Sex Drive in Action
No more fantasies, self-reports, and other driving simulators: here the rubber finally meets the rolliche! I mean road. Time to ride the real sausage-mobile, baby!
Source: American Colony Jerusalem w/ Public Domain license.
"Woulda coulda. Who cares if men are 50-shades-greyer in their fantasies and anti-Kantian in their masturbations? We want to see sex drive in action! More smoking, less water-vaping!"
I hear you, dear skeptical reader. I mean, if you wanna go full Pyrrho on me, you may as well note that in the previous two posts, the data was almost entirely from self-reports; and therefore, strictly speaking, all I've proved there, is that there are sex differences in what men and women report. And we all know males can talk a tall tale when it comes to sex!
Male busy spinning yarn.
Source: puroticorico w/ CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
But fear not: the sex researcher can be quite the ingenious creature when it comes to getting around methodological issues!
But before we get to the ingeniousness, let's examine some data that does indeed lend some support to the idea of males as yarn-spinners.
Men have more sex than women (Cos they do it with aliens)
They ^ are stealing our men!
Source: Karontrix w/ Public Domain license.
From Olympias to Mother Mary to Dana Scully to Star-Lord's mom, Earth women have had a long history of getting it on with, and getting impregnated by, non-Earthers. But what does the actual data say? Which sex is more probably getting it on with aliens?
One way to approach this question scientifically is to look at data reporting the sexual activities of males vs females. Most of that data says that men's sexual experiences are more varied, more frequent, happen earlier in life, and with more people. Here's a couple snippets from the literature:
Males reported a higher incidence of intercourse, a younger age at which they first experienced intercourse, more frequent intercourse, and a larger number of sexual partners than did females.
[W]hen asked about the number of partners since age 18, men report an average of six, whereas women report an average of two
How, pray you, can it be that men engage on average in 3 times more sex than women, if it's women they are having that sex with?
I'll tell you how: aliens!
Unless of course some men are really good at donning the wig and pretending to be the other sex.
Or perhaps there's a sex worker or nymphomaniac somewhere who's taking, not one, but multitudes, for the team. But since that team is the women's team, including her in a study would bring up the female average to male levels — and I haven't read any study that specifically excludes loose women. (Note: calling women "loose" is only chauvinist if I refrain from calling men that, and I don't, I just haven't had occasion to do it yet.)
I myself am partial to the alien sex theory. Men are getting down and dirty with ETIs. It's the only possible way to explain the discrepancies.
But seriously, the first article I found to comment on the logical impossibility of men engaging in sex with women without this affecting the average of women's engagement in sex with men, was as late as 2001. Take that people who say our math skills are worsening!
Men [...] report significantly more sex partners than women, across all studies [...]. Unfortunately this difference suffers from being logically impossible, insofar as heterosexual intercourse involves one man and one woman (so the mean tallies of partners should be equal).
Heck, not only are these differences found, but they are also — alas — predicted by theories proposed from feminists (like Nancy Chodorow's neoanalytic theory) to evolutionists (sociobiology) to psychologists (script theory):
All five theories that were considered in this review agree in their predictions that males will have a greater number of sexual partners
I'm starting to get mad. But at least they haven't told us that these predictions are borne out...
Gender differences in number of partners were in the direction predicted but were surprisingly small (d=.25).
Oh FFS! Surprisingly small? I'm surprised there's any difference! Granted, females in the world outnumber males, and so there should be a slight difference. But the average man can't have heterosexual sex with twice as many people as the average woman (like many self-report studies show), and if you can't figure out why, then you need to go back to school to learn figures. (Or ask a kind steemSTEMer to write a math post about it.)
I don't wanna let that fly. But frankly I don't see any way we can measure the differences of sex drive in action without necessarily upping the numbers of both the female and the male, who must both presumably participate in the sex act, therefore equalizing the male and female average.
Therefore I must bring this post to an early clos...
Ah, but wait! Here's where the aforementioned ingeniousness of the sex researcher comes in to save the day and preserve my (presumed) reputation as "that guy whose posts are longer than the waiting list at Club 33"!
