On average, men do think about sex more times per day than do women. But the biggest predictor of how often someone thinks about sex has nothing to do with their gender, according to a study being published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Sex Research.
In the study, researchers from the Ohio State University tracked how often a group of 283 college students thought about sex, eating and sleeping every day for a week. The men, on average, thought about sex 19 times per day; the women had an average of 10 sex thoughts daily. In raw numbers, male participants recorded between one and 388 daily thoughts about sex, compared to a range of between one and 140 sex thoughts for female participants.
Gender, however, didn’t correspond to frequency of sexual thoughts as much as another factor: General emotional and social attitudes about sex. When all participants were analyzed together, those measuring the highest in ‘erotophilia’—or comfort with their sexuality—were the most likely to think more frequently about sex.
“If you had to know one thing about a person to best predict how often they would be thinking about sex, you’d be better off knowing their emotional orientation toward sexuality, as opposed to knowing whether they were male or female,” said lead researcher Terri Fisher, an OSU psychology professor.
The study discredits the often-tossed-about but of-dubious-origin stereotype that men think about sex every seven seconds—a statistic which would amount to more than 8,000 sex thoughts in a given man’s waking day.
“It’s amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do,” Fisher said. “When a man hears a statement like that, he might think there’s something wrong with him because he’s not spending that much time thinking about sexuality, and when women hear about this, if they spend significant time thinking about sex they might think there’s something wrong with them.”
Statistically, though, the difference between men and women in their average number of daily thoughts about sex wasn’t any larger than the gender differences between thoughts about sleep or food. Men in the study reported thinking about food about 18 times per day and sleep 11 times; for women, this stood at 15 food thoughts and 8.5 sleep thoughts.
Annoyingly, even this slight challenge to the idea that men are vastly more concerned with sex than women is found questionable by some. A Columbus Dispatch article on the subject quotes psychologist Roy Baumeister, who said the disparity would likely have been larger if the study focused on older adults.
“I bet if you got women in their 30s, with children, they would be thinking about sex much less then their male counterparts,” he said.
Ugh. Oh, Ms. Fisher … can this be your next study, please?
Photo: Psychology Today