TIME Dating

Dating Narcissism: Why We Look for Ourselves in a Partner

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Marga Buschbell Steeger—Getty Images

When it comes to dating, maybe you're the yin to your own yang

When How I Met Your Mother wrapped up last week, fans were delighted to find out that the mother of Ted’s children was his soul mate. Why? Because she was just like Ted: they shared the same dorky interests, a similar sense of humor and a taste in yellow umbrellas. They even shared the same initials! And many complained when (spoiler alert) in the final minutes of the episode, Ted decides to court Robin, a character who in many ways is Ted’s opposite.

In the search for a partner, we struggle to determine who’s our best match. Is it someone who complements us?—the guy who’s calm when you’re emotional; the girl who’s organized when you’re messy? Or is it someone who looks, thinks and acts like us? Do opposites attract or do they “attract and then attack” as eHarmony advertises?

The attributes of the person who “completes” us has befuddled singles for centuries: In Plato’s Symposium, a philosopher asserts that humans began as androgynous creatures with both male and female parts. The gods split each creature in half, separating one being into man and woman. The result? We now spend our lives looking for our soulmate, the one who makes us whole—though it’s unclear whether that other half is just like us or the yin to our yang.

But Plato didn’t have the luxury of examining data from dating sites. An analysis of eHarmony users by FiveThirtyEight.com this week found that while 86 percent of people say they want someone who “complements” them (as opposed to someone who “resembles them”), women and men are much more likely to message those who are similar to them not only in terms of age, attractiveness, education, race and income, but also in terms of less obvious traits like intelligence, creativity and humor. And then there’s the Boyfriend Twin Tumblr that recently surfaced, featuring gay couples that look almost identical running under the headline, “What’s sexier than dating yourself?” A similar Siblings Or Dating? website features straight, gay and lesbian couples who look like they could be related.

Both of these blogs tap that impulse to be with someone who echoes your own personality and looks. That urge is called homogamy, a marriage between two individuals who are extremely similar. For decades, we’ve been becoming more homogamous in terms of education, income, religion and even looks. A Slate article on the Boyfriend Twin Tumblr cites a study that shows people are attracted to versions of themselves: researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign altered their subjects’ faces into those of strangers and asked them to evaluate the strangers’ attractiveness. Subjects favored faces that looked like their own. Another study found that people are even more attracted to those who share superficial traits like letters in their names and birthdays with them.

Social scientists are already anxious about the amount of time we spend thinking about and looking at ourselves, what with the hours we spend advertising our thoughts and activities on social networks and the rise of the selfie. Now it looks like we’re dating ourselves too. It smacks of narcissism — and remember what happened to Narcissus, who was so entranced with his own reflection in a pool of water that he couldn’t move and eventually was transformed into a flower.

But there may be hope for us narcissists yet. Biologically speaking, we’re built to be attracted to people who are dissimilar to us. A famous 1995 study that asked women to smell the sweaty t-shirts of men found that women preferred the smells of those who were genetically dissimilar to them. (Though notably this wasn’t true for women on the pill.) Scientifically speaking, opposites really do attract. Experts have a clear explanation for our tendency towards genetic diversity: our bodies are trying to prevent us from inbreeding. Plus, parents with more diverse MHC genes birth offspring with better immune system.

This genetic diversity impulse cannot apply to gay couples where reproduction is taken out of the equation. And yet data suggests that gay and lesbian couples, too, prefer diversity in their partners. Though Boyfriend Twin may be a fun Tumblr, research shows that gay couples are actually a lot less likely to be homogamous than straight couples.

So in the end which dating impulse wins out? Our narcissistic tendencies, or the quest to diversify our gene pool?

It turns out there may be no universal truth. An October study from Rutgers University found that a specific balance of chemicals affects what type of person each individual is attracted to. People with active dopamine levels (impulsive, curious types) or high serotonin levels (social, conscientious types) tended to like people similar to themselves. But men with high testosterone tended to be drawn to women with high estrogen and oxytocin levels (and vice versa). So who you fall for all boils down to how the chemicals are distributed in your brain.

TIME Sex

Equality At Last: Teen Boys and Girls Have Similar Views on Sex and Porn

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David Ryle—Getty Images

Teens these days are equally kinky

Turns out young people have finally realized that both males and females, desire, and care about sex.

Even though teenage boys consume more pornography and think about it more often, a new study that interviewed 800 Swedish 16-year-olds discovered that teen boys and girls fantasize about the same things. Not only that, but teenage girls are more interested in pornography than conventional thinking leads us to believe.

Based on the findings, there are no differences between the number of teen males and females who say their sexual behavior is influenced by pornography in a big way (which, might not be a good thing). Unsurprisingly the teens that do watch pornography have more favorable attitudes towards it in general.

But get this: more than every 10th female who reported watching porn said they watch it less than they’d like. And, the females in the study were more experienced than the boys in oral, anal, and vaginal sex. However, the genders were equally likely to partake in one-night-stands, group sex and buddy-sex. Unfortunately, traditional stereotypes still existed, and teens were more likely to agree to that it’s alright for guys to have more sexual partners than the other way around.

But despite that, the teens in the study who were sexually active did hold the perception that males and females are equally interested in sex. And that’s a pretty non-traditional view, and as the researchers conclude, a positive attitude for gender equality.

The study is published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

TIME celebrity

Paul Rudd Ran Around New York City Asking If People Would Sleep With Him For a Dollar

Most people said yes, obviously

In a new episode of his comedy game show Billy on the Street, Billy Eichner dragged Paul Rudd through Manhattan asking pedestrians if, for one dollar, they’d sleep with the handsome, notoriously ageless actor.

Most people say yes, because obviously. Some people say no, but they’re probably lying. Others get really excited and think that they’re actually going to get to sleep with Paul Rudd. Watch this emotional roller coaster ride above.

TIME celebrities

Watch a Young Jon Hamm Get Brutally Rejected on ’90s Dating Show

Even though he promised her an "evening of total fabulosity."

Once upon a time, 25-year-old Jon Hamm got brutally rejected by some fool named Mary Carter on a cheesy 1996 dating show.

The doe-eyed future Mad Men star got his heart broken on The Big Date, hosted by a guy named Mark Walberg (no relation) who says he was “born to be a matchmaker.”

The lovely damsel Mary Carter said she needs a “sexy hot man” who “knows how to give a good foot massage” because she “has a foot fetish.”

The first guy was too creepy. He told Mary he was a stunt man, “so I have to take her home later and show her my flexibility. “

The second guy was too touchy-feely. He had frosted tips, and told Mary he wanted to “squeeze her like a little teddy bear.”

Jon Hamm was just right. He said he would take her on a date that would “start off with some fabulous food, add a little fabulous conversation, and end it with a fabulous foot massage for an evening of total fabulosity.”

But Mary Carter chose the stunt man guy, because he shook her hand when he met her. Choosing a handshake over a fabulous foot massage from Jon Hamm is a real rookie mistake.

Mary Carter, wherever you are, I hope you and your feet are happy with your choices.

TIME Media

James Franco: Horndog or Marketing Genius?

The actor said he "used bad judgement" in messaging a 17-year old Scottish girl on Instagram, but some think the awkward flap may be a bizarre publicity stunt for Franco’s upcoming movie about a soccer coach who has an affair with a teenage player

James Franco was mighty quick to admit that the sketchy Instagram messages he sent to an teenage girl were actually real during his Friday appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael.

“I used bad judgement and I learned my lesson,” said the This is The End star. “But unfortunately in my position, I mean I have a very good life, but not only do I have to go through the embarassing rituals of meeting someone, sometimes if I do that then it gets published for the world, so it’s like doubly embarrassing.”

That was easy.

The awkward flap with a 17-year old Scottish schoolgirl broke just as the first trailer was released for Franco’s movie Palo Alto, in which the actor plays an adult soccer coach who has an affair with one of his teenage players… sound familiar? The movie is also based on a book of short stories Franco wrote.

So is James Franco sketchy for hitting on a teenage girl through Instagram? Or is he sketchy for pretending to hit on a teenage girl in order to promote his new movie in which he plays a guy who hits on a teenage girl?

Either way, it’s icky.

 

TIME

Left-Handed People Have Better Sex, Study Finds

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We foresee a line of "Lefties do it better" t-shirts debuting soon

Life can be pretty tough for left-handed people. For example, they can’t use those those university classroom desks and they struggle with everyday devices like can openers.

Apparently, though, left-handed people ultimately prevail over their right-handed counterparts because they have better sex. According to a recent survey, lefties are 71% more satisfied in the sack than righties.

