Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Gender Differences in the Experience of Heterosexual Intercourse

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Gender Differences in the Experience of Heterosexual Intercourse

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This paper describes the development and testing of a self-report scale delineating the components of the experience of heterosexual intercourse of both men and women. In a preliminary study, 70 men freely expressed the feelings, thoughts, and motives involved in the experience of heterosexual intercourse. A content analysis revealed that the components of the experience of heterosexual intercourse found in the men's sample are very similar to those found in a women's sample in a previous study (Birnbaum, Glaubman, & Mikulincer, 2001). On this account, the Experience of Heterosexual Intercourse Scale (EHIS), which was used by Birnbaum and her colleagues, was administered to 181 women and 178 men. Overall, the results revealed that the experience of women was more centred on both the aversive and positive relational aspects of heterosexual intercourse than the experience of men. Findings are discussed in relation to sociobiological and social influence theories.

Key words: Heterosexual intercourse Experience of Heterosexual Intercourse Scale Gender differences

INTRODUCTION

Considerable research has demonstrated that men and women differ somewhat in attitudinal, physiological, and behavioural aspects of sexuality. Attitudes, behaviours, sensations, drives, emotions, and cognitions all constitute the experience of sexual intercourse. Yet there has been a paucity of research addressing the issue of gender differences in the subjective experience of sexual intercourse as a whole. Most research has either focused on gender differences in narrowly defined aspects of the sexual experience, such as discrete emotions and behaviours, or used a rather broader definition of sexuality, but limited itself to the first sexual intercourse experience. The current research attempts to construct a self-report scale tapping the emotional, cognitive, and motivational components of the experience of heterosexual intercourse of both men and women, and, then, to examine gender differences in these components.

Several theoretical perspectives can be used to explain how gender relates to sexuality, as well as to predict gender differences in the experience of heterosexual intercourse. For example, according to evolutionary psychology (e.g., Buss, 1998; Buss & Schmitt, 1993) and sociobiological approaches to human sexuality (e.g., Symons, 1979; Trivers, 1972), differences found today between men and women in sexual desires, attitudes, and behaviours are a result of having different requirements for successful reproduction (i.e., success in passing on one's genes to the next generations). These differences have evolved from asymmetry between the sexes in the minimum level of obligatory parental investment in each offspring.

Because of this asymmetry, short-term mating will comprise a larger proportion of the total mating efforts of men than of women (Buss, 1998; Buss & Schmitt, 1993). Moreover, both short-term and long-term mating success were dependent upon solving different problems faced by men and women in the course of human evolution. Men needed to identify and enter brief affairs with a large number of fertile women, and at the same time minimize commitment and investment in these women and their offspring in order to succeed in short-term mating. Conversely, women had to assess the quality of men's genes and to select men who would provide immediate resources and be potentially long-term mates. In the same manner, to effectively pursue a long-term mating strategy, each gender had to solve different adaptive problems. While men had to ensure certainty in paternity, women needed to identify men who would be willing and able to invest resources in them and in their offspring on a long-term basis. However, the sexes also confronted similar adaptive problems: the problem of identifying mate with good parenting skills who would be willing to form a committed relationship (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). …

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