New psychology research indicates that “dark” personality traits are associated with the desire for sexual attention. The study found that narcissism strongly predicted desire for sexual attention in men but not women, while Machiavellianism strongly predicted desire for sexual attention in women but men.
The findings have been published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“The desire some people have to be noticed and receive sexual attention from others influences a range of behaviors including flirting, obsessing over one’s looks, and even keeping online dating profiles active despite being ‘unavailable,'” said study author Peter O’Connor, a professor at QUT Business School.
“Currently however, we know very little about why some people desire sexual attention more than others, and whether it is linked to a range of personality traits and demographic factors (age, sex, etc). The objective of our study was to develop a measure of the desire for sexual attention and determine why some people score higher on this characteristic than others.”
For their study, the researchers surveyed 200 Australian residents who were 18 to 80 years old regarding their desire for sexual attention, bonds with their parents, and dark personality traits.
“We found that it is quite normal to desire sexual attention from others — particularly in young, single people,” O’Connor said.
There was no significant difference between men and women in how strongly they agreed with statements such as “I have a strong desire for [the opposite sex] to find me attractive” and “One of the reasons I like to stay in good physical shape is so that [members of the opposite sex] find me desirable.”
“We found that about 5% of our sample had extreme scores on new our measure (i.e. they reported a strong desire to receive sexual attention across all of our questions measuring this),” O’Connor told PsyPost. “One surprising finding was that the desire for sexual attention was not substantially lower in people who reported being in a relationship.”
The researchers also found that various measures of dark personality traits and parental bonding were associated with desire sexual attention. Psychopathy, for instance, was a predictor of desire for sexual attention in both men and women.
“The reason for scoring high on our measure was different for men and women. Men high in narcissism were most likely to desire sexual attention whereas for women, Machiavellianism was the strongest predictor. Women scoring high in the desire for sexual attention were also slightly more likely to report having overprotective fathers,” O’Connor said.
“Given that Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and deception, it is possible that women’s desire for sexual attention has a strategic element,” the researchers wrote in their study.
But the study — like all research — includes some limitations. “Our study was conducted on a relatively small, but representative sample of Australians. Given the small sample size it is important to replicate our findings,” O’Connor said.
“Some have interpreted our findings regarding paternal overprotectiveness and female desire for sexual attention as being evidence for ‘daddy issues’. On the contrary however, we found that females reporting overprotective (rather than absent) fathers were more likely to score highly on our measure,” he added.
“Overprotective fathers give more, rather than less attention to their children during development and our findings might simply reflect the fact that people crave what they have been conditioned to expect (i.e. a lot of attention from attachment figures). These findings might even be true for males with overprotective parents but our sample may have been too small to detect these effects.”
The study, “The desire for sexual attention: Relationship with dark triad traits and parental bonding factors“, was authored by Peter J.O. Connor, Andrew Spark, and Maria Kaya.