Is Monogamy Harder for Men or Women?

Is Monogamy Harder for Men or Women?

The confirmation bias is a tendency to prefer information that confirms whatever you already believe. It’s dangerous, because under the influence of the confirmation bias, you cherry-pick only facts that reinforce your arguments. The first thing I think of when I hear “confirmation bias” is Fox News, but that is, admittedly, my own bias. And I work very hard not to fall into the trap of having a fixed mindset on things.

It’s with this framing that I want to present to you this article, which contradicts a previously held belief of mine: that belief that men are more likely to prefer a variety of sexual partners. So, why would I hold this belief if it may not be true?

Are there some women who want to sleep with hundreds of men? Sure. But there are more men who want to sleep around.

Well, it’s hard to say. Thinking about it critically, it’s somewhere between experience, society and faith. I was a promiscuous guy. I know men who are a lot worse than I was. There’s an entire industry around pick-up artists. Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. Porn for men dominates the internet. I’m a dating coach for women who complain that men are commitmentphobes and cheaters. So yeah, there is a LOT of evidence that men have sex on the brain, at least more than women do.

Then some studies came out that women get bored with monogamy faster than men, and suddenly everything I wrote above has been called into question.

Amanda Marcotte, writing for Slate XX Factor, sees this as a sea change. But I don’t. And while it may be my own confirmation bias speaking, here’s the reason:

Marcotte harps on studies that show that women respond to novelty in porn (duh) and fantasize about sex with strangers (double duh). All that proves is that, yes, women can get bored with routine sex as well. I don’t think there’s any right-minded person who ever thought otherwise. What this doesn’t prove, however, is that women are MORE driven by sex than men. While it’s useful to recognize that women and men are similar in many ways, I think it’s shortsighted to suggest that we are the SAME, as if gender was simply a societal construct and not somewhat tied to biology.

Are there some women who want to sleep with hundreds of men? Sure. But there are more men who want to sleep around.

Are there some women who can separate love and sex and have no emotional attachment after physical contact? You bet. But there are more men who do.

Are there more women who give up on sex within a marriage? Apparently. But that might just mean that she’s married to a jerk for 20 years and can’t summon any more amorous feelings for him. It doesn’t mean that she’s more likely to cheat or that she values sexual variety as much as he does.

So, to me (and my confirmation bias), this study is much ado about nothing, in that it’s verifying something we already know. The reason that Marcotte is jumping on it is because it confirms what she wants to believe (women and men have the same take on sex), not because it represents a true shift.

Because for every study that says (rightfully!) that women get bored with monogamy, there’s another one that confirms what most of us already know: men are more driven by sexual variety than women. One highly publicized study doesn’t negate that.

Read the article here and please share your thoughts below.

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Comments:

  1. 61
    Jeannie

    Emerald: The part I don’t understand is where “wanting to sleep around” is synonymous with “promiscuous.” Most sane people are able to make a distinction between thinking about something and doing something. Promiscuous people are doing something, not just thinking about doing something. I’m sure that all paupers want to be millionaires, too.
    Karl T: You are speaking nonsense indeed. The denominator in this math discussion is total number of sex acts, not total number of people. If you are talking about hetero sex in a population with an equal number of males and females (which is true, roughly, in the US), the average number of sex acts for men v. women would be the same. In places like China, where men outnumber the women (because of gender-selective abortions) women on average will have far more sex than the men on average. As far as I know there are no societies where the women outnumber the men in significant numbers. So, speaking globally, on average women in toto are having more sex than are men in toto. That’s pretty funny to think about–that misogyny in extreme actually leads to women having more power over sex. Ha!!!

  2. 62
    Karl T

    Who cares about how many sex acts there are Jeannie.  This is about how many different people the person has sex with and my example proves it.  You seem to be quite mixed up.  Promiscuity is not how many times you have sex, it’s with how many different people you have sex with.  You’re law of averages is massively flawed.

