I've never felt the need to lie about the number of sexual partners I've had. Whether my number was zero or a thousand, I don't really think that makes any difference as to who I am as a person. I always thought my stance on the topic was because I'm generally pretty secure with myself. But, as it turns out, my gender could play a role in that stance. You see, if I was a guy, there's a chance I'd be more inclined to lie. Why do guys exaggerate their number of sexual partners, you ask? Well, a new study got to the bottom of that very question.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow sought answers to explain why studies have proven over and over that straight men tend to have more sexual partners over the course of their lifetime than straight women do. They referred to the discrepancy as the "gender gap."
"Most existing studies of reporting bias are limited to students or high-risk populations, or are conducted as 'laboratory' settings, so they don't show how members of the public respond in a 'real-life' survey,” Dr. Kirstin Mitchell, lead author of the study and senior research fellow at the University of Glasgow Institute of Health and Wellbeing, told Newsweek. “To our knowledge, our study is the first attempt to look at all the key types of explanation for the gender discrepancy within the same large and representative sample."
In order to conduct their study published in the Journal of Sex Research , the team studied over 15,000 responses of men and women between the ages of 16 and 74 in a survey called the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.
The study did not exclude participants based on sexual orientation. "These results are relevant to anyone who has had a partner of the opposite sex," Mitchell told Newsweek. "Participants were included in our analysis regardless of sexual orientation or identity, because individuals identifying as gay or lesbian may also report at least one opposite-sex partner."
Based on the survey responses, they were able to conclude that women reported having half as many partners as men. Specifically, on average, men said they had 14 partners, while women reported having had seven.
So that confirms the whole "gender gap" thing they were talking about... But why is this happening? What's the deal?
One possible explanation the study found was the differing attitudes men and women had towards sex. In general, women had a tendency to be more conservative. For example, only eight percent responded that one-night stands are “not wrong at all," whereas 18 percent of men said the same. Another example is premarital sex. A whopping 65 percent of women surveyed believed it was "always wrong," compared to just 57 percent of men who said the same.
So, it could be true that women tend to be more conversative than men, but there's another reason: men are more likely to exaggerate their number of sexual partners, or estimate their number instead of keeping an accurate tally.
If men really are failing to accurately report their numbers, we may have a scientific problem on our hands. According to Newsweek, Dr. Mitchell argues in a statement that keeping track of your number and being able to truthfully report it in surveys is extremely important to researchers hoping to collect (hopefully accurate) data on the spread of STIs.
Your "number" doesn't define who you are as a person, but it may provide useful insight into your health and the health of others around you. There's no shame in your number, whatever it is — so try to keep track of it properly.
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