The need to belong is a fundamental human motivation; failure to satisfy it leads to physical and psychological wellbeing decrements
(Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Ryff & Singer, 1998). Satisfying this need may be more difficult for the socially stigmatized, as the number of
close relationship partners available to them may be limited. For them, one of few companionship sources may come from those with the
same stigmatized attribute, as people tend to associate with those similar to themselves in demographics, behaviors, and attitudes
(McPherson et al., 2001). The sexually permissive are often socially stigmatized and rejected as potential friends or partners (Crawford
& Popp, 2003). Yet, little is known about the views of those who are themselves permissive, particularly in the same-sex friendship
context. If permissive individuals are rejected not only by those different from them but also by those similar to them, this may
place them at a high risk of social isolation and its many negative consequences.
Goals of current study.
•Using an experimental person-perception paradigm, examine how participant permissiveness moderates the expected negative effects
of same-sex target permissiveness on same-sex friendship-relevant outcomes.
•Replicate and extend findings of the negative main effects of target permissiveness on various aspects of friendship desirability.
•Contribute to ongoing debate regarding the existence of the double standard in same-sex friendships, adding the rarely assessed
aspect of mate guarding.
1.Permissive targets will be judged more negatively than nonpermissive targets on friendship-relevant outcomes.
2.Participant permissiveness will moderate this negative impact, such that the tendency to judge permissive targets more harshly will be
less pronounced among permissive participants.
3.No specific predictions regarding the potential moderating effects of sex – prior findings are conflicting.
Participants. 751 heterosexual or mostly heterosexual college students aged 18 to 23 (M = 19.7). Female – 75%; White – 62%; Catholic
– 28%; Nonbelievers – 25%; Jewish – 16%; Protestant – 16%; Upper-middle class – 43%; Middle class – 33%; Single – 43%; In a
serious relationship – 36%; Hooking up or casually dating – 21%.
Procedure. Data collection Oct. through Dec., 2010; 30-min anonymous online survey. Recruitment through in-class announcements.
Target permissiveness. Participants read one of two descriptions of a hypothetical same-sex person. Descriptions were identical
except for target lifetime number (2 or 20) of sex partners.
Participant permissiveness. Sociosexual Orientation Inventory-Revised (SOI-R; Penke & Asendorpf, 2008), a 9-item measure of
casual sex motivation, attitudes, and experience.
Overall friendship evaluation. On a 7-point scale (-3 to +3), participants rated: (1) overall impressions of the target (I strongly dislike to
I very much like him/her); (2) willingness to consider the target a close friend (very unwilling to very willing); (3) amount of contact they
would like to have with the target (I wouldn’t want any kind of contact to I could see him/her as a best friend); and (4) willingness to let
the target maintain a nonsexual friendship with their own romantic partner (very unwilling to very willing). First three items were averaged
into a composite mean score of friendship desirability (higher scores = greater desirability); fourth item was an indicator of the need for
mate guarding from the target (higher scores = lower need for mate guarding).
Friendship-relevant personality preferences. Participants rated 32 personality attributes on two 7-point scales (-3 to +3): (1)
importance of attributes in a same-sex friend (very important to me that a potential friend does not have this characteristic to very
important to me that a potential friend does have this characteristic); and (2) target’s possession of attributes (does not display this
characteristic at all to does display this characteristic greatly). Scores for each attribute from each scale were multiplied to account for
between-person variability in values placed on different attributes (positive composite score = target desirable with respect to that
attribute, either because the target possessed an attribute that the participant valued, or because they valued the attribute negatively
and felt the target did not possess it; negative composite score = target not desirable with respect to that attribute, either because the
target did not possess an attribute that the participant valued, or because they valued the attribute negatively and felt the target
possessed it; composite score of 0 = neutral). Attributes grouped into six dimensions: competence, warmth, emotional stability,
dominance, extraversion, and morality.
Target sexuality endorsement. Participants listed three things they liked the most and least about the target; two binary variables
created (liked sexuality and disliked sexuality), coded 1 if participant liked/disliked something about target sexuality, and 0 if there was
no mention of sexuality.
