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PEEK

Of men, women, and misread signals

Study finds men more likely to infer sexual chemistry
It's all in your head, dude:
Researchers from the University of Connecticut and Elon University found that after a brief five-minute first meeting, men were more likely than woman to infer a sexual chemistry, regardless of whether it was there or not…
The research was unclear as to why men were more likely than women to falsely perceive this sexual dynamic, but other research on the subject has suggested that men might be mislabeling friendliness, [Maurice Lévesque, co-author of the study] said.
I love how we needed to do a study to find out that men mistake friendliness for romantic interest more often than women. They could have saved a lot of money by just asking any woman who's ever been to a bar.
While they found that particularly "masculine" men were no more likely to oversexualize their conversations, there was a hint that men who self-assessed themselves as more "sensitive" were less likely to do so, he said.
The researchers also found that men who self-assessed themselves to be "sexy" were more likely to perceive a sexual dynamic that was not necessarily there.
Uh huh, lol. Something that both women and men already know -- hence serving as the basis for countless comedic characters, like Two Wild and Crazy Guys and the Butabi brothers.
"For men, there is a step back here somewhere, where you have to think about what cues were you are actually getting. Clearly, the first judgment they are making may not necessarily be accurate," he said.
"For women, be aware this may well be a judgment he is making almost regardless of what you're doing."
Yeah. We know.

In all seriousness, what I find most interesting about this phenomenon is that, even though men mistake benign signals for sexual chemistry more often than women, members of both sexes do it -- something else we all know -- and we tend to regard men who do it, at worst, as pathetic "losers," but women who do it as unhinged "psychos." But, as Lévesque point out, "that men appear to 'oversexualize' more often than their female counterparts may provide the basis of future studies that address the roots of sexual harassment and date rape." That's not to suggest (on either his part or mine) that every man who misinterprets signals will become a harasser or rapist, but, of those who do, sexual predators almost invariably believe that their victims -- whether a mature woman on a date or a 6-year-old child -- has not only indicated consent, but actually seduced her/his attacker.

The vast majority of sexual predators are male, meaning that men who misconstrue signals are more likely to be dangerous than women who do, and yet the conventional wisdom casts mistaken women as the "psychos." When men say no, women go on a rampage! Fatal Attraction, The Crush, Swimfan, Disclosure, etc. Misery is the classic example of a deranged woman who has convinced herself of an alternate reality and holds the object of her obsession hostage, literally crippling him so that he must stay in her possession and do her bidding (though, in this case, she has misread the whole world, not just Paul Sheldon's signals regarding their relationship).
Melissa McEwan writes and edits the blog Shakespeare's Sister.
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