Do Men Really Think About Sex More Often Than Women?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Nov. 28 2011 6:22 PM

Do Men Really Think About Sex More Often Than Women?

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Do men really think about sex more than women?

Photograph by AISPIX/ Shutterstock.com.

According to a new study by researchers at Ohio State University, the oft-cited statistic that men think about sex, on average, about once every seven seconds can safely be put to bed—in a college-age population of 163 mixed-gender respondents, the median frequency of sexual thoughts for men was just 19. Women, meanwhile, weren’t far behind at a median of 10 naughty thoughts per day.

The lead author on the study, Dr. Terri Fisher, explained in a press release that the impetus for the research was partly to dispense with the notion that men are slaves to their more carnal instincts, as well as to show that women aren’t so innocent, either.  

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"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," she 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.”

But showing that men think about sex only a little more than women do was just one part of the study’s results. As part of their experimental design, Fisher and her team had tasked some of the participants with recording their thoughts about eating or sleeping instead of sex; in analyzing this extra data, the researchers found that men think about biological urges in general (hunger, tiredness, and, indeed, lust) a little more often than women do. However, Fisher notes that this could be due to gender-specific socialization in our society that discourages women from expressing their physical desires openly, as opposed to a true sex-based distinction.

So, a fair warning to guys with wandering eyes: The biology excuse won’t work so well anymore.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.