I’m no social scientist but I am a man, and I happen to disagree – quite a bit – with Amy Muise, a post-doctoral relationship researcher at the University of Toronto, who is a social scientist and, for what it’s worth, a woman.
In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Muise claims to have found that men tend to underestimate their partner’s sexual interest, especially in a committed relationship, and hypothesizes that this “under-perception might keep men motivated to entice their partner’s interest, and it may also minimize sexual rejection,” according to an article on CNN.com by Jacqueline Howard.
The article goes on to state that this is the reverse of the initial perception, early in a relationship, wherein men tend to over-perceive the woman’s interest, i.e., think she’s more interested in sex than she really is. This, she says is not a surprise, “since the goal in initial encounters might be to attract a partner, so over-perceiving their interest can help men feel more comfortable initiating a conversation or date,” whereas under-perceiving it somehow acts to maintain the relationship.
This makes no sense, and conveniently blames men for the widespread sexual dissatisfaction any married man who hangs out with other married men knows is all too common; it’s our fault, because of our perception problems ….
When I met the woman I eventually married, I wasn’t able to initiate a conversation or ask for a date because I thought she was some sex-crazed hussy; I initiated the conversation and asked for a date because I wanted to sleep with her. Her drive had zero to do with that. If she didn’t want to sleep with me, or wasn’t willing to, the relationship would have ended sooner. I assumed sex would feel good to her just as it does to me, and that she’d eventually want to make me happy, just as I hoped to make her happy. I didn’t “over-perceive” anything.
And as the relationship eventually failed, in large part because of the lack of sex, I didn’t under-perceive anything, either – she was not interested, did not provide any opportunities, did not respond to my interest, etc, etc, etc. If you are interested in sex, you WILL make an opportunity. She didn’t. Here, however, Muise got it right – I began minimizing sexual rejection by simply not trying for it anymore; I found I disliked her less when I found other outlets than when I got shot down – again – after thinking she might be interested and that tended to keep the peace as we grew ever more distant. If she were to tell Muise she had any sexual interest during this critical period, I would have laughed out loud.
In An Ordinary Man, Richard Wilson, a biology professor facing an identical situation (virtually all married men do) turned to his science in an attempt to remain sane and although he found his answer, it’s one that only solves half the problem because, ironically enough, it is the woman’s misperception of the man’s interest that needs corrected.