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Why Men Think Women Are Fucking A Lot More Than They Actually Are

Because researchers like to have a good laugh, they polled gents and lasses in America and the U.K. to ask them how much they think people in their own country, aged 18 to 29, are getting laid. The results are unequivocal: Everyone thinks everyone else is bonin’ ‘round the clock like nymphomaniacs in a vat of Spanish fly. But there was, it’s worth noting, a curious discrepancy in the results based on gender: Everyone thinks American women in particular are total sluts.

Are they wrong? Read on!

The poll, conducted by global market research firm Ipsos, found that everyone assumes men 18 to 29 got laid about 14 times in the last four weeks, which amounts to every other day. They wish. In this country, men that age only get reliable poon four times a month, or 50 times a year, or one seventh of the Gregorian calendar. I want to joke insert sad trombone sound here, but given this sobering fact, insertion puns seem cruel.

Even more confounding is the news that men guessed that American women put out a whopping 23 times in the last four weeks, which the researchers calculate means that, by men’s perception, American women screw every day of the week. And then two to three times in one day when they’re really feeling randy, in spite of their vaginal particulars. (By this metric, I have to pretty much be fucking while I type this. Hey, maybe I am, but that doesn’t make it generally true for all women.) The reality is, of course, that women actually have sex as often as dudes — about five times in the last four weeks — but try telling men that.

What to make of all these embarrassingly inaccurate estimations?

To say that we are, as a species, obsessed with sex, would be the understatement of the full span of time. Men don’t do themselves any favors by making how much they get laid a defining feature of their masculinity. It’s hard enough to keep up with the Joneses; now we gotta fuck like them too?

Harder still when we inflate everyone else’s fuck frequency to some insanely impossible standard. Sadder still because it’s not even true, and by laboring under this incorrect assumption, we may very well go through life feeling inadequate when in fact we’re all fucking about the same.

As the Ipsos report makes clear, and as has everyone else since the dawn of time, it takes two to fuck, so the numbers should “roughly match.” Every hetero man fucking needs a hetero woman to fuck. Why are we getting this wrong, and why, especially, are men assuming all the women they want are off fucking other guys whose only defining characteristic is that they are not them?

Ipsos researcher Bobby Duffy has a good idea, who explains the results at The Independent: “Men’s massive errors are, therefore, likely to be due to a twisted mental image drawn from the representation of women in the media, entertainment, advertising and myriad other cultural cues, combined with men’s own fragile egos, thinking that women are having more sex than them.”

Duffy notes that the same men have no trouble correctly understanding other gendered disparities, such as the wage gap. Or that men and women might both suffer from excessive optimism when it comes to, say, glaring differences in political representation (they both think there are more female CEOs than there really are).

It’s not hard to understand, however, why men might think women are more sexual than they really are when it comes to accumulating notches on the bedpost. Most depictions of women in media are highly sexualized. Porn is no exception. A recent study of men who, in the last six months, had watched taxi-driver themed porn — where a hot lady plops into a taxi, the driver offers her a fuck and she’s extremely down — were more likely to think actual regular women going about their day would also fuck strangers in “hot” settings. (Sure, there’s nothing hotter than missing your flight to have rough sex with a middle-aged man with coffee breath.)

In other words, seeing overly sexualized women who are rarin’ to go all the time on billboards, in magazines, on TV shows and films and in porn might actually influence men’s perception that women are actually like this in real life. The intellectual part of any person might easily argue otherwise, but such images are powerful persuaders of our subconscious or less-examined thoughts.

It’s a conundrum for women, who often suffer from myths that go the other way — namely, that women are far less visual, less sexual, less horny. They aren’t, though. Recent research has shown that women are far more turned on by far more novel experiences than even men. But that doesn’t mean that female desire matches the stories men come up with in porn and pop culture. It just means there’s still a gap between how we experience desire, the ways we express it and the degree to which women have enough representation in these mediums to, for lack of a better way of putting it, control their own horny narrative.

I’d toss my own speculation into the ring here, too. When we connect this research with similar misperceptions about men and women and sexual activity, it’s illuminating. It’s long been known that men overestimate the number of partners they have, while women cut them in half. That came up in the Ipsos research too, only here, men assumed women had, on average 27 partners, when in reality they’d had half as many.

Typically, men always overestimate this number and women always cut it down. American Pie made the rule of three famous: If men take whatever number of people a woman said she fucked and multiply times three, they’ll get a more accurate number. Women, likewise, should divide a man’s proclaimed number by three to get closer to the truth.

In other words, we all lie about this. Duffy says that’s what researchers call a “social desirability bias”: Men want to seem like studs, so they round up. Women don��t want to seem like sluts, so they round down.

In a weird way, the Ipsos-revealed assumption that women fuck more than men do backs this thinking up. If men want to feel not so bad about fucking less than they think they should, maybe it’s just easier to assume those women are off fucking other men a lot instead. Women are putting out, in other words, this thinking might go — just not with you. This also (theoretically) fuels the idea that the sex is there for the taking, if you can just figure out how to convince the woman you’re the dick to get on. Thus, the PUA-style strategies to talk women into putting out the goods if you can just hack into her mainframe and switch that lever in your favor.

I concede that’s a bleak assumption that accuses men of sexual sour grapes. But given the amount of effort men put into swaying women toward this end, and the shocking consistency of these studies, here we are. In spite of the success of aggressive PUA tactics, they don’t really work. But if we don’t spend just as much money telling men that, and showing female sexuality with far more complexity, what can we expect them to think?