Some more research that makes me go, ‘Hmmmm.’ Partly that is because I unearthed it in the Daily Mail, and partly because the logic seems a bit sketchy. The report is about a sort of reputable source, the ten-yearly UK National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. In a minute you’ll understand why I said ‘sort of.’
Here’s the thing. On average, men claim to have had 14 sexual partners over their lifetime*. Women, meanwhile, claim seven. A few issues spring to mind.
What, exactly, do you count as a ‘sexual partner’? If you only think of full sex, then those figures may be realistic, or may not. I don’t know, and I’m not sure the researchers do either. What if you include non-penetrative sex, the delightfully coyly named ‘heavy petting’? I think the numbers would probably rise significantly then. They certainly would in my case**.
Then we have the problem that sex surveys are notoriously unreliable, almost as unreliable as pub bragging. However, the researchers help us out here, in a way. Apparently men don’t realise when the number they give is too high. This is because, apparently, men aren’t fibbing (I doubt that assertion, myself) but they’re forgetful and simply offer an estimate. Hmmm.
Women, on the other hand, claim to remember every partner they’ve had. That’s credible, I suppose. But there’s also the female worry about being unjustly regarded as a bit of a slapper when they admit to a lot of partners. I say ‘unjustly,’ because it’s naff all to do with anybody but the woman herself.
All now becomes clear when the report in the Journal of Sex Research garnered this reply from somebody with a bit of sense, Denise Knowles, who works for Relate.
‘Men may feel under pressure to impress their friends and therefore guesstimate their number as being high…Women are often misjudged if they’ve had a higher than average number of sexual partners, which can lead to feelings of guilt and shame.’
This really is a ‘No shit, Sherlock’ bit of research, and Ms Knowles’s comments merely support what you and I already knew anyway. It falls into the ‘glaring statement of the bleedin’obvious’ category.
*Presumably the question was asked while the subjects were on their deathbeds.
**The answer to your unspoken question is you can count the number of women with whom I’ve had full sex on the fingers of one hand. Hang on. That may be an unfortunate way of putting it.