexual encounter with an attractive famous individual are so great
that they offset any gender differences by reducing the stigma
associated with casual sex for women. Therefore, in Study 2c, I
asked participants to consider their reactions to a proposition of
casual sex from a familiar but not famous person: their best friend
of the opposite sex.

Method
Participants and procedure. The sample (n 109) was
66% female and 82% European American, with a mean age of 22
years. This study was conducted through an online survey pro-

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

gram. Participants were recruited by research assistants who


posted the URL for the study on their social networking web
pages.
Measures. Participants first identified the person of the opposite sex, with whom they had never been romantically involved,
to whom they felt the closest. They provided this persons first
initial and indicated how close they were to this person. Next,
participants imagined the following situation:
During a conversation with your male female friend, he [she] says
to you, I have been noticing how attracted I am to you. Would you
go to bed with me tonight?

Participants then responded to the scales from previous studies:


Sexual Capabilities ( .91), Danger ( .79), Mental Illness
( .80), Status ( .85), Sexual Faithfulness ( .76),
Warmth ( .73), and Gift Giving ( .78). The Offer Appeal
Scale ( .93) was also included, as was the item has an STD.

Results
No gender differences emerged in closeness to the friend,
t(107) 0.88, n.s., d 0.17; in perceptions of the friends status,
t(102) 1.45, n.s., d 0.28; sexual faithfulness, t(102) 0.28,
n.s., d 0.06, dangerousness, t(102) 0.31, n.s., d 0.06;
mental stability, t(102) 0.82, n.s., d 0.16; or likelihood of
having an STD, t(101) 0.37, n.s., d 0.07. There was a
marginal difference in the perceived likelihood of the proposing
friend giving them gifts, t(102) 1.93, p .06, d 0.38, with
women slightly more likely to believe the proposer would give
them gifts (M 3.99, SD 1.45) than men were (M 3.43, SD
1.31). Significant gender differences emerged in the perceptions of
the warmth of the proposer, t(98) 2.04, p .04, d 0.41, and
the sexual capabilities of the proposer, t(102) 2.29, p .02, d
0.45. Women thought the proposing friend was warmer (M 5.58,
SD 1.15) than men did (M 5.06, SD 1.32); however, men
thought the friend had better sexual capabilities (M 4.60, SD
1.58) than women did (M 3.80, SD 1.72).
In this scenario, women were less likely to accept the sexual
proposal from the friend (M 1.97, SD 1.61) than men were
(M 2.84, SD 1.92), t(107) 2.49, p .01, d 0.48.
However, these differences evaporated upon the introduction of
sexual capabilities as a covariate, t(102) 0.84, n.s., d 0.17,
consistent with pleasure theory. None of the scales representing
other theoretical perspectives were significant covariates or eliminated the gender difference.
A similar pattern emerged on the Offer Appeal Scale. Although
men initially rated the offer as more appealing than women did,
t(98) 2.20, p .03, d 0.45, the gender difference was again
eliminated by introducing the Sexual Capabilities Scale as a covariate, t(102) 1.08, n.s., d 0.21.
These findings once again suggest that when women are presented with proposers who are equivalent in terms of safety
(Gustafson, 1998) and sexual prowess (Abramson & Pinkerton,
2002), they will be equally likely as men to engage in casual sex.
Further, the findings of this study argue against the possibility that
distinct, gendered evolutionary mechanisms are responsible for
gender differences in casual sex, as womens and mens responses
are similar when the circumstances surrounding the proposal are
more uniform for women and men.

321
Study 2d

In this study, I returned to the stranger proposal paradigm and


asked lesbian and gay participants to imagine that they had been
approached by a member of the same gender, utilizing the CHSP
from prior studies. Of course, the phenomenological experience of
sexual orientation is very different for women and for men. In
particular, much prior research has demonstrated that gay men are
more likely to accept casual sex than lesbians are (Peplau, 2003).
Therefore, base rates would seem to indicate that gay men would
be much more likely to accept a sexual offer from a member of
their own gender than lesbians would. However, because men are
less appealing casual sex partners than women, both in terms of
sexual capabilities and safety, I was curious as to whether these
differences might be eliminated in a lesbian and gay sample. In this
sample, unknown female proposers approached the women, but
unknown male proposers approached the men. If gender differences in the original CHSP are due to the sex of the proposers
instead of the sex of the participants, I would expect gender
differences to be eliminated in gay and lesbian samples.

Method
Participants, procedure, and materials. Participants (n
196) included 47% women. The sample was 64% European American, 13% Asian American, 10% Latina/Latino, and 5% African
American. The mean age was 20.7 years. The materials and
procedure were fundamentally the same as in Study 1d. Lesbian
participants received a scenario about being approached by a
woman; gay male participants received a scenario about being
approached by a man.

