Low-investment copulation: Sex differences in motivations and emotional reactions

John Marshall Townsend, Jeffrey Kline, Timothy H. Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Samples of male (n = 113) and female (n = 175) college students were surveyed. Majorities of both sexes agreed with statements indicating that males' sexual attractiveness varied more than females' sexual attractiveness as a function of their status. Subjects who reported more sex partners and a greater aversion to sexual monogamy were slightly more likely to agree that they tested their partners to see how far they could push them. Interviews with highly sexually active females (n = 32) and males (n = 24) indicated that low-investment copulation and lack of control over the sexual access-investment ratio caused even women with very permissive attitudes and multiple sex partners to develop an aversion to low-investment copulation. Three levels were identified in this process. The techniques that women with multiple partners used to deal with their feelings are described. Females tested their partners for ability and willingness to invest. Males tested for opportunities to reduce investment and pursue other women. High status, for example athletic stardom, transformed males' sexual attractiveness to women and numbers of sex partners. Results were consistent with the view that the emotional-motivational mechanisms that moderate sexual arousal and attraction are sexually dimorphic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-51
Number of pages27
JournalEthology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995


  • Emotions
  • Evolution
  • Sex differences
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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