Of the 10,000 people surveyed, 86% of left-handed people reported being “Extremely Satisfied” with their sex lives, compared to just 15% of righties. Just 15%! Too bad, so sad.

It’s hard to say exactly why lefties are more fulfilled, but we assume it’s because while righties are off doing things that are engineered for righties — like using desks or playing video games or opening cans — lefties are off perfecting other skills.

TIME relationships

To Sleep or to Sleep With? Study Shows Night-Owl Women Have More Sex, Fewer Relationships

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Woman asleep in bed Cultura RM/Greta Engel—Getty Images/Collection Mix: Subjects RM

Women who stay up late are more likely to get laid, but less likely to get married than women who get up early to do a sun salutation or whatever

You know what Ben Franklin said: Early to bed, early to rise makes a woman rested, safe, and married.

A new study from the University of Chicago shows that women who stay up late tend to have similar risk-taking tendencies as men, and that night-owls of both genders were less likely to be in long-term relationships.

Researchers found that men generally have higher levels of cortisol and testosterone than women, but that night-owl women have just as much cortisol as men. High levels of cortisol are usually associated with high energy, arousability, stress and even cognitive function, and some research has shown that successful people usually have higher cortisol levels. The researchers found that high cortisol levels may explain why night-owls take more risks.

In other words, women who stay up late tend to get laid more often, but women who go to bed early and get up early might be more likely to be in stable relationships.

Apparently the tendency to stay up late may have been an evolutionary trait that enabled our caveman ancestors to get frisky after the kids went to bed. “From an evolutionary perspective, it has been suggested that the night-owl trait may have evolved to facilitate short-term mating, that is, sexual interactions that occur outside of committed, monogamous relationships,” lead researcher Dario Maestripieri told UChicago News. “Being active in the evening hours increased the opportunities to engage in social and mating activities, when adults were less burdened by work or child-rearing.”

By the way, men who are night-owls have twice as much sex as men who are early birds. But since sleep loss might cause brain damage, you might have to choose between sex partners and brain cells.

[Journal of Evolutionary Psychology]

TIME Sex

#AfterSex: The Instagram Selfie Trend We Don’t Need

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Just put the phone down

The Internet’s latest infatuation is the #AfterSex selfie, which is exactly what it sounds like. In fact, taking a selfie after you’ve had sex might just be the new post-coital cigarette. (Unless, of course, it’s scrolling through your phone to see what you missed while otherwise occupied.)

Browse through the feed on Instagram (NSFW), and you’ll see people using the hashtag on a variety of photos: raunchy cartoons, eyeroll-worthy memes, a very relaxed looking open hand (get it?) and a surprising number of photos of actor Dave Franco (why it’s not James, the weirder brother, is anyone’s guess). But once you wade through the joke images, you get to the good stuff.

Look for the carefully filtered photos of attractive couples with bedroom eyes and tousled hair, smily coyly amid twisted bedclothes, or on sofas, or elsewhere. There’s also a number of singular selfies of one person staring moodily into the camera, often with a strategic amount of skin bared for the camera. These images have an identifiable post-coital aesthetic, a messy hint of real life that differs from the very posed, strained “sexy” selfies that populate the web. These people look… relaxed.

A similar hashtag #AfterSexHair shows a series of people showing off with beachy waves meant to emulate the carefree, look someone might have after a roll in the hay.

Of course it’s not like there’s anything new about showing off your relationship bliss. After all, couples around the world have been posting cutsey photos and status updates referencing “the boy” and “the gf” for years. But in the era of the groupie (and the belfie and the lelfie and who even knows what else), the #AfterSex selfie is a way of pushing digital boundaries (and boasting) to a new level. Anyone who sees one of the better versions of these photos will realize how amazing you are, how fulfilled you are in life and love, and damn if you don’t look good in the process.

These may seem like the ultimate overshare of life’s most intimate and private moments, but it’s an extension of a culture that places a premium on constantly sharing details about your good fortune, even though it’s actually making us miserable. CNET even posits that this could be part of a confessional trend started by apps like Secret and Whisper, both of which encourage users to share their true thoughts — often about sex, love and bodily functions — anonymously.

