Given the choice between a harem of women and a single partner, new research suggests most men would pick waking up every day next to the same person.
In Andrew P. Smiler’s new book, Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male, the Wake Forrest University research psychologist argues that men are largely interested in relationships over sex.
‘It’s actually a minority of guys who want multiple short-term partners — that even comes up in the evolutionary research,’ Smiler said in an interview with Salon.
‘What gets left out of that is the fact that if you want your genes to go beyond that next generation — beyond your children to your grandchildren, then your odds are better if you actually stick around and help raise that kid until that kid is old enough to pass on his or her genes,’ he said.
Smiler’s argument flies in the face of conventional stereotypes, he said were promoted by the media, where promiscuous characters are often held up as examples of what men should aspire to.
Smiler noted characters like Sam Malone on the hit 1980’s sitcom Cheers and more recently Charlie Sheen’s work on Two and a Half Men as examples of protagonists who sleep around and are considered the good guys.
From a statistical standpoint, however, only 5 per cent of men engaged in sex with three or more partners a year.
Three times that many are considered devoutly religious.
Though there was less data available for gay men, Smiler said what evidence was available suggested similar patterns.
As the sexes have become less segregated over the years, the early stages of a relationship may be less defined, leading to sexual behavior happening earlier between couples, but that hasn’t changed whether men want multiple partners.
The stereotype of men as only being interested in sex may be harmful for women, as some may think they have to engage in sexual relationships before they want to – to interest men at all.
‘That’s because we give girls this image of boys, girls are taught to not attend to their own desires and own sexual wants,’ Smiler said. ‘So girls’ whole sexuality is really about both enticing desires from boys and also controlling that desire. That introduces some real issues around duplicity and intention. We’re not doing girls any favors here either.’
He said asked that we reconsider the circumstances surrounding the national scandal of David Petraeus’s affair with biographer Paula Broadwell.
‘This is not him hooking up with some stranger. This is perhaps falling in love with someone else,’ he said.
‘If we just write it off as, ‘Oh, it’s just another guy trying to get some on the side,’ then we really miss the fact that this extramarital affair really has at its basis a relationship. This is a guy having sex within a relational context.’