The Science of the Booty Call

The Science of the Booty Call
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It's New Year's Eve. So make those resolutions (even though they'll likely fail) and celebrate like it's almost 2015!

Today is one of the top drinking days of the year, which also probably makes it one of the most popular days for booty calls. Unaware of booty calls? They're casual, brief, sexual relationships arranged through text or call, often between friends or former partners. While the timeless one-night-stand is a chance occurrence hatched with an acquaintance, the booty call involves a bit more forethought and emotion. It's a novel no-strings-attached sexual encounter for a technology-enabled generation. Around half of college-aged individuals have been involved in one.

In the prestigious annals of sexual research, there have been just three studies examining the booty call, and University of Western Sydney psychologist Peter Jonason has conducted every single one. An up-and-comer in the world of psychology, Jonason recently was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for research showing that night owls are more likely to be narcissistic, psychopathic, and anti-social.

Fundamentally, the booty call is a compromise, Jonason says.

"For men who engage in this type of relationship, a booty call offers sexual access at a low, although not minimal, cost. For women, a booty call relationship offers more affection than a one-night stand."

In 2009, Jonason found that female college students at the University of Texas reported receiving roughly six booty call requests in the past year. Males only reported receiving one. Phone calls were the most prevalent mode of solicitation, followed by text messages. At the time, Jonason predicted that text requests would soon eclipse phone calls as the primary method.

"Text-based communication may allow individuals to send out multiple booty call requests at once, thus increasing their odds of successfully finding one," he sagely predicted.

Also in 2009, Jonason asked students at the University of New Mexico to explain their thought processes in accepting or rejecting a booty call. Physical attractiveness and timing was key to both men and women, but especially men. Men were generally receptive to booty call requests, simply citing availability as the biggest factor in accepting or declining. Women were more selective. They were more likely to accept a booty call from a friend, and more likely to reject a booty call if the solicitor was known to be promiscuous or arrogant.

The findings, Jonason said, supported the idea that the booty call is a compromise between stereotypical mating strategies. Men viewed booty calls as a relatively easy way to have sex, whereas women were interested in both sexual gratification and the potential of finding a long-term mate. If the booty call were placed on a multi-axis continuum of short-term mating and long-term mating components, it would lie somewhere around here:

"The booty call may be a modern-day by-product of not only the conflict between the genders created by different evolved psychologies, but also the availability of modern communication technologies with which to develop and solicit repeated sexual relations," Jonason wrote.

By extension, one has to wonder whether the technological ease of arranging sexual encounters is contributing to American adults' newfound single lifestyle. In August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unmarried adults outnumbered married adults for the first time since data began being collected in 1976.

(Images: AP, Jonason, Li, & Cason)

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