Is Monogamy Harder for Men or Women?

man looking at the eyes of a woman

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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  1. 1

    This reminds me of the joke about a couple who’s been married for a while having sex. After a minute of intense thrusting, the husband suddenly stops and rolls off his wife. The wife turns to him and says, “What’s the matter? You ran out of people to fantasize about too?”
    I think the takeaway from the Slate piece and the NY Times piece it was based on is that though women may feel as bored with their partners as men, men are more likely   to act upon it. And perhaps the greater takeaway is that Slate wanted a piece that said basically nothing to go viral because of a headline like “Women Struggle with Monogamy More Than Men.”


  2. 2

    This report does not go into enough information about how the research was conducted. There is not enough scientic data to examine and be able to make an informed educated scientific comment about it.
    All it tells me is one persons conclusion on her individual research based on fantasy sex. What has that got to do with real life monogomy? Or is fantasising and porn classes as not being monogomous now
    Three is nothing for me to examine.

  3. 4
    Dina Strange

    Agree. U don’t see as many males prostitutes for women, as u see for men. One can argue that if women had more economical power, that would have been the case…so we just have to wait, and see.

    1. 4.1

      Diana, are you kidding me? We’re girls. We can go to a bar and get laid no matter what we look like lmfao

    2. 4.2

      Young women today make more money than young men. Not sure it’s about economic resources as much as it’s about the fact that it’s easier for women to find men willing to have casual sex than vice versa. So there’s no need for male prostitutes. Plus, we are socialized to see such a thing as highly immoral.

    3. 4.3

      maybe because women can get sex when they want

  4. 5
    Karl R

    Uri said: (#1)
    “the greater takeaway is that Slate wanted a piece that said basically nothing to go viral because of a headline”
    That seems accurate. The two scientific studies that were cited didn’t support the statement in the headline.
    Study 1:
    Men and women become equally bored watching the same porn repeatedly.
    Study 2:
    Heterosexual women become sexually aroused by listening to audio narratives describing sexual encounters with long-term partners or strangers, but not platonic friends. (The sex of the friends/strangers was not a factor.)
    Heterosexual men become sexually aroused by listening to audio narratives describing sexual encounters with women, but not men. (The relationship to the men/women was not a factor.)
    The studies indicate that men and women are equally aroused by novelty under certain conditions.

  5. 6

    I think something that is probably true is that women more than men stay in a relationship with a person they are not that into for whatever reasons… urgency to settle down, not realizing there is no attraction but liking the guy (in a platonic, etc, sense) than guys.   I think guys that stay in bad relationships tend to do so b/c they are obsessed with their girlfriend.
    This article didn’t specifically say “marriage.”
    I don’t think women get bored of monogamy quicker. I’d guess women get into relationships with people they aren’t that into more frequently than men do, b/c they are less interested in “friends with benefits” or one-night stands, etc.   Evan, I think you and the article can both be right! 🙂

  6. 7
    Valery North

    There’s a few straw man arguments or non sequiturs in the OP.
    Firstly, “men are more likely to prefer a variety of sexual partners” is not the same as “men have sex on the brain, at least more than women do.”
    Secondly, things that are explained as biology can also be explained as “gender [is] simply a societal construct”, and in fact “But there are more men who want to sleep around” is one of the prime examples of this.
    Interesting fact: women who want to sleep around report that it is men, and not women, who are unable to “separate love and sex and have no emotional attachment after physical contact”.     This is the bias of relative position.
    The problem is, the evidence doesnt really allow us to choose one theory over another, but people like you who are (or were) “promiscuous guys” are the people who have the mos power in terms of shaping the debate and setting the terms of how things are understood.     And people like you have a vested interest in having it turn out the way it does: thus, you have your confirmation bias and, crucially, you confirmation bias is what produces and shapes the debate and causes the evidence that you point to.     Your position isn’t just confirmation bias.     It’s a classic “begging the question” fallacy.

    1. 7.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Yeah, Valery, I don’t agree with you.

      I have no vested interest in any of this. I do my best to be an objective reporter of facts. This does not mean I have no beliefs; on the contrary, I try to have my beliefs formed by facts, rather than feelings. And I have seen little to no evidence than men and women (as larger groups) view sex the same way. Many individuals do. But just because there is variance within a group does not mean that there are never any conclusions that can be drawn from groups.

