Effects of potential partners' physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status on sexuality and partner selection

Arch Sex Behav. 1990 Apr;19(2):149-64. doi: 10.1007/BF01542229.


Male (n = 170) and female (n = 212) college students viewed photographs, which had been prerated for physical attractiveness, of three opposite-sex individuals. These photographs were paired with three levels of occupational status and income. Subjects indicated their willingness to engage in relationships of varying levels of sexual intimacy and marital potential with the portrayed individuals. Analyses of variance, correlations, and trend analyses supported the hypotheses. Compared to men, women are more likely to prefer or insist that sexual intercourse occur in relationships that involve affection and marital potential, and women place more emphasis than men do on partners' SES in such relationships. Consequently, men's SES and their willingness and ability to invest affection and resources in relationships may often outweigh the effects of their physical attractiveness in women's actual selection of partners. These results and the literature reviewed are more consistent with parental investment theory than with the view that these sex differences are solely the result of differential access to resources and differential socialization.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Esthetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires