Most women aren't fans of being valued just for sex—this is why cat-calling, random subway ass slaps, and crude comments about our bodies are completely unwelcome.
However, according to a new study, there is one instance in which being valued for our sex appeal is not only acceptable but welcome: When it's done by a partner who we feel is 100% committed.
Yes, based on past research, psychologists at Florida State University and Northwestern University hypothesized that context is key, when it comes to sexualization. While objectification from strangers is usually unwelcome, from a committed parter—well, it might be a different story.
In order to test this theory, Florida State psychologist Andrea Meltzer studied 208 newlywed couples to find out how sexual objectification affected their relationships.
As part of the study, husbands were asked how much sexual value they placed on their wives, on a scale of zero to 100—with zero meaning the relationship is rarely sexual and 100 meaning the relationship is only about sex. Wives were asked how committed they felt their husbands were. Both partners were also asked a host of questions about relationship satisfaction and sexual frequency.
Turns out, women liked being valued for sex—but only when the husbands were perceived as being super committed. As the researchers explain:
"Wives who perceived that their husbands were relatively less committed were less satisfied with their marriages to the extent that those husbands valued them for sex; wives who perceived that their husbands were relatively more committed, in contrast, were more satisfied with their marriages to the extent that those husbands valued them for sex."
More importantly, the researchers controlled for non-physical qualities like personality and found that "the interactive effect of husbands’ sexual valuation and wives’ perceived commitment emerged independently … suggesting it was due to valuing wives for sex specifically, rather than valuing them for their appearance more generally."
Meltzer and colleagues also found that when women were highly valued for sex, sexual activity increased—but only when the wives felt their husbands were extremely committed to the relationship. When wives did not feel this way, sexual frequency actually decreased. (Fun fact: The researchers found, on average, that newlyweds had sex once every four days, or 32 times in four months).
The researchers believe these findings make sense from an evolutionary perspective:
"For women, experiencing sexual valuation and frequent sex in the context of relatively low levels of partner commitment would have produced significant reproductive costs throughout evolutionary history; thus, it makes sense that women would respond negatively to it. But experiencing sexual valuation and frequent sex in the context of relatively high levels of partner commitment would have produced significant reproductive benefits throughout evolutionary history; thus, it makes sense that women would respond positively to it."
Moral of the story—the more you commit to a woman, the more free she may feel to be sexualized. That's what you call a win-win.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.