Manipulation check. Permissive target was rated as significantly more ‘‘sexually experienced,’’ (M = 2.69, SD = .70), than the
nonpermissive target, (M = 1.17, SD = 1.18), B = 1.68*** (.13), on a scale of -3 (does not display this characteristic at all) to +3 (does
display this characteristic greatly). Significant interaction with participant permissiveness, B = .10*** (.02), showed this effect was
stronger among permissive, B = .94*** (.05), than nonpermissive participants, B = .63*** (.05), but present in all. No interaction with sex.
Analytic plan. Linear and logistic regressions with target permissiveness, participant permissiveness, sex, and their interactions as
predictors. All analyses controlled for age, relationship status, race, and socioeconomic status.
Birds of a Feather?
Not When it Comes to Sexual Permissiveness
Zhana Vrangalova, Rachel E. Bukberg, & Gerulf Rieger
(Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2013, doi: 10.1177/0265407513487638)
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psych Bull, 117, 497-529.
Crawford, M., & Popp, D. (2003). Sexual double standards: A review and methodological critique of two decades of research. J Sex Res, 40, 13-26.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Ann Rev Soc, 27, 415-444.
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psych Inquiry, 9, 1-28.
Target Sexuality Endorsement
9% liked something about target sexuality. Most women (81%) and men (65%) referred to low sexual involvement, e.g.,
‘‘he only had two relationships’’ (m, 2 Ps), ‘‘not a slut’’ (f, 2 Ps). Fewer framed their likes in terms of high sexual
involvement, e.g., ‘‘she is comfortable exploring her sexuality’’ (f, 20 Ps), ‘‘likes to have fun (parties/sex partners)” (m, 2
Those in permissive condition were less likely than those in nonpermissive condition to like target sexuality. This tendency
was stronger in nonpermissive, B = -2.91*** (.64), than permissive participants, B = -.92* (.37), but present in all.
56% disliked something about target sexuality. Virtually all men (96%) and women (98%) referred to high involvement,
e.g., ‘‘has whore-like tendencies’’ (f, 20 Ps), ‘‘had sex before marriage’’ (m, 2 Ps). Extremely rare were cases designating
low sexual involvement as negative, such as ‘‘only had sex with two girls’’ (m, 2 Ps), ‘‘had little sexual experience’’ (f, 2
Those in permissive condition were more likely than those in nonpermissive condition to dislike target sexuality. This
tendency was stronger in women, B = 3.09*** (.27), than men, B = 1.63*** (.35), but present in both.
Overall Friendship Evaluation
3-way interaction (see Figure 1):
-Women preferred the nonpermissive target, B = -.21*** (.04); tendency
marginally stronger in nonpermissive women, int. B = .05† (.03).
-Men’s preference moderated by participant permissiveness, B = .16** (.05).
• Nonpermissive men preferred nonpermissive, B = -.34** (.10);
• Permissive men showed no preference, p > .10.
Mate Guarding - All preferred the nonpermissive target.
Friendship-Relevant Personality Preferences
Competence - Women preferred the nonpermissive target, B = -.20** (.06).
- Men preferred the permissive target, B =.23* (.10).
- Women preferred the nonpermissive target, B = -.42*** (.09).
- Men showed no preference, p > .10.
- Women preferred the nonpermissive target, B = -.19*** (04).
- Men showed no preference, p > .10.
Extraversion - All preferred the permissive target.
-Women preferred the nonpermissive target, B = -.30*** (.09).
-Men preferred the permissive target, B = .32* (.14), but effect was moderated
by participant permissiveness, B = .31** (.09).
• Permissive men preferred permissive, B = .80*** (.20);
• Nonpermissive men showed no preference, p > .10.
-Women preferred the nonpermissive target, B = -.99*** (.10); tendency
•Overall, sexual permissiveness was an undesirable trait in a same-sex friend, as at least some participants preferred the
nonpermissive over permissive target in 9 of 10 outcomes; participant permissiveness moderated target permissiveness in 5 of 10
•Women, including permissive women, rated the permissive target more negatively in all but one outcome (extraversion), indicating
that permissive women might be at a particularly high risk of social isolation.
•Nonpermissive men viewed the nonpermissive target more negatively in only half of all outcomes, and permissive men viewed him
either similarly to or more positively than the nonpermissive target in all but two outcomes (mate guarding and dislike of sexuality),
suggesting that permissive men are often not discriminated against by other men.