  3. 63
    Sparkling Emerald

    Jeannie #64 –
    “Emerald: The part I don’t understand is where “wanting to sleep around” is synonymous with “promiscuous.” “
    _____________________
    The title of this post is “Is monogamy harder for men or women”.  Monogamy is harder for someone who for whatever reason would prefer to have multiple sex partners.  Since more women would prefer monogamy over a multiplicity of partners, then for more women monogamy is easier, because it is in line with what they want.  So in terms of what one desires, I think it easier to live a life that is line with your desires, instead of a life that is not in line with your desires.
    ___________________
    Jeannie
    Karl T: You are speaking nonsense indeed. The denominator in this math discussion is total number of sex acts, not total number of people.
    __________________
    Um no, promiscuity is defined according to the number of sex partners, not the number of sex acts. Monogamy is defined as having one partner, nothing to do with how often this monogomos pair has sex.   A person who marries the only person that they ever had sex with is not considered promisicuous because they have sex perhaps 150 times a year, and the person who has a ONS with 12 different people in a year is not considered unpromiscuous because of the low number of sex acts. 
    Maybe that is why you and I aren’t seeing eye to eye on this.  You are defining monogamy vs polygamy based on the total # of sex acts, and Karl and I are defining it based on the # of sex partners.
    In both of our examples, the male group had more more members having multiple  sex partners. The female group contained more monogamous members.
    I don’t care what’s considered politically correct, since more men make it a goal to have as many sex partners as possible, and more women make it a goal to seek out one partner, I still say the total number of men who have had several partners is greater than the total number of women who have done so.  Even if the men have not been as successful in their quest for bedding huge numbers of women, even tho’ many women have had to go through a few partners before finding one to settle down with. 
    Even when (most) men finally settle down with one woman, they still look at their commitment to monogamy as a loss of freedom.  That seems to be the biggest stumbling block for men when it comes to settling down, is the thought of having to give up the freedom to sleep around.  I don’t think as many women consider it the promise of monogamy to be a loss of anything.

  4. 64
    Selena

    @ John #63
    -Men are just made to keep seeding to keep the human species from dieing out. Mother Nature makes women much more selective as they have a lot more at risk.
     
    Well this might explain the phenomena of monogamy. Since females are unwilling to accept any old seed, it’s in a male’s best interest to stick with the one who selects him. A bird in the hand is worth…not getting any? LOL. :)

  5. 65
    Selena

    @Karl S. #61
     
    Good point about gay males.  From a survival of the species perspective though, all that seed spent on the same gender isn’t contributing. How to explain that?
     
    This is why I feel when biological/hard-wired/lizard brain explanations are applied to human behavior they so often come up short. They fail to explain all the variables and variations we actually see in human sexual behavior. So perhaps there is more to biology and it’s interplay with environment, socialization, enculturation than we can unequiviocally state so far.

  6. 66
    K

    Selena @68, interesting thoughts.  I have thought that before too.  I recently went to a lecture by a cultural anthropologist.  She did note that a significant percentage of gay and lesbian couples are raising children.  Often those children have the genetic material of one of the parents.  I work with a lesbian woman and one child was carried by her while their other child was carried by her partner.  She also noted that often when gay/lesbian couples do not have children they tend to be highly involved in the raising of kin.  This did add to my understanding because I think they are passing on their traits more than you would think.  She also pointed out if being non-hetero was such a disadvantage to the species it wouldn’t have continued to last (albeit for a long time many of these people stayed in hetero couples).  I’m not an expert in any of these topics, but found it interesting and thought I’d add it to your point.

