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Papa Don’t Preach?

Using Lies to Expose the Truth about Who Suppresses Female Sexuality

Abstract

The suppression of sexuality is culturally widespread, and women’s sexual promiscuity, activity, and enjoyment are almost always judged and punished more harshly than men’s. It remains disputed, however, to what end people suppress sexuality, and who benefits from the suppression of female sexuality. Different theories predict that women in general, men in general, women’s intimate partners, or parents benefit most. Here we use the lies women and men tell—or imagine telling—about their sexual histories as an indirect measure of who is most involved in the suppression of sexuality. We asked men and women what they would reply if asked questions by their mother, father, current partner, attractive confederate, and various same- or opposite-sex friends and colleagues about their number of previous sex partners, age at first romantic kiss, age at first consensual sex, and cheating on a previous partner or spouse. By comparing the size and direction of the lies that subjects told, we tested competing predictions of several cultural and evolutionary theories concerning why female sexuality is suppressed and who is driving its suppression. We found that men and women told larger and more frequent lies to their parents, with women telling the largest and most frequent lies of all to their fathers. Additionally, the majority of lies by both men and women were in sexually conservative directions. Our findings suggest that mothers, and especially fathers, restrict female sexuality.

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Kellie, D.J., Dixson, B.J.W. & Brooks, R.C. Papa Don’t Preach?. Hum Nat 31, 222–248 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-020-09372-7

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Keywords

  • Lying
  • Suppression
  • Sexual behavior
  • Parents
  • Evolutionary theory