The Scientific Study of People Who Are Single:
An Annotated Bibliography

Bella M. DePaulo
Chair, Academic Advisory Board of the Spectrum Institute
Research and Policy Division of the
American Association for Single People (AASP)

January 2, 2004


6. Intimacy, Love, Sexuality, and Celibacy


What is the role of intimacy, sexuality, and love in the lives of people who are single? In thinking about this question, it is useful to consider the meanings of love, sex, and intimacy as they are portrayed and understood within a culture, and how they have differed across cultures and over time. What is the value and importance ascribed to sex-linked relationships, relative to other kinds of relationships? Are notions of intimacy linked to sex, such that relationships not involving sex, no matter how close, are not considered intimate? What are the norms and values attached to sexual behavior–with regard to types of behaviors, contexts, frequency, and types and numbers of partners--at particular times and places? What are the links between sexuality and identity? The answers to these questions are likely to be important to the ways in which the lives of people who are single are understood and valued or devalued.

What do we actually know about sexual attitudes, behaviors, and motivations in society, and among people varying in civil or relationship status? Are single people likely to be celibate, even if they are not committed to celibacy by religious beliefs or roles? If not celibate, are they less sexually active or less interested in sex than people who are married? Or are they likely to be more sexually active and interested?

Other relevant questions include: How do people present themselves when pursuing sex-linked relationships? By contemporary American ideals, marriages are sexually exclusive relationships; what are the actual rates and patterns of sexual infidelity? Do men and women differ in their sexual drives, motives, or behaviors?

Abbott, E. (1999). A history of celibacy. Canada: Harper Collins.

Allon, N., & Fishel, D. (1981). Singles’ bars as examples of urban courting patterns. In P. J. Stein (Ed.), Single Life: Unmarried Adults in Social Context (pp.115-121). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Atkins, D. C., Baucom, D. H., & Jacobson, N. S. (2001). Understanding infidelity: Correlates in a national random sample. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 735-749.

Atwood, J. D. (1988). Sexually single again. In E. Weinstein & E. Rosen (Eds.), Sexuality counseling: Issues and implications (pp. 59-80). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347-374.

Baumeister, R. F., & Bratslavsky, E. (1999). Passion, intimacy, and time: Passionate love as a function of change in intimacy. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 49-67.

Baumeister, R. F., Catanese, K. R., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Is there a gender difference in strength of sex drive? Theoretical views, conceptual distinctions, and a review of relevant evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 242-273.

Bolig, R., Stein, P. J., & McKenry, P. C. (1984). The self-advertisement approach to dating: Male-female differences. Family Relations, 33, 587-592.

Brown, G. (1980). The new celibacy: Why more men and women are abstaining from sex–and enjoying it. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Brown, H. G. (1962). Sex and the single girl. NY: Random House.

Brown, H. G. (1970). Sex and the new single girl. NY: Bernard Geis Associates.

Cancian, F. M. (1987). Love in America: Gender and self-development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Christenson, C. V., & Johnson, A. B. (1973). Sexual patterns in a group of older never-married women. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 6, 80-98.

Cleveland, M. (1981). Sexuality in the middle years. In P. J. Stein (Ed.), Single Life: Unmarried Adults in Social Context (pp. 121-128). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Cobb, N. P., Larson, J. H., & Watson, W. L. (2003). Development of the attitudes about romance and mate selection scale. Family Relations, 52, 222-231.

D’Emilio, J. (1983). Sexual politics, sexual communities: The making of a homosexual minority in the United States, 1940-1970. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

D’Emilio, J., & Freedman, E. B. (1988). Intimate matters: A history of sexuality in America. NY: Harper & Row.

Dench, G. (Ed.). (1997). Rewriting the sexual contract. London: Institute of Community Studies.

Diamond, L. M. (2003). Was it a phase? Young women’s relinquishment of lesbian/bisexual identities over a 5-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 352-364.

Diamond, L. M. (2003). What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire. Psychological Review, 110, 173-192.

Drigotas, S. M., & Barta, W. (2001). The cheating heart: Scientific explorations of infidelity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 177-180.

Fraser, M. B. (2001). Solitaire: The intimate lives of single women. Toronto: Macfarlane, Walter, & Ross.

Gadlin, H. (1977). Private lives and public order: A critical view of the history of intimate relations in the United States. In G. Levinger & H. L. Raush (Eds.), Close relationships: Perspectives on the meaning of intimacy (pp.33-72). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Gaughan, M. (2002). The substitution hypothesis: The impact of premarital liaisons and human capital on marital timing. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 407-419.

Goldenberg, J. L., Pyszczynski, T., McCoy, S. K., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (1999). Death, sex, love, and neuroticism: Why is sex such a problem? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1173-1187.

Hochschild, A. R. (2003). The commercialization of intimate life: Notes from home and work. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Illouz, E. (1997). Consuming the romantic utopia: Love and the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kipnis, L. (2003). Against love: A polemic. NY: Pantheon.

Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Libby, R. W. (1977). Creative singlehood as a sexual life-style: Beyond marriage as a rite of passage. In Intimate alternatives to marriage (pp. 37-61).

Loulan, J. (1993). Celibacy. In E. D. Rothblum & K. Brehany (Eds.), Boston marriages: Romantic but asexual relationships among contemporary lesbians (pp. 62-69). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Michael, R. T., Gagnon, J. H., Laumann, E. O., & Kolata, G. (1994). Sex in America: A definitive survey. Boston: Little, Brown.

Peplau, L. A. (2003). Human sexuality: How do men and women differ? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 37-40.

Richardson, L. (1988). Sexual freedom and sexual constraint: The paradox for single women in liaisons with married men. Gender & Society, 2, 368-384.

Rubin, G. (1975). The traffic in women: Notes on the "political economy" of sex. In R. R. Reiter (Ed.), Toward an anthropology of women (pp. 157-210). NY: Monthly Review Press.

Schmidt, G. (1982). Sex and society in the eighties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 11, 91-97.

Smith, J. E., & Waldorf, V. A. (1990). "Single white male looking for thin, very attractive..." Sex Roles, 23, 675-685.

Swidler, A. (2001). Talk of love: How culture matters. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Theodorson, G. A. (1965). Romanticism and motivation to marry in the United States, Singapore, Burma, and India. Social Forces, 44, 17-27. (Includes report of % wishing to marry in each place.)

Treas, J., & Giesen, D. (2000). Sexual infidelity among married and cohabiting Americans. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 48-60.

Tucker, M. B., & Taylor, R. J. (1997). Gender, age, and marital status as related to romantic involvement among African American singles. In R. J. Taylor, J. J. Jackson, & L. M. Chatters (Eds.), Family life in Black America (pp. 79-94). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Whitehead, B. D., & Popenoe, D. (2001). Who wants to marry a soul mate? New survey findings on young adults’ attitudes about love and marriage. National Marriage Project, Rutgers University.

Williams, W. L. (1986). The spirit and the flesh: Sexual diversity in American Indian culture. Boston: Beacon Press.

Willis, F. N., & Carlson, R. A. (1993). Singles ads: Gender, social class, and time. Sex Roles, 29, 387-404.


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