Gender differences in associations of sexual and romantic stimuli: Do young men really prefer sex over romance?

Ashley E. Thompson, Lucia F. O'Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Theoryandresearchemphasize differences inmen's andwomen's sexual and romantic attitudes, concluding that men have stronger preferences for sexual than romantic stimuli as compared to women. However,most of the research on gender differenceshavereliedonself- reports,which areplaguedbyproblemsof social desirability bias. The current study assessed young men's andwomen's implicit attitudes toward sexual and romantic stimuli to test whether, in fact, men have a stronger preference for sexual over romantic stimuli compared towomen.Wealso assessed associations between implicit and explicit attitudes, as well as sex role ideology and personality. College students (68 men and 114 women) completed an Implicit Association Test (IAT) that assessed strengths of associations of sexual and romantic stimuli to both pleasant and unpleasant conditions.Results revealed that bothmenandwomenmore strongly associated romantic images to the pleasant condition than they associated the sexual images to the pleasant condition. However, as predicted, women had a stronger preference toward romantic versus sexual stimuli compared tomen. Our study challenges a common assumption that men prefer sexual over romantic stimuli. The findings indicate that measures of implicit attitudes may tap preferences that are not apparent in studies relying on self-reported (explicit) attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-957
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of sexual behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Attitudes
  • College students
  • Gender differences
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Romance
  • Sex


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