Study: Sexually Active Women Don’t Make For Friends, Mates

April Flowers for — Your Universe Online

A new study from Cornell University developmental psychologists reveals that college-aged women judge promiscuous female peers more negatively than more chaste women. The promiscuous women — defined as having had 20 or more sexual partners by their early 20s — are viewed as unsuitable for friendship.

The research team notes that even when the women reported liberal attitudes about casual sex or a high number of lifetime lovers for themselves, they still preferred less sexually active women as friends. The findings of this study were published in the early online edition of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The study found that men´s views were less uniform. The men´s views ranged from favoring the sexual permissive potential friend, the non-permissive one or showing no preference for either when asked to rate them on ten different friendship attributes. The men´s views were also more dependent on their own sexual behavior, the study found. When they viewed other promiscuous men as a potential threat to steal their girlfriends, the sexually permissive men preferred less sexually experienced men.

Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development, suggests that although cultural and societal attitudes about casual sex have loosened in recent decades, there is still a double standard shaming “slutty” women and celebrating “slutty” men. Such societal isolation, the study reports, may place promiscuous women at greater risk for poor psychological and physical health outcomes.

“For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being ‘easy,’ whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment,” Vrangalova said. “What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships — these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support.”

Previous studies have shown that men often view promiscuous women as unsuited for long-term relationships. This attitude leaves these women outside of many social circles.

“The effect is that these women are really isolated,” Vrangalova said, noting that future research is needed to determine whom these women could befriend – perhaps straight or gay men who would be accepting of their behaviors.

The researchers surveyed 751 college students, who provided information about their past sexual experience and their views on casual sex. The participants read near-identical vignettes about a male or female peer, with the only difference being the character’s number of lifetime sexual partners — either two or 20. The researchers then asked the students to rate the potential friend on a range of friendship factors, including warmth, competence, morality, emotional stability and overall likability.

The female participants, regardless of their own promiscuity, viewed sexually permissive women more negatively on nine of ten friendship attributes, judging only their outgoingness as a favorable attribute. Promiscuous men only favored less sexually active men as suitable friends on two attributes – mate guarding and dislike of sexuality. They showed no preference, or favored the more promiscuous men, on the other eight variables. The more sexually modest men preferred the non-permissive potential friend in half the variables.

The study suggests that evolutionary concerns might be driving men and women to disapprove of their more promiscuous peers as friends — they might be seeking to guard their mates against a threat to the relationship.

Vrangalova suggested that in the case of promiscuous women rejecting other women with a high number of sexual partners, they may be seeking to distance themselves from any stigma that is attached to being friends with such women.

The study´s findings could aid parents, teachers, counselors, doctors and others who work with young people facing social isolation due to their sexual activity.