      For example, Ashkenazi Jews have higher IQs than the general population. Is it nature? Is it nurture? In my book, it doesn’t matter very much. It’s true. It’s confirmed by study and confirmed by anecdotal evidence as well. Stating this doesn’t mean that everyone else is stupid. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t some low IQ Jews out there. It just means what it means: Ashkenazi Jews have high IQs. You may feel affronted by this information if it doesn’t suit your narrative; it doesn’t change the truth of the matter, however.

      My belief is that – in general – men look for sex and, in the process, find love. My believe is that – in general – women look for love and, in the process, find sex. My female clients confirm this every single day when they share stories of men who text photos of their penis, or expect sex on the first date, or engage in dirty talk after the second email. I would be genuinely shocked to see that women act in a similar fashion. I would be equally shocked to learn that women’s consumption of porn was as high. I would be floored if you could produce a study that illustrates that women choose sexual variety as much as men do. The aforementioned article hasn’t produced that study, and until you do, I’m gonna stick with what I believe – not because I’m trying to dictate anything as a tastemaker, but because I have this strange pull towards truth and facts. Make a better argument as to why I’m wrong and I’ll be glad to reconsider.

      1. 7.1.1

        I’m still stuck on why it matters. Unless you’re offering advice or a solution for women frustrated by cheating men. Which you’re not. So….

        1. Elizabeth

          Exactly, I think you’re seeking validation, Evan.

          And if there aren’t studies that show that women watch as much porn as men, it’s because the antiquated notion that women are less attractive if they are promiscuous (again, related to male’s egos?) still exists. It’s only within the last century that it’s become acceptable for women to even own their sexuality (and hold jobs in the workplace, for that matter). You are naive to think women want sex less than men. Same goes for porn.

  7. 8
    Heather K

    Eh – I don’t freak out too much over studies toting that one gender wants more sex of a certain type than the other.   While it’s true that men’s and women’s brains are wired chemically differently, I’m not really sure what the purpose of any studies are.   To sensationalize?   To make people get all huffy and puffy?   While I think that in today’s society there are still more men than women who fantasize about a non-monogamous lifestyle, I am not sure if it’s nature vs. nurture.  
    There is so much programing to men’s brains these days that it’s cool to want to be casual and it’s cool to keep women at bay and play the field that many boys who as men might actually like being monogamous do not have the opportunity to grow up into such men.   A lot of men are programmed to believe that they are losing out on something if they ‘settle’ with one woman and if they stop chasing the newer, hotter model all the time.  
    And I think women – while more liberated – are still so afraid of being called a ‘slut’ or something like that.   Young women who are sexually active may become fearful of being deemed a ‘slut’ or just a sexually active girl because many recent rape cases among young adults have had the male side in question say that the girl was sexually active anyway or loose as some sort of way to shirk responsibility.   Also, women have many more dangers when choosing to pursue a non-monogamous lifestyle.   Women contract STDs easier than men.   Women also might be afraid of starting something with a random stranger because they might not be able to control the pace of the sexual encounter – men are more often date rapists than women are.   Men can pursue casual encounters with women without worrying that the woman they are seeing will push them further than what they want or date-rape them.   If a man is only feeling like making out or going to third base or whatever – it is very rare for the woman he is on a date with to physically force him to go further.   Not so for a woman.   As a woman, I have had to jump out of moving cars on two separate occasions – waiting till a red light or waiting for a slowdown at a turn to get out of situations that became physically scary.   And then there is the additional risk of pregnancy – which even in today’s times of contraceptives still exists.   So while mentally or emotionally women might be ‘advanced’ enough to want non-monogamous lifestyles, it is just not always appealing as a woman to pursue that avenue.
    And then as a final thought, does it really matter who wants or doesn’t want monogamous lifestyles?   We should be thinking – both men and women – what we actually want to build as a society and what we want our legacy to be.   Sometimes I feel that focusing on some gender back-and-forth of who can care the least or which gender is out more for their personal satisfaction is so petty and small and misses our purpose as human beings.

    1. 8.1

      Wow. I can’t imagine I read the whole comment, I must admit your comment was a thriller that kept me going, but like any hollywood some things appear to be fictions and just like you being a woman do no understand some things (like you said we are chemically wired differently), I as a man fail to understand. I   actually had a great girlfriend when I was in college and I could not think about any other woman while I was dating her, she dumped me then I settled down and I still think about her and quite often feel unhappy in my current relationship. Now I wonder had my first girlfriend whom I was all about had not dumped me would I have not been promiscuous ? I doubt it, I think it’s just the nature of darn testosterone, I too wish if it was not like that, I hate having sexual thoughts always. I hope they find drugs for men to reduce the desire LOL. See I am for equal opportunity.

