The Tightrope

A friend of mine started seeing a new guy about a month ago.  She likes him, he’s good to her, and she’s gone a solid two years with nothing but a Rabbit to help her out.  Every time I see her, we debate whether and when she should finally stop saying “not yet.”  Can you imagine a guy in this situation?  He wouldn’t think twice.  But there she is, on her doorstep at the end of the night, and she has to be the gatekeeper.  For women, this is a familiar tightrope.  If she lets him in too early, she’s “loose,” but if she waits too long, she’s “frigid.”

From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense.  Women bear the burden, so women are the naysayers.  Clearly, a huge part of this is also cultural.  The messages that women receive about sex are a convoluted mess.  But in today’s modern world of birth control and supposed female sexual liberation, is there a biological vestige that keeps us on the tightrope?

New research from Utrecht University in Holland suggests there might be.  A NY Times article recently summarized their research, which shows that increases in testosterone levels are associated with decreases in interpersonal trust.  When women are ovulating, our sexual desire increases, but our testosterone also increases, making us less trusting.

The article jokes, “So guys, you knew women were complex, but it is even worse than you thought: at the moment you are most desired, you are least trusted.”  True, for a guy who wants to get laid tonight without having to build our trust first, that’s a less than optimal scenario.  But think for a second about how confusing that is from our perspective!  Just when our bodies say, “go for it,” our brains say “mmm not with him.”  It’s no small wonder that we have such a hard time getting out of our heads—we’re just trying to keep our balance.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Tightrope

  1. Liz Rawls

    Had to comment on the woman-as-gatekeeper idea. Over the years I’ve had many discussions with men about this subject, occasionally with them expressing anger that women get to decide about whether or not sex happens. I always say, “Well, if a man would ever say ‘no’ then he’d get to make the decision.”

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