In the study, University of Texas at Austin graduate student Cari Goetz and her team focused on the so-called sexual exploitability hypothesis, which is based on the different ways in which men and women approach reproduction.
The goal of the study was to test out the hypothesis that a woman who appears silly or inert, or in other words more ‘sexually exploitable,’ is a turn-on for the average straight man, a major newspaper reported.
In the evolutionary psychology sense, the word ‘exploitable’ simply indicates that a woman is willing or can be more easily pressured into having sex, even if she is a prostitute or a nymphomaniac.
The researchers began testing their model by asking a large group of undergraduate students to nominate some specific actions, body postures, attitudes and personality traits that might signal vulnerability, such as exhaustion, intoxication, or low intelligence.
In the end, the participants of the study had produced a list of 88 signs that a woman might by especially receptive to a man’s advances.
Among the chosen red flags were: lip lick/bite; over-the-shoulder look; sleepy; intoxicated; tight clothing; fat; short; unintelligent; punk; attention-seeking and touching breast.
Next, Goetz and her colleagues scoured the Internet for publicly available images of women displaying each of these 88 cues.
Once they had pictures of women licking their lips, partying, wearing sexy clothing, etc., the researchers cross-checked them with a separate group of students who presumed that the photos indeed matched the cues.
The researchers then invited a fresh group of 76 male students and presented them with the images of presumably ‘ripe-for-the-picking’ women, asking them what they thought of each woman’s overall attractiveness, how easy it would be to ‘exploit’ her using anything from a pickup line to physical force, and her appeal to them as either a short-term or a long-term partner.
The study revealed that the images of fat or short women had no effect. The participants of the study did not view them as either easy to bed or appealing as partners.
But when it came to reading the more psychological and contextual cues—pictures of silly or childish-looking women, or of women who looked sleepy or drunk, men rated them as being easy to ‘score’ with.
More importantly, the dumb-looking and inert women were also perceived as being more attractive than their more lucid or intelligent-looking peers, but only when it came to short-term relationships.
When the men were asked to judge the same liquored-up, silly-looking women in the photos as potential girlfriends and wives, they had entirely lost their appeal on them.
A follow-up study has also found that the more promiscuous men who happened also to have deficiencies in personal empathy and warmth were the ones most attuned to female ‘exploitability’ cues.
An article describing the findings will soon be published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.