There’s no doubt many of the #aftersex photos are fake — because let’s be real, it takes a sincere lack of awareness to post a picture of yourself in any state of undress to the Internet at this point — but that doesn’t even matter. By declaring it a trend, it will become one. And certainly, articles like this might inspire more people to share pictures of themselves in posed, heavy-lidded bliss. The Internet knows that we can’t stop scrolling through our social networks, which is why we end up looking at a friend’s vacation photos on Facebook even though we know that it’ll only make us feel bad about ourselves. Creating and posting an evocative image is a guaranteed way to get more likes, more comments, more compliments. And any attention that accompanies an extra interesting or sexy shot will no doubt validate our sex lives or coupledom.

In an era where we decide on an outfit in a store because we’ve already snapped the perfect Instagram photo of ourselves wearing it in our mind, it’s scary to think about whether we’ll start consciously staging our most uninhibited moments. And soon, instead of thinking about what’s just happened with another human being, we’ll be arranging our every move the way we arrange our food on plates so that everything looks right before you decide on an image filter.

There are social scientists who think that posting selfies can be a healthy exercise for young people who are struggling to express themselves. But #aftersex might be the definition of taking it slightly too far.

[h/t to Nerve for spotting the trend]

TIME Internet

There’s Now A Website That Will Write Personalized Craigslist ‘Casual Encounter’ Ads For You

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Because writing "wanna do it?" takes too much effort

For the casual “Casual Encounter” Craigslister who doesn’t have the time to write out irresistible prose like “Wanna bang?”, there’s now a website that will actually generate a personalized personal ad for you.

Collective Love only needs your location and inclination (man/woman seeking man/woman?) to customize an ad that would be appealing to the people perusing your local section. “It parses the content of these listings and applies a markov chain algorithm to generate text using the ideas and feelings expressed by the ad posters,” the website explains.

Length ranges from 20 to 100 (!) sentences. (Again, “Wanna bang?” would probably suffice, but whatever.)

So what kind of sonnet can you expect from the randomized generator? My 20 sentence, m4w, NYC ad began:

Hold me u looking for pic Free stress today, for freaky something warm feel you won’t Answer, don’t Text Only a great mind right now! I promise you breathless.

I expect a full inbox by noon.

(h/t: Daily Dot)

TIME Sex

Women May Fake Orgasms to Have an Actual Orgasm, Study Says

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BDLM—Getty Images/Cultura RF

Yes, women fake it to boost their partner's ego, out of insecurity and to just get the darn experience over with. But a new study suggests women also fake it 'til they make it.

The mystery of the faked orgasm is no trivial issue: research suggests that up to 80 percent of women faking the big O. And everyone seems to have an opinion about why a woman would fake an orgasm.

On Masters of Sex, the fictional version of sex researcher Virginia Johnson informed William Masters that a women fake orgasms so they can back to other more important things. Sally explained to Harry that women were just faking orgasms to boost his ego—and demonstrated how easily women can do that—in When Harry Met Sally. Cosmo has given us a wide range of explanations, including insecurities about asking their partner for the things they really want.

Finally science has weighed in and it turns out that Virginia, Sally and Cosmo were all correct, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sexual Archives.

But that’s not the exciting part.

The recently released research revealed a novel and surprising reason for feigned ecstasy: some women may be faking orgasms in an effort to, well, orgasm. Researchers at Temple University and Kenyon College surveyed 481 sexually active heterosexual females who were not in serious relationships. You, know, members of the sort-of fake, overhyped college hookup culture.

According to the study, there were four main factors that influenced women to fake orgasms. Here they are ranked in order of prevalence:

1. Altruistic deceit — faking orgasm out of concern for a partner’s feelings

2. Fear and Insecurity — faking orgasm to avoid negative emotions associated with the sexual experience

3. Elevated Arousal — a woman’s attempt to increase her own arousal through faking orgasm

4. Sexual Adjournment — faking orgasm to end sex

Yes, it’s true. Women fake it for selfish reasons too. Those who participated in the study were more likely to pretend to have an orgasm in order to work themselves up to an actual orgasm than to stop sex altogether. If you believe in the power of positive thinking, the theory makes sense. If you envision yourself achieving a goal, you will achieve it. Plus, if faking an orgasm gets your partner more excited, seeing him excited may excite you.

One caveat: Earlier research indicates that women having casual sex, like the women in this new study are less likely to orgasm that those in serious relationships. Again, that makes sense, the more comfortable you are with a partner, the easier it is to communicate with them what turns you on and the easier it is to be selfish. It’s not surprise that women are reaching into their sexual toolbox to find more ways to arouse themselves.

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