If you want to do some headline-grabbing research it doesn’t get much better than this. Recent research published in the Journal of Sex Research (yes, I was surprised it existed as well) from the University of Ohio tries to give the most accurate-to-date answer to the age old stereotype of whether men really think about sex more than women.
In a slightly more risque blog post that normal (I don’t particularly want to be found on Google searches relating to ‘sex’, for obvious reasons), It nevertheless seemed important to explore such a relevant issue – well, a friend asked me to comment on said research – so that’s good enough.
Sex researcher Terri Fischer (with the help of two obliging students) concluded that men do think about sex more than women – but not by much. If her results are to be believed, it’s a far cry from the claim that ‘men think about sex every seven seconds’. Intriguingly, she also concludes that there are some factors that make women more likely to have erotic preoccupations…
Testing: How often do we think about sex?
The problem with nearly all research on our salacious thought life is that it’s done by surveys. Asking men or women how much they have amorous thoughts over the past 24 hours is likely to give bogus responses (men are more likely to overestimate). Previous attempts to avoid this have involved men and women walking around with a notebook, writing down whenever they get a bit lusty. Clearly this isn’t a convenient thing to do whilst waiting in the queue at McDonald’s – and so it’s unlikely to give a true representation (imagine having a meal with your family – ‘hold on a minute, I’ve just got to jot something down’)!
Fischer thought it would be a good idea to equip her volunteers with a golf tally counter. Every time a lewd thought crossed their mind (don’t worry, she gave the subjects an exhaustive list just in case they were in any doubt) they gave it a little click. Keeping this up (no pun intended) for several months, the results were ploughed into the statistical analysis machine. Some of their key results were interesting and suggest women are far from innocent doves:
- Men reported thoughts of sex 19 times a day on average
- Women thought about sex 10 times a day
- Women who felt less socially restrained thought about sex more
Can you really measure our intimate thought life?
It’s a brave attempt to answer a tricky question, but Fischer’s research is riddled with issues that undermine any meaningful conclusions. She checked all subjects were heterosexual and also put in a lot of effort to disguise the research to be about ‘health’, rather than about sex. However, anyone who spent more than five minutes looking through her research (reference below) will probably have spotted some of the research’s major flaws, and falls far short of saying anything about how men and women’s brains are wired:
- All subjects were University students
- The ‘ticker’ results required the students to write down their own tally at the end of the day (so men may have written down more, women less)
- Although ‘most’ students were of white ethnicity, no account was taken for socio-economic status, habits or hobbies
- What the students were doing wasn’t recorded (e.g. perhaps men belonged to friendship groups that would do a lot of clubbing)
I’m sure there are plenty more (feel free to add them in the comments below).
Although an interesting talking point, all this research can really conclude is that Mid-West American male University students generally say they think about sex more than female University students.
Which is hardly profound…
Thanks for reading – feel free to comment below…
Fisher, T., Moore, Z., & Pittenger, M. (2012). Sex on the Brain?: An Examination of Frequency of Sexual Cognitions as a Function of Gender, Erotophilia, and Social Desirability Journal of Sex Research, 49 (1), 69-77 DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2011.565429