Surveys taken around the world about sexual habits of men and women all have one thing in common: men claim to have more sex partners over a lifetime than women. Supposedly, this reflects a primal urge for procreation. Men act promiscuously while women act more to provide a family unit for children.
There’s only one problem with this explanation. It doesn’t add up — literally:
One survey, recently reported by the federal government, concluded that men had a median of seven female sex partners. Women had a median of four male sex partners. Another study, by British researchers, stated that men had 12.7 heterosexual partners in their lifetimes and women had 6.5.
But there is just one problem, mathematicians say. It is logically impossible for heterosexual men to have more partners on average than heterosexual women. Those survey results cannot be correct. …
Sex survey researchers say they know that Dr. Gale is correct. Men and women in a population must have roughly equal numbers of partners. So, when men report many more than women, what is going on and what is to be believed?
The New York Times reports on four possibilities. One is that men go outside the population to add sex partners, but that seems highly unlikely given the disparity. If men on average have to have twice the number of women in a population for sex, wouldn’t tourist companies have discovered this market by now?
Another is prostitution. These surveys deliberately exclude sex workers as they would skew the statistics, but even if one granted that each prostitute had 1000 different partners, one would need 100,000 prostitutes to service 100 million men for just one extra sex partner. Possible, but not a serious explanation.
That leaves us with the obvious. Men exaggerate and women underestimate. That’s also a cultural norm; men with lots of partners are called alpha males, studs, and ladies’ men. Women with lots of partners get less attractive labels, like sluts, whores, and hotel heiresses. You think either can be trusted to be honest, even with the kind of privacy afforded by such surveys?
Or, it might just be that men are more forgettable. Not male CQ readers, mind you, who all could have challenged for the role of James Bond before Daniel Craig won the role, but the rest of the male population.
In any case, the problem with this logical conundrum is that it makes all of the data suspect from these surveys. Either the sample was bad or the respondents dishonest. When one finds this level of false answers in a survey, it automatically calls into question the veracity of the answers on other questions. And since this is seen in practically every sex survey conducted, it means that all of the data we’ve seen may be unreliable. Either that, or someone has misunderstood the math here.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire says the mathematicians interviewed confused means and medians. I think that men just like to exaggerate … and not ask for directions … and refuse to take medicine … and ….