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Nice Guys Actually Do Get Laid More — But There’s a Catch

Nice, not “nice.”

Does having a nice-guy personality make it easier to get laid? While it might seem like a trick question, it’s not, I swear.

At MEL, we study the Nice Guy phenomenon closely, and it’s firmly established by now that many “nice guys” are entitled creeps in disguise who ape sensitivity to mask an ugly personality, then expect to be rewarded with sex for meeting already low standards for male behavior.

Complicating this further is the fact that much of our cultural messages insist that it’s bad boys who bag the most tail, and nice guys who finish last.

New research looking at how personality affects mating, however, pokes a hole in that fragile condom.

Australian researcher Stephen Whyte and his colleagues have published a paper on sex, offspring and the Big 5 — a broad measure of an individual’s openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, extraversion and neuroticism or emotional stability (also referred to as OCEAN) — and found that men who score highly on the test with a wider range of these traits tend to hook up more, and make more babies.

To find out which traits led to bigger scoring and more spawn, the researchers took data from a 2016 Australian sex survey of 3,000 heterosexual men and 1,500 heterosexual women. Participants took a Big 5 personality test, and also revealed how often, on average, they had sex in a week and how many children they had.

Generally, men and women who scored higher on extraversion — being talkative, assertive and energetic — had more partners and more sexual frequency, as well as those with higher scores on agreeableness, emotional stability and conscientiousness. In particular, the combination of high extraversion and lower openness for men led to having more children. (Openness generally refers to a person’s willingness to try new things, and lots of things.) For women, only higher agreeableness was correlated with more children.

Certain trait combinations were particularly potent for men. “The results showed certain trait combinations appear to result in higher sexual frequency and more offspring for select males,” Whyte said in a statement about the research. “The combinations producing higher sexual frequency for select males being high extraversion and high agreeableness, high extraversion and high conscientiousness, and high agreeableness with high conscientiousness.”

In essence, it’s what Whyte calls a “greater variance in male traits” that give them a dick up in the mating game, so to speak.

What’s new about this study is the understanding of the multiple personality traits and their interplay in terms of a man’s appeal as a sexual partner and potential father, but certain traits within the Big 5 have long been understood to translate to not just professional success and personal success, but also sexual success. Whyte’s study builds on previous work that found that extraverts are more likely to have sex at a younger age, and be more liberal about a range of sexual behaviors, but that men who are exceptionally extraverted can also be viewed by women as a bad bet for a father, because being super outgoing is sometimes associated with promiscuity. Promiscuity has also been connected with less agreeableness and conscientiousness.

So it’s clear there’s something like a personality recipe for being not just an appealing date, or hookup, but also longterm partner for mating, and it involves what we broadly think of overall as likability. Agreeableness was not as important for men as it was for women, but that’s because men can still be likable without being super-agreeable (jealous!).

This killer combo is what you might call very generally a nice guy — as in a charming, talkative, outgoing, decent person. (Dare I suggest a guy who actually asks his date questions and seems genuinely interested in the answers?) This man is not to be confused with a “Nice Guy,” who’s nice only until he doesn’t get the payoff he expects.

The former seems to do pretty all right with the ladies in this crazy world. The latter? He should be taking notes.