What Do Men Get Out of Looking At Other Women? (And Why Do Men Cheat?)

What Do Men Get Out of Looking at Other Women? (And Why Do Men Cheat?)

Dear Evan,

What is it that men get out of looking/gazing at beautiful women, nude or otherwise?

I have read on other websites that men actually get a chemical “high” in their brain when they see an attractive woman and that is why they are so drawn to look at other women even when they are in love with another. I’m wondering, from your perspective, what you think it is. Are men sexually “turned on” when they see a beautiful woman naked and automatically fantasize about having sex with her or is it more of just plain old admiration for the beautiful female form with no arousal? And, if it is sexual arousal, does that happen only in seeing a naked woman (magazine, strip joint, porn) or does that happen when you see a beautiful clothed woman as well? I have always been very curious about this as I think it is very different for women. –Cat

Dear Cat,

Thoughtful and provocative question, and I’m going to attempt to tackle it even though I’m no therapist, historian or biologist.

First off, I want to acknowledge that everything you wrote, in my estimation, is true.

Men, regardless of relationship status, get a chemical high in seeing attractive women.

Men can appreciate the female form, either clothed or naked.

Men, regardless of relationship status, get a chemical high in seeing attractive women.

Men are aroused by images of clothed or naked women (but not as much as you’d think.)

What I’d like to add to all of those ideas is that none of that should affect your relationship…unless you make it affect your relationship.

In other words:

GOOD men, regardless of relationship status, get a chemical high in seeing attractive women.

GOOD men can appreciate the female form, either clothed or naked.

GOOD men are aroused by images of clothed or naked women (but not as much as you’d think.)

Without covering the entire landscape of debates about DNA or evolution or propagation of the species, here’s my take on the whole thing:

Men, since the beginning of time, were designed to spread their seed.

Because monogamy lowers the chances that our genes will survive, men are not, by nature, monogamous creatures. We choose monogamy because we deem that it’s more beneficial to have love, stability, and a nuclear family than to have lots of children running around with our eyes. But make no mistake, monogamy is a choice, not a natural state.

Men can watch porn, fantasize about other women, and still be great husbands and fathers.

Anyway, in my estimation, the male sex drive has nothing to do with kindness or personality or compatibility. It is entirely based on physical attraction, which we feel instantly with the release of dopamine, serotonin, and testosterone. This is why men can know if they would sleep with you in less than five seconds.

As far as what’s physically attractive? I think it’s largely based on societal reinforcement. Most men, for example, agree that symmetrical faces with small noses and certain hip to waist ratios (thin waist, wider hips) are considered attractive. Naturally, there are some men who like older women or heavier women or women with one leg. There’s a lid for every pot. Still, a lot of men still want to try on the same lid, who just happens to be 20-30 years old, have stunning features and is built like a Barbie doll. Moving along…

Next, I’d like to assert that a man’s sexual tastes and feelings of attraction don’t disappear because he is in love with another woman.

His intense feelings for his girlfriend may lessen his desires to look elsewhere for sex. But once those intense feelings of chemistry go away (as they usually do after 18 to 36 months – just long enough to conceive and raise a young child), his attraction will still spike every time he sees an attractive woman, in some form or another.

The more self-aware men understand this intellectually, and relegate those spikes of attraction to what they are – biologically programmed bursts of pleasure. We give ourselves doses of this pleasure when we’re walking on a beach, when we’re at an outdoor concert, when we’re at parties, and especially when we’re on the Internet. I’ve heard that 30% of the internet is porn, and if this is the case, it should be no surprise.

Men crave variety. This is normal. It’s all about whether he acts on this desire.

Men can admit attraction to favorite celebrities, and still be great husbands and fathers.

Men can watch porn, fantasize about other women, and still be great husbands and fathers.

Men can go to bachelor parties, go to a strip club, and still be great husbands and fathers.

I know this because I’ve done all of the above and I know I am not alone.

And since the value of my marriage is far greater than the value of sleeping with a stranger in Paris, I remain faithful, even though I’m attracted to other women everywhere I go. It would never even occur to me after 300 dates and nearly 10 years as a dating coach that there’s anyone out there who’d make me happier for the next forty years than my own wife.

That doesn’t mean in some alternate universe that I wouldn’t like to be able to have my cake and eat it, too. That’s essentially what alpha males do – get married and keep sleeping with other women. John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant – we can probably make a list of most politicians, athletes and rock stars.

Men would be perfectly content having missionary sex with a new woman every night.

So why do men cheat?

Because they’re perpetually attracted to new women.

Because they’re high profile, rich, ambitious men who are desirable to these women.

Because they’re so important that they don’t think the rules apply to them.

Because they travel a lot and are frequently exposed to temptation.

Because they don’t value their wives as much as the thrill.

Because they don’t rationally calculate the value of their losses. So Tiger sleeps with a waitress in a Denny’s parking lot and he loses a half billion dollars, his wife, his kids, and his golf mojo. Somehow, I don’t think he considered that with his pants around his ankles.

This is just a long, roundabout way of saying that, in general, men want variety.

I recall a study that said the exact same thing.

Men would be perfectly content having missionary sex with a new woman every night.

Women would be perfectly content with the same man forever, as long as he mixed it up in the bedroom a bit.

The results didn’t surprise me in the least.

Once again, I am not defending men. I am explaining men. Not every single man on the planet. Some men only have eyes for their wife. Some men are attracted to other men. Some men couldn’t conceive of having sex with a woman he didn’t love.

These are perfectly normal men, but they are also exceptions.

So even if we establish that men are driven by sex, it’s far from the whole story, as evidenced by the 50 million married men in the United States.

Simply put, men want love, too. Even if we still like to look elsewhere.

It’s far better to understand and accept these qualities in men than to shame them, insult them, or tell them that they’re wrong for being this way.

As long as he treats you well and doesn’t take action on his desires, you’ve got a good man whose desire for you is stronger than his real sexual impulse to be with someone else.