Results and Discussion


Once again, the large gender differences demonstrated in the
CHSP were eliminated. Despite the fact that gay men in general
are far more amenable to casual sexual encounters than lesbians
are (Peplau, 2003), there was no significant difference between
gay men (M 2.55, SD 1.62) and lesbians (M 2.27, SD
1.51) in their likelihood of accepting the CHSP, t(194) 1.26,
n.s., d 0.18.
The fact that gay men and lesbians were equally likely to accept
the CHSP from members of their own gender provides strong
evidence that the gender differences demonstrated in the original
CHSP were at least partially a result of differences in the perceptions of female versus male proposers. That is, even though gay
men are attracted to men and, on average, relatively open to casual
sex, they did not find the CHSP any more appealing than lesbians
did. It seems unlikely that the gay male participants in this study
were less open to casual sex than most samples of gay men.
Rather, this finding suggests that the CHSP is an unusual and
suspicion-arousing sexual proposal even for people who are
clearly open to casual sex encounters in other contexts. Moreover,
the fact that gender differences disappeared when considering a
same-sex CHSP does not support the hypothesis that biological
factors are responsible for gender differences in the CHSP.

CONLEY

322

mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of the


sexual offer.
Predicting acceptance of the casual sex offer. First, in a
hierarchical regression analysis, gender, the Sexual Capabilities
Scale, the Danger Scale, the Mental Illness Scale, the Status Scale,
the Sexual Faithfulness Scale, the Warmth Scale, the Gift-Giving
Scale, and the item concerning having an STD were regressed on
participants likelihood of agreeing to the CHSP (in Step 1). The
interactions between gender and each of the predictor variables
were entered at the second step.
As shown in Table 6, only the main effects of participant gender
and the sexual capabilities of the proposer predicted participants
likelihood of agreeing to the CHSP. Men were more likely to
accept a sexual offer than women were, as I already have established. Beyond gender, however, only the perception that the
proposer would be a good lover (consistent with pleasure theory)
significantly influenced participants likelihood of agreeing to the
sexual offer. People who perceived the proposer as a better lover
were more likely to accept the offer. Warmth was a marginally
significant predictor of acceptance of the sexual offer, with those
who perceived the proposer to be warm being somewhat more
likely to accept.
In addition, the interaction between gender and sexual faithfulness was significant. An analysis of simple slopes revealed that the
perception that the proposer would be faithful was significantly
more predictive of womens than of mens acceptance of the
CHSP. This would seem to contradict SST, which predicts that
men desire women who will be faithful to them so that they will
have the greatest likelihood of propagating their genes. Women
may desire a faithful partner because they believe that his sexual
faithfulness will increase the likelihood that he will provide support for their future children, but SST still predicts that faithfulness

Study 3: What Factors Predict Acceptance


of the CHSP?
Study 3 addressed a fundamental theoretical question of the
current research: What factors predict peoples likelihood of agreeing to a sexual encounter with the proposer? Study 3 provides the
most concrete test of the theoretical perspectives of SST, pleasure
theory and risk perception theory. That is, which factors best
predict womens and mens likelihood of accepting a sexual offer?
The status of the proposer (for women) and the perceived sexual
faithfulness of the proposer (for men), as predicted by SST?
Concerns about the safety of the proposer (as predicted by risk
perception theory)? Or the potential for having a sexually pleasurable experience with the proposer (as predicted by pleasure theory)?

Method
Participants, procedure, and measures. For this study, I
utilized the same set of participants, procedures, and measures as
in Study 1. However, because Study 3 addresses a conceptually
different question, I discuss these analyses separately. I was particularly interested in the extent to which each of the theoretical
constructs described above (i.e., dangerousness, mental illness,
sexual capabilities, status, and sexual faithfulness) predicted (a)
responses to the CHSP sexual offer and (b) desire for a short-term
relationship with the proposer.

Results and Discussion


To examine factors associated with acceptance of the CHSP or
interest in short-term relationships with the proposer, I conducted
hierarchical regression analyses. Then I used mediational analyses
to determine whether perceived sexual capabilities of the proposer

Table 6
Results of Hierarchical Regression of Acceptance of the CHSP on the Predictor Variables,
Study 3
Step

Variable

SE B

R2

R2

Sexual Capabilities Scale


Danger Scale
Mental Illness Scale
Status Scale
Sexual Faithfulness Scale
Warmth Scale
Gift-Giving Scale
Item: Has an STD
Gender
Sexual Capabilities Gender
Danger Gender
Mental Illness Gender
Status Gender
Sexual Faithfulness Gender
Warmth Gender
Gift Giving Gender
Has an STD Gender

0.27
0.04
0.01
0.04
0.06
0.06
0.08
0.02
2.07
0.23
0.06
0.19
0.20
0.40
0.09
0.00
0.15

0.10
0.07
0.07
0.06
0.10
0.09
0.09
0.07
0.21
0.20
0.15
0.13
0.24
0.20
0.18
0.17
0.14

.18
.04
.01
.04
.04
.04
.06
.02
.53
.09
.03
.12
.07
.16
.04
.00
.09

.39

.39

.41

.02

Note. The values of B and are at step entry. The value of R2 is cumulative. The value of R2 represents the
change with the addition of the step. The multiple R is significant at Step 1 but not significant at Step 2. CHSP
Clark and Hatfield sexual proposal; STD sexually transmitted disease.

p .10. p .05. p .01. p .001.

