SCIENTISTS HAVE A NEW ANSWER WHY DO MEN LIE ABOUT THE NUMBER OF SEXUAL PARTNERS THEY'VE HAD

SCIENTISTS HAVE A NEW ANSWER WHY DO MEN LIE ABOUT THE NUMBER OF SEXUAL PARTNERS THEY'VE HAD

Sex surveys have shown men have more different opposite-gender partners than women, even though this figure should be almost even in small populations. How many people have you had sex with? Your answer probably depends on your gender.

They found men are more likely to report extreme numbers of sexual partners in surveys, and to estimate a figure across their lifetime rather than keep an accurate tally.

Reporting sexual partners accurately is vital because it helps researchers collect correct data on the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. This is a problem that has long "vexed" researchers.

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.

To investigate the gender gap, the team behind the study published in the Journal of Sex Research assessed over 15,000 responses to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Men and women aged between 16 to 74 took part in the survey.

Men who participated in the study said they had 14 lifetime partners on average, while women said they had seven.

The researchers believe the average could be skewed by participants who overstated their sexual history. And men were more likely to do this than women.

Men who landed in the top 99th percentile of the data said they had 110 partners, while women had 50. But removing these men and women from the study lowered the overall average, and in turn closed the gender gap.

The gap got even smaller when the way individuals calculated their sexual partners was taken into consideration. That's because men were more likely than women to overestimate their partners.

Attitudes towards sex also appeared to blur the truth, as women were often more conservative compared to men. For instance, 8 percent of women regarded one night stands as “not wrong at all,” compared with 18 percent of men. Women were also more likely to regard extramarital sex “always wrong,” at 65 percent versus 57 percent among men. Adjusting the data to accommodate these attitudes also shrank the gender gap.

The gender gap has long puzzled researchers. Commenting on why the research is important. This paper is the first to test several different possible explanations for this gap, using data from a large, representative sample of British men and women aged 16 to 74. The study could help researchers when assessing the number of sexual partners study participants claim they have.

However, some groups may have been underrepresented in the sample and it would be important for the findings to be replicated in other countries.

Participants could be encouraged to use a counting strategy when asked to report their number of partners.

When men report having more lifetime sexual partners than women, this is most likely due to aspects of the survey methodology and misreporting due to social norms, rather than actual gender differences.