  7. 67
    Peter

    @Jeanni 44.  Excellent point.  The one recent large scale study of sexual behaviour in the US was the Centre for Disease Control’s 1996 study on risky behaviour by students.  The was the study that produced the famous idea that the “average” count of sexual partners was 9.  Focusing on whites under 23, about half of both sexes had none or 1 sexual partners in their life time.  The difference between sexes was small.  About a quarter had has 2, 3 or 4 sexual partners in their lives again equal between the sexes.  The remaining group had 5 or more partners.  At a time when heterosexual Aids was still a serious concern, this was considered risky (others might say promiscuous) behaviour.  Both sexes were again about equal in this group, although the highest scoring men were around 250 partners and the highest scoring women about 600, confirming the idea that women find it easier to find sexual partners than men.   Commercial sex was excluded.  To make the average 9, the promiscuous group had to “average” about 50 partners each.  Interestingly, for those older than 23, although the overall average went up, only the promiscuous group increased their partner count.  The other three quarters of the population had not added new partners.  Hispanics were slightly more promiscuous (despite Catholicism?) and blacks were slightly more promiscuous than Hispanics but not much in either case.  So, desire coupled with opportunity would seem to be about the same for both sexes, except at the very top of the scale where a few women find opportunities for promiscuous sex with men who on average have a lower partner count.
    Other biology does not suggest very promiscuous men.  The ratio of male gonad weight to body weight suggests that human males are built for a modest harem.  1.6 females per male to be precise (indeed it is usually just one other woman not another 5 – Tiger Woods apart).  Variation in the human genome suggests that 80% of all women have left descendants but only 40% of all men, another suggestion of moderate harem size.  Half a good man is better than all of a failed man is a choice women do seem to make – confirmation bias here no doubt. Finally, human males are larger than human females.  This happens in harem species when males compete for mates (so no everybody mating with everybody which would be a genetic disaster for small populations.  Aborigines, the first Out of Africa population, for example, have very strict rules about skin groups.  Male and female Bonobos are about the same size).  Humans do not have such obvious distortions as large antlers or gaudy tails that occur in harem species, except, perhaps, intelligence or at least intellectual display.
    So, statistics about behaviour suggest that men and women are promiscuous at about the same level (commercial sex – wife withdraws from marriage?- excepted?). Some biology suggests that free from modern cultural constraints, the more able half of men would be contentedly faithful with their two wives.  English surname studies of Y chromosones suggest a rate of unfaithfulness with non relatives of the husband of 0.5% per generation over the last 600 years in the monogamous culture of early modern England.  Perhaps a culture that accepted small harems would extinguish even that level of unfaithfulness.  On the other hand that may reflect female promiscuity as the men’s infidelity would not show in the surname.
    Most of the studies above have been on men of European descent.  In some African communities successful males have considerably larger harems than two women but the extra women are generally chosen by the existing wives so harem size is not necessarily a sexual issue.  Rulers outside Africa, have demonstrated their power by holding very large harems of concubines who usually volunteered.  Christian Circassian girls from the Caucus regularly opted to be sold into wealth in Istanbul than to live in poverty at home.  Various Sultans from the Ottoman Sultan to the modern Sultan of Brunei come to mind.  However, the Islamic harem of 3 or 4 is in general a social security system for widows of male relatives not a route of greater sexual access for men.  It does not show greater male desire for sexual novelty.  Men’s apparent greater interest in sex is the search for the other 0.6 of a wife.

  8. 68
    Peter

    @Karmic 58.  Humans females who have male harems live in extremely harsh, dangerous places (Tibet, the Artic) where the risk of the man dying is particularly high.  In these cases, the men are usually brothers and several brothers may share several unrelated women, usually pairing most of the time.

  9. 69
    Jeannie

    Thank you, Peter!!!!

  10. 70
    Jeannie

    The problem with this discussion starts with the statement “Men are more promiscuous than women.” In logic, when you use “men” in this way it means “all men” and “women” means “all women.” The accurate statement, as Peter’s contribution points out, would be that “some men are more promiscuous than some women.” Unfortunately for the initial argument, as Peter’s example also points out, if this is true, the flip of that statement is also true, and “some women are more promiscuous than some men.”
     
    Because each hetero sex act involves one man and one woman, the total number of sex acts will be divided evenly between the genders. (Meaning, every time a man has sex you put a jelly bean in the “man sex” jar–but at the same time a woman is also having sex, so you have to put a jelly bean in the “woman sex” jar. Two jars, same number of jelly beans at the end of all the day.) Therefore, all men cannot have more sex than all women if both genders are required for each sex act. The next question is, how is the total number of sex acts divvied up within each gender group? On average, both men and women will have the same number of sex partners because the total number of sex acts can only be divided evenly between the genders (two jars, same number of jelly beans, always). Whether you have one man who has sex with 500 women or 250 women who have sex with 250 men, the average number of sex partners remains the same within a gender-balanced population (which the US is, basically). If you change the distribution of sex partners on the male side, you necessarily change the distribution of sex partners on the female side, but the two sides will still balance out (those jelly bean jars). E.g., in the situation where one man gets all the women, you also have to factor into the calculation the 499 men who did not have a sex partner and the 500 women who did. In this scenario, 500 women have had more partners than those 499 celibate men. Who here do you label as more promiscuous gender? Men, because one Don Juan got all the women, or women, because all of the women had more partners than most of the men?  Which takes us back to the two truthful statements: In considering only hetero sex, some men are more promiscuous than some women, and at the same time, some women are more promiscuous than some men. But it is not statistically possible for all men to be more promiscuous than all women (unless you take into account male sex with children, animals, and other men, which is a topic for another discussion).

