Health & Wellness

Why selfless people have the best sex lives

If you want to get some, give some.

That’s the gist of new research showing altruists — those selfless people who care about others — have the best chance of getting lucky with potential sexual partners. Though the research, which was recently published in the British Journal of Psychology, doesn’t show altruism causes you to have more sex, it does seem that altruism may put you in the best position (no pun intended) to find a willing partner.

To try to determine whether altruism makes you hotter to the opposite sex, and whether that altruistic hotness translates to doing the deed more often than the rest of us, Canadian researchers conducted two trials.

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In the first study, the researchers surveyed participants, ages 18 to 33, regarding their altruistic behaviors, sexual histories and whether they thought they were desirable to the opposite sex. Results showed men and women who scored higher on altruism also said they were quite desirable to the opposite sex. But men who scored higher on altruism also reported more sexual partners and casual hook-ups, compared to female participants.

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If altruistic participants were in long-term relationships, those men and women said they had more sex over the last 30 days.

Because of a tendency for men to over-report sex, and for women to under-report sexual encounters, the researchers designed a second trial controlling for traits like narcissism, among others, explained lead author Dr. Steven Arnocky, associate professor of psychology at Nipissing University, in Ontario, Canada.

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At the end of this survey, participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 47, were entered into a drawing to win $100. The catch: they were given a choice to donate or keep the cash. Even after controlling for variables, the study found the selfless donors still had more sex.

While altruism was desirable to both genders, the effect of being altruistic had a greater effect on a man’s success of getting some. In other words, “male altruists have higher mating success than non-altruists, whereas female altruists don't benefit quite as much,” explained co-author Dr. Pat Barclay, associate professor of psychology at the University of Guelph, located in Ontario, Canada.

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One possible reason for the variable finding between men and women is that, “On average, women typically need to worry more than men do about lack of commitment, or him being a bad parent, or being violent,” he explained. That translates into women being more diligent about looking for cues that a partner is “decent,” he said. “Someone who is altruistic now is less likely to act like a jerk later.”

The study results were surprising to the researchers. “Although the literature is fairly clear that we prefer altruists for long-term mating, the literature is mixed regarding whether altruism is desirable in shorter-term mates,” Arnocky said.

For others, the results just made sense. “Any partner knows that cooperation and generosity are key, and that four hands are better than two,” said Dr. Stephen Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in New York. “In general, nice guys finish first, as do nice gals,” he said. “Who wants to marry a ‘schmuck’?”

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But what about those “bad boys” who many women may find attractive (at least on occasion)?

“In reality, ‘bad boys’ may seem desirable, but they're probably not desirable because of the badness, but in spite of it,” Barclays said, citing that other desirable traits like boldness, status and physical attractiveness may be the attraction, rather than the “badness” of “the bad boy.”

Previous research does show “badness” is not a trait that is particularly liked in and of itself, according to Barclay. “When we think about it, that really shouldn't be that surprising," he said.

The moral of the study? Giving is always a good idea — in and out of the bedroom.

This story is part of NBCU's Share Kindness. Follow the series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #ShareKindness

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