How do women respond to being valued for sex by their partners? Although research supporting objectification theory suggests that women’s reactions to sexual valuation are primarily negative, a separate body of research indicates that women expend significant effort to enhance their sexual appeal. Evolutionary perspectives suggest that whether women are more or less satisfied with partners who value them for sex may depend on how committed those partners are. Being sexually valued by a relatively uncommitted partner may violate women’s desire to avoid short-term sexual relationships and thus may be negatively associated with relationship satisfaction. In contrast, being sexually valued by a highly committed partner may positively influence women’s relationship satisfaction because it signals to them that they have successfully attracted a long-term relationship partner. Two studies of newly married couples supported these predictions. In Study 1 (N = 109), husbands’ sexual valuation was positively associated with marital satisfaction among wives who perceived that those husbands were highly committed, but negatively associated with marital satisfaction among wives who perceived that those husbands were relatively less committed. Study 2 (N = 99) revealed the same pattern for wives (but not husbands) using a likely manifestation of sexual valuation—engaging in frequent sex. These findings join others to demonstrate that interpersonal processes do not have universally positive or negative implications for relationships; rather, their implications depend on the context in which they occur, including contexts that were reproductively beneficial or costly throughout evolutionary history.
- Evolutionary psychology
- Intimate relationships
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)