If remorse over sex strikes
a man or a women, he'll likely regret a lost opportunity while she'll fret over
a one-night stand, a new study shows.
The researchers say the
findings make evolutionary sense.
"For men throughout
evolutionary history, every missed opportunity to have sex with a new partner
is potentially a missed [reproductive] opportunity – a costly loss from an
evolutionary perspective," study leader Martie Haselton explained in a
University of Texas at Austin news release.
"But for women,
reproduction required much more investment in each offspring, including nine
months of pregnancy and potentially two additional years of
breast-feeding," said Haselton, who is a social psychology professor at
the University of California, Los Angeles. "The consequences of casual sex
were so much higher for women than for men, and this is likely to have shaped
emotional reactions to sexual liaisons even today."
In the study, Haselton's
team surveyed nearly 25 000 heterosexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian Americans,
and found that the top three most common sexual regrets for men were: being too
shy to make a move on a prospective sexual partner (27%); not being more
sexually adventurous when young (23%); and not being more sexually adventurous
during their single days (19%).
'Physically unattractive partner'
For women, the top three
regrets were: losing their virginity to the wrong partner (24%); cheating on a
present or past partner (23%); and moving too fast sexually (20%).
More women than men (17%
vs. 10%) listed having sex with a "physically unattractive partner"
as a top regret, according to the study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour.
Rates of engaging in casual
sex were similar overall among participants (56%), but women in all groups
(heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian) had more frequent and intense regrets
Haselton said that
differences in men's and women's reaction to sex seem to endure over millennia,
even though the context in which people have sex may have changed.
"For example, we have
reliable methods of contraception," she said. "But that doesn't seem
to have erased the sex differences in women's and men's responses, which might
have a deep evolutionary history."
The US Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention offers information about sexual health.