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Comments:

  1. 61
    AnnieC

    I occasionally look at good looking men. Rarely though.

    I am SO glad I am not a man. Men with their sexual desires and immediate responses to women which they can’t control, must be so irritating.

    Yes, men can control their concsious reaction (IE just because he wants to have sex with her, doesn’t mean he will) it’s the immediate reaction that is out of a mans control. There is not a woman alive that will really understand that.

    I’m glad I am not a man. And when My man, gets a bit of a flush under the collar because a cute female talks to him, especially if she’s short, has a cute figure, big boobs, brown curly hair and she wears spectacles…well, I just sit there and smile. That’s my stud..he’s still got that lusty male within him. 

    I try not to giggle, but it does make me giggle sometimes. We women don’t know how lucky we are, to not be constantly distracted like men can be.

    Having said all that, I do not support any commercialization of sex(strippers, prostitution, porn). I think these are very damaging long term for society. I have given my rather rational and well thought out reasons as to why this is wrong , to my partner, along with making sure he never feels “shame” over his feelings…and he no longer enjoys porn as much as he did.

    So to the ladies out there, I support you whole-heartedly in your potential dislike of him deliberately seeking out sexual stimulation. I also think, you need to give that to him in a way that is natural to both of you, and you may end up with more of a loyal tiger on your  hands, than you ever thought possible.

    Men , are easily sexually conditioned, especially when in love.

  2. 62
    Helen

    Hope 63: Thanks for the real-life example. In that response from your boyfriend, though, the attitude there does seem different from here, where the very word “affair” often evokes a knee-jerk reaction that is very different from the calm answer your boyfriend gave.

    Karl 60: I support the first part of your comments; studying adolescents only introduces many confounders into the studies. As for the rest… your comments convince me that YOU are a good and thoughtful person, but I’m less convinced when you use yourself as an anecdote to refute David T’s points generally. For example, the fact that you compliment your fiancee, and thereby improve her body image, doesn’t seem relevant to David’s point about porn causing worse body image in some people – both because they expect more and their partners expect more. Your complimenting your fiancee has no obvious relation to porn at all. It just shows that you’re smart about women’s emotional needs.
     
    Mia 45: “when I make fun of a woman’s looks, it’s either because she has something I want that she didn’t work as hard as I am working to get, or she just has an unpleasant personality. I did know the wife of one married guy, and she was very spoiled and materialistic, which made doing her husband in the backseat of their car all the more fun.”

    The thoughts you express here are quite immature, and will not make you feel better about yourself or help you toward your goals. First, what do you gain by insulting women who have what you want? Take bitterness and emotions out of the picture for once, and take the time to calmly observe what they might be doing right. Hint: it might not have anything to do with looks, and fixating on looks is not going to get you anywhere.

    Second, it is not your place to punish another woman just because she is “spoiled and materialistic” by “doing her husband.” That only makes you worse than her. Also, it seems incredibly naive, angry, and thoughtless: if her materialism is not directed toward you, why should you feel any need to take revenge on her? It is none of your business. You only endanger yourself by getting involved.

    You seem to have a lot of anger toward married women. At the same time, you seem to blithely accept whatever these cheating husbands tell you. I urge you to shed your naivete and focus on doing what’s right, rather than constantly giving in to your emotions. I guarantee you, this alone will improve your self-esteem.

  3. 63
    Helen

    Karl R: for clarification about my above post, I didn’t mean that your comments made me less convinced of your being good and thoughtful. I meant that using anecdotes to refute David T’s points was not convincing to me, as: 1) a sample size of 1 isn’t too convincing, and 2) you seem more analytical than the average man (the average human being, really).

  4. 64
    Heather

    @ Karl:

    It’s not a matter of my REQUIRING my boyfriend to not ogle women in front of me; as EMK has said often enough, “men do what they want.”  I just make it clear: sure, you CAN ogle women in front of me.  That’s a choice you can make.  And I can choose to dump your disrespectful ass right then and there for doing it.

    I don’t really REQUIRE anything except respect.  If I’m going to be disrespected, then the conversation is done.  I choose to be respectful, and I ask that my man make the same choice.  If he cannot do that, well then, we’re done.

    I do agree with you in regards to the PromiseKeepers comments; most “Christian” churchgoing men I dated in the past, talked about how bad it was, porn, but then they’d just keep on watching it, yet still giving off the impression that they were such upstanding, godly men.  Which is why I made the choice not to date Christian men anymore.  I’d rather have my bullshit up front, and not covered in lies and hypocrisy that I see so often in the Christian faith.  Expecting a guy to not ever watch porn, is akin to asking the sun not to shine.  It’s going to happen, whether I like it or not.

  5. 65
    Rachael

    I just think (getting back to the topic of the blog) we women need to be able to trust the man we’re with to be loyal. Some male behaviours can be mildly annoying obviously. Just like women. IE. Walking around walmart with the bf once and we had split to grab some stuff. The guy goes out of his way to come get me. “I gotta show you something! c’mere!”. What does he point out? A hot brunette in the paint section dressed down in sweats, hair tied back, glasses, no makeup. She was a knockout!  Was I annoyed? Mildly. Because I was busy shopping. The thing is though, when he saw this dressed down hotty in disguise the second thing he thought about was me, and how much I would appreciate her gorgeousness. I did…Even if it wasn’t worth it to me to walk halfway across the beastly wal-mart. Insert eye-roll.

    When a man looks at and appreciates another woman he isn’t chucking you out the window. A man certainly doesn’t deserve to be hated on and feel like he’s a piece of trash for doing it. The way a man responds, and how he acts in the situation is what tells you he has integrity and appreciates you just as much and more than the one he’s simply looking at and admiring. 

  6. 66
    nathan

    Heather 68: Given how you repeatedly say you’ll dump guy X on the spot, I get the sense that the respect you require includes an awful lot of hidden subcategories. There’s a difference between ogling women while on a first or second date with someone, and taking an extra look or two when you’ve been with someone for months or years. If you’re speaking about the former, I’m in total agreement. If you’re speaking about the latter, I’d say good luck with such an approach.
     
