Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Jonathan Cheek


Evolutionary psychology relies heavily on sex-based, biological differences to explain disparities in unrestricted attitudes and casual sex behavior. The present study explores the relations among personality (in particular, Maslow’s construct of “dominance-feeling”), sexual attitudes, and women’s sexual behavior as an alternative explanation. Eighty-nine Wellesley College women reported their attitudes concerning casual sex, completed personality measures, and reported their past and expected number of sexual partners to investigate 1) whether or not Maslow’s 1942 theory and measure of dominance-feeling apply to present-day women and 2) which personality traits are correlated with measures of attitudes toward casual sex and of previous sexual behavior. Dominance-feeling was found to be a reliable measure (α = .80) that correlated strongly with other relevant personality measures used, indicating that it still communicates modern concepts to college women. Dominance-feeling was, on average, the most strongly correlated with unrestricted attitudes and casual sex, with sensation-seeking as a close second. It is concluded that the construct of dominance-feeling in the present sample (which, with additional data, may extend to larger populations) provides a better, more full explanation for individual differences in sexual attitudes and behaviors than male-female differences alone.