  11. 71
    Karl T

    Jeannie,
    Nobody ever said ALL men were more promiscuous than ALL women.  It was said that if you compare men as a group to women as a group, there are a higher percentage of men who are promiscuous than women.  You don;t sound very well versed in mathematics to me.  Why do you have such difficulty understanding what is being said????  Of course in the 2 groups you find some men that are not promiscuous and some women who are very promiscuous.  You might want to brush up on your math before you post anymore comments.

  12. 72
    Sparkling Emerald

    Jeanie #73 – You said
    The problem with this discussion starts with the statement “Men are more promiscuous than women.” In logic, when you use “men” in this way it means “all men” and “women” means “all women.” The accurate statement, as Peter’s contribution points out, would be that “some men are more promiscuous than some women.”. . .But it is not statistically possible for all men to be more promiscuous than all women . . .
    _________
    Actually, the problem is, you are inaccuragely re-framing the discussion.   The discussion started with “Is Monogamy Harder for Men than Women ?” In fact, I searched the OP and did not find the sentence “Men are more promiscuous than women” However, later in the OP I found
    ——————-
    “Are there some women who want to sleep with hundreds of men? Sure. But there are more men who want to sleep around.” 
    Are there some women who can separate love and sex and have no emotional attachment after physical contact? You bet. But there are more men who do.
    ——————–
    EMK never said in his original article that ALL men are more promiscuous than ALL women. That is a strawman argument you are putting up.
    Divving up the number of sex acts and then averaging it out tells us nothing useful.  You could do the same thing with height, IQ, or any other factor to try and prove that the entire population is all the same height, or has the same IQ. But the average would be meaningless, because you can’t give your IQ points to someone else, or take inches from someone else’s height in order to be taller.  And you can’t assign some of your sex partners to someone else in order to make an equal opportunity observation.  By your logic, virgins still have “x” number of sexual partners, because in the interest of equal opportunity, you are adding up the total number of sex acts and dividing them evenly to try and prove that men and women are exactly alike in our sexual experiences and attitudes.  Also by your logic, a person who has had 50 sex partners, loses many of those partners, because once again, in the interest of “proving” that men and women have identical sexual experiences, you are “spreading the wealth”  and re-assigning their sexual experience to others.  It doesn’t work that way.  Individuals own their sexual history.  They can’t average it out among the rest of the gender group, to up their number or lower their number.  I still believe there are MORE total men who have had several sexual partners than there are total number of women who have had several sexual partners.
    So if you want to continue this discussion, focus on what EMK, and a few other poster have ACTUALLY said, instead of the strawman argument. 

    1. 72.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Completely agree, Sparkling Emerald. Jeannie is clinging to a phrase that I didn’t use at all and rests her entire argument on it. She’s hell bent on proving that some women are more promiscuous than men (which, of course, they are) and that the number of partners for men and women have to add up congruently (fine by me – I’m no mathemetician).

      But if you read what I wrote, this was not about success in getting a bunch of notches on your bedpost. This was about desire for variety. And as someone previously pointed out, it seems pretty clear that men (in general! not ALL of them) want to sow their oats for a long time before settling down, whereas women (in general! not ALL of them) sow their oats merely until they can settle down.

      Nothing that Jeannie said has effectively contradicted what I wrote, nor any of the observations I’ve made in ten years as a dating coach, listening to women complain about men who sleep with them without commitment. Sorry.

  13. 73
    Sparkling Emerald

    Karl T 74 (to Jeannie)  “You might want to brush up on your math before you post anymore comments.”
    Personally, I don’t think it’s a math problem, I think Jeannie has a hard time with the notion that men and women aren’t identical, save for a few body parts.  She is merely using bad math to try and prove that women are merely men minus a penis, or that men are merely women minus a uterus. Generally speaking,* men and women have difference that go beyond  external body parts.  I have a love/hate relationship with those differences, but I would much rather learn how to understand and live with those differences, than to create a society, where men and women are exactly the same.  I don’t want to live in that androgynous pile of slop. I enjoy (and am frustrated by) those differences. I enjoy my femininity and hope to find a masculine (but not super macho) man who enjoys my femininity as well. Oh, and I don’t give a rat’s patoot, if my love of the differences is socially ingrained or hardwired.  I think nature and nurture are so tightly intertwined, that we will never have a definitive answer to that question. 
    *From now on, when I use the terms “men” or “women” I am speaking in generalities.  Most people can use context and understand that, but for those (cough, cough, Jeannie) who logically  think that “men” ALWAYS means “ALL MEN” and “women” ALWAYS means ALL WOMEN, I am putting in this general disclaimer.  If I mean ALL MEN, I will say ALL MEN, although I can’t think of many instances where something would apply to ALL of any group.
     

