TIME

What Happens When Men Try to Sound Sexy

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Piotr Powietrzynski—Getty Images

Thanks to mate selection, women may be better sweet talkers

A low, breathy voice is what we’ve decided as a society is “sexy,” whether you’re male or female. But according to a new study, men are not very good at it.

In the study, published in Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 20 men and 20 women were asked to use a sexy voice, and 40 people listened to determine whether they were successful. Women were much better at it than men, by lowering their voice and adding a touch of hoarseness. Men could not achieve that. “In fact, although not significantly, it got a bit worse when men tried to sound sexy,” said study author Susan Hughes, a associate professor of psychology at Albright College in a statement.

So, why is it so hard for men to turn women on with their voice? Well, the researchers think it may have to do with mate selection. Men tend to care more about attractiveness when it comes to finding the right partner, so women have evolved to learn to play up their attractive qualities–like their sexy voice–in order snatch a mate and beat out the other competition.

The research also looked at other voice manipulation abilities and found that both genders are successful at making their voices sound smarter, but men outperform women when it comes to making their voice sound more confident.

To attract women, men may just need to lower their voices instead of trying to sound sensual. Other research suggests that women like men with deep voices because it makes them sound bigger.

 

TIME

When A Guy Gets An Eating Disorder

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PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura—Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Study finds men don't seek help for eating disorders because they don't recognize the symptoms

The idea that eating disorders are “women’s issues” is such an engrained gender stereotype, that men do not even realize when they are suffering from one, a new small study says.

British researchers interviewed nearly 40 young people, 10 of whom were men, about their eating disorder experiences. The participants, who were between the ages of 16 and 25 with eating disorders, answered questions about early symptoms, recognition of their problem and getting help. When it came to the men, the findings were unsettling.

All of the men in the study said that it took them some time to realize they had a problem–and that their symptoms were indicative of an eating disorder. During that time, the men said their eating disorder-related behaviors–like obsessive calorie counting and purging–became an even greater problem. One of the predominant reasons it took these men so long to get treatment, they said, was the perception that eating disorders are women’s problems. One participant told the researchers that he thought eating disorders harmed “fragile teenage girls.”

The men also reported that their families and friends did not seem to catch their symptoms, and they themselves weren’t entirely sure what the symptoms of an eating disorder were. For the men, it was only when their disorder became an emergency that they realized what their problem was. Even when they realized they had an eating disorder, it took them awhile before they told anyone–fearing they wouldn’t be taken seriously.

While the study is small, the findings are not uncommon. When Matt Wetsel, 30, was a freshman in college, he realized he had a problem. He was sitting in class, in so much pain that he had trouble standing up when the class ended–and it was all due to hunger. Wetsel developed an eating disorder at the end of high school, after what he describes as a massive depressive episode. He didn’t sleep and he lost his appetite, and unfortunately after awhile, he became used to not eating. “No one had said anything to me. Only one coworker told me she thought I might have an eating disorder, and just hearing that terrified me,” says Wetsel.

When he finally decided to get help, most of the literature available, and support groups at his school, were catered to women. Even today, Wetsel, who serves on the Eating Disorders Coalition Junior Board, says a lot of the conversation about eating disorders and men focuses on what makes them different from women. In some cases, men are suffering from muscle dysmorphia, which is the obsession with not being muscular enough, but it’s certainly not the case for all men with eating disorders.Wetsel feels like men and women often have very similar experiences when it comes to eating disorders and that focusing on what makes eating disorders in men “unique” doesn’t help. “When there’s so much focus on the differences, we overlook the sameness,” he says.

Some research shows that eating disorders are on the rise among men. There’s no denying that media depicts men in similarly impossible physiques as they do women. Research has shown that 25 percent of men with a normal weight think that they’re underweight. But perhaps it’s merely a growing awareness among men and the greater community that eating disorders are not gender exclusive. At least, that’s what we need to realize if we want men to get treated. As the latest study shows, framing eating disorders as something that happens to women delays men getting help.

After seeking treatment, Wetsel tracked down his former coworker to tell her he was doing something about his eating disorder. “She was so happy for me, she gave me a kiss,” he says.

 

TIME Rape

Nearly Half of Young Men Say They’ve Had ‘Unwanted’ Sex

New study says it's possible for women to rape men: 18% of surveyed guys say women used physical force to make them have sex against their will

A new study challenges some widely held assumptions about coercion, sexual assault and gender. According to a paper published in the American Psychological Association journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 43% of high school and college-aged men say they’ve had “unwanted sexual contact,” and 95% of those say a female acquaintance was the aggressor.

