PETALING JAYA, March 15 — That arousal you feel when you see someone and label as “sexual interest” is hardly primal.
Instead, social psychologist and Monash University Malaysia lecturer Goh Pei Hwa said there are many factors that lead to someone’s sexual interest.
This includes one’s personality, socio-sexual orientation (how you feel about casual sex), gender, culture, mood and self-esteem.
How the person that you have zeroed in on in terms of behaviours, attractiveness and appearance also contributes to this perception.
She added that one shouldn’t trust one’s own perceptions as they were always biases and were often not accurate.
“It is a difficult task to assess whether another person has sexual interest in you,” she said.
However, she said that it has been proven that men often overestimate women’s sexual interest, and are commonly found to be inaccurate in their predictions when compared to women.
“Research shows that men’s emphasis on unreliable indicators, such as their momentary mood, are one reason why they misconstrue sexual interest,” she added.
“It is thus believed that when perceiving sexual interest, men who feel good may misattribute their positive feelings to the women.”
For example, she said, if you are in a positive environment such as night club, the positive setting — combined by music and alcohol — may activate sexual motivation.
This can lead to you having positive perception about the person you are interacting with, she said.
“It is also proven that alcohol consumption could lead to misperception of sexual interest. This is because alcohol affects the brain’s executive functioning, which helps your brain make decisions.
“Therefore, when that’s affected, you tend to make more mistakes in forming perception.”
Why do men overestimate women’s sexual interest?
Goh said evolution theory suggests that men’s tendency to over-perceive women’s sexual interest is shaped through years of evolution.
However, she said this is complimented by the nurture component such as social norms that emphasis on men’s sexual confidence.
“The evolutionary argument suggests that there are gender differences in terms of sexual motivation,” she said.
“The time and effort that’s invested in a successful sexual reproduction is different between men and women.”
According to her, society also views girls who are promiscuous as sluts but for men, it is a sign of masculinity.
“Therefore, the biological and social variables changes the way we think about sex and seek out to perform sexual acts,” she added.
In a recent study conducted by Goh, she demonstrated the moderating role of culture, as driven by values of social security, on the effect of mood on sexual interest perception among Malaysians and Swiss.
Taking into account various societal perceptions on genders shaped from cultural values, Goh said results revealed a diminishing effect of negative mood on sexual perceptions in the Swiss sample, but not significant mood differences in sexual perception were found in the Malaysian samples.