  14. 74
    Peter

    The CDC data said that about equal proportions of college students of both sexes are equally promiscuous, except at the very top, a tiny number of women students outrun the men.  Half were by no definition promiscuous.  There was a link between promiscuity and alcohol.  I assert that it is likely that the non college educated are less promiscuous because they live in a more socially controlled setting.
    There is gene for novelty seeking behaviour.  It is associated with risk taking, impulsivity, higher IQ and a liking for loud music and noisy environments as places to do mentally demanding work, oh, and more sex drive in both sexes.  BBC Horizon did a programme on it years ago, featuring Vanessa May the violinist, as an example of a carrier.  So no.  Men do not have more need for sexual variety.  They perhaps have different needs but at the nexus of sex and relationships they do not have more needs.
    There is a vast amount of porn for women on public display.  Much more than for men.  It takes the form of soap operas and talk shows dealing with relationships.

  15. 75
    Sparkling Emerald

    Peter 78
    ________________________
    There is a vast amount of porn for women on public display.  Much more than for men.  It takes the form of soap operas and talk shows dealing with relationships.
    ________________________
    I would hardly equate women on a talk show asking for advice on how to repair their marriage after their husband cheated on them, or how to get a man to commit to them as being comparable to graphic online videos of fuster clucks. Classic example of false equivalence.  Do you consider this blog, for women who want to fall in love to be porn ?
    The majority of relationship advice that women seek is how to build relationships with men.  (With some so called feminist site promoting sex positivism or some such thing, which I think basicially is femnistspeak for promiscuity)  The majority of relationship advice for men on the internet is on how to build harems of women, how to hump & dump, etc.  Go to return of Kings for but ONE example.  There a man can find advice on how to build a “soft harem”  (multiple women for sex, but they also have sex with other men) or a “royal harem”, multiple women who have sex with only the one man.  Also find lots of advice for how to have fun with “sluts”.  And I think this particular website considers all American women sluts and advise men to go out of the country to fine a “quality woman” when they are ready to settle down. 
    Now, it’s really hard to judge an entire gender  strictly by what’s on the internet.    However, since there are more websites devoted to advising men how NOT to commit to women, and there are more websites advising women how to get men to fall in love and  commit to them, I believe there are  more men who WANT multiple sexual partners (but aren’t  necessarily succesful at it ) and more women who WANT to find just one man to give her heart to (although she might end up having to kiss a lot of frogs before finding her one prince) 
    And I don’t put much stock in a “study” that only examines such a small subset of the population; ie: college students.
    Here’s a small sampling of “relationship” advice to men.

    http://www.returnofkings.com/5927/how-to-get-laid-on-plenty-of-fish
     
    http://www.returnofkings.com/10492/do-not-buy-her-dinner
     
    http://www.returnofkings.com/8788/chicktini-the-liquid-panty-dropper
     
    http://www.returnofkings.com/10833/5-more-commandments-for-making-a-club-your-poosy-paradise
     
    http://www.returnofkings.com/8455/how-to-identify-a-roast-beef-vagina
     
    http://www.returnofkings.com/7921/7-soft-harem-tips-for-introverts
     
     
     
     

  16. 76
    Jeannie

    Evan said in 43: “Rose, my dear – I know you don’t want it to be true that men are more promiscuous, but pretty much all real world evidence – from prostitution, to big sex scandals, to infidelity rates, to membership on sex sites, to anecdotal evidence – seems to suggest they are.” I assumed that by this statement Evan meant that men are more promiscuous than women, but perhaps he meant that men are more promiscuous than…what? I don’t know what he was referrring to, if not to women.
    Again, in logic, when you say “men” without a qualifier, the “all” is   assumed. If you mean “some men,” you have to add the qualifier “some.” That’s just the way it is. Don’t know what to tell you other than that. But if you’re even in a real-life situation where this distinction comes up, you might help yourself but remaining silent and thinking before speaking. For instance, when you are on trial for something and the lawyer asks, “Did you eat the jelly beans?” If you say yes you are admitting that you ate all of the jelly beans. If you did not eat all of the jelly beans, you say, “No, I ate some of the jelly beans, but not all of the jelly beans.”  
    I have advanced credentials in economics and understand math very well. But you all need to understand better how distribution works in order to continue the discussion in an informed manner. It’s really beyond the scope of a blog to explain it to you. I can tell from what you are writing and the way that you are writing it that none of you are schooled in statistics, and that’s OK. But you do need to think a little bit more about things.

