To test this idea, Baranowski and Hecht concocted a new study.
In this version, the subjects – men and women both – were invited into the lab under the pretense that they would be taking part in a study to help a popular dating site adjust and calibrate its compatibility matrix.
A woman’s response of “I have a boyfriend”, for example is taken as a challenge rather than as as soft no; PUAs are supposed to assume that this boyfriend is a fake and will mysteriously disappear when he’s demonstrated his higher value.
In practice what happens is that you end up getting men who are demonstrating that they are poorly socially calibrated and uncomfortably aggressive – suggesting that not only are they going to be shit in bed, but they’re potentially dangerous.
This rather neatly puts a stake in the heart of many of the evo-psych arguments about who’s biologically programmed to want sex; as soon as the social and safety factors are eliminated, the difference in interest for casual sex is negligible.
Of course, this is in a laboratory setting, which by its nature is going to affect the answers.
But despite its flaws and mistaken conclusions, it hangs in as part of the accepted wisdom of gender relations.