Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Do men have more sexual partners?

Men supposedly have 2 to 4 times as many sexual partners in their lifetime as women. But is this the real picture?

A larger number of sexual partners may be the consequence of sexism, which works in men’s favour because regularly changing sexual partners is an achievement to them. But how do we know that men give honest answers in the surveys that concern this question? Despite more sexual freedom for women from 1960`s, women can still intentionally hold things back.

Psychologist Norman Brown, who’s interested in the background of fabrications about the number of sexual partners, says that the hypothesis about mighty stallions and eternal virgins has no firm basis. The catch isn’t really that either men or women intentionally come up with a larger or smaller number of sexual partners, but the focus is on the method by which men and women even determine whom they should consider as their sexual partner.

How do women determine the number of sexual partners?
”Women are more likely to rely on enumeration,” says Brown, working at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. They tend to say `I just know,` and if you ask them to explain how they know, they’ll start naming the men from their past. If the enumeration logic continues in this fashion, namely from the unclear to the concrete, this could mean that this woman is belittling all her past physical contacts which she called important at a given moment when the man was present.

Male strategy?
They will more or less tell the number of sexual partners according to the strategy of “approximation”. Their method is about overstating the actual number of women they were sexually intimate with.

With the joint powers of research, the phenomenon was also examined by Robert Sinclair and Sean Moore, the former from the University of Laurentian and the latter from Augustana College. They conducted several studies on the subject with regard to the truthfulness of both sexes. Their most expansive study was an internet survey from 2005. It included 2065 heterosexual people with sexual experiences. They were all approximately 40 years old. The average number of sexual partners was 8.6 with women and 31.9 with men. You may find nothing unusual with these numbers, but both the author of this article and the researchers were astounded by this overblown figure from men.

To assess to what an extent the results were a matter of discrepancy due to people answering the questions using different methods of counting the number of sexual partners, and to determine to what degree the number was merely a lie, they first asked them only for the number and then about the amount of respect their partners felt for them. Later, they also asked them about the truthfulness of the answers they gave in the survey.

Many fabricate the number of sexual partners
It turned out exactly as the research team expected: 5% of men and 4% of women hinted that they weren’t truthful with their answers, and a further 16% of men and 11% of women said they gave an answer they knew didn’t show a realistic picture. In the last question that concerned truthfulness in general, 21% of men and 15% of women admitted that they simply made up the number of sexual partners. Conclusion: “They gave an answer and then two minutes later admitted they had lied about the answer”, stresses Brown.

Among other things, men particularly used the principle of “approximation”, approximating the number of sexual partners. When the researchers removed people who were making approximations from the research, the contradictions were greatly reduced. The results really excited them. Brown described the people who exaggerate in this respect: they get so caught in their own discrepancies because they’re “liars who lie about lying”.


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