    As for porn, a lot of the mainstream stuff is riddled with problematic gender stereotypes, which can negatively impact peoples’ love lives. In fact, given how prevalent porn is these days, I think it’s safe to say that at least some of those stereotypes have floated into pop culture, even amongst those who aren’t porn watchers. The idea that men can always “perform,” and should be able to for long stretches, is easily correlated with mainstream porn.
     
    At the same time, so many of these conversations get tainted with shame, guilt, and defensiveness. Instead of rejecting anything labeled porn out of hand, I’d argue it makes more sense to consider the spectrum. Erotica. Feminist porn. Ancient sex manuals. NC-17 and R-rated movies. People need to get a lot more specific about what it is that they are offended by, or see as damaging. And to untangle that from what I would argue is a generalized shame and guilt around sex itself. Those most wound up about porn (users and non-users) tend to have an unhealthy connection to sexuality as a whole. That might upset a few people here, but I’m convinced it’s true. Those Christian men Heather speaks about – seriously unhealthy views about sex. The guys Leesa speaks about in #53: the same. In fact, odds are these men are addicted to mainstream porn precisely because they don’t know themselves sexually. And the teetotalers on the opposite end, who browbeat anyone who takes a sniff at something like porn, also tend to be in the same boat. Ignorant of who they are as sexual beings. What actually turns them on, and brings them alive sexually. As opposed to just what it is that they don’t like.
     
    Evan’s post, and the many supportive comments are pointing to the fact that mere suppression of porn, or claiming some higher moral ground and being done with it, really doesn’t fly. Going further, the same can be said for suppressing or claiming a higher moral ground about looking at people who aren’t your partner, or flirting, or any number of other things. Doing this often means cutting off a life force that might easily be redirected towards a more healthy form of expression. And/or might actually be enhancing your relationship in it’s current form. 
     
     

  7. 67
    Heather

    Nathan,

    actually there are no subcategories with me: it all boils down to one thing, and one thing only.  RESPECT.  And I don’t care if it’s been a month, a year, or a lifetime.  Do not ogle women in front of me.  It’s rude, it’s immature.  I understand that men do look, but it doesn’t need to be done in an obvious and disrespectful way.  I notice good looking men but I don’t whistle and cat call and poke my guy and go, OMG, did you SEE that hottie??  Why?  Because I choose to be a grown and mature adult and respect my guy and be sensitive to the fact that he’s trying to lose some weight.

    And yes, I would dump a disrespectful man on the spot.  As EMK and others have said, men do what they want.  If I continue to let them behave the way they want to behave, i.e. show disrespect, then there’s a problem with me for allowing them to violate boundaries and not respect me and my feelings.  I have very little time and patience for rude people.  And I fully expect that I would be dumped for disrespectful behavior on my part.  I’m not big on double standards.  I expect my guy to call me out if I’ve annoyed him or disrespected him in any way.

    As to porn, well see here’s the thing, I have heard that very justification that those who condemn it are forbidding a natural phenomenon, etc.  I don’t buy it.  I’d rather hear you guys just come up front and say what is really going on: “We like porn and we’re not going to stop watching it, really.  If it really upsets you, depending on how much I care about you, I might stop or watch it on the sly.”  You guys want to watch porn and there’s really not a lot we girls can do about it, if it bothers us.  All we can do is let you guys know what our personal boundaries are, and go from there.  My boyfriend knows that I am OK with some occasional porn or if he goes occasionally to strip clubs, but if it becomes more than occasional, then we may have to part ways, because I don’t like the fact that he’s out looking at other naked women.

    I’m very, very blunt with men about relationships and my boundaries and it’s helped weed out a LOT of jerks and game players.  And led me to a good guy who IS respectful, kind, and honest.

  8. 68
    Karl R

    Helen said: (#66)
    “David’s point about porn causing worse body image in some people – both because they expect more and their partners expect more.”

    You’re misquoting both the study abstract and David T’s statement. Both pointed out the correlation, and neither said anything about causation.

    David T said: (#48)
    “Causality is not clear in all the studies, but even correlations are troubling (porn use as an indicator of tendencies towards the above behaviors).”
    I said: (#60)
    “Regardless of the correlations, I would recommend that someone rule someone out becaue of the problem behaviors, not the correlation.”
    Helen said: (#66)
    “I’m less convinced when you use yourself as an anecdote to refute David T’s points generally.”
    “Your complimenting your fiancee has no obvious relation to porn at all. It just shows that you’re smart about women’s emotional needs.”

    David T acknowledges that we don’t know whether porn use causes lowered body image. There’s just a measureable correlation between the two.

    He believes that it still serves a use as an indicator of these behaviors, which I’m disputing. As you pointed out, my being smart about my fiancée’s emotional needs has “no obvious relation to porn at all.” An indicator is useful if it’s correct, and it’s counterproductive if it’s wrong. I may be more analytical than the average person, but I’m not unique in that regard.

    Furthermore, this is a case where people get to observe the actual behavior before they get to observe the indicator. My fiancée knew that I made her feel good about herself at least a year before she knew whether I watched porn. Personal observation is going to trump whatever the correlation indicates, particularly because the observation occurs first.

    Helen said: (#67)
    “using anecdotes to refute David T’s points was not convincing to me”

    I wasn’t trying to refute his points using anecdotes. I was offering alternate explanations for consideration.

    As far as I can tell, David T had two main points:
    1. Porn has a negative impact.
    2. Porn has troubling correlations with some negative tendencies and may serve as an indicator of those tendencies.

    In my opinion, his first point is defunct because the only relevant study (discussing adults) doesn’t indicate causation, just correlation.

    My anecdotes challenged his implication of causality, the notion that the associated behaviors were necessarily “troubling”, and that porn served any use as an “indicator” of these behaviors.