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

323

The interaction between gender and sexual faithfulness shown


in response to the general acceptance question (above) was not
replicated for the short-term relationships item.
Summary. In sum, the perceived sexual capability of the
proposer was the strongest predictor (aside from gender itself) of
accepting the CHSP and of desiring the proposer as a short-term
sexual partner, for women and for men. This finding is consistent
with pleasure theory (Abramson & Pinkerton, 2002). In addition,
some support emerged for gendered risk perception theory in that
the risk variables concerning mental illness and STDs were significantly stronger for women than for men.
Mediational analyses. Finally, I conducted mediational analyses to determine if perceived sexual capabilities of the proposer
mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of the
sexual offer. I utilized the Sobel (1982) test macro for SPSS
provided by Preacher and Hayes (2004). This macro estimates
indirect effects using both the Sobel test and bootstrapping techniques (i.e., a nonparametric approach, which means that it does
not rely on assumptions of normality in the raw or sampling
distributions). Bootstrap results and Sobel test results had similar
coefficient estimates and standard errors. I report the latter results.
The relationship between gender and acceptance of the offer
was significant on its own (B 2.34, SE 0.15, p .00005).
When I included sexual capabilities of the proposer as a mediator,
participant gender significantly predicted the anticipated mediator
(B 1.03, SE 0.11, p .00005), which is consistent with
pleasure theory. Sexual capabilities of the proposer, in turn, predicted acceptance of the sexual offer (B 0.38, SE 0.06, p
.00005). The relationship between gender and acceptance of the
sexual offer (B 1.96, SE 0.16, p .00005) was weakened
with the addition of this mediator. The Sobel coefficient was
statistically significant at 0.39 (SE 0.08, p .00005). Thus,
these results indicate that perceptions of the opposite sex propos-

would be relatively more important to men (who strive to assure


that any offspring are genetically related to them).
Contrary to SST, no interactions between participant gender and
status or gift giving emerged in the analysis.
Predicting desire for a short-term relationship. In addition,
I examined the item concerning desire for a short-term relationship
with the proposer. The analysis was constructed in the same way,
except that the predictors were regressed on the item concerning
desire for a short-term relationship with the proposer. A similar
though not identical pattern emerged, as shown in Table 7. In the
first step of the equation, once again, gender of the participant and
perceived sexual capabilities of the proposer predicted a desire for
a short-term relationship with the proposer. In this analysis, gift
giving emerged as an additional significant predictor (though it
was not as strong a predictor as the Sexual Capabilities Scale);
people who thought the participant would give them gifts had a
greater desire for the proposer as a short-term partner.
At the second step of the equation, the interaction between
gender and perceived mental illness of the proposer emerged as a
significant predictor. A simple slopes analysis revealed that perceived mental illness was significantly more predictive for women
than for men, suggesting that women are more concerned about the
proposers mental stability than men are. However, perceived
mental illness was not a significant predictor for women or for
men. In addition, a marginally significant interaction between
gender and the item has an STD emerged. Simple slopes revealed
that concern about sexually transmitted infections prohibited
women from accepting a sexual offer to a greater extent than it did
men, though, again, this was not a significant predictor for either
gender. The fact that women and men differed in the strength of
association between the desire for the proposer as a short-term
partner and both the STD and mental illness variables is broadly
consistent with gendered risk perception theory.

Table 7
Results of Hierarchical Regression of Desirability of the Proposer as a Short-Term Partner on
the Predictor Variables, Study 3
Step

Variable

SE B

R2

R2

Sexual Capabilities Scale


Danger Scale
Mental Illness Scale
Status Scale
Sexual Faithfulness Scale
Warmth Scale
Gift-Giving Scale
Item: Has an STD
Gender
Sexual Capabilities Gender
Danger Gender
Mental Illness Gender
Status Gender
Sexual Faithfulness Gender
Warmth Gender
Gift Giving Gender
Has an STD Gender

0.46
0.01
0.11
0.03
0.15
0.17
0.20
0.05
0.98
0.39
0.18
0.38
0.07
0.29
0.03
0.06
0.29

0.12
0.09
0.07
0.14
0.02
0.10
0.10
0.08
0.26
0.24
0.18
0.15
0.28
0.24
0.22
0.20
0.17

.27
.01
.09
.02
.09
.11
.12
.04
.23
.14
.08
.21
.02
.11
.01
.02
.16

.28

.28

.31

.03

Note. The values of B and are at step entry. The value of R2 is cumulative. The value of R2 represents the
change with the addition of the step. The multiple R is significant at Step 1 but not at Step 2. STD sexually
transmitted disease.

p .10. p .05. p .001.

324

CONLEY

ers sexual prowess partially mediated the relationship between


participant gender and acceptance of a casual sex offer.

Study 4: What Factors Predict Acceptance of an


Actual Casual Sex Offer?
Based on a number of findings from the current studies, it
appears that the Clark and Hatfield paradigm is a casual sexual
proposal that is uniquely repulsive to women being approached for
heterosexual encounters, likely because of what it conveys about
the male proposers sexual capabilities and safety. However, to
generalize from this situation to make judgments about womens
attitudes toward casual sexual encounters in general is not justified
by Studies 13. That is, perhaps women are especially unlikely to
have faith in the proposers sexual prowess when the proposal
comes in the rather artificial setting of a college campus in broad
daylight. Gender differences might narrow if such an encounter
were proposed in more naturalistic settings, such as a cozy camping trip or racy party. And, although little research has examined
factors affecting the likelihood of accepting casual sex offers,
existing research suggests that concerns about danger and pleasure
are prominent for women in a variety of casual sexual encounters
(Weaver & Herold, 2000).
In the prior studies, I did not attempt to ameliorate the unnaturalness of the proposal context because I was interested in replicating the CHSP as precisely as possible. However, I suspect that
the process of women inferring negative personality traits of male
sex proposers is generalizable to other contexts. Testing the hypotheses of risk perception theory, SST, and pleasure theory in
contexts outside of the CHSP was the central motivation for this
final study.
Although ample data exist to suggest that both in behavioral
situations (e.g., Clark, 1990; Clark & Hatfield, 1989) and in the
variety of hypothetical situations presented here, men are more
likely to accept offers of casual sex, information about predictors
of acceptance of the offer in real-world situations is lacking.
Therefore, in this final study I stepped away from the CHSP to
determine if the effects demonstrated above replicate under more
naturalistic sexual proposition conditions. In particular, I tested the
impact of risk perception theory, pleasure theory, and SST variables on likelihood of acceptance of an actual casual sex offer from
the participants lives. I was also able to revisit the effects of
proposer familiarity on responses to the offer, given that people
who propose casual sex differ on the dimension of familiarity
(from complete strangers to close friends). Thus, this final study
substantially extends the research presented above.

Method
Participants. Participants were respondents to an online survey. Heterosexuals who reported on a heterosexual casual sex
proposal (i.e., a man who was propositioned by a woman or a
woman who was propositioned by a man) were retained for analysis. The sample (n 463) was 67% female. The sample was 74%
European American and 11% African American with a mean age
of 21 years.
Procedure. Participants were recruited through online classified ads (i.e., craigslist) and through the social networking sites
of student experimenters. Participants who had experienced casual

sex proposals (regardless of whether they accepted the offer)


provided details about the encounter in a series of open-ended
questions. These responses were used to screen out fake responses
or situations that did not appear to be casual sex offers (all
responses appeared to be legitimate and were retained for analysis).
Acceptance of the sexual offer.
Participants indicated
whether or not they had accepted the offer (yes or no).
Measures. Participants again responded to scales addressing
sexual capabilities ( .86), danger ( .82), mental illness
( .70), status ( .72), gift giving ( .84), warmth (
.76), and faithfulness ( .84).
Because the proposers were real, not hypothetical, individuals, I
included scales addressing how well the participants knew the
proposer. I asked, How well did/do you know this person? and
How familiar are/were you with this person? These two items
formed the proposer familiarity scale, with an alpha of .86. Finally,
I asked Is/was the proposer someone you would consider a
friend? Respondents provided answers of yes or no.

Results and Discussion


I first compared womens and mens likelihood of accepting
these casual sex proposals from their own life experiences. Next,
I explored gender differences in perceptions of heterosexual partners. I then considered gender differences in the role that familiarity with the proposer plays in acceptance of the sexual offer.
Finally, I examined factors that predicted the acceptance of the
sexual offer.
Offer acceptance. Consistent with Clark and Hatfields original studies and the prior studies presented here, men accepted the
casual sex offer more often (73% of the time) than women did
(40% of the time), 2(1) 45.19, p .0005. The magnitude of
difference is consistent with the prior studies. However, it is
important to note that women accepted casual sex offers significantly more often than would be suggested by the original Clark
and Hatfield paradigm. That is, women in more naturalistic situations accepted the offers 40% of the time, in comparison to Clark
and Hatfield (1989), in which no woman ever accepted a casual
sex offer.
Are male proposers perceived more negatively than female
proposers? Female proposers were perceived to have better
sexual capabilities and to be warmer and more sexually loyal than
male proposers. Male proposers were perceived as more physically
dangerous and more likely to have an STD than female proposers
were. Full results are depicted in Table 8.
Predicting acceptance of the casual sex offer. I used a
logistic regression to predict acceptance of the casual sex offer.
Acceptance of the offer was the outcome variable. Gender was
entered at the first step; the predictors based on pleasure theory,
risk perception theory, and SST were entered at the second step.
The cross-product of gender and each of the other predictors were
initially entered at the third step. However, because none of these
cross-products were significant (indicating that womens and
mens acceptance of the casual sex offer were not differentially
motivated by these factors), they were eliminated from further
analyses. Likewise, because SST predicts that the predictors of
acceptance of sexual offers differ according to the gender of the
participants, retaining the sexual strategies items in the analyses

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325

Table 8
Significant Differences in Perceptions of Actual Female and Male Proposers and Tests of
Significance, Study 4
Dependent variable

Female proposers
M (SD)

Male proposers
M (SD)

Test of mean difference

Sexual Capabilities Scale


Sexual Faithfulness Scale
Warmth Scale
Danger Scale
Item: Has an STD

4.75 (1.32)
3.39 (1.37)
4.86 (1.18)
1.76 (0.91)
3.01 (1.57)

4.00 (1.58)
2.94 (1.19)
4.40 (1.34)
2.02 (1.13)
3.30 (1.44)

t(353.5) 5.33, p .0005, d 0.56


t(267.8) 3.44, p .008, d 0.42
t(341.1) 3.75, p .005, d 0.41
t(365.1) 2.72, p .007, d 0.29
t(461) 2.02, p .045, d 0.19

Note.

STD sexually transmitted disease.

after I demonstrated that there were no interactive effects of gender


did not make sense. Thus, sexual strategies items were also eliminated.
The perception that the proposer would have excellent sexual
capabilities was the best predictor of acceptance of the offer (see
Table 9). That is, knowing how the participants perceived the
proposer in terms of her or his sexual capabilities significantly
improved the chances of correctly predicting the participants
response to the offer. In addition, the perception that the proposer
had an STD was a significant predictor, indicating that the perception that the proposer had an STD decreased the odds that the
participant accepted the sexual offer. Gender was also a strong
predictor, with men being more likely to accept than women.
Thus, these analyses replicated the findings from Study 3,
suggesting that the perceived sexual prowess of the proposer is the
most important predictive factor (among the theoretical variables
considered here) in determining whether men and women accept
casual sex offers. The results provide further support for the idea
that the proposers anticipated sexual capabilities are a significant
motivating factor in decisions about casual sex for women and for
men. In addition, these results, like those of Study 3, provide some
evidence that perception of physical dangers (i.e., the danger of
acquiring an STD) also influence casual sex decision making.
Mediational analyses. I utilized the same procedures for the
mediational analyses that I did in Study 3 to determine whether
perceived sexual capabilities of the proposer mediated the relationship between participant gender and acceptance of the casual
sex offer. The macro I utilized is appropriate for binary outcome
variables (Preacher & Hayes, 2004).
Table 9
Results of Logistic Regression of Acceptance of the Offer on the
Predictor Variables, Study 4
Variable

Sexual Capabilities Scale


Danger Scale
Mental Illness Scale
Warmth Scale
Familiarity Scale
Item: Has an STD
Item: Proposer was a friend
Gender

SE B

Exp(B)

Wald

0.46
0.19
0.05
0.08
0.02
0.22
0.09
1.13

0.09
0.13
0.12
0.09
0.08
0.09
0.17
0.24

1.59
0.83
1.05
1.08
0.98
0.80
1.09
3.09

30.66
2.04
0.19
0.75
0.09
6.74
0.27
22.70

Note. STD sexually transmitted disease.

p .01. p .001.

As in the hypothetical CHSP I utilized in Study 3, the relationship between gender and acceptance of the offer was significant on
its own (B 0.33, SE 0.05, p .00005). I then included the
anticipated mediator, proposer sexual capabilities. Participant gender significantly predicted the anticipated mediator (B 0.75,
SE 0.15, p .00005), again consistent with pleasure theory.
Sexual capabilities of the proposer also predicted acceptance of the
sexual offer (B 0.11, SE 0.14, p .00005). The relationship
between gender and acceptance of the sexual offer (B 0.25,
SE 0.05, p .00005) was weakened with the addition of this
mediator. The Sobel coefficient was statistically significant at .08
(SE .02, p .00005). Thus, concerns about the opposite-sex
proposers sexual abilities partially mediate the relationship between participant gender and acceptance of a casual sex offer both
in hypothetical situations (Study 3) and in real-world situations
(Study 4).

