Do men really exaggerate their number of sexual partners?

gfx sexual partners

Story highlights

  • Men claimed an average of 14 sexual partners over their lifetime, in one large study, while reported only seven partners
  • Society's focus on "the number" may lead some to exaggerate — or decrease — their actual number out of embarrassment

(CNN)When it comes to sexual partners, what's in a number? For one recent survey study, researchers at the University of Glasgow analyzed the responses of over 15,000 men and women and concluded that men are more likely to exaggerate their number of opposite-sex partners, possibly because men estimate rather than count all of their partners.

Men, it turned out, claimed an average of 14 sexual partners over their lifetime, while women reported only seven. The people surveyed were between the ages of 16 and 74.
The investigators claim that such studies are an important part of human sexuality research and in assessing the risk of sexually transmitted infections. But my fellow sex therapists and I aren't so sure. Rather than focusing on one's number of partners, "We should be talking about what folks want for their future and what they've learned from past relationships," sex therapist Gracie Landes said.
    I asked Landes and several of my other colleagues to weigh in on the continued fascination that the public -- and media -- seems to have with people's number of sexual partners.

    Are men exaggerating or overestimating their number of partners?

    The answer to this question appears to be a resounding "yes." Indeed, it's simple math: "Given that there are not significantly more women in the population than men, if men are reporting higher numbers and women are reporting lower numbers, many are reporting inflated or deflated numbers due to the tendency to answer questions in a way that they think they're supposed to," sex therapist Dulcinea Pitagora explained.