Article by Concordia Prof explores the sex-happiness link, and why we’re so competitive
Having more sex leads to greater happiness — sounds fairly obvious, right? Yet, according a Psychology Today article published by Concordia marketing professor Gad Saad, simply the satisfaction of having lots of sex is not enough if you’re not also getting more action than your peers.
These findings were established in studies by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald in 2004, and a paper published by Tim Wadsworth this year. Basic point: envy and competition are huge driving factors in people’s happiness, even (and perhaps especially) in an area as private as the bedroom.
In his article, Professor Saad links these findings with his own research, which showed that when given the option of you and your co-worker getting a $500 raise, or you getting a $600 raise and your co-worker getting a $800 raise, the majority of people polled opted for the former. Despite the fact that in the second option you also receive more money, Saad explains that overwhelmingly, people, and more often women, preferred the scales to be balanced.
This is because humans are inherently competitive — the whole “survival of the fittest” concept is ingrained within our evolutionary make-up. It is not enough to have something, you have to be the only one who has it, or have the most of it.
For men, power and social status are determinants of success and prowess, which goes back to the primitive need for men to be strong hunters and providers. The strongest men were also historically the most eligible mates.
“Men and women are equally competitive, albeit different triggers will engender a rise in their competitive juices,” said Saad. “When it comes to resources, women are likely more communal and hence prefer the equitable/fair option.”
The results may have been different if the question asked had been related to physical attractiveness — then, the women would likely have been more ruthless than the men.
This is not meant to be anti-feminist, but rather reflects the results of Saad’s findings which back up the fact that after centuries of societal reinforcement, women are considered more desirable mates if they are physically attractive. In hunting and gathering societies, this meant that a more womanly shape — full breasts, curves etc., suggested that she would be more fertile and therefore a better mate. Our societal ideals of beauty have changed, but the concept remains the same.
Now, bringing these results back to the bedroom, it is not surprising that having not only lots of sex, but more sex than your peers, would fulfill these primal concerns for both men and women.
What Wadsworth’s study did not specify however, was whether having more sex with one partner, or more sex with many partners, had any effect on the sex-happiness link.
“Both men and women have evolved a desire for sexual variety, albeit the penchant is more pronounced in men,” said Saad.
As such, more sex with more partners would be the preferable option for men, whereas the opposite would be true for women.
“This is simply because the stakes of possible mating are much higher for women than for men,” said Saad. “It’s why a woman can go into a bar and have the option of having sex with any man in the room, but is selective with her choice, whereas men are less exacting when choosing a short-term mating partner.”
For a man, having lots of sex, especially with many partners, would be significant of his social desirability and powerful rank.
For a woman, having lots of sex, whether it be with one or many partners, would reinforce that she is an attractive and desirable mate.
In either case, the simple act of getting it on brings us happiness, not necessarily because of the innately pleasurable quality of the act itself, but rather because it reinforces our desirability, and by extension, our worth.