Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Partner Preferences among Homosexual Men and Women: What Is Desirable in a Sex Partner Is Not Necessarily Desirable in a Romantic Partner

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Partner Preferences among Homosexual Men and Women: What Is Desirable in a Sex Partner Is Not Necessarily Desirable in a Romantic Partner

Article excerpt

The present study examined the degree to which various partner characteristics are preferred by homosexual men and women in a short-term sexual relationship versus a long-term romantic relationship. A non-college sample of adults (N = 80) individually rated the desirability of various attributes in a "short-term sexual" or a "long-term romantic" partner (randomly assigned). The results indicated that participants clearly distinguished between these two types of relational partner. Specifically, and consistent with hypotheses, both men and women emphasized internal mental attributes (e.g., intellect), prosocial personality characteristics (e.g., interpersonal sensitivity, responsiveness) and characteristics reflective of family orientation (e.g., desire for children) more in a long-term romantic, than in a short-term sexual, partner. Conversely, and consistent with earlier work using heterosexual samples, men and women desired higher levels of physical appeal (e.g., physical attractiveness, sexy appearance) from a potential sex partner than from a potential romantic partner. Sex differences also were found. Men desired honesty and trustworthiness from a short-term sex partner more than did women, and women valued a long-term romantic partner's family orientation more than did men.

For decades, scholars from a variety of disciplines have been interested in the traits men and women desire in potential mates, in part because such preferences have implications for people's behavior and their interpersonal relationships. The majority of research on mate selection has focused on the preferences of heterosexual populations, and reveals that most men and women desire intelligent, honest, emotionally stable partners who are attractive and who possess a "good" or "exciting" personality (e.g., Regan & Berscheid, 1997; Sprecher Sullivan & Hatfield, 1994). Nonheterosexual populations generally have been excluded from empirical investigation, despite the fact that the preferences of homosexual men and women provide important insight into universal mating dynamics and the evolved nature of the human mind. With rare exception (e.g., Howard, Blumstein & Schwartz, 1987), those researchers who have included homosexual participants have focused on preferences for only one or a very small number of partner attributes (e.g., age; Hayes, 1995; Kenrick, Keefe, Bryan, Barr, & Brown, 1995; Laner, 1979; Over & Phillips, 1997; Silverthorne & Quinsey, 2000) and/or have sampled from specialized populations whose responses may not generalize to the wider community (e.g., personals advertisers; Deaux & Hanna, 1984; Hatala & Prehodka, 1996; Laner & Kamel, 1977; Lee, 1976). Thus, the present study expanded upon previous research by examining preferences for a wide range of partner attributes and by utilizing a more representative sample of homosexual adults. In addition, because desires may shift as a function of the type of relationship under consideration, an experimental manipulation was included that allowed preferences for a short-term sexual partner to be compared with those for a long-term romantic partner.

Very few researchers have investigated whether preferences among homosexual men and women shift as a function of relationship context. However, a consideration of previous theory and empirical work conducted with heterosexual samples suggests that this variable (i.e., whether the interpersonal context is short-term and sexual in nature or long-term and romantic in nature) should be an important moderator of the partner preferences of homosexual men and women. For example, evolutionary models of human mate selection are based upon the principles of natural and sexual selection originally articulated by Darwin (e.g., 1859). These models consider the ways in which mating behavior might be influenced by evolved psychological heuristics that were selected because they overcame obstacles to reproduction located in the human ancestral past and therefore maximized gene replication and reproductive success in that earlier environment (see Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). …

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