I recently ran a survey about whether women date assholes. Since I was already collecting information about people’s assholishness and their sexual history, I thought I would also test another hypothesis of mine.
Sociosexual orientation is your willingness to engage in sex outside of a committed relationship. In general, people with an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (that is, who enjoy sex with people they don’t know very well) are assholes. However, the unrestricted people I know– including myself– are all perfectly nice. I wondered if perhaps this was because in sexually conservative communities having lots of casual sex means leading on people who want to be in a relationship with you, while in my community having lots of casual sex means you like a lot of different people.
There were 440 responses. Of these, 27 were deleted for being monogamous, single but preferring monogamy, or aromantic-asexual, leaving us with 413 responses. Since all participants are answering a survey about polyamory, it is assumed that they are all in sex-positive communities. If this is not true, it may be a weakness of the survey.
I used several different ways of operationalizing assholery. I used the Ten Item Personality Measure, which measures the Big Five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Disagreeableness is the trait of being untrusting, selfish, cold, and uncooperative. In retrospect, while I was using the shortest inventories for each I could find to avoid burdening my respondents, I should have used a more detailed Big Five instrument. The TIPI caused the most complaints among my respondents, and I am afraid that I lost some accuracy in measurement by using such a short instrument.
I also used the Dark Triad of Personality instrument. The Dark Triad of Personality measures three personality traits: machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. People high in machiavellianism manipulate, exploit, and deceive others. People high in narcissism are proud, egotistical, and unlikely to empathize with others. People high in psychopathy are impulsive, selfish, remorseless, and prone to antisocial behavior.
Finally, I used the Conflict Tactics Scale, which measures abusiveness. While the Conflict Tactics Scale has often been criticized by feminist researchers, it is the easiest method I am aware of to measure abusiveness. The Conflict Tactics Scale was the only one I edited (I changed some wording to make it be poly-inclusive, and I do not think this is likely to have a significant effect on the results). There were many critiques from respondents that the Conflict Tactics Scale did not make it sufficiently clear that questions about hitting your partner and forcing them into sex excluded doing so as part of kink play. While all respondents who complained understood what was meant and excluded kink, it is possible that some respondents did not.
I used one measure of sociosexuality, the Revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory. Two-thirds of the questions on the Revised Sociosexual Orientation Inventory measure desire for casual sex, not how much casual sex you actually have; however, one third are about actual amount of casual sex had.
The p-value of the correlation between extroversion and sociosexuality is significant at .000001. The r-value is 0.235, which is moderate. I can conclusively state that extroverts have higher sociosexualities than introverts. This is not particularly surprising.
The p-value of the correlation between openness and sociosexuality is .0001. The r-value is 0.156, which is small. Highly open people have higher sociosexualities than people who are not highly open. This is also not particularly surprising.
The p-value of the correlation between narcissism and sociosexuality is .00000002. The r-value is 0.269, which is moderate. Narcissists have higher sociosexualities than non-narcissists.
The p-value of the correlation between psychopathy and sociosexuality is .00000000008. The r-value is 0.311. This is the largest effect on our survey. However, one of the questions on the psychopathy instrument is “I enjoy having sex with people I hardly know,” which seems likely to confound the data. After I dropped that item, the p-value was .007 and the r-value was .13. This suggests that psychopaths have higher sociosexualities than non-psychopaths, but the effect is small.
The p-value of the correlation between abusiveness and sociosexuality is .009. The r-value is .129. Again, abusive people have higher sociosexualities than non-abusive people, but the effect is small.
No other results were significant.
This is my current model for explaining the data; it may be inaccurate. I think I was right that people with unrestricted sociosexualities in sex-positive communities are less likely to be jerks, because in a non-sex-positive community having a lot of casual sex often means leading people on and other anti-social behavior. That explains why disagreeableness and machiavellianism are no different between poly people with unrestricted sociosexualities and poly people with restricted sociosexualities, even though unrestricted people in the general population tend to be more machiavellian and disagreeable.
However, I failed to take into account that psychopaths tend to have an unrestricted sociosexuality, and that there is no reason to believe that this is different between poly and monogamous communities. I believe this also explains the abusiveness data. The effect size for psychopathy is quite small, which I think reflects the reality that while psychopaths tend to be unrestricted most unrestricted people are not psychopaths.
Finally, I think that people with unrestricted sociosexualities do tend to be extroverted and narcissistic. While I don’t observe this trend personally, I think that this is probably because I either am bad at noticing narcissists or tend to interact with people similar to myself (introverted and non-narcissistic).