Women overestimate their partner's sexual advances and men underestimate them, it turns out

Is he getting the hint yet? [Photo: Pexels]
Is he getting the hint yet? [Photo: Pexels]

Ever tried to make a move on your partner when you’re alone together without getting much of a response?

Perhaps they’re not in the mood – or perhaps, according to new research, they simply haven’t got the hint.

A new study of heterosexual couples published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships has found that not only do men tend to underestimate their partner’s advances, but that women tend to overestimate their partner’s.

Which could really call the ‘men always want sex and women don’t’ stereotype into question.

The paper looked into how good people are at judging their partner’s attempts to initiate sex, including their ability to spot cues and their general impression of how regularly their partner makes advances.

To do this, researchers quizzed 120 heterosexual couples aged 18 to 51 who had been together for between three months and 30 years.

In the first section of the study, half of those couples were given questionnaires which included questions on how often they and their partner try to initiate sex and how often they and their partner turns down sex.

Perhaps you’ve been getting it wrong all along [Photo: Pexels]
Perhaps you’ve been getting it wrong all along [Photo: Pexels]

The scientists also gave them a list of descriptions of 29 behaviours that could indicate sexual interest, and asked them to rate which of those they and their partners use to do so.

They were also asked questions about their sexual satisfaction and love for their partner.

On the whole, both women and men were quite good at spotting what their other halves do to get things going. So far so good.

However, on average, women did tend to overestimate how often their partners tried to initiate sex – while the men were pretty much accurate in their estimates.

The second half of the study (which pretty much used the same method) saw similar results but with one interesting difference.

Couples were, again, pretty clued up on how their partners behaved when they wanted to have sex – and women, again, thought their partners made more sexual advances than they actually did.

This is what happens if you both read each other accurately, folks [Photo: Pexels]
This is what happens if you both read each other accurately, folks [Photo: Pexels]

But this time, men underestimated their partner’s advances.

The researchers reckoned this could have an evolutionary function. For men in a long-term relationship rather than a casual one, the cost of missing out on sex is lower, because your ever-sex-giving partner isn’t going anywhere.

But the rejection risk is higher because, well, heartbreak.

Or could we be so caught up in the cultural idea that men always want sex – and women supposedly the ones that reluctantly lie back and think of England – that it makes its way into our bedrooms?

Either way, there was an upside to overestimating your partner’s sexual advances; people who did so reported feeling more sexual satisfaction, presumably because they felt super desired.

All importantly, the researchers concluded that more work needs to be done before we make any big judgements off the back of the results.

Maybe just tell them you want to have sex next time, hey?

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