General Discussion
Much theoretical speculation has surrounded the large gender
differences in the original Clark and Hatfield (1989) study. Based
on the findings of the current research, several tentative explanations for this difference emerge. 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 womens and mens 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.

Theoretical Perspectives Explaining Differences


in the CHSP
One of the primary goals in the current research was to elucidate
the ways in which current theories addressing gender differences
in broad sexual behavior come to bear on gender differences in the

326

CONLEY

CHSP paradigm, more specifically. To do so, I employed one


extensively researched theory (SST) and also considered two relatively newer theories (pleasure theory and gendered risk perception theory). I now consider these theories in turn.
Pleasure theory. Pleasure theory (Abramson & Pinkerton
2002) was most strongly supported. I demonstrated that pleasure
theory can be used to explain some of the gender differences in
casual sex behavior. Large differences emerged in perceptions of
male versus female proposers sexual capabilities (with less pleasure anticipated from heterosexual male proposers), and perceived
sexual capabilities was the only significant predictor (besides
gender) of acceptance of a hypothetical sexual offer, desire for a
short-term relationship with a hypothetical proposer, and acceptance of actual casual sex proposals. Anticipated sexual capabilities of the proposer also mediated the relationship between gender
and acceptance of the sexual offer in hypothetical and actual
encounters. These findings support the premise of pleasure theorythat is, pleasure itself may well be evolutionarily selectedto
the extent that if individuals are seeking sexual pleasure, enough
procreative activities will occur to perpetuate the species.
Womens perception that their heterosexual casual sex partners
will be unlikely to give them pleasure is not unwarranted. Armstrong et al. (2010) demonstrated that women orgasm only 35% as
often as men do in first-time casual sex encounters. Therefore,
knowledge of the real-world outcomes of casual sex encounters
may inform womens decisions about the acceptance of any given
offer.
Gendered risk perception. We also considered Gustafsons
(1998) gendered risk perception theory and found some support for
this perspective. Based on this theory, differences between women
and men in the acceptance of the CHSP can be attributed to
womens heightened perception of risk vis-a`-vis men. Differences
emerged in the perceptions of the proposers, such that women
perceived greater danger from the men than men did from women
in terms of STD risk or physical threat. However, perceived danger
variables did not predict acceptance of the CHSP for women or for
men. The perceived risk of STDs was a significant predictor of
rejection of actual casual sex offers (Study 4); however, this risk
was of equal concern to both genders.
To further address risk perception theory, I took an indirect
approach to manipulating risk. I utilized studies that incorporated
sex proposals from famous individuals and best friends (Study 2),
reasoning that providing participants with familiar individuals
would be an unobtrusive means of addressing risk. These studies
demonstrated results consistent with risk perception, as women
(but not men) perceived less risk from the familiar individuals than
from the stranger making the sexual proposal. When women were
considering the less risky (i.e., familiar) proposers, they were just
as likely to agree to the CHSP as men were (after accounting for
perceptions of sexual capabilities in the case of the best friend
proposing sex to them). Likewise, when nonheterosexual women
considered proposals from members of their own gender, women
were equally as likely to accept the casual sex offer as men were
(i.e., lesbians in Study 2d) and were more likely to accept an offer
from a woman than from a man (i.e., bisexual women in Study 1d).
Thus, I conjecture that risk, in the current studies, operates in a
subtle way. I suggest that, for women, feeling safe contributes to
their likelihood of accepting a sexual offer, which is why familiar

