New research indicates that straight men who play guitar in extreme metal bands do it to impress other straight men

Cradle Of Filth's guitarists on stage in London
(Image credit: Getty)

John Lennon once famously suggested that "one of the main reasons to get on stage is that it's the quickest way of making contact." He was, of course, talking about getting laid. It's certainly true that the historically male-dominated arena of rock 'n' roll has led to some unhealthy dynamics when it comes to sex, but do that many straight men who play guitar really do it to boost their chances with women?

According to a new study, there's actually another, surprising factor in play - at least when it comes to extreme metal. Following a spicy truth-nugget shared by the official Twitter account of QI - the British TV panel show based around interesting facts and whose social media channels are run by a thorough team of researchers - a new study has indicated that the reason many straight male guitarists begin playing extreme metal is off to other straight male guitarists.

"Research shows that heterosexual men who learn to play extreme metal guitar are mostly motivated to do so in order to impress other heterosexual men," reads QI's Tweet, posted yesterday (October 2). Needless to say, it sparked an immediate debate, most of which, unlike much of social media, was actually in good jest.

One user even went and found the original study, conducted by Tara DeLecce, Farid Pazhoohi, Anna Szala and Todd K. Shackelford, on which QI's Tweet was based. Conducted earlier this year and posted on Psychnet, while the minutiae of the research involved is behind a paywall, Psychnet's summary reveals that 44 straight male guitarists were surveyed for the study. While the results do reveal that some aspects of playing guitar are linked to a desire to get laid (which is a bit depressing - come on, lads, it's 2022), other aspects intrinsically linked to extreme metal are rooted in mens' desire to impress their fellow guitar bros.

"There are two main competing hypotheses for the function of music: sexual selection or byproduct of the complexity of the human brain," the study states. "Although there is evidence that playing music increases male attractiveness, the sexual selection explanation may not be mutually exclusive to all types of music."

The study goes on to highlight that extreme metal music in particular is a genre of rock that is dominated by men both on stage and off, so the "sexual selection" theory might not apply.

"Extreme metal is a genre that is heavily male-biased, not only among the individuals that play this style of music, but also among the fans of the genre," it continues. "Therefore, it is unlikely that extreme metal musicians are primarily trying to increase their mating success through their music. However, musicians in this genre heavily invest their time in building technical skills (e.g., dexterity, coordination, timing), which raises the question of the purpose behind this costly investment. It could be that men engage in this genre mainly for status-seeking purposes: to intimidate other males with their technical skills and speed and thus gain social status."

"To explore the reasoning behind investment in technical guitar skills," it explains, "a sample of 44 heterosexual male metal guitarists was recruited and surveyed about their practicing habits...sexual behavior...and feelings of competitiveness toward the same sex."

Revealing the study's findings, the site notes: "The survey results indicated that time spent playing chords predicted desire for casual sex with women whereas perceptions of playing speed positively predicted intrasexual competitiveness (a desire to impress other men)."

So there you go. The faster the shredding, the more you're trying to show off to your guy mates, apparently! We'd take these findings with a pinch of salt (44 is hardly the most definitive sample number), so don't get too bent out of shape if you're one of the many straight male extreme metal guitarists out there who simply play because extreme metal is fucking awesome! Just be aware that, if the research is to be believed, there may be some peers out there who are determined to out-noodle you.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.