Study suggests women value clothes over sex

Dana Larson

Dana Larson

By Janice McDuffee

A closet filled with a brand new wardrobe, or spending over a year without sex, would the average woman actually choose fashion over a man?

According to a pre-Valentine poll taken by consumer products company Unilever, the average woman would prefer to abstain from sex for up to 15 months in exchange for a closet full of new clothes. Two percent of these women were willing to abstain for three years.

The poll was taken by 1,000 women in 10 U.S. cities, was unscientific and conducted via the Internet. However, the response to the results was covered by companies from Yahoo! to the New York Post with headlines revealing the news: women prefer clothes over sex.

While there may have been a more accurate way to conduct this study, the media embraced these results as the truth, and others remain unsurprised by the results.

“A woman’s wardrobe reflects her personality, and they see it as a big part of themselves,” said Joey Sula, freshman in LAS.

Sula also said that he believes the results would be very different if the survey questioned 1,000 men, because they would definitely choose sex over clothes.

On the other hand, more than half of the women, or 61 percent, responded that they would rather go without sex for a month than lose their favorite piece of clothing.

Carson Kressley, fashion designer and TV personality from the reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, released a statement with the poll results, which said “some people say clothes make the man, but the right clothes can even replace him.”

While only 54 percent of these women believe in love at first sight when it comes to a man, 70 percent believe they can instantly fall in love with an article of clothing. Also, almost half of the women, or 48 percent, responded that their clothing made them feel more confident than their partner.

Pat Gill, interim director of media studies and associate professor in gender studies, understood the results to have several meanings.

“This is an extraordinary testimony to the idea that feeling sexy is very different than having sex,” Gill said. “Or that even sexiness, and the sexual act can be totally unrelated.”

She said she believes there could be several factors that determine these responses from within the home and within society.

“It can depend if they’re in a relationship, if they’re not getting any … they’re not getting any,” Gill said.

She explained that pressures to look good in the workplace can be consuming.

“My friends that work in New York literally say that if they don’t dress right, they will be eaten alive at their jobs,” said Susan Davis, professor in the Institute of Communications Research and colleague of Gill.

This pressure, according to Gill, can take away from any confidence that is built at home with one’s partner.

“In our culture, confidence is gained by outward appearance, even if you are getting an emotionally rewarding, satisfying experience at home that often it isn’t enough to help you out in the work place,” Gill said.

Reshmi Mukherjee, teaching assistant in gender and women studies and graduate student in comparative and world literature, also agrees that the pressure of making a good appearance at work could be the determining factor to many of these women’s responses.

“It would be really stupid to say, ‘oh look women don’t like sex.’ Clothes are important for not just women, but also men (at work),” Mukherjee said. “It’s not so much a personal choice, it’s a political, economic choice.”

Mukherjee, like Gill, believes that whether or not these women were in relationships or had regular sexual partners is a major factor in their responses. However, she said she also thinks there are several other contributing elements.

“It depends on where you are coming from as in what social background, your economic background, your political background,” she said.

Regardless of these attributes, Mukherjee said that a very important reason some women may prefer clothes to sex lies in how clothes can help define one’s identity.

“How many of us actually define ourselves in terms of our sexual preference?” Mukherjee said.

There are numerous reasons as to why these women responded with a preference to clothes over sex. Whether women find that their clothes boost their confidence and therefore make the idea of feeling sexy more appealing than sex itself, or that they simply aren’t satisfied, remains unknown. Gill acknowledges all of these reasons and is not surprised that women would choose clothes over sex.

“I think it would be foolish not to suggest that sexual pleasure is not always so overwhelmingly wonderful that it supersedes a great wardrobe,” Gill said.