Researchers surveyed 284 young men and found that 18% reported sexual coercion by force, 31% said they were verbally coerced sex, and 26% said they’d experienced “unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors.” Half of those surveyed said they ended up having sex against their will, 10% said sex was attempted, and 40% said the coercion resulted in fondling or kissing.

Dr. Bryana French, who teaches counseling psychology and black studies at University of Missouri and co-authored the study, says that male victims are often less willing to describe sexual coercion in detail, “but when asked if it happened, they say it happened.”

But what about the, urm, erectile aspect of sex? French says that the study defined “sex” as oral, vaginal, or anal, so it’s possible that the sex didn’t involve an erection. But she also said that it’s not impossible for men to have an erection even if they don’t want to have sex. “Sometimes when women are experiencing sexual violence, their bodies respond in ways that don’t correspond to how they feel,” she said. “They can not want the experience to happen, even if their bodies said otherwise.”

French’s survey sample was small, nonetheless, she hopes her research helps upend our assumptions about sexual violence and gender. “That’s an unfortunate myth, that men can’t be raped by women,” she said. “This is not to deny the gendered impact of sexual violence, but it’s important not to ignore that men are victimized too.”

TIME relationships

How Shacking Up Before Marriage Affects a Relationship’s Success

Young couple
Getty Images

Refuting previous research that claims couples who shack up together before getting married are more likely to get divorced later in life, a new study finds instead that divorce rates are tied closer to peoples' ages when they started bunking up

Just as nobody buys a car without taking it for a test-drive, most people—about two thirds of couples—don’t get married any more until they’ve lived with their proposed lifetime partner. This has been true for a while, even though studies done right up until the 2000s showed that couples who lived together first actually got divorced more often than those who didn’t. But a spate of new studies looking at cohabitation, as it’s called, are starting to refine those results.

A paper in the April issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, but presented early to the Council on Contemporary Families says that past studies have overstated the risk of divorce for cohabiting couples. Arielle Kuperberg, assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says that the important characteristic is not whether people lived together first, but how old they were when they decided to share a front door.

“It turns out that cohabitation doesn’t cause divorce and probably never did,” says Kuperberg. “What leads to divorce is when people move in with someone – with or without a marriage license – before they have the maturity and experience to choose compatible partners and to conduct themselves in ways that can sustain a long-term relationship.”

So what’s the magic age? Kuperberg says it’s unwise to either move in or get married before the age of 23. But other family experts say that’s lowballing it. Economist Evelyn Lehrer (University of Illinois-Chicago) says the longer people wait past 23, the more likely a marriage is to stick. In fact, Lehrer’s analysis of longitudinal data shows that for every year a woman waits to get married, right up until her early 30s, she reduces her chances of divorce. It’s possible that woman may also be reducing her chances of marriage, but Lehrer’s research suggests later marriages, while less conventional, may be more robust.

Read: How an Insensitive Jerk Saved my Marriage

One of the reasons cohabitation was linked with divorce in prior years was that poorer people tended to move in together and then slide into marriage when they got pregnant. But their economic plight did not improve. So it might not have been the cohabitation, but the poverty that was causing the split. Wealthier people tended to wait.

The situation today has changed—70% of all women aged 30 to 34 have lived with a boyfriend, according to Kuperberg, and many of them are educated and wealthy. Sharon Sassler, a professor at Cornell who’s writing a book on cohabitation, says that the amount of time a couple dates before moving in together is important. College educated women date guys for an average of 14 months before they become roomies. For non-college educated women, the waiting time is more like six months, because the lure of a single rent check is just too irresistible. Obviously, that situation is more prone to problems.

The biggest predictor of splits in couples of all types, though, is whether they have a child without meaning to. Sociologist Kristi Williams of Ohio State University says that sometimes a unintended pregnancy is what pushes a couple to move in together or to marry. “Given that premarital sex has been nearly universal in the U.S. for more than 40 years,” she wrote in a response to Kuperberg’s study, “it is vital to provide teens and young adults with access to effective contraceptives and family planning services” to avert more divorces.