  9. 69
    David T

    I have not seen any browbeating here.  I saw a dismissive and rude response to a post. The response implied there is no peer reviewed work pointing to porn use having negative implications in relationships between genders. I knew that was not the case.
     

    I had been in a discussion some months ago regarding parental controls on iOS and Android, because I parent an adolescent.  (BTW it is not as easy to put controls on those devices as one might think w/o significantly compromising their utility.) I had those particular  references on hand.  I was not interested in hours of searching to do more than point out that peer reviewed work on the topic is available.  I leave it to you to look for it, though I will throw one bone your way.

    http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2010.0477
     

    This review points out that the body of work out there exists, and is difficult to use for a variety of reasons. Not surprising given that this is a new area. So that leaves us to us non-professionals to find our own way, and maybe rely on informal popular press review articles written by professionals.
     
    I agree that some porn stereotypes have floated into pop culture.  This is one reason I am concerned. This and a series of, yes, non-academic  articles I read  about a year ago (in wired? salon?  I don’t recall and can’t find them unfortunately). One on adolescents was disturbing, and anecdotal reports I hear from and about teens in my area disturb me too.
     

    I have  seen some women here say “this item is on my personal checklist.”  Many point out that makes their list of options a lot shorter and people should draw a line where it is right for them.  Like Karl said, “You need to find someone who you can be comfortable with, and who will be comfortable with you. You can’t influence what other people will be comfortable with, but you can influence what you’re comfortable with. If you’re eliminating too many options by being inflexible, you might want to consider changing.
     
    Given the “nearly all men do this, This is the norm, therefore you need to be OK with it” pollyanna tone throughout this thread, it is important to encourage people to not disregard their boundaries solely for expediency without consideration for the less obvious implications of doing so. There are some good reasons for that particular concern and readers should know about them. Women should make a choice to change (or not) it being aware of the positive and negative implications either way.

    I was going to give a blow by blow rebuttal, but others have touched on many points point  and I have gone down this side thread too far already. There was one point that I think is rather important. Karl was dismissive of correlations.
    Regardless of the correlations, I would recommend that someone rule someone out becaue of the problem behaviors, not the correlation.

    
It is less safe to ride with someone who regularly drives 20mph faster than the surrounding traffic even though that behavior only correlates with more accidents (after all, they might be a professional race car driver). It isn’t a problem until they have an accident  but I would rather not be in the car when it happens.  Two men go out with their respective girlfriends twice a week.  One plans well in advance. The other calls up and plans only a few hours ahead.  The latter man’s behavior correlates with someone who is less interested in his girlfriend than the other is interested in his own.  The latter might have a job where he is on call every night, but in general that correlation is a legitimate reason for the girlfriend to be concerned.
     

  10. 70
    nathan

    David T – I don’t have any investment in defending mainstream porn. As I said, it’s filled with problematic gender stereotypes, not to mention it’s also a very limited view as to what sex looks like. Furthermore I agree with you that simply arguing “it’s the norm, be ok with it” doesn’t work. There are negative consequences. We would do well to closely examine what they are, and how to limit their impact in our relationships. The issue I was bringing up is that whenever porn gets brought up, a lot of folks lump many other things focusing on sexual acts into that category. And then dismiss it all as destructive. Which I’d argue is, itself, a destructive attitude. 
     
    Rachel – nothing in my comment suggested men should be able to do the jaw droppin’, OMG, cat callin’ bit. I agree with you that immaturity need not be put up with.
     
    “As to porn, well see here’s the thing, I have heard that very justification that those who condemn it are forbidding a natural phenomenon, etc.  I don’t buy it.” You misread what I was say, if this was a response to my comment. Porn itself, is merely an instrument. It’s not a natural phenomenon. What I was saying was that in just arguing for suppression, people tend to toss out both the instrument and the desire attached to it. The desire is a natural expression. And I think that natural expression often gets shamed by those who are highly fixated on getting rid of porn. As I pointed to above, I think mainstream porn is a lousy instrument for expressing this desire. But because the shame attached to main stream porn is rarely separated from the desire itself, we never get anywhere. Some men and women go on using mainstream porn on the sly. Others condemn them as perverts. Few consider exploring the diversity of other options out there for expressing that desire. And few want to move the conversation beyond “I think it (whatever “it” is exactly) sucks, and here’s why.” Or “I don’t like ‘it,’ but you can do ‘it’ on the sly.” Or “how dare you question my right to view ‘it.’”
     
    You talk about not putting up with immaturity. I’d argue that the majority of Americans, men and women, are immature about sexuality and sexual expression. Maybe even the majority of humans, period. But I’ll stick with my own country here. We love to speak about these kinds of issues on a general level, but God forbid there are any real, detailed, sustained conversations about what constitutes healthy sexual desires, how do we truly work with and respect differences in needs between partners, and how do we untangle legitimate desires from unhealthy or damaging addictions to certain instruments. And by “real” I mean ones that don’t end up drowning in shaming and finger pointing. Hell, I only experienced this kind of talk myself in the last relationship I was in. Before that, I was basically a sexually repressed guy dating mostly sexually repressed women. End of story. Evan’s opened an important door here. Let’s not shut it down with a battle between simplistic “porn is good, porn is bad” kind of narratives.
     
     
     

  11. 71
    nathan

    Sorry Rachel, I meant Heather. And this last statement “Let’s not shut it down with a battle between simplistic “porn is good, porn is bad” kind of narratives.” was to folks in general, not Heather in specific. Thanks.
     
     

  12. 72
    Joe

    @ Heather #68:

    You still don’t get it.  You do require your boyfriend to not ogle other women.  Sure, it’s up to him whether or not he does it, but that doesn’t make it any less of a requirement on your part, if you say you’re going to dump him if he does it.

  13. 73
    Rachael

    No problem Nathan. I figured you meant someone else when I read it.

