Although I have had a few dates with The Consultant, I don’t want to get too serious too quickly. In the meantime, there are still a number of guys showing interest in me on the internet dating site I have been using (which I will gladly name for a hefty fee). One guy in particular has been flirting with me quite voraciously. But he lives about an hour away, so it has not been easy to arrange a date. We recently were finally able to set something up.
A few days before the big event, he started sexting me. At first, it wasn’t totally obvious because flirtatious texting typically has sexual undertones like “I’m really looking forward to seeing you this weekend”; we had been doing a lot of that up to this point. His new approach, however, was different. His sexual references were now very explicit and his intentions became quite clear. Then, he texted a photo of himself wearing boxer briefs with a fully pitched trouser tent. Well, at least he had his underwear on. The text accompanying the picture read, “Here is a taste of the trouble you’re getting into on Friday!”
The Premature Sexter must have believed his photograph would turn me on, but it actually had the opposite effect. Decades of research has shown that men are more sexually aroused than women by erotic images,1,2 which explains why a large meta-analysis (a study that summarizes the statistical findings from many different studies) found very strong evidence that men are more likely to use erotic materials such as magazines, videos and the Internet.3 Other researchers have found that how I interpreted the sext picture also matters. The amygdala, which is an area of the brain that interprets emotional events, is heavily involved with processing erotic material for both men and women. If I were to interpret his picture positively, then a whole bunch of neurobiological events would have been triggered and I would have become sexually aroused. Because I interpreted his sext negatively, then all bets were off. I stepped into full avoidance mode and canceled the date.1,2
Interestingly, erotic pictures can be sexually arousing for both men and women when the pictures contain an element of emotional arousal, such as with passionate love.3 In my case, I had not even met the Premature Sexter. There may have been an internet connection but certainly no emotional connection. If we had met and I was digging him after a few dates, his photo might then have turned me on. A recent study found that men who sext frequently have more avoidant attachment styles than other men, meaning that they are not as likely to enter intimate relationships because of fear or mistrust in others.4 His premature sexting might be a cue that he was not interested or capable of intimacy. Given that intimacy is something that I want at this point in my life, I may have been aroused by his photograph if I felt some smidgen of affection for him.
I think I might just have to test out this hypothesis with The Consultant to see if my reaction is any different. I’ll ask him to sext me a tighty-whitey salute the next time he is out of town.
1Garziottin, A. (2004). Sexual arousal: Similarities and differences between men and women. Journal of Men’s Health and Gender, 1, 215-223.
2Bradley, M. M., Codispoti, M., Sabatinelli, D., & Lang, P. J. (2001). Emotion and motivation II: Sex differences in picture processing. Emotion, 1, 300-319.
3Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). A meta-analytic review of research on gender differences in sexuality: 1993 to 2007. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 21–38.
4Drouin, M. & Landgraff, C. (2012). Texting, sexting, and attachment in college students’ romantic relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 444-449.
Dr. Jennifer Harman - Adventures in Dating... | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Harman's research examines relationship behaviors that put people at-risk for physical and psychological health problems, such as how feelings and beliefs about risk (e.g., sexual risk taking) can be biased when in a relationship. She also studies the role of power on relationship commitment.