Read: How Being Good Parents Can Make You a Lousy Couple

What other factors predict a successful cohabitation-to-marriage journey? Coincidentally, in another paper released the same day, researchers at the University of Miami in Coral Gables found that there might be physical traits at work. Not surprisingly, more attractive people were more likely to get married than less attractive people, but not by much, and mostly that rule only applied to women. The paper also found, for what it’s worth, that cohabitation was likely to lead to marriage for women with “above average grooming” and men with “above average personalities.” Good looking men—those Lotharios— were more likely to cohabit without getting married. (Exhibit A: George Clooney.)

Why get married at all? Why not just live together as long as it suits both parties? Marriage has been shown to have a bunch of physical and health benefits that cohabitation has not yet been shown to have. Some experts believe that’s because more unmarried cohabiting couples used to be among the less well off. But in a recent study of married and just-living-together couples, a researcher at the University of Virginia found that the brains of spouses responded differently to stress than the brains of living-together couples.

Couples were hooked up to a fMRI and warned that they were about to be given a small electric shock. The brain scans of those who were holding their spouses’ hands were quite different from those who were holding a stranger’s hand or looking at a picture. There was less activity in the hypothalamus, which suggests they were better able to deal with the stress. Among couples who were just cohabiting, the brain scans didn’t show much difference. Even gay couples who were not legally married but were in the emotional equivalent— exclusive committed permanent relationships—handled the stressful incident better.

Read: Online Dating Doesn’t Just Save You Time, It Saves You at Least $6,400

All the couples in the study, both married and unmarried, were were about the same age, had been in the relationship for about same amount of time and had equally sunny things to say about their partners. “I think it has to do with the conceptualization of one’s relationship,” says the paper’s author Jim Koan, who presented his findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin in February. “Asserting cohabitation is basically asserting that one is not ‘locked in’ to a commitment,” he says, whereas marriage sends a signal of dependability and predictability. “The take-home implication is that our brains are sensitive to signs that the people we depend on in our lives are predictable and reliable. And our brains will depend upon — will, in effect, outsource to — those we feel are most predictable and reliable for our emotion-regulation needs.”

So far, cohabitation doesn’t seem to be able to produce that feeling of security. And so far, cohabitation hasn’t been shown to inoculate couples from divorce. But it may not be the marriage slayer it was once thought to be.

TIME gender

Study: Employers Assume Women Are Worse At Math

Even when the evidence suggests it's not true

We all know that women can be just as good at math as men. But that doesn’t mean either sex acknowledges it.

A new study published yesterday in the Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that hiring managers of either sex are less likely to hire a woman to solve a math problem, even after she proves her skills are equal to those of a man.

During a lab experiment, “hiring managers” were asked to pick their preferred applicant for a job based on a person’s appearance, and thus gender. The “job” at hand was a math problem that both genders generally complete at equal levels. The managers were twice as likely to choose the man over the woman.

And it only got worse when applicants were asked to self-report how they had solved the problem. Men were more likely to brag about their success, while women—characteristically—tended to downplay theirs. The managers responded by again choosing the man for the job. If more information about the applicant’s performance at the task was offered, the managers still discriminated, but at a reduced level.

This study provides more insight as to why women are far less likely to major in math or science, let alone attempt to work in either field in a professional capacity.

In October 2013, Eileen Pollack wrote a New York Times Magazine story called “Why Are There Still So Few Women In Science?,” that seeks to answer a larger question about gender bias and the sciences.

That the disparity between men and women’s representation in science and math arises from culture rather than genetics seems beyond dispute.

TIME relationships

Studies Show Male Behavior Is Totally Explainable

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Claus Christensen—Getty Images

Men don't like to have doors opened for them. So what?

It seems that every week a new study makes headlines by presenting meticulously collected data on how men’s behavior deviates from the norm, is stuck in some neanderthal pattern out of keeping with progress and evolution, or is just plain odd. But how strange are men really? When the studies are read more closely, much of the mystery of male conduct disappears.

You may have read one of those depressing reports about how men whose wives or life-partners earned more were more inclined to cheat. This seems counter-intuitive and odd, since the men would be jeopardizing not only their relationship, but their ability to eat three meals a day and live in a house. (Plus, the ingrates!) But the study also found that the men most likely to cheat were completely unemployed and, moreover, that there weren’t actually that many cheaters in general. In one study it was only 3.8%. So some guys who don’t have anything to do and are depressed and have no money indulge their less noble impulses. That’s not really such a long bow to draw.