    I see a lot of talk about respect in correlation to a mans response to a beautiful woman. I would argue that respect is subjective. I don’t see it as disrespectful at all for my boyfriend to go out of his way to show me a beautiful woman. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Well, in my story it bothered me to the extent that I was busy and it probably wasn’t entirely important. I would have had the same reaction had it been anything else of equal importance.

    Maybe i’m an exception to the unspoken rules of women. I like and appreciate beauty in all it’s forms. I am mentally (not sexually) stimulated by good looking men and women of all shapes, and colours. I enjoy analyzing what exactly it is about them I find beautiful. My man knows this therefore nothing about his behaviour is disrespectful or immature. I point out women and men to him on occasion as well. 

    I need a man to be loyal. That doesn’t mean I have a monopoly on human beauty in his world. If he shares that with me even better! I want to know what he finds beautiful and why. It’s a part of who he is. It’s a part of why he loves me. 

    I wonder why some seem to think it’s better to have it swept under the rug. I don’t understand how having behaviours continued but hidden suddenly makes such behaviours less disrespectful. As painful as it was I am very glad my ex-husband couldn’t hide what happened from me. I suppose he tried to an extent but I knew within a couple of weeks what was going on. He wasn’t exactly “practiced” at hiding things from me. Open honesty just seems a more healthy way to do things. If you don’t like a behaviour you have the option to discuss it rather than have it hidden because it infuriates you.

    I don’t condone any sort of digusting behaviour, but I also don’t see the admiration of beauty as digusting. I don’t see (some types) porn as disgusting either. I see it as something visually exciting, and a tool to be used at appropriate times. Sometimes it’s helpful when a person is alone, it can be fun with another person. The generalized arguments about negative effects don’t relate to me. I’m sure there are negative effects on some people but like Evan said it’s just like alcohol. Some use it in moderation, some don’t. If I have sex an average of twice a day and my boyfriend and I use porn twice a month I think we’re probably doing just fine. If i’m alone once or twice a month and I personally use it I don’t see any problem there either. My self esteem is high and my sex life is perfectly healthy. Take it for what it’s worth but studies don’t apply to everyone.

     

  14. 74
    Cat

    I e-mailed this question to Evan some time ago & am quite surprised about all the posts! My question was more related to being out with my husband & him ogling other women, nothing related to porn. We actually use porn together & I don’t have a problem with him using it alone on occasion. My struggle has been with him watching/looking at other women when we’re out because I had never been with a man before that did it so openly. I’m sure they did, just much more discreetly. Like some other women posted, I feel disrespected when he does it & it hurts my feelings. We have had many discussions about it to no avail – even after I have told him it hurts my feelings he continues to do it. My problem is not with him noticing or glancing at an attractive woman, it’s looking over & over & over or watching a woman all night. It’s hurtful to me as it seems he is much more interested in watching other women than he is in me.  I understand both men & women are attracted to others but I am much less of a people watcher than he is & even if I see a very handsome man, would not stare at him all night.  I thought Evan’s explanation was a good one. I don’t think my husband is deviant or a bad person for doing it but I do wish he could curb it better to spare my feelings.  I try very hard to not say anything to him about it any more because it gets me no where but it still hurts my feelings & makes me feel insecure & unattractive.
     
     
     

  15. 75
    Helen

    Rachael: actually I’m exactly the same as you in that way. I appreciate looking at beautiful men and women, but am not sexually attracted to the vast majority of them.
     
    Intelligence and kindness are bigger turn-ons for me.

  16. 76
    Helen

    Cat, yours is a tricky situation. On the one hand, I believe in Evan’s wife’s practice of giving your spouse lots of “mulligans” if you believe that OVERALL, it is a good relationship that is worth keeping. But in this case, if he knows he is hurting your feelings and he keeps doing it anyway, that’s really not a good sign. 
     
    My husband and I continually nag each other about the same things, and neither of us consistently does a great job of doing what the other requests :) (hey, that’s marriage). So, mulligans abound. But we always pay attention if the other person is hurt by our actions, and we stop those actions. Have you told your husband how much it hurts you and how it makes you feel unattractive when he does that? If so, what is his response? That is very important.

  17. 77
    Kathleen

    Cat, I can imagine how hurtful it would be if your man was watching another woman all night in front of you and he consistently did that when you were out. Is the issue he doesn’t care that he’s hurting your feelings after you express that?
    I would find it difficult not to walk out of the restaurant if someone did that to me.

  18. 78
    Ruby

    Cat #79
     
    When you’re out with your husband, he will stare at another women for the entire night? If you’ve discussed this, and he continues the behavior, that’s a sign that he isn’t really hearing you, or taking your pain and discomfort seriously. It also sounds passive-aggressive and controlling. Have you tried couples therapy? Due to his insensitivity, I have to wonder if there are not other issues in your marriage as well.

  19. 79
    Karl R

    Cat said: (#79)
    “It’s hurtful to me as it seems he is much more interested in watching other women than he is in me”

    There is another potential solution which may be easier for your husband to accomplish.

    He seems to find it difficult to become more surreptitious about staring at other women. Perhaps he would find it easier to become more blatant about staring at and admiring you.

    While it’s in my best interest to be discreet about looking at other women, I’ve also discovered that it’s in my best interest to be flagrantly obvious about staring at my fiancée.

    nathan said: (#75)
    “We love to speak about these kinds of issues on a general level, but God forbid there are any real, detailed, sustained conversations about what constitutes healthy sexual desires, how do we truly work with and respect differences in needs between partners,”

    In some ways, these discussions get a bit easier on a partner-to-partner level (once you get past the fear of starting the discussion), because the scope is so much smaller.

    An easy way to approach it is enlightened self-interest:
    It is in our best interest to make our partner happy.
    It is in our best interest for our partner to make us happy.

    These goals become much easier to accomplish if both people openly communicate what they enjoy. I agree with nathan’s assessment (#75) that Americans tend to be sexually repressed. That means I have to express what I enjoy to someone who may not be entirely comfortable about hearing it; I have to solicit what she enjoys, even though she may not be entirely comfortable telling me; and I have to be the main facilitator of the conversation, even though I may be as uncomfortable as she is.

