Critical response to “Sexual exploitability: observable cues and their link to sexual attraction”
Posted on October 2, 2018Research Methodologies in Humanities and Science
In their paper Sexual exploitability: observable cues and their link to sexual attraction (Goetz et al. 2011), the researchers hypothesize that cues of sexual exploitability in women also serve as cues of sexual attractiveness for men. We will quickly explore below how some aspects of the research may have directed the results.
The researchers concentrate on this really precise set of cues, as they must to investigate their hypothesis, but in so doing, the wording of some elements of their research seem to take for granted that women are necessarily a target, or a prey, and that men are necessarily seeking to exploit women. Although it may not be an actual experimenter bias, choosing to concentrate only on cues emitted from women and then observe the reactions of men—without overtly analyzing what are the men’s background in regards to relationships and sexual activities—does seem to cast both genders in such roles.
The sample itself could also be an issue: participants are psychology students in a university. As a reader, we do knot know from which university students originate, however it is not unlikely that they are from the University of Texas (Austin, US), same as the origin of the paper. Under section 4.1 Limitations and future directions, the authors state that participants “have lower status and fewer resources and may experience more difficulty attracting a high-quality mate through nonexploitative means.” This seems to completely brush off the fact that education in the United States is quite expensive, and that it is unlikely that the participants indeed lack resources. In all fairness, the authors do mention that “future research should include men from different age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.” Maybe they should also extend the research to understand what are the cultural and behavioral backgrounds of these men, so that maybe a more meaningful pattern would emerge in such a case. For example, is this attraction to sexual exploitability really inherent to all men, or is it something learned in some situations?
Finally, maybe it would also be of interest to extend the sample to other genders and sexual orientations. Are the cues that determine sexual attraction include sexual exploitability only in men? Or are those cues the same with lesbians? Are homosexual males also corroborating those cues, even though they may not feel attracted themselves to the women presented to them?
By no means do we seek to invalidate the research summarized in the paper mentioned above, which would actually be impossible in such a short critique. This paper leaves us with many questions, some of which the researchers themselves opened up.
Goetz, C.; Easton, J.; Lewis; D.M.G.; & Buss, D.; (2012). Sexual exploitability: Observable cues and their link to sexual attraction. Evolution and Human Behavior 33(4):417–426.
The paper is currently available publicly online. It is embedded for ease of reading, and to avoid hot-linking.