This week, new research suggests that, shockingly, men feel bad about themselves if somebody else opens the door for them. Women don’t. (Apparently this is worth researching.) This is not, by the way, the walk through the door and leave it open so the dude behind you doesn’t have it slam in his face type of opening. This is the jump in front of the guy and let him pass before you. Men are uncomfortable with this. To be honest, a lot of women don’t love it either, since it seems to suggest that we are too fragile to do as puny task as pushing a door. Even my colleague Matt Sterling, who has been in a wheelchair all his life, says he’s not nuts about someone opening the door for him; he prefers the push button self-opening version. (“As I’ve gotten older, it bothers me less when people help me,” he says, “as you understand it makes them feel better.”) It’s not too surprising then that men, for whom physical prowess is a defining characteristic, might be appalled that somebody thinks they cannot cross a threshhold without help.

(more…)

TIME Love & Relationships

What Men Share on Social Media But Not With You

Couple on sofa watching television together
Blend Images—Hill Street Studios/Getty Images/Vetta

They won't express their thoughts to you in person, but they'll shout it to their hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers

Here’s a scenario you might recognize if you’re a woman dating a social media butterfly: You’re sitting on the couch together silently watching TV. When you take a moment to peek at your Twitter feed, you see your significant other has been sharing a stream of personal thoughts about House of Cards with the Twitterverse—even though he hasn’t uttered a word to you.

It’s no surprise that men tend to be more tight-lipped than women about their thoughts and feelings, but social media is creating a haven for some men to express themselves online in ways they don’t in person—and never would have before. From a relationship perspective, that can be a good and bad thing. Women can now turn to social media to get more insight into what their partners think, but where’s the intimacy in that when those feelings are also being broadcast to hundreds of Facebook friends and thousands of Twitter followers?

Recent data from Pew Research Center suggests that social media is making its way into relationships more than ever, with 74% of couples surveyed saying the Internet has impacted their relationship in a good way. Women are more likely than men to use social media, with 71% of women participating compared with 62% of men, according to the latest report from Women’s Media Center. However, what psychologists and researchers find especially interesting is that, while women are equally willing to share the the thoughts they spew out into the digital ether with someone face to face, men are much less likely to do the same.

Eva Buechel, a PhD candidate at the University of Miami who has studied why people share content online, has found that men and women who experience social anxiety, and therefore have a greater need to express their negative emotions and seek support, are equally likely to maintain a blog or social media account. However, “while socially apprehensive females share equally across different communication channels—face to face or microblog—males seem to show a very strong preference for microblog,” Buechel says. Introverts also find it easier to share their thoughts online than in person.

Other research from Northwestern University shows that men are increasingly more likely to share their creative work, like writing, music, or art, online. Nearly two-thirds of men in a 2008 study said they post their work online, compared with only half of the women who reported posting.

Females, of course, are well versed at expressing their feelings. “Women usually have close and intimate friendships, which might make it easy to approach a friend when they need to talk to someone,” says Buechel. “Men have different relationships with their friends, and they might find it more difficult to approach someone in particular to talk to when they need someone to listen or comfort them.”

Such friendship dynamics can contribute to men feeling more apprehensive about expressing themselves when it comes to real, rather than digital, life. “When men are texting, emailing, or communicating through another technological channel, they feel less threatened and are more likely to share their thoughts and feelings because they don’t have to deal with the reaction from the other person in-person, in real-time,” says Dr. Seth Meyers, a Los Angeles psychologist.

That’s one reason Avidan Ackerson, 28, a software engineer in New York with three different Twitter accounts, tends to share more personal things on Twitter than he does on Facebook. “I don’t necessarily always want someone who knows me well to know things about me, but I want someone to know these things,” he says.

Ben*, 28, who works in commercial real estate finance in New York City and tweets as much as 50 times a day, has yet to reveal his Twitter handle to the woman he’s been dating for a month, even though he tweeted about their first date shortly after it happened. “It’s not something I am embarrassed to share, but it’s a level of intimacy we have not yet achieved in real life,” he says. And it will probably be months before they become Facebook friends.

“Connecting online offers men the illusion of security, even though it often causes frustration later among their dates who are wondering, ‘Why is he different and more closed when we’re actually together?’” Meyers says.

