Why do men succumb to sexual temptations -- like cheating on a partner or preying on a female colleague -- more than women?
A new study has the answer.
"The study suggests that men are more likely to give in to sexual temptations because they tend to have stronger sexual impulse strength than women do," says Natasha Tidwell, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Texas A&M University who authored the study.
"But when people exercise self-control in a given situation, this sex difference in behaviour is greatly reduced. It makes sense that self-control, which has relatively recent evolutionary origins compared to sexual impulses, would work similarly - and as effectively - for both men and women," says the study, co-authored by Paul Eastwick, assistant professor in Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Texas.
The study relied on two separate experiments on 218 (70 female and 148 female) participants.
They were first asked to recall and describe an attraction to an unavailable or incompatible member of the opposite sex.
The participants then answered survey questions designed to measure strength of sexual impulse, attempts to intentionally control the sexual impulse, and resultant behaviours.
"When men reflected on their past sexual behaviour, they reported experiencing relatively stronger impulses and acting on those impulses more than women did," says Tidwell.
However, men and women did not differ in the extent to which they exerted self-control.
"When men and women said they actually did exert self-control in sexual situations, impulse strength didn't predict how much either sex would actually engage in 'off-limits' sex," added Tidwell.
"Men have plenty of self-control - just as much as women," said Eastwick. "However, if men fail to use self-control, their sexual impulses can be quite strong. This is often the situation when cheating occurs."
The study was published in monthly Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.