Are There Sex Differences in Reaction to Different Types of Sexual Infidelity?


Evolutionary theory based research shows that women and men can differ in their responses to sexual and emotional infidelity. However, research has not examined the question of whether men and women react similarly or differently to a partner’s engagement in different types of sexual infidelity. The present research sought to answer this question. Based on the aforementioned prior research, and short term mating desires, sex differences in reactions to different types of sexual infidelity were not expected. Both women and men were expected to report higher levels of upset when a partner engaged in sexual intercourse rather than when a partner engaged in oral sex, heavy petting, or kissing with another person. The results were consistent with the hypothesis. Both men and women were most upset by a partner’s engagement in sexual intercourse with another person. These findings are discussed in terms of prior research.

Share and Cite:

Wade, T. , Kelley, R. & Church, D. (2012). Are There Sex Differences in Reaction to Different Types of Sexual Infidelity?. Psychology, 3, 161-164. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.32024.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bassett, J. F. (2005). Sex differences in jealousy in response to a partner’s imagined sexual or emotional infidelity with a same or different race other. North American Journal of Psychology, 7, 71-84.
[2] Brown, W. M., & Moore, C. (2003). Fluctuating asymmetry and romantic jealousy. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 113-117. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(02)00148-4
[3] Buss, D. M. (1995). Psychological sex differences: Origins through sexual selection. American Psychologist, 50, 164-168. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.50.3.164
[4] Buss, D. M. (1999). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.
[5] Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., Westen, D, & Semmelroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology. Psychological Science, 3, 251-155. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1992.tb00038.x
[6] Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-229. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.100.2.204
[7] Buss, D. M., Shackelford, T. K., Kirkpatrick, L. A., Choe, J. C., Lim, H. K., Hasegawa, M., Hasegawa, T., & Bennett, K. (1999). Jealousy and the nature of beliefs about infidelity: Tests of competing hypotheses about sex differences in the United States, Korea, and Japan. Personal Relationships, 6, 125-150. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1999.tb00215.x
[8] Buunk, B. P., Angleitner, A., Oubaid, V., & Buss, D. M. (1996). Sex differences in jealousy in evolutionary perspective: Tests from the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States. Psychological Science, 7, 359-363. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1996.tb00389.x
[9] Carlson, R. A., & Willis, F. N. (1993). Singles ads: Gender, social class, and time. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 29, 387-405. doi:10.1007/BF00289431
[10] Cramer, R. E., Abraham, W. T., Johnson, L. M., & Manning-Ryan, B. (2001-2002). Current psychology: Developmental, learning, personality, social, 20, 327-336. doi:10.1007/s12144-001-1015-2
[11] Crawford, C. B., & Anderson, J. L. (1989). Sociobiology: An environmental discipline? American Psychologist, 44, 1449-1459. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.44.12.1449
[12] Flack, W. F., Daubman, K. A., Caron, M., Asadorian, J., D’Aureli, N., Kiser, S., Hall, A., Gigliotti, S., & Stine, E. (2007). Risk factors and consequences of unwanted sex among university students: Hooking up, alcohol, and stress response, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 139-157. doi:10.1177/0886260506295354
[13] Geary, D. C., Desoto, M. C., Hoard, M. K., Sheldon, M. S., & Cooper, M. L. (2001). Estrogens and relationship jealousy. Human Nature, 12, 299-320. doi:10.1007/s12110-001-1001-2
[14] Geary, D. C., Rumsey, M., Bow-Thomas, C. C., & Hoard, M. K. (1995). Sexual jealousy as a facultative trait: Evidence from the pattern of sex differences in adults from China and the United States. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 355-383. doi:10.1016/0162-3095(95)00057-7
[15] Goldenberg, J. L., Landau, M. J., Pyszczynski, T., Cox, C. R., Greenberg, J., Solomon, S. & Dunnam, H. (2003). Gender-typical responses to sexual and emotional infidelity as a function of mortality salience induced self-esteem striving. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1585-1595. doi:10.1177/0146167203256880
[16] Greiling, H., & Buss, D. (2000). Women’s sexual strategies: The hidden dimension of extra-pair mating. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 929-963. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(99)00151-8
[17] Greitemeyer, T. (2005). Receptivity to sexual offers as a function of sex, socioeconomic status, physical attractiveness, and intimacy of the offer. Personal Relationships, 12, 373-386. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2005.00121.x
[18] Harris, C. R. (2003). A review of sex differences in sexual jealousy, including self-report data, psychophysiological responses, interpersonal violence, and morbid jealousy. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7, 102-128. doi:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0702_102-128
[19] Harris, C. R., & Christenfeld, N. (1996). Gender, jealousy, and reason. Psychological Science, 7, 364-366. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1996.tb00390.x
[20] Mathes, E. W. (2005). Relationship between short-term sexual strategies and sexual jealousy. Psychological Reports, 96, 29-35. doi:10.2466/pr0.96.1.29-35
[21] Pietrzak, R. H., Laird, J. D., Stevens, D. A., & Thompson, N. S. (2002). Sex differences in human jealousy: A coordinated study of forced- choice, continuous rating-scale, and physiological responses on the same subjects. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 83-94. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(01)00078-2
[22] Sabini, J., & Green, M. C. (2004). Emotional responses to sexual and emotional infidelity: Constants and differences across genders, samples, and methods. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1375-1388. doi:10.1177/0146167204264012
[23] Sabini, J., & Silver, M. (2005). Gender and jealousy: Stories of infidelity. Cognition and Emotion, 19, 713-727.
[24] Sagarin, B. J. (2005). Reconsidering evolved sex differences in jealousy: Comment on Harris (2003). Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9, 62-75. doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr0901_5
[25] Sagarin, B. J., Becker, D. V., Guadagno, R. E., Nicastle, L. D., & Millevoi, A. (2003). Sex differences (and similarities) in jealousy. The moderating influence of infidelity experience and sexual orientation of the infidelity. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 17-23. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(02)00106-X
[26] Schützwohl, A. (2004). Which type of infidelity makes you more jealous? Decision strategies in a forced-choice between sexual and emotional infidelity. Evolutionary Psychology, 2, 121-128.
[27] Shackelford, T. K., LeBlanc, G. J., & Drass, E. (2000). Emotional reactions to infidelity. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 643-659. doi:10.1080/02699930050117657
[28] Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.
[29] Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man (pp. 136-179). New York: Aldine DeGruyter.
[30] Wade, T. J., & Fowler, K. (2006). Sex differences in responses to sexual and emotional infidelity: Considerations of rival attractiveness and financial status. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 4, 37-50. doi:10.1556/JCEP.4.2006.1.3
[31] Wiederman, M. W., & Allgeier, E. R. (1993). Gender differences in sexual jealousy: Adaptionist or social learning explanation? Ethology and Sociobiology, 14, 115-140. doi:10.1016/0162-3095(93)90011-6
[32] Wiederman, M. W., & Kendall, K. (1999). Evolution, sex, and jealousy: Investigation with a sample from Sweden. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 121-128. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(98)00046-4

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.