Though frustrating for women who prefer face to face communication with their mates, social media may offer a halfway point. “Men are not very good communicators,” says Michael Busby, 47, a system programmer and lecturer at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, and an avid blogger. “When we get frustrated, we really start to break down. There are times when [I get overwhelmed in the classroom], I start to stutter. I have to calm down. But a controlled environment encourages us to have more confidence.”

Jessica Riches, 23, a social media consultant in London says her boyfriend, who tweets constantly, is pretty good at communicating. But visiting his Twitter page and seeing everything from his day-to-day activities to his thoughts and feelings can make her feel closer to him as well. “I look at it more regularly [when] I miss him and wonder what he’s up to.”

Still, for a woman from Venus and a man from Mars, there’s something frustrating about a man’s willingness to communicate with thousands of people—some friends, some strangers—in a way he can’t seem to do with the person lying right next to him in bed.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

TIME Lifestyle

This Survey Shows How Men and Women View Porn Differently

Results show that women are from Venus, men are from whatever planet watches porn all the time.

Cosmopolitan surveyed men and women’s porn viewing habits and discovered that men watch porn even more than women think men do.

Here are some things we learned from the results, which are based on a survey of 4,000 men and 4,000 women:

  • 21.3% of women prefer same-sex porn to heterosexual porn, compared to 1.8% of men.
  • When it comes to porn actresses, the most important characteristic men are looking for is youth. 47.4% picked “young” as the quality they look for, followed by 40.1% selecting “large breasts.” Men could choose more than one category, and “MILF” had a strong showing at 30%.
  • .1% of the female respondents had done porn.
  • 7 out of 10 men watch stuff on porn they wouldn’t do in real life, which is comforting considering some of the funky porn genres on the Internet.
  • Only 7 out of every 50 women like to watch things they wouldn’t do themselves.
  • 2/3 of men orgasm faster from watching porn than they do from real life sex.
  • 8% of men prefer masturbating and watching porn to IRL sex.
  • 68.3% of women aren’t bothered by their male partner’s porn-watching habits, as long as they don’t interfere with the relationship.

Overall, the survey highlighted that, while men are more voracious porn consumers than women, women aren’t as grossed out by X-rated videos as one might think.

MONEY

Women More Optimistic than Men about Finances

Women appear to be more optimistic about the economy and their financial future than men are, according to a recent survey. But it helps to be young.

Asked whether business conditions where they live will improve over the next year, 56% of women polled by Citigroup said yes, compared to just 50% of men.

(The telephone survey, conducted in June, is accurate within 2.2 percentage points, according to Citi.) The outlook was similar when it came to personal finance: 66% of women were hopeful that their own personal financial situations would improve, versus 62% of men.

While the difference may seem slight, other numbers indicate that the financial outlook of the sexes is diverging; men grew more pessimistic in the three months since Citibank conducted a prior edition of the survey, while women’s confidence in financial matters held constant or worsened to a lesser degree than men’s.

Why the shift? Lisa Caputo, CEO of Citibank’s Women & Co. business, says, “When people are optimistic, it’s because they’ve taken the steps to make sure that their own personal financial situation feels good to them.”

Alternatively, women’s relative optimism could be due to current big-picture financial conditions. One of the noteworthy effects of the latest recession, in fact, has been that the unemployment rate for men has risen faster and higher than it has for women.

And the relative optimism doesn’t extend to all areas of personal finance: The survey also showed that 36% of women reported being uncomfortable with their level of debt, compared to 30% of men. That could be due to perception rather than anxiety: At least one study indicates that wives tend to estimate that their family’s debt level is higher than their husbands do.

A bigger difference in the survey concerned how women view their personal financial situations throughout their lives. Stunningly, 82 percent of women under 40 surveyed believe their personal fiscal situation is on the upswing. But just 59 percent of women over the age of 40 were as optimistic.

And why is that? Having lived longer and undergone more financial ups and downs, females over 40 might be more likely to envision their future based on past experiences rather than future possibilities. For older women, the financial demands of a secure retirement may feel more immediate; younger women might find it easier to put off such worries to a later date. The financial challenges faced by women are well known: They tend to earn less over their lifetime than men do, and they tend to outlive men, meaning that they have longer retirements to fund. Earlier this year, a survey of workers age 60 or over found that 76% of women didn’t feel confident they had enough money to retire, compared to 68% of men.

Do you have a guess as to why women right now might feel more confident about their financial prospects than men? Leave your comments below.

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