The Emotional Risks of Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties: There’s Science For This?
By Heath Shive
Researchers in 1989 (Kenrich et al.) performed a study with male and female college students. The students’ devotion to their respective romantic partners was measured. Then, one half of the students were shown opposite-sex nude centerfolds (from Playboy and Playgirl, etc). The other half were shown pictures of abstract art. Afterwards, the students’ attraction to their partners was measured again.
Afterwards, males exposed to attractive images of nude women felt that their female romantic partner was less sexually attractive.
However, females exposed to attractive images of nude men (from Playgirl centerfolds) did not feel differently than before.
So according to this study, men were more likely to discount their current partner in the presence of more attractive women. But the study’s women were more steadfast, despite the imagery of very attractive men.
This study became a cornerstone for evolutionary psychology, frequently appearing in textbooks! By 2015, the paper had been cited 249 times on Google Scholar, and over 100 times on PsycINFO.
But there’s another paper that begs to differ.
Times Have Changed!
In 2016, a different group of researchers (Balzarini et al., 2017) wanted to see if the results of the famous Kenrick study could be replicated.
Turns out, the results were completely different!
In the new study’s first 2 experiments, the subjects’ exposure to opposite-sex nude images had no effect on their attraction to their partner. This was true for both men and women!
In the third experiment of this new study, the subjects again were exposed to pictures of the opposite-sex. But now these pictures were of attractive nudes or attractive non-nudes (with conservative clothes).
Afterwards, the subjects (both men and women) felt that their romantic partners were now more attractive!
Why the Difference?
There were some differences in the two studies (1989 vs. 2016). The original 1989 study involved young college students, but the 2016 study involved full-grown adults (average age, 35).
The first study was published in 1989 – when attitudes about nudity and eroticism were more polarized between the two sexes.
The new study was published in 2017 – with the Internet firmly part of modern life. Has the Internet made nudity so pervasive that it has become less shocking, and thus less powerful?
Gender sensitivity has grown in both the private and professional sector since 1989.
And a growing attitude of equality has allowed women to practice many of the habits previously accorded to men, including:
In other words, nudity is not as big a deal now. Nude imagery doesn't carry the same emotional power as before.
It’s a different America.
We’ve Grown Up?
Balzarini’s study would seem to show that both American males and females can be more sexually mature now. Whether that maturity comes from personal growth (as we age) or cultural growth (like #MeToo), the improvement seems real.
So how erotic should your bachelor/bachelorette party be?
Can you handle it?
How mature are you?
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Balzarini, R.N., Dobson, K., Chin, K., & Campbell, L. (2017). Does exposure to erotica reduce attraction and love for romantic partners in men? Indpendent replications of Kenrich, Gutierres, and Goldberg (1989) Study 2. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70 (5), 191-197.
Kenrick, D. T., Gutierres, S. E., & Goldberg, L. L. (1989). Influence of popular erotica on judgments of strangers and mates. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 25 (2), 159-167. DOI: 10.1016/0022-1031 (89)90010-3.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.