According to an article reporting on a study conducted at Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, men “find it difficult to tell the difference between women who are being friendly and women who are interested in [sex].” In the study, male and female undergraduate students viewed pictures of women and ”had to categorize each as friendly, sexually interested, sad or rejecting.”
Apparently only pictures of women were used. Why not pictures of men? This suggests that one can tell from the way a woman looks whether she wants it or not. While presumaby the study used facial expressions and other nonverbal body cues, this promotes the idea that a woman’s appearance–but not a man’s appearance–can be an invitation for sex.
Nevertheless, that is how the study was conducted. The findings of the study and their interpretation are noteworthy, too. While women tended to categorize the pictures correctly, men tended to interpret friendliness as sexual interest. It would be easy here to stop and say that men have been trained to believe that all women want sex all the time. But men tended to miscategorize all the pictures. “When images of [women] meant to show allure flashed onto the screen, male students mistook the allure as amicable signals. ” So men thought women wanted sex when women were just being friendly, and when women were interested in something sexual, men didn’t recognize that.
So, instead of men having been raised to believe that women are insatiable sex machines, it turns out that men really don’t care what women want. Perhaps men have been raised to believe that what women want is irrelevant to them. Their task is to go after what they want. Something not stated in the article is whether the men and women were asked to rate their own attraction to the women in the pictures. It would be interesting to know whether men were more likely to categorize the images of women that they found desirable as sexually interested.