  8. 9

    Evan from what I have read about the Ashenazi Jews having higher IQ it is states that is is based on scientific contaversy and theory not fact.
    How many studies were done on this that makes it truth and fact?
    Studies and research need to be examined with a fine tooth comb in my opinion.

    1. 9.1

      Curious as to why it bothers you though to the point you have to try and refute it.

  9. 10

    It’s easier for a woman to get laid by many different guys, so we don’t put as much value on variety b/c it’s readily available if we’re willing to have sex with many different men.   People always want what they can’t easily have.   If men were constantly hit on by women and treated to nasty pictures and pick up lines all of the time, they would start to feel more like we do about “variety.”   Plus, it’s not like most women are having orgasms from  one night stands; they’re faking it b/c the guy has no idea how their body works, nor does he care.   Most of the time when people are bored with monogamy it’s because they’re BORING.   They do the same things over and over again, then they point fingers at each other saying they’re tired of the boring sex.   Ridiculous.  

    1. 10.1

      Spot on!!

    2. 10.2

      I hardly agreed with your comment except for the first part, which goes to the fact that men have high sexual desire and they make advances and women do have less desire hence they always crawl under their rock (pun intended).   The amount of testosterone in your body determines how much sex you want to have and UNFORTUNATELY men have a tons and I as a man hate thinking about sex so much when it is not reciprocal.

      1. 10.2.1

        MG, you are totaly crazy !! “women do have less desire hence they always crawl under their rock ” …totaly crazy if you really think this…..I wish I were a bad witch to turn you into a woman, so that you experience “less desire “‘ in women …But I wouldn’t turn you into a woman who has a guy ..but into a woman who has difficulty finding a guy,,,,so that you see how it is to be a woman ….
        Btw…i think about sex all the time…since the early morning when I come to work with all those men around me and ambiance full of testosteron till the late evening when I am in bed with a guy or without one. 🙂 Honey, don’t get mislead by TESTOSTERON 🙂

    3. 10.3

      Exactly. We are not desperate for it so we don’t have to pay for it. We can get it for free within 5 min.

      1. 10.3.1

        Do you ever stop and think about why women can get it so much easier.   Men want it more it’s how we are designed. Women have moments of heightened sexual desire. Like cats in heat. Men are more or less in this state constantly.

  10. 11

    I’ve been a long time reader and I’ve enjoyed a lot of the blog posts and discussions, but this is the first time that I’ve felt compelled to comment. I read the article that you posted about Ashkenazi Jews and while there is some very thought-provoking information in there, the bias and exaggeration of claims makes me, as a social scientist, very skeptical and frankly suspicious of ulterior motives (perhaps even untintentional political/ethnic/cultural bias) of the author.
    The first statement is : ‘Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressive in brain power. How did they get that way?’ This statement is a generalization, and, if you read through the article, you’ll see that it’s a false claim. If Ashkenazi Jews as a group were ‘Shockingly brilliant, in general’, you’d expect to see ‘Shockingly brilliant IQs, in general’, if you’re using IQ as a measure of brilliance. In general, the Ashkenazi Jew IQ reported in this piece is “probably around 110.” This still puts Ashkenazi Jews, as a group, solidly within ‘Average’, as measured by standard deviations. Within the realm of IQ scores, 130 is usually considered a cut-off for ‘significantly above average’. So, when I read that article, I see that Ashkenazi Jews as a group have a higher, but not significantly higher, average IQ than the non-Ashkenazi Jew population. That’s not terribly meaningful information in the scientific community. There is also quite a bit of misinterpretation of correlations and cause/effect relationships in the article, which weakens its strength.
    I offer this feedback because I think that for the most part you do offer sound dating advice, Evan, and I enjoy that. I also enjoy reading the comments and discussions among the readers. But remember that you’re dealing with a pretty smart bunch here and we’re going to keep you on your toes and question you when we see inconsistencies or strong claims that aren’t backed up by the facts. I think we all need to keep ourselves accountable.

  11. 12

    I agree with the study (based on my own life experiences). I have my own unscientific theory about it though. I think women get bored quicker than men in a monogamous relationship because they don’t fantasize or use porn as much as men do. I think the fact that men fantasize & use porn more than women (in general) gives them some sort of release to make them feel like they’ve had that variety (if even for a second) & then they don’t get as bored with their wife. Women on the other hand don’t get that feeling of variety/release because they don’t seek it out as much (in general) by fantasizing/watching porn so they get bored with their husband quicker. Being with the same person for decades gets boring, no matter what you try – it’s the same person. In the long run what sustains a marriage is the true love/connection between two people that is much more than just physical attraction & sexual chemistry.

