Dating can be confusing, and often it’s hard to read whether the object of your affection is playing “hard to get” or just not interested. However, men, according to recent research, are more likely to misread sexual cues and overestimate a woman’s interest in them because certain factors may be scrambling their radar.

One of the most terrifying aspects of rape is that 7 in 10 are committed by someone the victim knows — in most cases a friend or romantic partner. So what would lead a person with no history of violence or aggression to commit such an act? While there is no excuse for rape, studies have suggested that the following three factors may interfere with a man’s ability to accurately read a woman’s sexual interest, which brings them closer to crossing the line from consensual to criminal.


Some researchers hypothesize that cues of rape (such as violence, or refusing consent) are turn-offs in men without a history of violence and aggression against women, PsyPost reported. A 2015 study found this may be true in some situations, but images of female nudity not only disrupt these sexual inhibitions, they also increase a man’s arousal.

Read: Is She Interested? Men Seriously Misjudge Female Sexual Interest

For the study, men were read three different scenarios by a neutral female voice. One story described a consensual sex act, another described an act of rape, while the third was a control describing a non-sexual situation.

Under normal circumstances, most men were aroused by the stories describing consensual sex but not so much by those of rape or the control stories. However, when the men were also shown images of nude women alongside the stories, their physical genital arousal increased in all stories, but was significantly greater when they listened to stories describing rape.

It must be noted that the study does not suggest that nudity leads men to commit rape, as the researchers emphasized that it was “only one potential situational factor among many,” PsyPost reported.

I Want Her, Therefore, She Must Want Me

A 2016 study found a trend suggesting that men will overestimate a woman’s sexual interest if the woman is particularly good looking. For this study, the researchers asked both men and women to base judgement on a model’s perceived sexual interest based on only their photograph.

Results showed that women were more likely to focus on the model’s emotional cues, such as their expressions or body stances, when gauging perceived sexual interest. However, men were more likely than women to use physical cues, such as clothing and overall attractiveness, to gauge sexual interest. The men also rated the more attractive women as having more sexual interest.

What’s more, the study also noted that the more “rape-supportive” attitudes the volunteers held (beliefs that will minimize or justify the crime) the more likely they were to rely heavily on a woman’s overall attractiveness as a cue for sexual interest.

Most Women Want Me, Therefore She Must As Well

Another 2011 study found that men who personally rate themselves as being attractive are also more likely to overestimate a woman’s sexual interest in them. For the study, undergraduate males were asked to rate their own overall physical appearance on a 7-point scale. They then had a brief interaction with a woman and were later asked to estimate her level of sexual interest in them, also based on a 7-point scale. The men were asked to “rate” their conversation partner, answering questions such as “I am sexually interested in her,” and “I would rate her overall attractiveness as…”

The more attractive men overestimated sexual interest the most. The study also found that the magnitude of men’s overperception of a woman’s sexual interest could, once again, be predicted by the woman’s physical attractiveness.

These studies may sound disheartening, but it’s important to understand the root causes of sexual misinterpretation in order to help teach individuals how to correctly read sexual cues and ensure that sex never crosses the line from consensual to criminal.

See Also:

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