How many times a week do you think your best mate has sex? It’s a weird thing to imagine but that is the sort of question Ipsos researchers have put to rather a lot of volunteers.
The results? Most people — men especially — overestimate how often everyone else has sex compared to themselves. Social researcher and Perils of Perception author Bobby Duffy
undresses addresses this “remarkable error” in a piece for the BBC.
“As part of Ipsos’ long-running studies, we asked people in Britain and the US to guess how often people aged 18-29 in their country had sex in the past four weeks.
The average guess about young men in both countries is that they had sex 14 times in the last month. But the actual number is just five in Britain and four in the US, according to detailed surveys of sexual behaviour.”
“Our guess would mean that, on average, young men are having sex every other day – around 180 times a year – compared with the more mundane reality of around 50 times.”
But that’s not even our biggest mistake. As Duffy goes on to say, “Men are even more wildly wrong when they guess about young women’s sex lives, in both the US and Britain.”
Men think young women are having sex 22 times a month in Britain, and 23 times a month in the US. But in reality, it’s around five times.
Why is there such a mismatch? Duffy says it could be to do with its secrecy: “Unlike many other core human behaviours, where we can get a better idea of social norms from observation, sex mostly happens behind firmly closed doors,” (BBC).
“Because we don’t have access to very much real-life comparative information, we turn to other ‘authoritative’ sources: playground or locker room chat, dubious surveys, salacious media coverage and porn. These provide extreme examples and dodgy anecdotes that distort our views of reality.”
He also adds that there are cultural influences that encourage women to downplay the number of men they have slept with, and encourage men to bolster their own count, a phenomenon which The Atlantic and Salon have both explored in detail, myth-busting the idea that women have less of a sex drive than men.
“Women’s sexuality is not the rational, civilized and balancing force it’s so often made out to be…it is base, animalistic and ravenous, everything we’ve told ourselves about male sexuality,” (Salon).
However, despite this, studies show men are less choosy than women when it comes to sleeping around casually — suggesting that even though women may want sex just as much as men, they often don’t feel as confident engaging in it.
The solution? Researches and social psychologists agree that better understanding each others’ desires is important for women around the world to feel more confident in ‘getting some’ and for men to stop feeling pressure to be ‘getting heaps’.