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Journal: Journal of sex research


In the present work, we investigated the pop cultural idea that people have a sixth sense, called “gaydar,” to detect who is gay. We propose that “gaydar” is an alternate label for using stereotypes to infer orientation (e.g., inferring that fashionable men are gay). Another account, however, argues that people possess a facial perception process that enables them to identify sexual orientation from facial structure. We report five experiments testing these accounts. Participants made gay-or-straight judgments about fictional targets that were constructed using experimentally manipulated stereotypic cues and real gay/straight people’s face cues. These studies revealed that orientation is not visible from the face-purportedly “face-based” gaydar arises from a third-variable confound. People do, however, readily infer orientation from stereotypic attributes (e.g., fashion, career). Furthermore, the folk concept of gaydar serves as a legitimizing myth: Compared to a control group, people stereotyped more often when led to believe in gaydar, whereas people stereotyped less when told gaydar is an alternate label for stereotyping. Discussion focuses on the implications of the gaydar myth and why, contrary to some prior claims, stereotyping is highly unlikely to result in accurate judgments about orientation.

Concepts: Perception, Logic, Reasoning, Statistical inference, Sexual orientation, Inference, Stereotype, Labeling theory


Young people in many countries report gender differences in giving and receiving oral sex, yet examination of young people’s own perspectives on gender dynamics in oral heterosex are relatively rare. We explored the constructs and discourses 16- to 18-year-old men and women in England used in their accounts of oral sex during in-depth interviews. Two contrasting constructs were in circulation in the accounts: on one hand, oral sex on men and women was narrated as equivalent, while on the other, oral sex on women was seen as “a bigger deal” than oral sex on men. Young men and women used a “give and take” discourse, which constructed the mutual exchange of oral sex as “fair.” Appeals to an ethic of reciprocity in oral sex enabled women to present themselves as demanding equality in their sexual interactions, and men as supporting mutuality. However, we show how these ostensibly positive discourses about equality also worked in narratives to obscure women’s constrained agency and work with respect to giving oral sex.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Male, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Gender role, Human sexual behavior, Gender identity, Transgender


The damaged goods hypothesis posits that female performers in the adult entertainment industry have higher rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), psychological problems, and drug use compared to the typical woman. The present study compared the self-reports of 177 porn actresses to a sample of women matched on age, ethnicity, and marital status. Comparisons were conducted on sexual behaviors and attitudes, self-esteem, quality of life, and drug use. Porn actresses were more likely to identify as bisexual, first had sex at an earlier age, had more sexual partners, were more concerned about contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and enjoyed sex more than the matched sample, although there were no differences in incidence of CSA. In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group. Last, female performers were more likely to have ever used 10 different types of drugs compared to the comparison group. A discriminant function analysis was able to correctly classify 83% of the participants concerning whether they were a porn actress or member of the matched sample. These findings did not provide support for the damaged goods hypothesis.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Oral sex, Sexually transmitted disease, Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, Pornographic actor, Erotica, Child abuse


According to radical feminist theory, pornography serves to further the subordination of women by training its users, males and females alike, to view women as little more than sex objects over whom men should have complete control. Composite variables from the General Social Survey were used to test the hypothesis that pornography users would hold attitudes that were more supportive of gender nonegalitarianism than nonusers of pornography. Results did not support hypotheses derived from radical feminist theory. Pornography users held more egalitarian attitudes-toward women in positions of power, toward women working outside the home, and toward abortion-than nonusers of pornography. Further, pornography users and pornography nonusers did not differ significantly in their attitudes toward the traditional family and in their self-identification as feminist. The results of this study suggest that pornography use may not be associated with gender nonegalitarian attitudes in a manner that is consistent with radical feminist theory.

Concepts: Scientific method, Female, Gender, Sociology, Sex, Feminism, Feminist theory, Radical feminism


Consensually nonmonogamous relationships are those in which all partners explicitly agree that each partner may have romantic or sexual relationships with others (Conley, Ziegler, Moors, Matsick, & Valentine, 2013 ). In this article, research examining the associations between consensual nonmonogamy, psychological well-being, and relationship quality is reviewed. Specifically, three types of consensual nonmonogamy are examined: swinging, open relationships (including sexually open marriage and gay open relationships), and polyamory. Swinging refers to when a couple practices extradyadic sex with members of another couple; open relationships are relationships in which partners agree that they can have extradyadic sex; and polyamory is the practice of, belief in, or willingness to engage in consensual nonmonogamy, typically in long-term and/or loving relationships. General trends in the research reviewed suggest that consensual nonmonogamists have similar psychological well-being and relationship quality as monogamists. Methodological challenges in research on consensual nonmonogamy and directions for future research are discussed.

Concepts: Marriage, Sexual intercourse, Polyamory, Non-monogamy, Adultery, Sexual fidelity, Swinging, Open relationship


In a closed population and defined time period, the mean number of opposite-sex partners reported by men and women should be equal. However, in all surveys, men report more partners. This inconsistency is pivotal to debate about the reliability of self-reported sexual behavior. We used data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), a probability sample survey of the British population, to investigate the extent to which survey sampling, accounting strategies (e.g., estimating versus counting), and (mis)reporting due to social norms might explain the inconsistency. Men reported a mean of 14.14 lifetime partners; women reported 7.12. The gender gap of 7.02 reduced to 5.47 after capping the lifetime partner number at the 99th percentile. In addition, adjusting for counting versus estimation reduced the gender gap to 3.24, and further adjusting for sexual attitudes narrowed it to 2.63. Together, these may account for almost two-thirds of the gender disparity. Sampling explanations (e.g., non-U.K.-resident partners included in counts; sex workers underrepresented) had modest effects. The findings underscore the need for survey methods that facilitate candid reporting and suggest that approaches to encourage counting rather than estimating may be helpful. This study is novel in interrogating a range of potential explanations within the same nationally representative data set.


