Are hookups and sugar relationships “no big deal”?

Infidelity appears to be one of the most frequently reported reasons for divorce. In one study, individuals who engaged in infidelity reported significantly more one-night stands or “hookups” in their lifetime than those who did not engage in infidelity (6.3 vs 3.5 one-night stands, respectively). On a similar note, people in open relationships reported lower relationship happiness and lower sexual satisfaction than monogamous people. Both of those traits have been linked to higher rates of infidelity.

Concerning “sugar” relationships, data from over 2,000 participants (ages 18-28 years) show women’s and men’s accepting attitude toward companionship and/or sexual services in return for material compensation is associated with self-focused sexual motivation, Machiavellianism (manipulation, deception, and exploitation of others for selfish interests), subclinical psychopathy (impaired empathy, difficulty forming relational attachment, poor behavior control and long-term planning), and a borderline personality organization (inadequate or extreme emotional reactions, impulsive behavior, and lacking stability in relationships). These features are associated with a personality construct called the Dark Triad.

As an example, women who purposefully misrepresented their romantic interest in a man to dine at his expense (23-33% of women have engaged in these “booty calls” according to two studies), as well as those who show an accepting attitude toward such behavior, show relatively higher levels of the traits associated with the Dark Triad including Machiavellianism and subclinical psychopathy.


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  2. Mark KP, Janssen E, Milhausen RR. Infidelity in heterosexual couples: demographic, interpersonal, and personality-related predictors of extradyadic sex. Arch Sex Behav. 2011;40(5):971-982.
  3. Levine EC, Herbenick D, Martinez O, Fu TC, Dodge B. Open relationships, nonconsensual nonmonogamy, and monogamy among U.S. adults: Findings from the 2012 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Arch Sex Behav. 2018;47(5):1439-1450.
  4. Birkás B, Meskó N, Zsidó AN, Ipolyi D, Láng A. Providing Sexual Companionship for Resources: Development, Validation, and Personality Correlates of the Acceptance of Sugar Relationships in Young Women and Men Scale (ASR-YWMS). Front Psychol. 2020;11:1135.
  5. Collisson B, Howell JL, Harig T. Foodie calls: when women date men for a free meal (Rather than a relationship). Soc Psychol Pers Sci. 2019;11:425–432.

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