proposers are more likely to receive favorable responses to their


sexual proposals than unfamiliar proposers.
SST. By contrast, this research demonstrated some of the
limiting conditions of SST. Sexual strategies theory clearly predicts that higher status proposers should be accepted by women
more readily than low-status proposers. The fact that status did not
predict womens acceptance of casual sex offers is therefore a
problem for SST. Neither status, nor tendency for gift giving, nor
perceived faithfulness of the proposer (nor, more precisely, the
interaction of any of these variables with gender) predicted
whether a participant would agree to the sexual offer, contradicting
SST. Likewise, if mens central goal, as suggested by SST, is to
transfer their genetic material to future generations, men should
have a greater base rate likelihood of accepting a sexual offer from
any woman than women have of accepting a sexual offer from any
man, regardless of the proposers attractiveness (i.e., women
should be choosier than men). SST does not predict that women
would be equally likely to accept offers as men when (a) the
proposers are very attractive, (b) the proposers are very unattractive, (c) the proposers are familiar people, and (d) the proposer and
the individual are of the same sex.
SST researchers may argue that some of the findings from the
current studies can be interpreted within the framework of SST. As
one example, consider the findings in Study 2 involving famous
individuals as casual sex proposers. Men were as unlikely to accept
an offer from Roseanne as women were to accept a sexual offer
from Carrot Top or Donald Trump. This arguably could have been
because Roseanne is perceived as so unlikely to reproduce (see
Singh, 1993) that it would not be worth the time spent having sex
with her when they could be seducing a more fertile partner. Note,
however, that the choice for male participants in the unattractive
condition was to have sex with Roseanne or not have sex with
Roseanne, with no guarantee that another sexual opportunity
would be available; it seems unlikely that the participants were so
accustomed to having regular offers of casual sex that they would
anticipate another offer during the time the sexual activity would
occur. Moreover, cues to fertility could be misleading and Roseanne might actually be younger than she looks. Therefore, even as
unattractive/unfertile as Roseanne may appear to most men, if
women are choosier than men, more men should desire sex with
her than women would desire sex with an equivalently unattractive
man. According to the lead author of the original Clark and
Hatfield paper (which he restated, perhaps somewhat apocryphally, in Clark and Hatfield, 2003), A woman, [Clark] said,
good looking or not, doesnt have to worry about timing in
searching for a man. Arrive at any time. All she has to do is point
an inviting finger at any man, whisper Come on a my place, and
shes made a conquest (p. 228). The current findings contradict
this statement. Moreover, men were equally likely to desire to have
sex with Christie Brinkley (another woman past her childbearing
prime) as with the more fertile Angelina Jolie.
Likewise, according to SST, the reason that women reported
being unwilling to engage in casual sex with a man of such
tremendous resources as Donald Trump may be that he is perceived as too old and likely to die soon (relative to the young adult
participants life course). Women may prefer younger partners
who are likely to live longer and give them continued support. Of
course, the alternative unattractive proposer in those studies was
Carrot Top, who is much closer to the participants age. He is also

PROPOSER PERSONALITY

a wealthy celebrity, but women rejected him as well. SST researchers might contend that this is because Carrot Top was
perceived to be very unattractive and not in possession of good
genes. But if perceived good genes are the central motivator for
sexual encounters of both sexes, then gender differences in response to casual sex offers cannot be explained in these terms.
A more parsimonious way to explain the results is that women
and men are both motivated by sexual pleasure and safety; when
men and women both expect high levels of sexual pleasure and
anticipate safe encounters, differences in likelihood of engaging in
casual sex are greatly diminished.
Critiques from SST. SST researchers may contend that these
findings are consistent with (or not inconsistent with) SST for a
number of reasons. I consider some of these possibilities in turn.
Women should not be choosy in casual sex encounters.
First, an argument could be made that these findings are consistent
with SST, because women should be perfectly willing to have a
casual sex encounter with someone of low status. Given this
argument, status should not influence womens likelihood of engaging in casual sex with a man; it should only affect womens
likelihood of engaging in sex that could lead to a long-term
relationship with a man. That is, women do not expect partners in
casual sex encounters to support them financially, and thus they
have no reason to be choosy in terms of casual sex. The real test,
it could be argued, would be to look at their preferences for
long-term relationships, not casual relationships.
We first depart from the premise that SST does not predict that
women would be choosier than men in terms of their reactions to
casual sex offers. Buss and Schmitt (1993) specifically cited the
Clark and Hatfield (1989) study as evidence in support of their
theory. That is, Buss and Schmitt argued that the large differences
in the CHSP, a casual sex proposal, were evidence of womens
greater choosiness vis-a`-vis men. To cite a source as evidence for
ones hypothesis in one context and disavow it in another is
logically inconsistent.
A related argument might be that the theory has progressed
since the initial Buss and Schmitt (1993) publication. Though they
initially expected gender differences in casual sex, subsequent
refinements of the theory suggested that this should not be the
case. Two problems emerge with this argument. First, Buss and
Schmitt (1993) is still regularly cited as an accurate statement of
the tenets of SST (Buss, 2009; Buunk, Park, & Duncan, 2010;
Currie & Little, 2009; Dixson, Dixson, Bishop, & Parish, 2010;
Kaptijn, Thomese, van Tilburg, Liefbroer, & Deeg, 2010; Michalski & Shackelford, 2010; Miner & Shackelford, 2010; Schmitt et
al., 2009). Thus, this paper has not been deemed passe or irrelevant. Second, the research presented here was designed to test
SST. These findings are inconsistent with SST (Buss & Schmitt,
1993). To the extent that proponents of the theory have updated,
revised, and expanded their ideas based on new data, the theory
they cite is no longer SST but rather an entirely different theory
(see Higgins, 2004). The new theory should be named, delineated,
and allowed to stand on its own merit (Higgins, 2004). It is
problematic to change the theory over time without such a formal
statement, as doing so makes it very hard to falsify the theory.
However, these considerations aside, I did include questions
about the participants desire for the sexual proposers as long-term
relationship partners, the question utilized by Buss and Schmitt
(1993). Just as status did not predict womens desire and faithful-

