What do women look for in a one-night stand vs a long term relationship?

For both men and women, one night stands were primarily about physical attractiveness. Attractiveness and agreeableness were key for long term relationships.

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Another key factor (much more for women than for men) was dominance. See the diagram above. Physical dominance in a man made him appealing for a one night stand. Social dominance (leadership, etc) led to female interest in a longer term relationship.

Dominance is a key feature on which romantic partners are evaluated, yet there is no clear consensus on its definition. In Study 1 (N = 305), the authors developed scales to measure three putatively distinct dimensions of dominance: social, financial, and physical. In Study 2 (N = 308), the authors used their scales in a mate-selection paradigm and found that women perceived physical dominance to be related to both attractiveness and social dominance. For both sexes, attractiveness predicted desirability for a one-night stand, whereas attractiveness and agreeableness were predictors of desirability for a serious relationship. In Study 3 (N = 124), the authors surveyed romantic partners in monogamous relationships and found that although aspects of a partner’s dominance—financial for women and social for men—played a bivariate role in relationship satisfaction, agreeableness was the strongest predictor of current and future relationship satisfaction and the only significant predictor of relationship dissolution.

Source: “The Big, the Rich, and the Powerful: Physical, Financial, and Social Dimensions of Dominance in Mating and Attraction” from Pers Soc Psychol Bull 2011 37: 365 originally published online 20 January 2011

For more on the subject, check out A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire.

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