Do you currently have a sexual partner

Number of sexual partners: men estimate, women count

Number of sexual partners: men estimate, women count

How many partners have you had sex with in the past? Women and men have surprisingly different answers to this question. Researchers now believe they have found the explanation for this.

If you ask men and women about the number of their previous sexual partners, the answers differ enormously: on average, the number for men is twice as high as for women - and that in studies worldwide. This can hardly be explained statistically.

In Switzerland, according to the Sotomo study “Sex in Switzerland” published in 2016, an average man has had sex with seven people in his life, and an average woman with six. Among men, 23 percent of the 18 to 64-year-olds surveyed had sex with at least 20 people, among women 14 percent.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have now investigated where these differences come from. One possible explanation: While men estimate, women would count, reports the team in the journal "The Journal of Sex Research".

Surveys from the USA, Great Britain and Germany repeatedly come to the result that men name twice as many sexual partners as women. The reasons for this have so far been largely unknown. The team led by sex researcher Kirstin Mitchell from the University of Glasgow has now tackled precisely this research gap.

Sex with 14 partners on average

The scientists used data from the third British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, or Natsal-3 for short, as the basis for their investigation. As part of this study, several thousand Brits are asked about their sexual behavior in personal interviews approximately every ten years. 15,162 women and men between 16 and 74 years of age took part in Natsal-3.

According to the survey, men had sex with 14 partners on average, while women slept with an average of seven men. In their search for explanations for this difference, the Glasgow scientists came across various reasons.

For example, study participants who reported a particularly large number of sexual partners distorted the average figures - this phenomenon was observed more frequently in men than in women. For example, if you omit all men who reported having 110 or more sexual partners, or all women with more than 50 partners, the overall difference between the sexes would be smaller.

This difference became even smaller when the researchers took into account how the numbers were obtained: 24 percent of men estimated the number of their sex partners, compared with just 15 percent of women. The higher the number of reported sexual partners, the more likely it was an estimate, especially for men.

Different opinions on one-night stands

Overall, the researchers observed, women also showed a more conservative attitude towards sex. Fewer of them said they had no problem with one-night stands and they condemned cheating by married people more sharply. On the other hand, paid sex hardly played a role in the results of the study, and the information on sex with partners outside the UK also only changed the numbers slightly.

For the researchers involved, their work is more than just an explanation of statistical phenomena: “Accurate recording of the number of sexual partners is of crucial importance for many reasons, including assessing the individual risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and estimating the transmission rate of STIs. and HIV infections, ”said sex researcher Kirstin Mitchell in a statement published on the study.