Men don’t think about sex nearly as much as has been advertised, though they do have such thoughts more frequently than women.
Men, researchers found, think about eating and sleeping too.
Nevertheless, the research discredits the persistent stereotype that men think about sex every seven seconds, which would amount to more than 8,000 thoughts about sex in 16 waking hours.
“It’s amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do,” said Dr. Terri Fisher, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
In the study, the median number of young men’s thought about sex stood at almost 19 times per day. Young women in the study reported a median of nearly 10 thoughts about sex per day.
As a group, the men also thought about food almost 18 times per day and sleep almost 11 times per day, compared to women’s median number of thoughts about eating and sleep, at nearly 15 times and about 8 1/2 times, respectively.
In a novel research design, college-student participants carried a golf tally counter to track their thoughts about either eating, sleep or sex every day for a week.
Each student was assigned to just one type of thought to record. Before receiving the tally counter, they had completed a number of questionnaires and were asked to estimate how often they had daily thoughts about eating, sleeping and sex.
Overall, a participant’s comfort with sexuality was the best predictor for which person would have the most frequent daily thoughts about sex.
“If you had to know one thing about a person to best predict how often they would be thinking about sex, you’d be better off knowing their emotional orientation toward sexuality, as opposed to knowing whether they were male or female,” Fisher said. “Frequency of thinking about sex is related to variables beyond one’s biological sex.”
The study appears online in the Journal of Sex Research.
Before the thought-tracking began, the research participants completed a sexual opinion survey to measure a positive or negative emotional orientation toward sexuality (erotophilia vs. erotophobia); a sociosexual orientation inventory measuring attitudes about sex and tracking sexual behavior and levels of desire; a social desirability scale to measure respondents’ tendency to try to appear socially acceptable; and an eating habits questionnaire and sleepiness scale.
They were told to count a thought about any aspect of sex: sexual activity of any kind, fantasies and erotic images, sexual memories and any arousing stimuli.
Others were instructed to use the device to record thoughts about eating that included food, hunger, cravings, snacking or cooking, and thoughts about sleep that included dreaming, sleeping, napping, going to bed or needing rest.
The questions about food and sleep were designed to mask the true intent of the study’s focus on thoughts about sex, Fisher said. However, the results about these additional thoughts provided important information about differences in thinking among males and females.
“Since we looked at those other types of need-related thoughts, we found that it appears that there’s not just a sex difference with regard to thoughts about sex, but also with regard to thoughts about sleep and food,” she said.
“That’s very significant. This suggests males might be having more of these thoughts than women are or they have an easier time identifying the thoughts. It’s difficult to know, but what is clear is it’s not uniquely sex that they’re spending more time thinking about, but other issues related to their biological needs, as well.”
And when all of those thoughts were taken into account in the statistical analysis, the difference between men and women in their average number of daily thoughts about sex wasn’t considered any larger than the gender differences between thoughts about sleep or thoughts about food.
In raw numbers, male participants recorded between one and 388 daily thoughts about sex, compared to the range of female thoughts about sex of between one and 140 times per day.
“For women, that’s a broader range than many people would have expected. And there were no women who reported zero thoughts per day. So women are also thinking about sexuality,” Fisher said.
Researchers discovered participant’s actual number of thoughts about eating, sleeping and sex were all much lower than the actual number of thoughts they recorded.
Source: Ohio State University