Observational stance refers to the perspective a person takes while viewing a sexual stimulus, either as a passive observer (observer stance) or an active participant (participant stance). The objective of the current study was to examine the relationship between observational stance and sexual arousal (subjective and genital) across a range of sexual stimuli that do or do not correspond with a participant’s sexual attraction (preferred or nonpreferred stimuli, respectively). Regression analyses revealed that, for men (n = 44), participant stance significantly predicted subjective and genital arousal. Women’s (n = 47) observer and participant stance predicted subjective arousal but not genital arousal. Analysis of variance showed that participant stance was greatest under preferred sexual stimuli conditions for all groups of participants, while observer stance scores revealed a less consistent pattern of response. This was particularly true for opposite-sex-attracted women, whose ratings of observer stance were lowest for preferred stimuli. Observational stance does not appear to account for gender differences in specificity of sexual arousal; for men, however, participant stance uniquely predicted genital response after controlling for sexual attractions. Similarities in the relationships between men’s and women’s observational stance and sexual responses challenge previous claims of gender differences in how men and women view erotica.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Sexual intercourse, Gender, Gender role, Human sexuality, Sexual orientation, Sexual arousal, Sexual attraction


Finding romance, love, and sexual intimacy is a central part of our life experience. Although people engage in romance in a variety of ways, alternatives to “the couple” are largely overlooked in relationship research. Scholars and the media have recently argued that the rules of romance are changing, suggesting that interest in consensual departures from monogamy may become popular as people navigate their long-term coupling. This study utilizes Google Trends to assess Americans' interest in seeking out information related to consensual nonmonogamous relationships across a 10-year period (2006-2015). Using anonymous Web queries from hundreds of thousands of Google search engine users, results show that searches for words related to polyamory and open relationships (but not swinging) have significantly increased over time. Moreover, the magnitude of the correlation between consensual nonmonogamy Web queries and time was significantly higher than popular Web queries over the same time period, indicating this pattern of increased interest in polyamory and open relationships is unique. Future research avenues for incorporating consensual nonmonogamous relationships into relationship science are discussed.

Concepts: Polyamory, Monogamy, Web search engine, Google, Non-monogamy, Google search, Swinging, Open relationship


Consistent evidence exists for sexual interest in children in nonclinical/nonforensic male populations. However, prevalences for community men’s self-reported sexual interest in children have been based on indiscriminate definitions including postpubescent individuals, age-restricted samples, and/or small convenience samples. The present research assessed men’s self-reported sexual interest in children (including child prostitution and child sex tourism) on the community level and examined the link between strictly defined sexual fantasies and behaviors involving prepubescent children. In an online survey of 8,718 German men, 4.1% reported sexual fantasies involving prepubescent children, 3.2% reported sexual offending against prepubescent children, and 0.1% reported a pedophilic sexual preference. Sexual fantasies involving prepubescent children were positively related to sexual offending against prepubescent children. Sexual interest in children was associated with subjectively perceived need for therapeutic help. In contrast to findings from forensic samples, men who reported child pornography use exclusively were identified as a subgroup differing from contact sexual offenders against prepubescent children and men who reported both child pornography use and contact sexual offenses against prepubescent children. The empirical link between child-related sexual fantasies and sexual victimization of prepubescent children and high levels of subjective distress from this inclination underscore the importance of evidence-based child sexual abuse prevention approaches in the community. Findings are discussed in terms of their relation to pedophilic disorder.

Concepts: Childhood, Child sexual abuse, Child pornography, Human sexuality, Prostitution, Commercial sexual exploitation of children, Child sex tourism, Prostitution of children


Paraphilic sexual interests are defined as unusual or anomalous, but their actual occurrence in nonclinical samples is still unknown. This study looked at desire for and experience of paraphilic behaviors in a sample of adult men and women in the general population. A secondary goal was to compare the results of two survey modes-traditional landline telephone versus online. A total of 1,040 persons classified according to age, gender, education, ethnic background, religious beliefs, area of residency, and corresponding to the norm for the province of Quebec were interviewed. Nearly half of this sample expressed interest in at least one paraphilic category, and approximately one-third had had experience with such a practice at least once. Voyeurism, fetishism, frotteurism, and masochism interested both male and female respondents at levels above what is usually considered to be statistically unusual (15.9%). Interestingly, levels of interest in fetishism and masochism were not significantly different for men and women. Masochism was significantly linked with higher satisfaction with one’s own sexual life. As expected, the online mode generated more acknowledgment of paraphilic interest than the telephone mode. These results call into question the current definition of normal (normophilic) versus anomalous (paraphilic) sexual behaviors.

Concepts: Male, Female, Gender, Sociology, Quebec, Telephone line, Paraphilia, Sexual fetishism