“How many women have you been with?” men tend to exaggerate

They say fifteen, when they mean five.
Men tend to overestimate the number of partners they have had in their life. This tendency among men was exposed by research conducted by a team at the University of Glasgow and published in the Journal of Sex Research. The researchers have precisely shown that the difference between men and women regarding the number of reported sexual partners could be explained by the fact that men are very willing to "inflate" their achievements. To find out, Kirstin Michell and colleagues analysed the answers provided by almost 15,000 men and women to the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, a survey aimed at gathering information on sexual habits in the United Kingdom. 
One would expect a similar average number in reported lifetime partners for men and women, but the survey results went toward a completely different direction: on average, men claimed to have had 14 sexual partners, compared to 7 partners declared by women. The authors suggested two possible explanations: first, individuals tendency to report very high number of partners may have raised the average, and this effect was stronger among men than among women; second, considering the "strategy" used for quantifying partners, men are less likely to precisely count the number of partners, preferring to rely on an estimate  (e.g., among people who claimed to have had 5 to 9 partners, 24% of men had relied on an estimate, and not a precise count, compared to 15% of women).

HFTHQ19007

Suggested readings

  • Kirstin R. Mitchell, Catherine H. Mercer, Philip Prah, Soazig Clifton, Clare Tanton, Kaye Wellings & Andrew Copas (2018) Why Do Men Report More Opposite-Sex Sexual Partners Than Women? Analysis of the Gender Discrepancy in a British National Probability Survey, The Journal of Sex Research, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2018.1481193
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