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https://www.edge.org/response-detail/10356
Printed On Sat December 10th 2016

2008 : WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED


YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?

In the News [ 26 ]
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Contributors [ 166 ] | View All Responses [ 166 ]
David M. Buss
Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin; Coauthor: Why Women Have
Sex; Author, The Dangerous Passion
Female Sexual Psychology
I have never thought that female sexual psychology was simple. But I've changed my mind about
the magnitude of its complexity and consequently revamped the scope and orchestration of my
entire research program. I once focused my research on two primary sexual strategies longterm and short-term. Empirical work has revealed a deeper, richer repertoire: serial mating,
friends with benefits, one-night stands, brief affairs, enduring affairs, polyamory, polyandry, sexual
mate poaching, mate expulsion, mate switching, and various combinations of these throughout
life. Women implement their sexual strategies through an astonishing array of tactics. Scientists
have documented at least 34 distinct tactics for promoting short-term sexual encounters and nearly
double that for attracting a long-term romantic partner.
Researchers discovered 28 tactics women use to derogate sexual competitors, from pointing out
that her rival's thighs are heavy to telling others that the rival has a sexually transmitted disease.
Women's sexual strategies include at least 19 tactics of mate retention, ranging from vigilance to
violence, and 29 tactics of ridding themselves of unwanted mates, including having sex as a way
to say good-bye. Some women use sexual infidelity as a means of getting benefits from two or
more men. Others use it as a means of exiting one relationship in order to enter another. When a
woman wants a man who is already in a relationship, she can use at least 19 tactics of mate
poaching to lure him away, from befriending both members of the couple in order to disarm her
unsuspecting rival to insidiously sowing seeds of doubt about her rival's fidelity or level of
desirability.
Ovulation and orgasm are yielding scientific insights into female sexuality unimagined five years
ago. The hidden rhythms of the ovulation cycle, for example, have profound effects on women's
sexual desire. Women married to men lower in mate value experience an upsurge in sexual
fantasies about other men, but mainly during the fertile phase of their cycle. They are sexually
attracted to men with masculine faces, but especially so in the five days leading up to ovulation.
Women's sense of smell spikes around ovulation. Sexual scents, long thought unimportant in
human sexuality, in fact convey information to women about a man's genetic quality. The female
orgasm, once thought by many scientists to be functionless, may turn out to have several distinct

adaptive benefits. And those don't even include the potential gains from faking orgasm. Some
women mislead about their sexual satisfaction in order to get a man to leave; others to deceive
him about his paternity in "his" child.
Female sexual psychology touches every facet of human affairs, from cooperative alliances
through strategies of hierarchy negotiation. Some women use sex to get along. Some use sex to
get ahead. Sexual motives pervade murder. Failure in sexual unions sometimes triggers suicidal
ideation. I thought the complexity of women's sexual psychology was finally starting to be
captured when recent research revealed 237 reasons why women have sex, ranging from "to get
rid of a headache" to "to get closer to God," from "to become emotionally connected with my
partner" to "to break up a rival's relationship." Within a month of that publication, however,
researchers discovered another 44 reasons why women have sex ranging from "because life is
short and we could die at any moment" to "to get my boyfriend to shut up," bringing the sexual
motivation total to 281 and still counting (obviously, trying to pin down exact numbers is a bit of
a joke, but scientists work through quantification).
Yet with all these scientific discoveries, I feel that we are still at the beginning of the exploration
and humbled by how little we still know. As a researcher focusing on female sexuality, I'm
inherently limited by virtue of possessing a male brain. Consequently, I've teamed up with
brilliant female research scientists, recruited a team of talented female graduate students, and
marshaled much of my research to explore the complexities of female sexual psychology. They
have led me to see things previously invisible to my male-blinkered brain. Female sexual
psychology is more complex than I previously thought by several orders of magnitude. And still I
may be underestimating.
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2016 : WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS?
WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?

2015 : WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?

2014 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT?


2013 : WHAT *SHOULD* WE BE WORRIED ABOUT?

2012 : WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL


EXPLANATION?

2011 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S


COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?

2010 : HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?

2009 : WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?

2008 : WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?

2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?

2006 : WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?

2005 : WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT


PROVE IT?

2004 : WHAT'S YOUR LAW?


2003 : WHAT ARE THE PRESSING SCIENTIFIC ISSUES FOR THE NATION AND THE WORLD,

AND WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE ON HOW I CAN BEGIN TO DEAL WITH THEM? - GWB
2002 : WHAT IS YOUR QUESTION? ... WHY?
2001 : WHAT NOW?
2001 : WHAT QUESTIONS HAVE DISAPPEARED?
2000 : WHAT IS TODAY'S MOST IMPORTANT UNREPORTED STORY?
1999 : WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION IN THE PAST TWO THOUSAND
YEARS?
1998 : WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU ASKING YOURSELF?
John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher
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