Stop. Proceed.
Jim Helmes

Mixed signals: sex or just friends?

Does the girl or guy you’re crushing on just want to be friends? Or will you end up having sex? Research provides clues on why decoding their signals can be tough.

You’re at a bar with some friends and end up chatting with a girl sitting at the table next to you. The conversation goes great and you spend the whole night talking. What’s more, she even laughs at all your jokes.
When you say goodbye you go in for the kiss but she dodges it and gives you a quick hug. You thought the two of you really hit it off but now you’re not so sure. What did she think, you wonder?

It turns out she thought you were sweet and funny but romance or sex didn’t cross her mind. You’d make good pals, she told her friends if you see each other again.

Sex or friends?

If this sounds familiar, rest assured: you’re far from the first guy and girl to misinterpret each other’s intentions. And this scenario – where he thinks ‘sex’ and she thinks ‘friends’ – is about as common as it gets. It’s not just a cliché, there’s research to prove it.

But why is it that men and women get the wrong idea about whether sex is on the menu? To understand more, Norwegian researchers quizzed 308 young adults. The participants filled in a questionnaire about miscommunication with members of the opposite sex.
They were asked things like ‘Have you ever been sexually attracted to someone and shown interest, and had the other person misinterpret your signals as friendliness?’
The study’s author then compared the answers of guys and girls.

Men are way more likely to have their sexual advances misinterpreted as friendliness by the gal they’re interested in.

Women, on the other hand, said that men are frequently mistaken in thinking they want sex.

Why he gets it wrong?

But why are men so quick to want sex when a woman is just being friendly? Can this difference be explained by cultural cues, like movies or music videos that show guys who have sex on the brain and girls who are less interested? Or have years of evolution led to these kinds of psychological differences between the sexes?

The fact that gender equality is about as strong as it can be in Norway helps prove the latter, the author says. Men have evolved to think ‘sex’ whenever a girl is being friendly because their best chance of passing on their genes is to have sex as often as they get the chance. But there’s a lot more at stake for women since getting pregnant and raising kids is a pretty big commitment.

Is she downplaying her interest?

But another recent study has put a spin on the idea that men have evolved to think sex when women are not interested. It’s not that guys are mistaken in believing gals want sex, the study concluded. Instead, what might be going on is that women tend to downplay their interest, which is why men have evolved to act in a way that overestimates it, conclude the study’s researchers.

More research that looks at real-life scenarios where a man and woman do or don’t end up having sex after that great conversation in the bar will help shed more light on why it can be so difficult to decode signals.

Source: Evidence of Systematic Bias in Sexual Over- and Underperception of Naturally Occurring Events: A direct Replication of Haselton (2003) in a more Gender-Equal Culture, Mons Bendixen, Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Do you think guys get it wrong about whether girls want sex or not? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.

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Recent Comments (22)

  1. I think going into a sex
    I think going into a sex drive is timely at the time the gal is much at fun & mood. Guys easily switch off when a lady seem not to be communicating to their mind

    1. Thanks for your input, Gerald
      Thanks for your input, Gerald.

  2. At times gals are so willing
    At times gals are so willing to have sex on the first day but they don want to appear lose

    1. And what do you think about
      And what do you think about it?

  3. I think men themselves don
    I think men themselves don’t understand the game women play, they misinterpret their signals for want of sex.

    1. Do you think women think men
      Do you think women think men understand?

  4. Chicks fake it, U find she
    Chicks fake it, U find she rubs ha self as we walk, endless hugs, So i think guys are right she want to get laid but on other hand she dont want to look so cheap or easy go!

    1. And what do you think should
      And what do you think should be done?

  5. I think guys are hungrier for
    I think guys are hungrier for sex than the gals

    1. Lukey why do you think so?
      Lukey why do you think so?

  6. I Thnk Isnt gud 4 a lady 2 av
    I Thnk Isnt gud 4 a lady 2 av sex b4 marriage, coz wen she start avng sex she wl end up regretng by engangng herself 2 al knd of men, abstain tl marriage,

    1. Thank you for your input shks
      Thank you for your input shks.

  7. Hi love matterz taks 4 dis ur
    Hi love matterz taks 4 dis ur ar doing 4 us we really appreciate,h’ve bin atend’g 2 all ur queries & it haz bin educative on my side but i don’t know 4 da rest! Back 2 da point al de 1st guyz i had,they wanted only sex 4rm me but i realized it later & i started avoid’g dem! But wat really causes dis?

    1. You are welcome Joan. People
      You are welcome Joan. People get in to relationships for different reasons and it’s up to you to take time and know what your partner wants before you can commit to him. Not everyone who shows interest wants the same thing as you.

  8. Mens r only after 1. thng
    Mens r only after 1. thng love and sex no 1 need only love cz u may keep a lady 4 long but ends up marrying another man cz a man thnks the gal is d only option bt d gal says he’s nt only 1

  9. All of us are in need of
    All of us are in need of having sex but our gals don’t want to be seen cheap and wanting objects.

  10. Gals Pretend Dat They Are Not
    Gals Pretend Dat They Are Not Interested In sex Than The Way Guys Do,but Why Do They Quarrel Wen The Guys Misses 2 Play With Them And They End Up Underminding Such Guys?

  11. Most men think sex. They
    Most men think sex. They think love as an equivalent to sex and often will push button to print the girl down. I’m not being defensive but I once had a guy who told me that I don’t love him coz I was not ready to serve his ego.

  12. So a friend of mine (male)…
    So a friend of mine (male) thinks I am into him since we hangout a lot. He tried to kiss me recently and I told him no. Things are now weird between. I never saw this coming. We grew up together in the same hood and he is not the kind of guy I want for a boyfriend. How do I tell him this without hurting him?

    1. Hey Lyndah, if he indeed…

      Hey Lyndah, if he indeed into you, there is no way you will put this that will not hurt him. You however need to be honest with him and tell him exactly how you feel. Also, your relationship will be different moving forward and you both have to come to terms with this. Find a good time and be honest with him, clarify anything that may have led him to believe you want more. Hopefully it will not greatly affect your relationship.

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