Academic journal article
By Sprecher, Susan; Regan, Pamela C.; McKinney, Kathleen; Maxwell, Kellye; Wazienski, Robert
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 34, No. 4
Researchers in the areas of mate selection and interpersonal attraction have conducted numerous empirical investigations in an attempt to delineate the attributes, traits, and characteristics that men and women desire in their romantic partners (e.g., Buss & Barnes, 1986; DeSrochers, 1995; Regan & Berscheid, 1997; Sprecher, 1989; Townsend & Levy, 1990). Such preferences undoubtedly have implications for people's behavior and their relationships with actual and potential mates. For example men and women may actively attempt to initiate relationships with those individuals who possess certain desirable characteristics, and avoid or terminate relationships with individuals who fail to meet these selection criteria.
The majority of mate-selection and interpersonal attraction research has been focused upon the perceived desirability of various personality traits (e.g., intelligence, exciting personality) or other individual attributes (e.g., social status, physical attractiveness) and generally reveals that men and women seek many of the same characteristics in their potential partners. Not surprisingly, however, robust gender differences have also been reported, such that men express greater preference for a physically attractive partner than do women, and women value earning potential, social status characteristics, and certain personal attributes (e.g., kindness) more than do men (e.g., Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Sprecher, Sullivan, & Hatfield, 1994; Wiederman & Allgeier, 1992). An individual's sexual history (e.g., past or present sexual behavior, level of sexual experience) may also influence his or her desirability as a dating and/or marriage partner, but little empirical attention has been given to delineating the role that such sexual history characteristics may play in determining partner desirability. In the current study, we used a combination of two methods commonly employed in the existing attraction literature--descriptive survey (i.e., mate-selection list) and experimental person perception paradigms--to examine how various levels of sexual experience in a hypothetical partner are desired differently by men versus women. We were also interested in examining whether participants' sociosexual orientation (i.e., degree of sexual permissiveness) might explain within-gender variation in the desirability ratings for different levels of sexual experience in a partner.
Review of Previous Literature
The few researchers who have examined preferences for sexual experience versus inexperience (i.e., chastity) in a partner have used one of two methodological strategies. Specifically, some researchers have employed a descriptive survey or "mate-selection questionnaire" (Feingold, 1990) design in which participants indicate how much they desire various traits in a partner, including virginity or sexual experience (e.g., Buss, 1989; Hill, 1945). Other researchers have used an experimental person perception design in which participants receive sexual background information about a target individual (whose sexual history is manipulated to range, for example, from complete inexperience to extensive experience) and then provide attraction or desirability ratings for that individual (e.g., Sprecher, McKinney, & Orbuch, 1991).
Mate-selection questionnaire studies. Results from mate-selection questionnaire studies generally reveal that men and women do not consider a potential partner's level of sexual experience to be as important as many other characteristics or traits (e.g., dependable character, physical attractiveness, ambition). For example, in an early investigation, Hill (1945) examined the perceived importance of "chastity," defined as no previous intercourse experience. Chastity ranked 10th in importance, followed by 8 other traits, including intelligence, sociability, and good looks. More recent empirical work suggests that chastity may have declined in perceived importance relative to other traits. …