  17. 77
    Karl T

    Jeannie,
    I have advanced credentials in engineering and understand math very well.  When we make a statement “Men are more promiscuous than women”.  It does NOT mean that all men are more promiscuous than all women or in other words every man is more promiscuous than every woman.  It means that there is a greater percentage of men that are promiscuous than there are a percentage of women who are promiscuous.  Again you are incorrect.  Perhaps before you make a statement assuming that none of use are schooled in statistics, you should take a course in probability.  If you had, you would then realize such a statement might be incorrect.

  18. 78
    Sparkling Emerald

    Jeannie @ 80-“Again, in logic, when you say “men” without a qualifier, the “all” is   assumed.
    Are you saying that ALL people assume that the “all” is assumed ?  You didn’t qualify by whom the all is assumed, so did you mean all of human kind ?  If so, you are wrong, because I didn’t assume that, given the context of that remark, it was part of a discussion of the original post where EMK made several “qualifying” statements such as
    “. . .men are more likely to prefer a variety of sexual partners.” (different from saying men UNANIMOUSLY prefer a variety . . .)
    “Are there some women who want to sleep with hundreds of men? Sure. But there are more men who want to sleep around.”
    “Are there some women who can separate love and sex and have no emotional attachment after physical contact? You bet. But there are more men who do.”
    Given that this is a blog,  not a court of law, it is important to put things into context.  Given that EMK made several qualifying statement in his opening article, he should not have to continuously repeat the qualifiers over and over.  Don’t assume that because YOU assumed the word “men” meant “all men” that everyone shares your assumption.  Men is the plural of man.  It could mean two men, it could mean some men, it COULD be all men, but given the context, I knew what he meant.  And i suspect you know what he meant, but wanted a strawman argument, so you could put forth your men and women are exactly alike if you add up all of their sexual experiences and then distribute them evenly among everyone. 
     
     
     
     
     

  19. 79
    Peter

    First the CDC data which is the most relevant to this study.  This is a summary.  I read more detailed information in the past.  I can’t find it anymore and its 1995 not 1996.  There was a preliminary sample of over 2000 students and a final sample of over 7000 so it is regarded as definitive.  It was big and expensive and hasn’t been repeated.  About half of Americans attend college so it represents about half the population at some point in their lives.  In this cut of the data, the promiscuity cut off is 6 lifetime partners.  By 24 that figure was reached by 23.9% of females and 27.8% of males.  It’s along time since I looked at this.  Post 24 (about 40% of US college 44% of the women had reached 6 partners and 58% of men.  However, it has been shown in lie detector tests that women report the number of sex partners accurately and men exaggerate the number of partners.  The movement of the next 25% into the promiscuous band is not something I remember from the detailed figures.  They still underscored the top 25% substantially and the monogamous largely stayed that way.
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00049859.htm
    This data does not suggest that men, allowing for the lie detector effect, are more promiscuous than women when it comes to practice.  Men do not have any control of access to sex so perhaps men seek out porn and have fantasies about less restricted sex with harems, as Emerald points out.  Women don’t need to.  Two hours in a city centre bar or dance club and they are on their way.  (By the way, its the woman in the first example who is the sex cheat not the man.  Haven’t read the rest).
    @Karl.  Since we are bragging, I have advanced engineering and business degrees with patents to match.  I am a Member of this and a Fellow of that.  I am now sitting in the middle of Eurasia designing questions for a marketing survey to be conducted in five languages across three cultures.  (My long term, exclusive, mistress is visiting her half sister who has returned from hospital with a 2 week old baby.  So I am on my own.  Men don’t get a look at babies for the first month).
     “Men are more promiscuous than women”
    These are clearly the sets of men (i.e. All men) and women (i.e. All women).  Read Bertrand Russel if you doubt it.   “Are men more promiscuous than women” is clearly all men against all women and is going to lead to the arithmetical answer No, as Jeannie points out.  The actual data from the CDC which represents a life stage of a large fraction of the US population (and perhaps most Euro cultures, certainly Anglo ones) suggests that men and men are equally promiscuous or not within 5%.  The welfare class may well be different and the aristocracy have never shown much restraint.
    From the dating perspective, the advice is probably pick someone at about the same level of promiscuity.  My wife had been significantly more promiscuous than me.  It never troubled me but it troubled her.
    Do Hollywood scriptwriters who use the “average” partner count of 9 as a plot device (I’ve seen it twice) actually know the statistics and are being cynically manipulative in stimulating feelings of sexual inadequacy amongst the viewers to improve emotional connection with the plot or are they innumerate?  As Jeannie says, a grasp of how distribution works is a requirement to understand statistics.
    My view. As above.  Men in general spend more time on sex substitutes because they are less able to have access on demand than women.  There are of course marriages with non performing men.

