New Study Says Women Are No Longer Playing Hard to Get

Here's to leveling the playing field!

woman on date pretends she's not interested in man.
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Fifty years ago, women were often taught that they needed to play hard to get in order to get a man's attention. But today, many seem to realize that this is actually dangerous advice that sends men mixed signals about when "no means no" and when to "try harder." And now, we have scientific proof of this shift. A new study published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences says that college-aged men and women are showing less of a tendency to play this cat-and-mouse game.

In this new study, 435 undergraduate students completed anonymous surveys about their last encounter with a sexual partner and the way they responded to the signals that were sent. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that the women did not downplay their levels of sexual interest and, if anything, often acted a little more interested in sex than they actually were, while the men acted a little less interested in sex than they actually were.

"There was no tendency for women in general to act coy when meeting someone of the opposite sex in a potentially romantic or sexual situation," Mons Bendixen, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "Both men and women's level of attraction was highly consistent with their level of signaled interest. So the take away might be: If you meet someone you find attractive and that person does not send any signals of attraction back, he or she is most likely just not attracted to you. Most people seem to get this, but not everyone."

Like all studies, this one has its limitations, most notably that the findings were self-reported and vulnerable to hindsight bias. But it is intriguing to consider its implications. According to Bendixen, these findings may indicate that "men are more accurate in their perceptions of women's sexual intentions than previously assumed." However, the other possibility is that the results represent a cultural shift in sexual dynamics, and that men may be attempting to be less aggressive in the pursuit of sex while women are feeling more empowered in allowing their own desires to shine through.

The study also noted that while a man's likelihood of engaging in sexual intercourse was predicted largely on his own sexual history, the chances of a woman having sex depended on the sexual interest of her potential partner and what she perceived his "short-term value" in bed to be. This dispels the myth that men are more interested in casual sex than women, and adds to a growing body of research that women today are increasingly unlikely to take part in the infamous "chase." And for more on why that's something to celebrate, find out Why Your Days of Playing Hard to Get Should Be Numbered, According to Science.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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