    1. 12.1

      Be honest porn is made by men for men. EVEN girl on girl porn is produced for men. If the porn industry would start to make porn TRULY for women with what women find sexy in it then women may NOT get as bored as quickly.

      1. 12.1.1

        I REALLY like porn, just as it is. The more grafic, dirty, raw, the better. I like the view, that as a woman, I don’t have the angle to see during the actual act. .. & to Evan, I watch porn multiple times a day. Does this surprise you ? In this great big world, can’t be alone in this desire. I think about sex constantly, and will devour my man every chance I get. My sexual interest and creativity in such acts is probably more intense than any man I know, even those who desire to play the field. I have yet to meet a man who can keep up with my sexual needs. That said, I still would prefer to have the freakiest of experiences with one partner, as common sense dictates the more secure and comfortable you are, the more freedom you have to express and expand your desires. That is not gender specific, nor sexually specific. It’s a factor in many avenues of life. I think most men look for an explanation to excuse their shitty behavior. But I call bs. I see many men daily who I would love to have relations with while in a relationship, & as a woman would be much better at NOT getting caught – We’re smart like that.   It’s called self discipline and respect. You men discipline yourself in many other avenues, so it’s very possible to do so sexually as well. I believe as another poster said, the main issue is that men are programmed to see women soley as objects/property. They claim its biology, yet are the the first to cry foul if their woman desires another. Just stay single if you’re not satisfied. It’s really very simple.

  12. 13
    Karl T

    How do you make the assumption that most women don’t have orgasms from one night stands?   Most of the women friends I have who have had several one night stands certainly have orgasms.   While I’m sure some don’t have orgasms in ONS, I’d comfortably say that most do according to what I hear from personal accounts from females.   I know a few who have had many ONS’s.   Do ya think they would continue to do that if they were not getting off having them??   I also bet many times guys don’t get off due to being impaired by alcohol.

    1. 13.1

      It’s not an assumption. We are women. We are speaking from experience. You are a man. You are not. Don’t take it personally, it’s an aggregate experience.

    2. 13.2

      Karl T , having orgasm in a ONS is not a rule !! It depends on both woman and man involved. In my case I have to be sure in ONS situation that I really like the man and that there are some sparks between us. Also I can only have an ONS orgasm if a man is “big down there ” so he can satisfy me. Although this is valid in my case also for regular sex. I am lets say a bit “bigger down there” myself so I only can get real sex from a man that has “hard and long erection”. I used to be in a relationship with a guy who could only have sex once in 2 days, and he could not have sex 2x consequently. As women can have sex multiple times a day, most of guys can’t. That is “male biology”. So it didn’t work out for me. Of course I never told him the real reason for leaving him. Now I am with a fantastically attractive guy who is great in bed. Never before felt like this. So no problem with ONS if the guy is good. But this also is valid for relationships. That is why I think women don’t like ONS at least not of them, because it is a too short time to sped witha guy so that she can satisfy her urges. Again, its a biology issue.

  13. 14
    Evan Marc Katz

    I didn’t want the post to get hijacked by the Ashkenazi Jews thing, Jenny, but you have a very selective reading of the post. An average IQ of 110 is one standard deviation higher as a general population. And you conveniently ignore stats like “Ashkenazim are enrolled in the Ivies by a proportion ten times greater than their numbers, and “the proportion of Jews with IQs of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else.”  Harpending, Hardy and Cochran sport roughly the same equation; “4 out of every 1,000 Northern European is 140+ IQ, but 23 out of every 1,000 Jew is 140+.

    As I said, I don’t really have a horse in the race. But if studies show it and anecdotal evidence shows it, why don’t we want to believe it? That’s the way I feel about men being more promiscuous. I don’t care WHY they are; I just believe that they ARE. This isn’t a good thing. But it is a thing. And you have to be some sort of ostrich to deny it.  