    1. 79.1
      janon

      Again, none of that has anything to do with EM’s original point.  The CDC study once again is arguing findings *in practice*

      Evan is arguing *desire*.

      Forget sex as maybe its too loaded of an issue.

      Take two people.  One LOVES sweets.  The other always HATED sweets.  Both become diabetic.  They now have an equal need to AVOID sweets.

      The first one who always LOVED them has a much harder time avoiding them.  The second one never really liked them anyway so it’s easier.

      The first one has no real expendable income and lives in a place where there is very limited food variety.  As a result, they never really eat sweets anymore.  They still find it hard to avoid WANTING too though.

      The second one lives in a big city down the block from a Michelin star bakery.  Occasionally they will indulge in a pastry because, while they’ve never been big on sweets and now have to watch the sugar count, those particular pastries are fantastic and worth a “special occasion” splurge.  The second person has no real DESIRE to eat any more than that though.

      So here we have one person who has MASSIVE access to something, and even occasionally indulges, but has no problem controlling the desire to over indulge.

      The other person has ZERO access to something, to the point where they NEVER really indulge, but they ALWAYS want to.

      That’s the point EM is making wrt to the ease of monogamy.  It isnt about math or averages or horny college students or observed ACTUAL behavior in a control group.  It’s not about what people ultimately CAN do, it’s about what people WISH they could do.

      The poor guy who LOVES sweets will always find it hard to be a diabetic even though they have no real access because they always WANT those sweets

      The person who never really liked sweets will find it much easier to be a diabetic, even if OCCASIONALLY they have  a special treat, because sweets were never something they strongly desired anyway.

      In college, all kids are young and horny.  Most of the guys wish they could have sex with 100% of the women at school, but they settle for anything they can get.  For some guys this will be near that 100%, for MANY (most) guys it will be 0.  This is why averages are massively useless.

      With women, very few (if any) would in their worst nightmare want 100% of the guys on campus.  What they do want is the guys that they think “are hot”.  And most likely, they’ll get them.  Some women (few) will have 0 partners.  Some women (few) will sleep with a ton.  Most women will sleep with the number of guys they think “are hot”.

      So in the CDC study (college kids no less… a really bad sample IMO) it turned out that the #s lined up about right.  Big deal. The averages were almost certainly derived completely differently.

      a 2 foot tall person and a 6 foot tall person produce an average height of 4 feet.  So do 2 4 feet people.  With the college kids, lots and lots (and lots) of girls probably slept with a much smaller set of guys.  So the average of “9” (or whatever) for women was because most girls had 9.  The average of “8” (or whatever) for guys was because a some guys had 25 and a bunch of guys had 0.

      In all of that, though, a MUCH larger percentage of the guys was almost certainly wishing their number could be 1000 (not even caring what the girls would look like) whereas for women, this is just really really unlikely.  They would almost certainly not be about a general # but rather focused on the specific guys they “find hot” 

  20. 80
    Sabine

    Some men just wan to have sex for having a physical need filled. They are not looking to bond or have anything on any other level. It seems women more than men “invented” “Friends With Benefits” to fit the same need though it’s not as “socially tabu” as meeting a guy in a bar and taking him home. Everyone likes variety. My girlfriends and I were talking about this. Why do you think people in relationships meet at bars as “strangers”? To spice things up! 
     
    So do men like a variety of women? Probably. Do women? They sure do like when guys flirt with them. As for sex? Some do.  However, from all my chats with men and all I have read online, when a man meets a woman that’s amazing that need for variety….is squashed. There is a underlying current (at least this is my take) that women in his thread are concerned their man will continue to seek out this variety. I’m no mind reader. However, you have to trust the right guy will be with you and you alone. Just keep it spicy…lol :-)

  21. 81
    Tracey

    Evan, whats the point in arguing that men find it harder to be monogamous?  I, like a lot of women, have an innate mistrust of men and have been betrayed before.  How does arguing tooth and nail that men are more promiscuous help me to find love?  All it does is perpetuate my theory that most men are cads and its just going to be that much harder to find love.  Whats the point in trying to find love if he’s secretly (if hes decent) wanting to stick it to other women?  

