How Lust Works

Do Men Lust More?

Statistically, men lust more, but it's not without downsides.
Statistically, men lust more, but it's not without downsides.
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In 2009, a Jesuit scholar published a survey of Seven Deadly Sin confessions among Catholics. Most often, women were guilty of pride and envy [source: NPR]. Men, on the other hand, grappled with gluttony -- though not as much as lust. A single survey of religiously devout confessors isn't conclusive proof that males are the more lascivious sex, but it nevertheless offers minor evidence of a gender gap in lust.

Framed solely in terms of sex drive, men unfailingly out-lust women. A Case Western Reserve University meta analysis of sex drive-related studies from 1996 to 2000 supported that idea by revealing a clear-cut disparity in how often men fantasize about and want to engage in sexual intercourse, compared to women [source: Baumeister, Catansee and Vohs]. Moreover, the fMRI analyses mentioned earlier in this article also revealed more male brain activity in response to watching erotic films, versus the slightly more sedated female brain-on-porn [source: Patek, Keenan and Shackelford]. Women also exhibit robust sex drives, but men might have more piquant arousal patterns and attendant physical urges as a byproduct of sex drive-revving testosterone.

Being the lustier sex, statistically, comes with its downsides, though. Anyone who's experienced an unrequited crush empathizes with the discomfort that it can produce. The neural circuitry that drives attraction also stimulates literal cravings for a would-be sweetheart's attention and company, triggering a phase called limerance. First described in 1977 by psychologist Dorothy Tennov, limerance encompasses the aching longing, daydreaming and fear of rejection that goes along with sustained lust for a potential partner [source: Bering]. And while girls might be the ones dotting their i's with hearts and flipping through bridal magazines without a wedding date in sight, boys are far more likely to encounter limerance resulting from unrequited lust. Psychologist Roy Baumeister at Case Western Reserve University estimates that men are more likely than women to pine away for people who won't reciprocate by a three-to-two ratio [source: Goleman].

On the bright side, those lusty letdowns could be nature's way of preserving love as the intimate, profound motivational state that humans treasure so dearly. After all, if every lustful whim could be satisfied, people would probably never sit down and stay a while.