Sexuality, love, and mate selection: an attitudinal study



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Texas Tech University


Sexuality is a topic that captures the interest of the American public. Sexuality could be seen as having different dimensions, and for this study the one aspect of sexuality that will be studied focuses on sexual attitudes involving moral issues. Research in this area that focuses on young adults is important. As young adults enter college, they begin to form serious relationships that could lead to marriage. In forming these serious relationships, people make choices regarding sexuality, attraction, and love. Indeed, 90% of the population will choose a mate (Buss & Barnes, 1986). The median age of marriage for men and women is in their twenties (Surra, 1990). Many young adults in their twenties are in college when they begin making serious life decisions in reference to romantic relationships. Sexual attitudes are one characteristic that may affect relationship choices during the college years. Most people choose a life partner that they love and are attracted to, but do their sexual attitudes affect these choices?

It is important to point out that there is conflicting evidence as to whether people's behavior and attitudes are congruent. For the current study, the focus is on attitudes and it will be assumed that attitudes and behavior are relatively consistent. The rationale for attitudes and behaviors being similar comes from the research of Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, and Kolata (1994) who conducted a national sex survey in which the results indicated that "Membership in a particular attitudinal group is closely associated with what their sexual practices are" (p.240). Also, a meta-analysis of the correlation between attitude and behavior examining approximately 100 studies over a range of domams found an average correlation of .38 (Kraus, 1995). Although .38 is far from the theoretical maximum of 1.00, it is relatively high when one considers all the factors that contribute to behavior and the size of other correlations in the literature. The present study is approached from the viewpoint that since the majority of young adults act in ways that reflect their sexual attitudes, and these attitudes contribute to serious life decisions regarding mate selection, then such attitudes could logically affect how and whom they choose to love.

While much of the research on sexuality has been dedicated to studying sexual behaviors and attitudes surrounding the act of sex (e.g., contraception), relatively less is known about general attitudes related to sexuality (e.g., abortion, pornography). Sexual attitudes that incorporate values and moral attitudes are essential in gaining more of an overall understanding of how attraction and love are linked to sexuality. This study will seek to add valuable information to existing literature concerning sexual attitudes of college students, but will further examine the relationship of sexual attitudes to attraction and love styles.