Lesbian bed death
Frowning bed crying rainbow tears from its pillow eyes :(
Sources: https://github.com/emojione/emojione/graphs/contributors w/ CC BY-SA 4.0 license & OpenClipart-Vectors w/ CC0 license & Guanaco and subsequent editors w/ Public Domain license, modified & avail. under the same licenses as the originals.
It might be impossible for men to have sex with more women without women having sex with more men. But it's not impossible for men to have sex with more men without women having sex with more women. I mean, if it's sex drive we're measuring, what does it matter whether you're gay or straight?
So, do gay men report more sex than gay women?
Males reported a greater [homosexual] incidence than did females.
Ah, now we're getting somewhere! Let's dig deeper.
In a sample of several hundred respondents, far more gay White men (43%) than White lesbians (0%) reported having had over 500 sex partners.
Wow, that was deeper than I expected! Over 500? Let's back up a bit. In fact, let's go back to where it started.
Symons (1979, 1980) suggested that homosexual populations were test cases for an evolutionary theory, since, if paired with the same sex, partners could construct their sex lives independent of the needs and wishes of the opposite sex. Sex differences in sexuality then ought to be magnified.
And ever since that solid piece of ingeniousness, study after study continues to show "dramatic differences" in the sex lives of gay men vs gay women, in a phenomenon that has since been dubbed "lesbian bed death".
Though there are many ways in which the studies illustrate the centrality of sex in male gay culture, I'll only mention two words: gay bath houses!
Wait, let me try again. Gay bathhouses!
There, two words.
Gay bathhouses tell us that when you let the rules be set by only one gender, females choose romance, men choose orgies. Even if they're less capable of them:
Even though lesbians are better able than gay men to engage in such promiscuity (because of the lack of refractory period), lesbian communities do not seem to have created any market for such institutionalized orgiastic behavior.
Note also how gay sex gets rid of the pregnancy risk, just like contraceptives, thus really leveling the playing field for both sexes.
Indeed, the "lesbian bed death" argument might get rid of most socialization explanations, because now it will sound much more incredible to say that a person who is willing to defy social pressures against homosexuality, will so easily succumb to social pressures against female promiscuity.
So it seems that the best way of explaining why gay women have much less sex than gay men — why, to take one study, in the first 2 years of a relationship, 66% of gay men but only 33% of gay women were in the 'high frequency sex' category; why 10 years into the relationship this dropped to 11% for men and a puny 1% for women; why men, unlike women, tended to make up for this deficit by having sex with other partners; why, in short, "gay men had higher frequencies of sex than lesbians at all stages of relationships" — is to conclude that it's because gay women have a lower sex drive than gay men.
Capacity and variability
A woman's sex capacity is like an airbus. A man's is like a two-seater.
Sources: Resolingaire w/ CC0 Creative Commons license.
It's worth stressing a point I may have skimmed in the last section: women's superior sexual capacity to men. It's almost common knowledge that women can have sex longer, with more partners, orgasm more often, and longer, and generally outperform men in all areas relating to sexual performance and capacity.
It's also, if not common knowledge, at least highschool biology 101 knowledge, that girls hit puberty and reach sexual maturation earlier than boys.
So not only do women have a greater sexual capacity compared to men, but they also have it earlier. And yet, despite these facts:
[M]ost evidence indicates that boys commence sexual interest and activity earlier than girls.
[S]exual interest appears very soon after puberty for males, whereas sexual interest is relatively slow to awaken in females.
Who's a late bloomer now, huh? Huh?
(Disclosure: I have deep psychological scars from being told for decades that adolescent girls are more mature than adolescent boys.)
Another area in which women differ from men is variability. This was pointed out by @agmoore, already under the very first post of this sex drive subseries, in a comment. Since she's citing an article, I could just be lazy and cite her! But all my research indeed confirms that women's sex drive is much more variable than men's. Kinsey (as you know, one of the first and most famous sex researchers) had already noted before the middle of the earlier century, that "women showed substantial fluctuations in total [sexual] outlet", something which was almost never true for men, and this was confirmed by later studies. Sex drive in women seems to be not so much hardwired (as it is for men) as optional, depending on whether sex is present, as per Kinsey and others, or ovulation cycle, as per the article @agmoore cited.