327

ness did not predict mens desire to engage in casual sex with the
proposer, status did not predict womens desire for a long-term
relationship with the proposer, nor did faithfulness predict mens
desire for a long-term relationship with the proposer. Thus, if it is
the case that a new incarnation of SST predicts that status should
predict womens desire to have a long-term (but not a short-term)
relationship with a man, I have tested this hypothesis and found no
support for it.
Pleasure is a different level of analysis.
Second, sexual
strategies theorists may argue that by examining the effects of
pleasure on acceptance of casual sex, but I am considering a
different level of analysis than SST. The argument might be that
people engage in sex because they want pleasure, whereas SST
addresses the mechanisms that precede the desire for sexual pleasure. I am not entirely convinced by the argument that sexual
pleasure is a different level of analysis. That is, the implications of
SST are clearly that women would forgo sexual pleasure to have
sex with a high-status man who would support them and their
potential children. Thus, for women, at least, pleasure is intentionally discounted within SST.
Nonetheless, pleasure theory and SST both speak to motivations
for engaging in sexual activity; one (SST) may speak to more
distal reasons for engaging in casual sex and the other (pleasure
theory) to more proximal reasons. If this is the case, I can still test
SSTs claims with the data available from these studies. That is, if
SST is simply a different level of analysis than pleasure theory,
then sexual strategies variables (i.e., status and faithfulness) should
predict whether women and men believe a proposer to be sexually
capable (which in turn, I have demonstrated, predicts acceptance
of the offer). I tested this hypothesis and found no support for it;
that is, there were no gender differences in the extent to which
status or faithfulness predicted the perception of sexual pleasure
for the casual sex proposers in this study.
Sexual strategies processes are unconscious. A related contention may be that the processes SST addresses are unconscious.
According to this logic, I did not find predictive support for SST
because I utilized conscious measures of status and faithfulness.
Likewise, I did not find differences in heterosexual mens preferences for Angeline Jolie versus Christie Brinkley in Study 2a
because men unconsciously feel that Christie Brinkley is younger
than she actually she is; though they are consciously aware that
Christie Brinkley is not of reproductive age, they unconsciously
believe that she is capable of reproducing because she does not
look her age.
This explanation is unsatisfying, however, given that I utilized
the measures developed by sexual strategies theorists and reported
in the primary theoretical article (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). It would
obviously be inappropriate to cite the unconscious nature of the
dynamics behind this theory only when the conscious data are
unsupportive of the theory. But more important, given that conscious self-report data have been utilized to support SST in the
past, it seems appropriate to consider conscious measures in the
current context. Perhaps some aspects of SST can be tested via
conscious measures and others through unconscious measures. It
would be useful for SST researchers to identify when these processes can be observed through conscious measures and when they
should be assessed through nonconscious means.
Other gender differences in sexuality explored. The current
research suggests that women are more similar to men in their

CONLEY

328

reactions to casual sex than would have initially been expected.


Thus, the current findings contribute to an emerging literature that
questions the veridicality of well-documented gender differences
in sexuality. For example, Alexander and Fisher (2003) demonstrated that gender differences in reported sexual behaviors are
negligible under bogus pipeline conditions. Likewise, Fisher
(2009) demonstrated that gender differences in number of sexual
partners are at least partially a result of socially conveyed norms.
Armstrong et al. (2010) showed that the gender gap in orgasm can
be attributed to differences in the amount of genital stimulation
that women versus men receive, womens comfort with their
partners, and the variety of sexual practices employed during the
sexual encounter. Thus, the field is moving beyond simply documenting gender differences in sexuality to unpacking, interpreting,
and construing those differences within their appropriate social,
relational, and gendered contexts.

Conclusion
Why did women forgo sexual offers from a stranger in the
famous Clark and Hatfield studies? The current research can offer
some tentative conclusions. The current findings support a theory
with evolutionary foundations (i.e., pleasure theory) in showing
the primacy of pleasure in sexual decision making (Abramson &
Pinkerton, 2002). Women avoid casual sexual encounters of the
type instigated by Clark and Hatfield (1989) when they believe the
sexual encounters will be unpleasant. Perception of a greater
likelihood of a positive sexual experience is associated with a
higher probability of accepting the sexual offer. In that way,
women are a lot like men.

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Received July 1, 2010


Revision received October 7, 2010
Accepted November 10, 2010

Correction to Hodson, Rush, and MacInnis (2010)


In the article A Joke Is Just a Joke (Except When It Isnt): Cavalier Humor Beliefs Facilitate the
Expression of Group Dominance Motives, by Gordon Hodson, Jonathan Rush, and Cara C.
MacInnis (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010, Vol. 99, No. 4, pp. 660 682), there
was an error in Table 6. The last row of data should have read Obese, not Mexican.
DOI: 10.1037/a0022671