- Gender and Relationships
Am I Too Sexually Experienced for My Age (Or Not Enough?)
by Kathy Batesel
“She’s such a slut!” “Man, that guy gets all the chicks!” “She really needs to get laid.” There’s no doubt that people are judgmental and speculative about others’ sexual prowess. Have you ever wondered what people would think if they knew your sexual history? Here’s a reality check that will help you determine if you’re “gone wild” or “gone mild.”
According to the National Health Statistics Report (NHSR) released by the Centers for Disease Control in March, 2011, approximately 10.4% of women and 27.2% of men have had more than 15 sexual partners by the time they’ve reached 44 years old. For men, the median number of sexual partners over their lifetime was 7, while women reported having had 4 partners during their lifetimes. Um… Houston, we have a problem!
You see, typical sexual encounters involve one male, and one female. If 100 encounters take place, then 100 men and 100 women each had one partner. In order for the 7:4 ratio to make any sense, there must be another variable. Scientists agree that the ratios are mathematically impossible, but don’t know what variable can explain the discrepancy.
If we know that the average number of sex partners should be equal, why isn't it?
Could it be that most people are kinky folks who have had man-man-woman ménage a trois? Unlikely. A deeper investigation is needed.
“Whatever number men claim should be divided by three, and the number claimed by women should be multiplied by three,” is a statement that reflects a commonly held belief that men inflate their numbers to demonstrate sexual prowess, while women protect their reputations by minimizing the number.
Psychologist Norman R. Brown, a visiting research scientist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, believes the issue isn’t quite so simple. In web-based surveys he and his colleagues conducted, he attempted to study the issue of honesty in self-reporting. In his studies, women reported an average of 8.6 partners, and men an average of 39.9 partners, but during later questions in the same survey, 21% of respondents said they’d knowingly given an inaccurate number. (Based on the discrepancies between the numbers reported in Brown’s research and those reported by the NHSR, it does appear men inflate their numbers by a much higher percentage than women! Unfortunately, it doesn’t show whether women are minimizing or not.)
Brown concludes that men and women use different methods to recall the number of partners they’ve had. “Men are more than twice as likely to use rough approximation,” a method he says leads to overestimation. When he asked women to justify their responses, they counted off partners by name, which Brown says leads to underestimation.
Another possibility is that some women have a great deal of sex with many partners, but their statistics are left out. Sevgi O. Aral, one of the researchers responsible for obtaining the NHSR data, reports that prostitutes are not included in the NHSR surveys, but he believes the effect would be negligible.
The bottom line is that nobody knows for certain who qualifies as a saint or a slut. Whatever your number is, a person who is crazy about you will think that you’ve got just the right amount of experience, and everyone else will have a personal opinion that’s probably as mistaken as it is judgmental.
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