Addicted to sex
For a large part of their teenage and youthful years, men are literally unable to control their erections. And they could happen at the most embarrassing times: while watching a movie with Mom, dancing with Girl, lying on the dentist's chair, or being asked by the math teacher to solve an equation on the board ... standing ... in front of the whole class.
Banksy street art.
Sources: Mark Gstohl w/ CC BY 2.0 license, modified.
Unfortunately, it's not just physical parts we're unable to control: it's also the mental parts. College men's arousals interfere with their studying frequently, college women's infrequently. College men have more intrusive, unwanted, and personally unacceptable thoughts about sex than college women. Men score higher on a sexual compulsion scale.
Men want to repress these unwelcome and uncomfortable impulses, but can't. Kisney had already found that men had greater trouble than women controlling their need for multiple partners, and later studies confirm that "many happily married men experience extramarital sexual impulses, and find them bothersome, but seem unable to control them". Overall, men:
are frequently in mild torment, and would like to repress, but find it difficult to do so.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." - Henry David Thoreau, ever the man of positive cheer.
Sources: Geo. F. Parlow. w/ Public Domain license, modified.
And if you think it's just college students and teens who can't control their physical and mental erections, you might wanna consult your local yellow press.
Wiener is at it again
I mean wiener the archetype, not Weiner the person.
Sources: United States Congress w/ Public Domain license.
Men are more willing to risk good marriages for the sake of sex. I emphasize they're risking good marriages, which to me is indicative of psychopathology, or libido that simply can't be lidded. When women cheat, it's less indicative of uncontrollable urges, because there's evidence that "women only have extramarital affairs when they are dissatisfied with their marriage [...]—in which case they are not risking something they value as highly [as the men who cheat]."
And the same is true not just of marriage, but of career. How many women politicians do you know whose career was risked or ruined by sex scandals? (Probably zero, off the top of your head.) And how many men do you know who fall into that category? (Many, I bet.) And some are even repeat offenders. (Someone should open an Augur bet on whether Weiner will be at it a third time.)
A person who risked both marriage and career at a single stroke (insert your tired pun disclaimer here) — twice — is Anthony Weiner. #who-said-you-cant-do-it-twice
Sources: United States Congress w/ Public Domain license.
Sex drive and dysfunction
As political scandal may not cut it for some of my more skeptical readers, let's do real sexual pathology, and see if it teaches us something.
Let's start with an analogy. If your car malfunctions while you're driving, it might veer off into the next lane, but it's not gonna veer off into the next county.
Another analogy: if I'm sitting at the seashore randomly throwing rocks, the scatter is going to reveal my location at the center of it, as accurately as a machine gun sight, despite my random throwings, and since projectiles are more likely to fail near me than far away from me, the scatter plot is gonna be darker near my location. Someone sitting further away from the shore, engaged in the same activity, will have his rocks similarly coalesce around him, thus revealing his position.
A scatter plot of balled-up tissues surrounding my already-full waste bin after I get a cold, might as well be.
Sources: Sakurambo at English Wikipedia w/ CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
The point of the analogy is that we can estimate the location of people's normal sex drive by checking where it lands when it breaks down: If sexual dysfunctions are the randomly thrown rocks, that nevertheless have a limited distance they can travel to from the thrower, we would expect their scatter to reveal the sex's average position. In other words, if women are found to be casting sexual dysfunction rocks nearer around the pathologically low end of the sexual desire shore, and if men are found to be casting their sexual dysfunction rocks nearer around the pathologically oversexed area, then we can adduce that the mean man (I mean the average man) is located closer to the high end of sexual desire, and the mean woman closer to the low end.
And that's exactly what we find. One study of 900 cases for example found that 81% of the people diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) were women.
