Washington, April 28 : Ever wondered why things go wrong during amorous and passionate bedroom trysts? Well, a new study has given the answer, by finding that men frequently misread signals from women that they want to slow down, and women are often indirect in saying what they mean.
According to UC Davis communication professor Michael Motley, faulty male introspection may explain why men so often misinterpret women's indirect messages to stop or slow down the escalation of sexual intimacy.
"When she says 'It's getting late,' he may hear 'So let's skip the preliminaries,'" Motley said.
"The problem is that he is interpreting what she said by trying to imagine what he would mean -- and the only reason he can imagine saying 'It's getting late' while making out is to mean 'Let's speed things up'" he added.
Motley calls it the "introspection" explanation.
"Males' inferred meanings for women's indirect sexual resistance messages are more similar to the meanings males would have intended by those same messages than to the meanings women intend," he said.
Previous research has found that up to 85 percent of college women have had at least one experience in which a man attempts to escalate physical intimacy beyond the point that she has said "stop," experiences they usually regard as unpleasant.
His findings are based on surveys of male and female undergraduates. He investigated their reactions to 16 common "female resistance messages" -- and found that the subtle ones fall flat. Telling a man "let's be friends" as a brushoff was as likely to be interpreted as 'keep going' as 'stop,' " he found.
In one study, Motley gave 30 female and 60 male UC Davis undergraduates a multiple-choice questionnaire that asked about 16 common "female resistance messages." he messages ranged from very direct -- "Let's stop this" -- to very indirect -- "I'm seeing someone else." Four potential interpretations were listed for each message; only one was "stop."
For "I'm seeing someone else," for example, the following four interpretations were listed: a) You want to go further but you want him to know that it doesn't mean that you're committed to him; b) You want to go further but you want him to be discreet, so that the other guy doesn't find out; c) You want to go further but you want him to realize, in case you end up "going together," that you may do this with someone else while you're seeing him; d) You don't want to go further.
The women in the study were asked to recall a time when they used one of the messages, and to choose the answer that best matched what they meant when they said it. alf of the men were asked to recall a time when they were with a woman who communicated each message, and to choose the interpretation that best matched what they thought the woman meant when she said it. The other 30 men were instructed to choose the interpretation that best matched what they would mean if they were to communicate the messages.
The questionnaire study showed that men were accurate at interpreting direct resistance messages like "Let's stop this." But they were as apt to interpret "Let's be friends" to mean "keep going" as to mean "stop." And few of them would mean "stop" if they were to deliver any of the indirect messages themselves.
In related studies, Motley has also shown that most women use indirect messages out of concern that men will be offended or angered by direct messages -- but that most men actually accept direct resistance messages easily and without negative reactions.
The findings were published in the 2008 book Motley edited called "Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication."