Psychology professor to discuss evolution of sexual attraction in upcoming talk

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As students swipe through endless profiles and DMs flood their inboxes, it may seem that dating apps have made hooking up more attractive than ever. But according to psychology professor David Buss, casual sex isn’t a new phenomenon.                

Buss will share his insights on the relationship between love and lust in his upcoming talk, “Human Mating Behavior,” at the Student Activity Center on Oct. 27. Considered one of the founders of the field of evolutionary psychology, Buss is widely renowned for his research on mate selection, attraction and sexual tactics.

In his newest book, “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating,” Buss addresses the differences between female and male desires, and the hindrances to finding love: conflict, competition and manipulation by both sexes. 

Buss writes that to answer this conflict, people must first address their outlooks on romantic relationships in general. 

“What we do have is unrealistic expectations,” Buss writes. “All relationships have conflict — the issue is how we deal with them when they come up.” 

Among these issues include the search for the ideal relationship. In the meantime, Buss said that serial dating, or engaging in several short-term relationships — which can include hooking up — is perfectly normal. 

“Are there people who find the one at 18 and get married for 75 years? Yes. But they are the minority,” Buss said in an interview with America Trends Podcast. “Serial mating is common, and it’s not a bad thing. People have always engaged in this behavior. It’s just now that we have new labels for it.

Buss said the popularization of the term “hooking up” was the result of a more widespread acceptance of the casual-sex movement by both sexes, and when he began writing his first book on evolutionary psychology and sexual behavior in 1994, the term “hookup” did not exist. Similarly, he said there were few studies on female sexuality at the time. 

“Presently, women have become more comfortable in engaging in casual sex, especially on college campuses,” Buss told America Trends Podcast. “We also know more about female sexuality. Women use affairs to get out of relationships to switch into a better relationship. In contrast, men are more likely to have affairs for sexual variety.”

Indiana University evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia said a cursory look at popular literature can help to account for the dramatic rise in hookup culture on campus as well, citing popular music and romantic comedy films centered around hooking up and the pervasive “friends with benefits” plotline.  

“Contemporary popular culture is now rife with examples that depict and often encourage sexual behavior, including premarital and uncommitted sex,” Garcia said. “Many popular representations suggest (that) uncommitted sex can be enjoyable and occur without ‘strings’ (attached).”

Despite this vested interested in sexual behavior alone, however, Garcia said emerging adults also show significant interest in traditional romantic relationships, despite the prioritization of serial dating over early marriage. 

In a study of 681 young adults, 63 percent of college-aged men and 83 percent of college-aged women preferred a traditional romantic relationship as opposed to a merely sexual one. 

This sentiment was echoed by undeclared freshman Maria Yasir, who said that she has found that romantic desire is based on individual journey. 

“We all want love,” Yasir said. “What’s different is the form we want it in at the time.”