Is It Sex or Friendship?
Was that conversation flirty or friend;y? Men and women do seem to read interactions differently. For example, women complain that men take interactions as sexual when they aren’t. Men respond that women underestimate the sexual nature of contacts. Both are right! Men and women see people’s sexual intentions differently- men see more sexual interest and women see less. Men and women both make assumptions about the person they are talking to and that influences their reactions. These assumptions are often out of awareness, not conscious.
Here is the important bottom line: Without cues, if the situation is unclear, men see sex more often than women. Translation: If a guy has no information that tells him a woman is uninterested, and the situation in which they are interacting is unclear (party, bar), he is more likely to assume sexual promise. A woman in the same situation is less likely to see the interaction as sexual. You can see how you reach different conclusions if you begin from different starting points.
This has some serious implications for women if men tend to regularly perceive them in sexual rather than friendly ways.
It changes: As people become more familiar with each other, men get friendlier thoughts.
Researchers from the University of Washington (see the citation at the end of this post) ran a couple of studies that confirm these ideas. One thing to keep in mind about the study – the subjects were college undergrads. Perhaps, as people mature, they are more able to see the opposite sex as real people and let the sexual or friendly reactions develop over time.
Source: Kristen P.Lundgren, Yuichi Shoda, and William George published “Sexual or Friendly? Associations about Women, Men, and Self” in Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2007, volume 31 pp.190-201.