Paid to pleasure oneself: nice work if you can get it dept

I’ve been known to take the piss out of scientists who think people make decisions about sex the way they make decisions about what stocks to invest in, nice and rationally. My published references even include “Sex is fun, remember?”. In my experience, a hard-on (or its female equivalent, a wide-on) tends to disrupt rational decision-making. And I’ve just found a scientific paper that proves it.

In The Heat of the Moment (pdf), scientists Dan Ariely and George Lowenstein asked collage boys to say what they would do to get laid. Would they buy a girl a nice dinner? Would they consider sleeping with a woman over 40 (!!) And what would they do to stay safe? Would they use a condom even if the girl might change her mind while they went to get one? (Please! Don’t they know what watch pockets are for?) Using a one-handed keypad the boys answered the on-screen questions twice. One time flaccid, another time “in a state of arousal”. Yes, the boys were paid US$ 10 to wank while they answered questions — the “arousal” round of questions was accompanied by on-screen porn.

No prizes for guessing the results. Men were more likely to want sex (even with a 40 year-old) when they were “aroused”. They were more likely to go further to get it when they were aroused (some would even lie to a woman that he loved her. Imagine!) And they were much more likely not to bother with a condom.

It’s a lovely, tongue in cheek piece of research. The authors conclude:

“In sum, the current study shows that sexual arousal influences people in profound ways. This should come as no surprise to most people who have personal experience with sexual arousal…At a practical level, our results suggest that efforts to promote safe, ethical sex should concentrate on preparing people to deal with the ‘‘heat of the moment’’ or to avoid it when it is likely to lead to self-destructive behavior. Efforts at self-control that involve raw willpower are likely to be ineffective…”

You can buy that most people have sex because they want to, or you can just say no.

Thanks to KH. And to the 77% of aroused men (and 58% of flacids) who said they would have sex with a 40 year-old.

This post was published on 25/07/08 in Pisani's picks, Science.

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  1. Comment by David Hackney, 25/07/08, 06:54:

    Last semester I discussed Arley and Lowenstein’s research in one of my graduate classes. Ironically, the men in the class almost unanimously said yes to sex with women over 40. Obviously, they were not aroused at the time. (My grad classes are fun, but not that much fun.) However, only half the women liked the idea. My university has a 70-30 female to male ratio, which might explain some of the reaction. Or perhaps when they thought of men over 40 the only example they could think of was the one in front of them. Me! Concern regarding AIDs was low, which makes sense baseed on Elizabeth’s book. Birth control was the primary concern, followed by HPV. One student said she is on the pill, but requires a condom for “extra protection.” I have no doubt that in a state or arousal most of them would say “to hell with the rubber.”

  2. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 25/07/08, 08:22:

    “Thanks to KH. And to the 77% of aroused men (and 58% of flacids) who said they would have sex with a 40 year-old.”


  3. Comment by Jean Marc Roc, 25/07/08, 10:33:

    ummm … what is the disincentive of having sex with a 40 year old?
    I believe it is the paucity of sexual opportunities that may be the cause of this as well as the drive of Testosterone. I myself have stopped intercourse “in progress” if things didn’t suit me properly. Erectile problems are evidence of the brain and rational thinking holding sway over pleasure instincts.

  4. Comment by Dag Brück, 26/07/08, 10:02:

    I found it more surprising that 46 % of the aroused men were attracted by a 12-year-old girl. Had they shown Taxi Driver on campus recently?

  5. Comment by Jim Pickett, 26/07/08, 03:42:

    Love this Elizabeth! So much so we cross posted, and pointed back to you, on our little rectal microbicides blog (the only one in the WWW) – THANKS!

  6. Comment by Adam Hodgson, 30/07/08, 03:22:

    Well, that research shattered my dreams. The men were not more likely to have sex with another man when horny. All those years of touching up straight friends wasted.

  7. Comment by Leah, 01/08/08, 02:48:

    You never know- they haven’t done a test yet that evaluates the impact of being horny AND alcohol. There still may be hope with your friends!

  8. Pingback by science for the greater good « hootchi cootchi, 17/08/08, 06:11:

    […] for me, my procrastination provided opportunity for Elizabeth Pisani to blog about the study and provide a link over on her Wisdom of Whores blog (she also links to hootchi cootchi, which is very […]

  9. Comment by jessica suzette santascoy, 19/08/08, 11:27:

    Is it a surprise that college aged guys would sleep with a woman over 40? Are you kidding?!!! It’s usually a guy’s dream.

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