    Fortunately, it gets easier with practice.

    nathan said: (#75)
    “how do we untangle legitimate desires from unhealthy or damaging addictions to certain instruments.”

    That’s a lot more ambitious than I strive for. My concerns are consensual sex (which implies informed consent) and safe sex (which covers more than just STIs and unwanted pregnancies).

    I know a laid-back, successful, (apparently) well-adjusted man who likes to be dominated by his wife. If he enjoys being chained to the bed, gettign whipped by his wife, and licking her boots, I’m in a poor position to determine that this is damaging to his mental health (or his wife’s mental health).

    However, they do have to take precautions to mitigate the risk of injury or infection which I never have to consider.

    David T said: (#74)
    “There was one point that I think is rather important. Karl was dismissive of correlations.”

    Your example (speed and car accidents) is hardly analagous, since rapid change of velocity is the cause of most injuries/fatalities in auto accidents.

    I’ll give you a different example. Helen (#80) finds intelligence to be a turn-on. There is a correlation between intelligence and the amount of higher education someone has.

    Helen has previously stated that some of the men she finds intelligent lack college degrees. She has also previously stated that she has met some individuals with advanced degrees who are not particularly intelligent.

    If a woman shares Helen’s preferences, would you recommend that she select a man based upon his intelligence, -or- would you recommend that she select a man based upon his college degrees (because of the correlation)?

    If intelligence is the important trait, I’d tell the woman to ignore the formal education and select a partner based on intelligence. It’s not that difficult to determine intelligence through conversation.

    Similarly, it’s not that difficult to determine how frequently your partner wants sex -or- whether your partner respects your boundaries regarding specific sex acts -or- whether your partner makes you feel attractive and sexy.

    What is the value of a correlation which has a chance of accurately telling me information that I already know about someone?

  20. 80
    nathan

    Karl – I pretty much agree with the idea that it’s easier to have these in depth conversations with one’s partner. And that enlightened self interest goes a long way in resolving things.
     
    “I know a laid-back, successful, (apparently) well-adjusted man who likes to be dominated by his wife. If he enjoys being chained to the bed, gettign whipped by his wife, and licking her boots, I’m in a poor position to determine that this is damaging to his mental health (or his wife’s mental health).”
     
    I would say that it’s more about unconscious or semi-conscious ideas and stereotypes coming from a lot of mainstream porn that I’m concerned with – and others also seemed to be concerned with. If an adult couple decides that they want to engage in S @ M, fetishes, or other forms of “alternative” sexual approaches, then I agree with you that I’m in no position to judge that. It’s the ways in which people tend to feel forced into, or simply unconsciously enact stuff from mainstream porn that is problematic. Because at least one partner in the situation tends to feel used or that their needs are being neglected. Which probably is not the case with the S @ M couple, if they both want to do what they are doing.

  21. 81
    Karl R

    nathan said: (#85)
    “It’s the ways in which people tend to feel forced into, or simply unconsciously enact stuff from mainstream porn that is problematic. Because at least one partner in the situation tends to feel used or that their needs are being neglected.”

    I’d say that’s more a function of ignorance (due to a sexually repressed culture) rather than porn. Unless you’re watching Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, sex education in school doesn’t discuss foreplay. Parents aren’t interested in teaching teenagers how to make their boyfriends/girlfriends orgasm. Schools aren’t interested in teaching them either.

    If you don’t know how to please your partner, someone’s likely to end up being a bit disappointed.

    nathan said: (#85)
    “I would say that it’s more about unconscious or semi-conscious ideas and stereotypes coming from a lot of mainstream porn that I’m concerned with – and others also seemed to be concerned with.”

    Could you give some examples of what you mean?

  22. 82
    Erica

    Women would be perfectly content with the same man forever, as long as he mixed it up in the bedroom a bit.
     
    This is so grossly untrue that it’s simply embarrassing to read it in a dating blog.

    1. 82.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Actually, Erica, it is true.

      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-dawn/200908/who-destroys-the-marriage-cheating-husband-betrayed-wife-or-other-woman

      “When researchers decided to look at this issue to develop a Sexual Boredom Scale, they found that for men, sexual boredom was correlated with variety in partners (or lack thereof), while for women, it was more related to variety in activity. In other words, women were more likely to be satisfied by changes in the sexual what, while men (gay or straight) were more likely to respond to a changes in the sexual whom. It’s a simple, unavoidable truth almost everyone knows to be true, but few dare to discuss: variety and change are the necessary spice of the sex life of the male of our species. But even having an intellectual understanding of this aspect of many men’s inner reality doesn’t make acceptance any easier for many women.”

      Apparently, it doesn’t.

      Next time you choose to disagree with me, try coming to me with facts instead of feelings.

  23. 83
    S

    I definitely buy the above, not because I think it’s the way men are – but because it’s the way I am too! lol

    I have a massive wandering eye and struggle to stay monogamous.  I too would love to sample a new guy every night.  The only thing that keeps me from sleeping around is that as a chick, I get instantly attached to people I’m intimate with (I just can’t do casual sex), and the only thing that keeps me from straying is the Golden Rule – I wouldn’t want someone to cheat on me.

    As for the flip side, I tend to pick guys who are pretty good at hiding their staring, or they learn to be lol.  I do appreciate that my man is extraordinarily good at putting blinders on when we’re together.  Other people have higher tolerance for guys looking, so it’s definitely a spectrum to negotiate, I suppose.

