Credit: Sexpression

Why do you even like me? A panel on the science of sex and attraction.

Let’s talk about sex, baby.

On the night before Valentine’s Day, Sexpression St Andrews and the St Andrews Neuroscience Society collaborated in holding a panel discussion on the very relevant themes of sex and attraction. With my invitation fairly last minute, and with such a curious title, I was not too sure what to expect.

Held at the StAge, in a converted 601, the hosts of the night were immensely warm, welcoming the crowd with a delicious cheese and cracker reception. This was to provide a brief opportunity for the audience to chat to the members of the Sexpression committee, whether it be about the event itself, or what Sexpression actually does.

By 6:30, there was a relatively decent-turn out despite it being one of the coldest nights of the year so far. The night kicked off with an introduction from Joanna Stewart of Sexpression. Fun and super bubbly, Joanna’s presentation was the perfect ingredient in creating the cheerful and lighthearted atmosphere that characterised the rest of the night. Joanna’s presentation was focused primarily around what the role of the charity was, both in St Andrews, and in a broader context of Sexpression UK, particularly emphasising their successful workshops that discuss a range of issues including body image, consent and puberty.

The first presentation of the night, ‘The Evolution of Not Ejaculating’, was led by School of Biology professor, Dr David Shuker. With such a title, I think we were all a little unsure in which direction the discussion would head, but Dr Shuker proved to be both entertaining and fascinating. He first introduced us to the ‘classic’ understanding of the sexual differences between males and females in the animal kingdom, and analysed whether they stood up when held against the research. Dr Shuker explained that whilst many of the key points of the classic understanding did in fact prove to be mostly true, significant nuance did exist between different species in terms of the roles that male and females played during reproduction. Whilst there was definitely a significant number of giggles, especially when Dr Shuker played some videos of different insects mating, the talk itself was intriguing, and for most, something that people had not really considered before.

Credit: Cassi Ainsworth-Grace

The final speaker of the night was Dr David Perret of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience. Speaking on the topic ‘Attractiveness and Attraction’, Dr Perret went through analysis of what it is exactly that attracts us to different individuals. He began with how the amount of redness in our skin affects how attractive we are perceived to be, with the more oxygenated our blood (or the more red), the more we are considered to be attractive to others. He then moved onto a discussion of whether our level of fame affects if people are attracted to us, concluding that for women in particular, we tend to be drawn to the celebrity type.

Most entertaining of all, and highly relevant to the approaching Valentine’s Day was the topic of ‘who should pay for the date’. Dr Perret’s evidence concluded that often our own perception of ourselves affects whether we want the other person to pay, with women who consider themselves to be attractive often expecting the other person to pay.

Credit: Cassi Ainsworth-Grace

Dr Perret’s presentation was followed by a very thought-provoking Q&A session. Members of the crowd questioned whether the studies and the evidence were too heteronormative, and whether the research considered the effect, for example, of oxygenated blood on attraction of people with darker skin. Dr Perret answered these questions very admirably, and gave both a detailed analysis of the particular cases, but also admitted where the research was lacking in certain areas, and his interests to explore this down the line.

Following such a successful event, it is clear that future Sexpression events give much to look forward to. Being for such an incredible cause, I would be delighted to see more people attend and engage with the group and their events in the future.

Credit: Sexpression

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