Perceived proposer personality characteristics and gender differences in acceptance of casual sex offers

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Feb;100(2):309-29. doi: 10.1037/a0022152.


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 people's 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 Hatfield's participants and that sexual pleasure figures largely in women's and men's decision making about casual sex.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult