Study Says Women Regret Casual Sex, Men Regret Not Having More Of It

Oh, great, more research that totally perpetuates silly gender stereotypes about sex. According to the study from Archives of Sexual Behavior , men regret not having sex with more people while women regret the people they did have sex with. And of course the researchers attribute this difference to "evolutionary pressures," not the differing sexual expectations placed on men and women in modern society.

"For men throughout evolutionary history, every missed opportunity to have sex with a new partner is potentially a missed reproduce opportunity," said study co-author Martie Haselton, a UCLA social psychology professor. She cites this evolutionary pressure as the reason why women were more likely to feel guilt or regret over casual encounters than male counterparts in their surveys.

The surveys — which included more than 24,500 heterosexual, bisexual, and gay individuals — found the three most common sexual regrets for women were losing virginity to the wrong partner (24 percent), cheating on a present or past partner (23 percent), and moving too fast sexually (20 percent). For men, these were being too shy to make a move (27 percent) and not being more sexually adventurous in younger years (23 percent) or single days (19 percent). Women were also more likely to regret “having sex with a physically unattractive partner." The researchers suggest this is an evolved function so that women wouldn't reproduce with the wrong kinds of men.

But every which way women turn, we're given negative messages about our sexual desire and agency. We're taught to value "purity," a totally socially-constructed concept meant that instills disgust for women who have sex outside of marriage. We're told that losing our virginity should be "special." We're lambasted as sluts when we do have (or enjoy) sex too much.

Is it any wonder women regret sex partners who turn out to be duds? That's adding another notch to the proverbial belt for no good reason, a wasted opportunity in what's seen as a limited number of opportunities (otherwise you're a slut). Meanwhile, when sexual exploits — the more the merrier! — are seen as a marker of pride, looking back on missed opportunities with regret makes much more sense. And none of it necessarily indicates an unchangeable evolutionary imperative ingrained in our brains.

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