A prolonged economic slump could mean more than just losses of material wealth; it could spark a desire in men to seek more sexual partners, a Kansas University researcher has found.
Omri Gillath, associate professor of social psychology, said that men, when faced with an environment that threatens their survival, turn to a sexual strategy that maximizes the potential for reproduction.
In his lab, he placed people in situations and had them think about their own death, a condition that relates to low survivability conditions. Afterward, he showed the people images, including both sexual and non-sexual images. He measured their heart rates to indicate their level of arousal. Men’s rates of arousal increased after thinking about their own death.
Other situations that also threaten survivability could have similar effects, such as going off to fight in a war.
“All of these signs would push you towards more partners and more sex,” Gillath said.
His findings are based in part on the established “life history theory,” which has helped explain low birthrates in richer countries and the lower age of first sexual encounters in poorer neighborhoods.
Gillath likened a worsening economic situation to living on the savannah when food and water become scarce.
He said that if men in committed relationships begin to experience these kinds of feelings, it’s probably best to air it out with your current partner, which could serve to build the relationship even further.
“It’s not a new excuse for guys to have sex,” Gillath said. The desires may be there, but “at the end of the day, it’s your decision.”
The research will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in November.