Thus, women appeared to be more vulnerable than men to the problem of low sexual desire by a rate of about four to one
Another study of 154 cases found that "The problem of “impaired sexual interest” was the most common problem (58%) among female patients but the least common problem (4%) among male patients."
And studies of hypersexuality find more hypersexual men than women. A recent 2017 study for example tried to recruit hypersexual men and women online, and got only 16 women but 64 men. Overall:
hypersexual behavior [...] has been found in as many as 12% of men and 7% of women
I believe this is some evidence that the normal values of men and women differ in the same way their pathologies differ: in other words, men's average is to have a higher sex drive than women. When the average woman's sex drive breaks down upwards, her sex drive is still normal by the average standard of both sexes combined, so her case goes unnoticed. Same when the average man's sex drive breaks down downwards: he only wants to have sex once a month, say, which might be the average for many women; so his case similarly goes unnoticed, and it's certainly not given the name of a condition by sexologists.
A Tetris cube.
Sources: OpenClipart-Vectors w/ CC0 Creative Commons license.
Given that men, on average, have a stronger sex drive than women, how do we interpret this — what does it all mean?
There's many ways to approach this question. For example, we know from economics that the person peddling a rare resource desired by many, will have an advantageous position in price-setting. Cast in this light, the man who wants sex more than his female partner is in a weaker bargaining position. The female, desiring sex less, can use it as a lever and bargaining chip to get what she wants.
Of course, we can also see the woman as the one suffering more from this arrangement, because the man will never be satisfied with what she feels like giving to him, and will always want more, and perhaps will begin looking for it in outside sources.
However, there the situation will just repeat itself: outsourcing sex won't lead the average man anywhere: the average man wants sex more and gets it less than he wants, no matter how many people we throw into the equation.
This "economics of sex" makes it unsurprising that in all stages and lengths of relationship — at the start, in the middle, many years into it; short term and long term — men "showed significantly more desire for intercourse than they were having, whereas women had about what they wanted."
The members of a club some researchers have called "reluctant virgins" — people who are in a relationship and want to have sex but aren't getting it — are almost exclusively men: 28% men vs 2% women to take one sample of 25-year-olds.
Once we accept the theory that women have a weaker sex drive than men, the Tetris blocks start falling into place. The reasons why "[f]ewer sexual practices appeal to women than men" (even among the elderly Swedish) and "[n]early all the paraphilias appeal to men more than women" become less hard to fathom. The fact that up to twice as many men compared to women enjoy giving and receiving oral sex becomes less hard to swallow. The reasons behind why 7 times as many men (compared to women) can claim that they have never turned down their spouse's request for sex become less abstruse.
And it's not just their spouse's sex that men have difficulties refusing: In an experiment that youTubers now consciously or unconsciously like to replicate, men and women were approached "by a moderately attractive, opposite-sex confederate and invited to have sexual intercourse that evening". 25% of the men refused, compared to 100% of the women.
And it's not like it's just sex researchers saying that women have a lower sex drive than men. Women rate themselves as having less strong sexual urges than men's. And this is regardless of age, as a study of 80 to 102-year-olds found the same gender differences.
In closing, I remind you to always bear in mind that we’re talking about the average man and woman. In any specific relationship, the sex drive dynamic might differ:
Men rated their girlfriends’ vaginas more favorably than the women rated their boyfriends’ penises.
Sorry, quote mix-up again.
Join me in the next post where I'll talk more about the evolutionary reasons behind the difference in sex drive. Unless I think of some other topic.
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Wikipedia contributors. (2018, October 18). Lesbian bed death. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:09, October 22, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lesbian_bed_death&oldid=864557007
Öberg, K., Hallberg, J., Kaldo, V., Dhejne, C. and Arver, S. (2017). Hypersexual Disorder According to the Hypersexual Disorder Screening Inventory in Help-Seeking Swedish Men and Women With Self-Identified Hypersexual Behavior. Sexual Medicine, [online] 5(4), pp.e229-e236. Available at: https://www.smoa.jsexmed.org/article/S2050-1161(17)30068-5/fulltext.
Earlier Sex Differences episodes:
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