Keeping up to date with research findings in the world of gender and sexuality is a depressing task. The steady onslaught of studies that state the evolutionary reasons for mean girls or find that women don't mind being objectified mostly seem to rationalize the status quo — bad news, in other words, for the woman who aspires to a better sex life than her cavewomen ancestors. Terri Conley's Stigmatized Sexualities Lab has been producing research that's the rare, refreshing exception. A University of Michigan professor of psychology and women's studies, she's systematically debunking the conventional wisdom surrounding gender, sexuality, orgasm, and desire.
Take the famous 1989 casual sex study, in which Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield found that 70 percent of men will agree to have sex with a stranger when propositioned, compared to 0 percent of women. Their findings — appearing to bolster stereotypes about men's and women's differing sexual desires — have become gospel for people who write about the so-called hookup culture. In a series of papers published in 2011 and 2012, Conley's lab put forth an alternative explanation: Women were passing on sexual advances out of fear of being judged as promiscuous and doubt that a one-night stand with a new partner would be pleasurable. When her researchers controlled for these factors, the casual-sex gender difference evaporated.
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