  24. 84
    Sarah

    It’s also been shown in primate studies that in numerous animal species the female “shacks up” with a stable partner, yet seeks to mate with an alpha male at the height of her ovulation cycle who will actually be the genetically superior bio-dad of her offspring. There are lots of studies out there to pick and choose from to prove one’s different points of view. Evan’s comments make perfect sense, and I believe the biological impulse for partner variety applies as well to myself and most of the women I’ve known whether they are in a commited relationship or not, not just variety of the act. It’s human nature I believe.  Women are socialized against acknowledging their own non-monogamous feelings when they are partnered up and thus project that harsh self-denial onto their men and hold them to a standard of denying a natural biological impulse that they themselves feel as strongly and just won’t admit. I think in most people’s, women’s as well as men’s, alternate universe of having their cake and eating it too, they’d be able to act on any impulse with anyone at any time that felt good in the moment and still have love security at home. Like Evan said, it takes about 18-36 months for an offspring to be able to be cared for by the village, so to speak, and that’s when overarching feelings of desire cool off for both sexes. From the time we are born, we crave variety and stimulation. New people are exciting. They don’t carry the weight of all the hashing out of compromise necessary in any commited relationship and they don’t become part of the daily scenery of our lives and we can fantasize about everything they may or may not be or do. This doesn’t make them better than the spouse at home, just energetically more light and free and stimulating to the admirer due to the more superficial connection of just seeing them and not knowing them well, “warts and all,” like we do our partners. Just like anything in life – a partner, a career, a friendship, a hobby, etc. – you have to make an effort to keep your perspective fresh or you will be more likely to grow bored and dissatisfied with what you have and look for novelty as the only solution. That being said, temperamentally, some people of both genders are more on the extreme of novelty-driven, or conversely anxious about change in the familiar, and it’s the innate difference in levels of neurotransmitters in everyone. It’s not a crime, just an innate tendency in varying degrees, and both genders can suffer from boredom in relationships and stray mentally if not physically. I’ve also read studies that state women cheat almost as much as men, but don’t report it. Lke I said, there is a study for every point to be made. Actions in response to impulses define the person’s value of the sanctity of their relationship over temporary satiating of impulsive desires. Women who are on a very high horse need to climb on down and admit they sometimes feel desire to look at a hot dude as well and have some biological response to him and not be so insecure when their partner does the same and not project their own insecurities about themselves onto whom their partner may glance at. As long as they feel the guy is respectful towards them and not overtly ogling or behaving in a way that is clearly disrespectful to the relationship, then I don’t see what the big deal is. I’ve been married for years to a great, kind, attractive man, however when I’ve been away from him and encountered a hottie at work or in some other situation where interaction was either necessary or happening for whatever reason, and I can feel my pulse start to quicken, I always ask myself “Would I behave this way if my hubby were sitting right here next to me?” It’s a perfect way for both men and women to guage if their behavior is appropriate given the expectations of their particular commited relationship. It’s certainly variable. I know couples who both engage in flirtiness that I find overy and they know it’s harmless and enjoy that part of eachother’s personalities and are both incorrigible flirts, but ultimately harmless and faithful to each other.  For men and women, as long as your partner isn’t a jealous lunatic around whom you can’t even make eye contact with a member of the opposite sex or have even be casually friendly to someone in a totally harmless way without receiving a prompt tongue lashing, I believe most people have a gut feeling whether they are simply being friendly to a hottie, albeit maybe uncontrollably feeling a little more peppy, excited or nervous, or whether they are starting to cross the line and behaving in a way that they known damn well would hurt their partner’s feelings if he or she were sitting right there and/or disrespect the commitment they made to their relationship. Another question to ask onself is “How would I feel if my partner were behaving this way?” This is clearly a guideline to try for actual interactions with other people, not for someone’s guy watching porn which clearly he probably wouldn’t do in front of his lady for the most part unless it’s a mutual thing that they do, but since there is zero chance of him ever meeting the girl in the magazine – big deal if he gets a little thrill that way. Suggest to your man that he apply the rule of pretending you are sitting right next to him when a hottie enters his orbit in the future. A decent man worth having will know in his gut when he’s crossing the line in his particular relationship and would honor your request for him to just consider it. If both people do that, more trust builds over time that allows harmless looking and less of a need to analyze or control the other one in those scenarios.

  25. 85
    Erica

    Sarah, I don’t understand, in light of everything you said, how do Evan’s comments make perfect sense? (And btw, it’s only this one comment I am disputing the validity of, not the entire article.)
     
    Evan, I have also seen studies saying that were it socially acceptable and economically viable, the vast majority of women would have gotten impregnated by the same handful of alpha males.
     
    I’ve also seen very different statistics on marital fidelity, with numbers hovering around 50%, and more married women cheating than married men.

    1. 85.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thanks, Erica. I’d love to see that study about the 2 billion women getting impregnanated by the 50 men. I don’t disagree that alpha males skew the end of the curve and are much more desirable than “average” men.

      But when all is said and done and couples get married, men tend to want variety in partners and women want variety in sex itself. This does NOT mean that women DON’T want more partners, but rather that they’re more content in a healthy monogamous relationship than men, overall. And marital infidelity numbers aren’t at 50%. It’s closer to 25%, and men are still more unfaithful than women.

  26. 86
    Nicole

    @Nathan, you do realize that people engaging in both sadism and masochism PREDATES the use of porn don’t you (and it predates those names, which were just given to people who wrote about them extensively.)

    We blame a lot of things on the media when in reality, a lot of things have existed for centuries.  Technology might allow for the more widespread dissemination of certain kinds of information (some good, some bad, and nothing that every person in the world will agree with).

    However, none of us can SAY if the people who engage in “atypical” behavior got the idea from someone else or just discovered it organically.

    And the consensual practice of what Karl described is NOT considered to be evidence of a psychiatric disorder nor is it proof that society is falling apart.  People like what they like, and while the biology excuse if overused, it’s not as if it’s a complete fallacy that people are programmed a certain way, to achieve certain goals, although we aren’t ALL the same.

    It’s funny what people assume are symptoms of an evil modern world that aren’t, and the proof that there have always been some people who like them easily goes back about a millenium.  

  27. 87
    nathan

    Nicole “@Nathan, you do realize that people engaging in both sadism and masochism PREDATES the use of porn don’t you (and it predates those names, which were just given to people who wrote about them extensively.)” Yes, I’m well aware of that. And I wasn’t blaming S @ M or other alternative sexual practices on porn. Nor was I saying they are symptoms of an “evil modern world.” I support whatever adult folks want to do that doesn’t harm others, and isn’t destructive to the partners involved. 
     
    Karl, ““I would say that it’s more about unconscious or semi-conscious ideas and stereotypes coming from a lot of mainstream porn that I’m concerned with – and others also seemed to be concerned with.”
    Could you give some examples of what you mean?”
     
    The idea that sex is a big performance is certainly reinforced by mainstream porn. I actually think that a fair number of guys get caught up in comparing themselves to porn actors, trying to measure up, and then feeling terrible when they don’t. And some women expect their guys to have the stamina and continuous orgasm giving power of these actors. In both cases, there’s a failure to remember, or even recognize, that the films are cut and pasted clips, that the “amazing skills” of the porn stars – male and female – are often an illusion.
     
    Also, the idea that women absolutely love blow jobs and are just waiting to drop on their knees and give their guy a long, dramatic one. (Obviously, many women enjoy blow jobs, but it’s the way in which they are depicted that gets in guys’ heads. And, of course, some women really aren’t interested in any of that.)
     
    You’re totally right that there is a major lack of quality sex ed for teens and young adults. And I’d also agree that people can learn from porn. I just think there is such a diversity of options available these days – some of which fall under the porn category, but aren’t as repetitive and stereotypical – that I’d rather advocate for people using other sources – especially for learning, if possible.

  28. 88
    Paragon

    @ Sarah
     
    “It’s also been shown in primate studies that in numerous animal species the female “shacks up” with a stable partner, yet seeks to mate with an alpha male at the height of her ovulation cycle who will actually be the genetically superior bio-dad of her offspring.”
     
    If that’s the study I think it is, then the primates were HUMANS, and it only observed a heightened sensitivity to more masculine photos, during ovulation.
     
    A VERY different thing from what you are implying, and hardly conclusive of any behavioral tendencies.
     
    @ Erica
     
    ” Evan, I have also seen studies saying that were it socially acceptable and economically viable, the vast majority of women would have gotten impregnated by the same handful of alpha males.”
     
    Which attests to women craving *less* variety in partners, because their preferences tend to a (relatively)small population(ie. the ‘Alphas’) of the opposite sex(unlike with males – who enjoy a greater variability in partners).
     
    But, the more important thing, is that men tend to marry as a longterm mating strategy – they marry to secure a long term mate.
     
    Women, on the other hand, tend to marry for the long term benefits observed in security and committment.
     
    So, men are more sexually motivated in marriage(and thus, a greater male desire for partner variability – as a function of their greater sexual motivation – is hardly surprising).

  29. 89
    Marisa

    Don’t want to get too overtly technical, but according to “The Red Queen” and Robin Baker’s “Sperm Wars”, both men and women are biologically programmed to cheat/seek multiple partners. Women desire to find the fittest genes for their offspring, whereas men desire to spread their genes to as many females as possible. Sperm are actually designed to compete with foreign male sperm in a woman’s uterus (contrary to popular imagery, they are subdivided into types: blocker sperm, fighter sperm, fertilizer sperm…the fighter sperm literally do nothing but swim around looking for sperm from competing males and destroy them with little packets of acid in their heads…they’re like little kamikaze pilots). One of the hypotheses for the female orgasm is so that a woman can become impregnated by the more attractive DNA of her lover than that of her stable LTR.

    That said, while we may have evolved this way, we’ve also evolved highly developed frontal lobes that allow us to think in the future, analyze consequences, and project positive/negative scenarios. We are highly sentient thinking, feeling creatures who want companionship, emotional intimacy, understanding, acceptance and love. (That goes for men just as much as women.) We are in control of our urges and actions. I, for one, have no problem with my partner noticing other women or looking at porn. I just don’t want it thrown in my face or to have it become an unhealthy obsession (i.e., if you’re routinely looking at porn to the point where you’re uninterested in sleeping with me, it’s a problem). I like to look too and am attracted to other guys, may even imagine what it would be like to sleep with one of them, but I would never cheat or hurt my partner with it in any way.

  30. 90
    Paragon

    @ Marisa
     
    “Don’t want to get too overtly technical, but according to “The Red Queen” and Robin Baker’s “Sperm Wars”, both men and women are biologically programmed to cheat/seek multiple partners.” 
     
    Not quite, as observed in your quote below.
     
    “Women desire to find the fittest genes for their offspring, whereas men desire to spread their genes to as many females as possible. ”
     
    Yes – since females are rate limiting, with lower reproductive potential, they are biased towards quality(in compensation), as opposed to quantity(which serves the high-rate fitness optima of males). 
     
    “Sperm are actually designed to compete with foreign male sperm in a woman’s uterus (contrary to popular imagery, they are subdivided into types: blocker sperm, fighter sperm, fertilizer sperm…the fighter sperm literally do nothing but swim around looking for sperm from competing males and destroy them with little packets of acid in their heads…they’re like little kamikaze pilots).”
     
    There are also studies indicating that *less* attractive males have *higher* sperm-counts(which is what we should expect, as an adaptation to decreased mating opportunities – they need every mating to count).
     
    But, the whole Sperm-wars hypothesis is largely unproven in humans:
     
    “A notion emerged in 1996 that in some species, including humans, a significant fraction of sperm specialize in a manner such that they cannot fertilize the egg but instead have the primary effect of stopping the sperm from other males from reaching the egg, e.g. by killing them with enzymes or by blocking their access. This type of sperm specialization became known popularly as “kamikaze sperm” or “killer sperm”, but most follow-up studies to this popularized notion have failed to confirm the initial papers on the matter.”
     
    “One of the hypotheses for the female orgasm is so that a woman can become impregnated by the more attractive DNA of her lover than that of her stable LTR.”
     
    There are also studies indicating that the physiology of selective sperm-transport is not dependent on sexual choice(ie. it can be independently stimulated).

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