Sex Research: It Doesn’t Fit Me, It Must Be Wrong

A couple of people who joined the discussion on how women and men “do sex” questioned research findings I had cited because the data didn’t fit their experience.

 There is reason for concern. Often, people want to look good, normal and acceptable, even when they are anonymous.

 Prudish people are more likely to throw sex surveys in the trash. People who have more interest in sex are more likely to fill them out.

 Men exaggerate the number of partners they’ve had, while women under estimate theirs.

 Some people who are gay or lesbian may be in denial, or they may fear someone finding out, so their numbers may be underestimated.

 Trying to look normal, most people say they have sex with their spouse once a week, since that’s the number they always hear.

 At the same time, the data is based on a larger swath of the population than most of us interact with.

 Most of us are friends with people who are like us, and who share our views. That’s why they are friends. And our group may not be typical.

 One person who felt the studies didn’t fit his experience is in an open marriage, which constitutes less than 1% of the population. That’s not your typical group. Another is a feminist, also not typical of the population. A group of Southern Baptists would probably see things differently from these two.

 Keep in mind that research reflects averages. You and your friends may not be typical.

 We also tend to project our own views onto others. If we love sex, we don’t get that others don’t. If we think sex is dull, we have a hard time believing that others love it.

 From the comments I’ve posted, it is clear that there is no one way that men or women behave. There is no one attitude.

 But there are some strong social patterns:

  • Surveys say men want, on average, 14 partners over a lifetime, while women say they want 1 or 2
  • Women report enjoying sex less than men
  • While prostitution finds plenty of male customers, female customers are in short supply. Gigolos are practically a myth
  • Playgirl is perennially bankrupt, yet the male porn audience is huge
  • Hooking up: College women get bored quickly and exit the scene, but college men want to continue casual sex even after leaving college
  • Men are usually more enthusiastic about open marriage or swinging, and more often initiate the idea
  • Male fantasies are more x-rated; female fantasies revolve more around romance
  • For more survey data on how much women and men say they enjoy sex, see: DO Women Like Sex Less Than Men?

Is this conversation dated?

One woman commented:

  • I came out of the feminist 70’s and this conversation seems a little dated.  Really, we can do whatever we want to do and who cares? 

Yet this issue still comes up with my 18, 19, and 20-something students. They still feel the conversation is relevant.

Another woman’s perspective:

  • While we are free to do what we want, what good is the freedom when you feel used and discarded?

Or slut-shamed?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 25, 2010, in feminism, gender, men, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think there is no way to determine who enjoys sex more between men and women. Chances are there are just as many women out there who enjoy sex quite a bit as there are men who really don’t like sex as much as it is assumed men like sex

    • Ok. I’ll be discussing sexual repression, which targets women much more heavily than men, as the series goes on. There is a lot of evidence that repression has negative effects on the enjoyment of sex. Various other data also suggest that men enjoy it more, such as self-report and the extent to which women and men seek out sex. So there are social patterns. That’s not to say that many individual women might not enjoy sex as much, or more, than men. I’ll be interested in your thoughts as I move into the discussion.

  2. I think everyone has their own view about who enjoys sex more, men or women? A long time ago the only reason for sex was to produce, people didn’t even believe women could enjoy sex. I don’t think anyone can really enjoy sex unless it is with someone that you can be comfortable with and someone you really care and love for. The people that have never had sex don’t really have a say of who enjoys it more because they have never experienced it. And majority believes that men ALWAYS want sex which I think they may think of it a lot more than women but there are women out there that think of it just as much as men.

    • Good point, Chritina. That’s a nice distinction to make: enjoying sex vs seeking out sex. Men definately seek it out more (based on what we see in social patterns).

      In this series we’ll look at how repression can negatively affect women’s enjoyment, though.

      In surveys, women report enjoying sex less than men, on average, and they seek it out less on average, too. But some women (like a couple of my friends who wrote on my facebook page) say they just love sex! For others, if the circumstance is right, such as a loving relationship, they could certainly enjoy it every bit as much as men, if not more.

  1. Pingback: DO Women Like Sex Less Than Men? | BroadBlogs

  2. Pingback: Why Don’t Women Like Sex As Much As Men? | BroadBlogs

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