    1. 81.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Your theory that most men cheat is wrong. Not only is it wrong, it’s completely one sided. According to this site, http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/, 22% of married men cheat at least once over the course of their marriage and 14% of women do the same. So that would mean that most men DON’T cheat, and that only 8% more men cheat than women. Get over your innate mistrust of men, unless you think men should feel similar about women. There are no shortage of monogamous men out there.

  22. 82
    lolzno

    “I think it’s shortsighted to suggest that we are the SAME, as if gender was simply a societal construct and not somewhat tied to biology.”

    Gender ISNT biological. It is a culturally conditioned. Brain studies pretty much prove that. The whole idea that women are different from men is a myth and it only benefits men. Sexism created it in order to put a wedge between us.  Even biology disagrees with the idea that we are all that different. You know what? We aren’t. There are MORE WOMEN in polyamory and non-monogamy communities than men. More men say “I can’t let my wife/gf have sex with another man” than women say “I can’t let my husband/bf have sex with another woman”. So I actually see far more open minded women than men when it comes to non-monogamy.

    Women’s sexuality has been controlled for so long it is no wonder that we internalize that and hate our sexuality, but I can tell you this as a woman, everything you know about women is WRONG. We just don’t talk about it because to do so would be against what we are taught to do. Women are basically in an abusive relationship with our society. It is time for it to end.

    1. 82.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Sorry, lolzno. You just said something that made my head snap back. “Gender ISNT biological.”

      If you know anything about biology, you might reconsider. Simply the fact that men have penises and more testosterone proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a difference between men and women. This is not to suggest that there is no societal conditioning, but you would have to work really hard to make a case that men and women are the same. Men are, on the whole, bigger, stronger, more aggressive, more violent, and more promiscuous than women. This does not mean that there are no big, strong, aggressive, violent, promiscuous women. But the mere suggestion that there aren’t general differences between men and women does biology a huge disservice.

      My blog is not pro or con biology vs. sociology. My blog is about reality, and what to make of it. Men and women might be 90% the same – but the 10% in which we differ causes a lot of the friction and misunderstanding inherent in dating and relationships. Why do women spend so much time wanting to understand men? It’s because they are not men. Not biologically. Not sociologically.

      So instead of suggesting something patently absurd – that people with different genitals and hormonal makeups are actually the same – how about you find yourself a partner who gets you, loves you unconditionally, and makes you happy – and maybe then you won’t rant on a stranger’s blog and substitute your feelings about sexism for facts about biology.

    2. 82.2
      EmeraldDust

      Iolzno – If you really think men and women are exactly the same and it is ONLY social conditioning that makes us different (and not our slightly differing brains structures, our anatomy below the belt and our different hormonal make up)  I would like to suggest that you read the book “As Nature Made Him”.  A very tragic story about twin boys, both circumcised, but in ONE boy the circumcision went TERRIBLY wrong, so this doctor who had an axe to grind about gender being ONLY a social construct decided this was the PERFECT test case for his theory.  TWIN boys, one with a male body part, and one boy who was accidently amputated.  He convinced the parents to raise the amputated boy as a female.  He closely manipulated and monitored this family and made sure that they really raised the amputee as a “girly girl”  (to prove that with sufficient conditioning this boy could be raised as a girl)  This is a TRUE story, and it is very sad, and the amputated boy in question committed suicide as a young adult.  He grew up knowing SOMETHING was amiss, and didn’t find out the truth until in his teens.
       
      http://www.amazon.com/As-Nature-Made-Him-Raised/dp/0061120561
       
       
      Trying to parse out nature vs nurture in the gender wars can be an exercise in futility, as both are tightly interwoven, but I don’t believe for a moment that all general differences between men and women in the aggregate are SOLEY due to societal conditioning.  I think of it more as societal RE-INFORCEMENT of biological differences. 

    3. 82.3
      starthrower68

      The pill was approved in 1957.  Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” was published in 1963. So for about 50 years, if *The Man* has been attempting to hold women down by controlling their sexuality, he’s done a very poor job of it.  And I don’t see any of our brothers here forbidding women from sex.  It would appear they’re all about it. ☺

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