  14. 15

    Yes, women get bored with monogamy faster, which is why so many married men complain about not getting enough sex. Which brings me to my next point. Women like variety, but  I think one reason women don’t usually find themselves with quite the same incessant need for it as men is simply because men on average as a group aren’t hot enough for women to continually lust after.
    Women on average are more sexually attractive than men. In any given room of people, the men are likely to find a bigger number of sexually attractive women than the women are going to find in the men, but give a woman a room of great looking guys all to herself and I think more women than not would want to indulge that variety.
    The one time I found myself in a social environment where I had a small handful of really handsome men as sexual options, I slept with 3/4 ths of them. I would have gone for the 4/4 ths,   but   backed off because I didn’t want to sleep with too many guys who knew each other from that small social environment. So that was me being beaten back by the classic fear of having too much of a “reputation”. I never wanted to walk into that place and see all the guys I banged sitting at the same table. haha. Did NOT want that to happen. No guy has to fear that because that is not a fear society conditions men to have.  
    The real reason women fight this idea that men need more sex than women is because so many men want to take that idea as reason to tell women they should be fine with men not being faithful to them. Men use it to justify their lack of loyalty. It would be better for women to start advancing the argument that monogamy ensures that most average men have AT LEAST one women. If it weren’t for monogamy, most hum-drum men wouldn’t even have THAT,  or would have to contend with being cuckolded every other night since women can get sex easier and are so often more sexually attractive than their partner so will automatically have a higher number of sexual options for that reason as well.
    Guys should start thinking a bit less about how they can shirk monogamy and start being thankful that it’s the reason many of them get ANYTHING.   

    1. 15.1

      This is the truest thing I have ever read.

      1. 15.1.1

        Great comment Michelle! I fully agree with you . Just give women a pool of hot guys . I wouldn’t have any problem with that.
        But I am afraid that is something for men very difficult to accept. It has to do with their ego and lack of knowledge about women.

        1. Emily, to

          Michelle and Antonia,
          Michelle wrote: “Women like variety, but I think one reason women don’t usually find themselves with quite the same incessant need for it as men is simply because men on average as a group aren’t hot enough for women to continually lust after. Women on average are more sexually attractive than men. In any given room of people, the men are likely to find a bigger number of sexually attractive women than the women are going to find in the men, but give a woman a room of great looking guys all to herself and I think more women than not would want to indulge that variety.”
          Totally agree. Some women (I’M NOT SAYING ALL) would be a lot sluttier if they had a ton of great options. 🙂
          Antonia wrote:”But I am afraid that is something for men very difficult to accept.”
          I think it makes them feel more comfortable to think that women don’t want variety and don’t lust after other men but it’s simply not true.

    2. 15.2

      Real talk ! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Excuses excuses excuses lol

    3. 15.3

      lol this post deserves a slow clap.

  15. 16

    another thing I’ve considered as to why women don’t eagerly pursue the same variety as men is because women have more standards and criteria for their sex partners than men have for theirs. For a man, all a woman needs to be is physically attractive enough for him to want her sexually, for a woman to want a man, he needs to be physically attractive and meet other criteria specific to that woman’s masculine ideal. That ideal varies slightly from woman to woman. The business man and the surfer dude might be equally attractive by objective measures – height, facial proportions, musculature- but those two men represent two very different masculine ideals that some women prize while others are neutral towards or turned off by. Some women might not care that the business guy is a hottie, they’re more turned on by the surfer guys style and identity, and vice versa.  

  16. 17
    Karl T

    Michelle #16,
    “Women on average are more sexually attractive than men. In any given room of people, the men are likely to find a bigger number of sexually attractive women than the women are going to find in the men…”
    What kind of a joke statement is that??   That is one of the most whacked posts I have ever read.   Unless we’re talking about lesbians, who wouldn’t find men attractive period.  

    1. 17.1

      That’s what I thought.   I’m not attracted to super good looking men (i.e. model types).   I do find a confident and masculine man attractive, however.   It’s just biology that men want a variety of sexual partners more than women.   It’s true that I like variety in the act of sex, but in a loving and committed relationship where I feel comfortable expressing my sexual self.   One night stand sex is terrible and boring, so that’s why I’d prefer monogamy.

    2. 17.2

      Karl, the comment of Michelle is credible. Only I would put it in a different way.: men have lower criteria. Very often I am really not jelous at all when I see what kind of women my husband ogles. Because they are just not better than me. On the other hand women don;t want an average looking man (as they have that at home most probably). They want something more like a real hunk, musculine and hot .

  17. 18

    Don’t Asians outnumber all other ethnic groups in the ivies? Also, it’s worth noting that verbal IQ and spatial/numerical IQ is usually judged separately.
    It is generally accepted that Ashkenazi jews have an average verbal IQ around 20 points higher than whites, with a spatial/numerical IQ of about the same as whites.(East) Asians seem to outperform whites on spatial/numerical tests by about 10 IQ points, but have a verbal IQ about the same as whites.

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