How many people have you slept with?
A horrible question that never did anyone any good. (I understand concerns about a new partner’s sexual health, but that’s what tests are for. Trying to calculate the risk of sexual disease based on how many partners someone has had has to be the most flawed method I’ve ever heard of. It only takes one time, after all.)
Conventional wisdom on the matter was best illustrated by the movie American Pie. Men tend to increase the number of sexual partners and women tend to lower theirs. Research seems to support this.
Norman Brown, a psychologist at the University of Alberta, finds that American men report an average of 18 partners while women report 5–but he thinks it’s more than people lying. Psychology Today elaborates:
Women are more likely to “just know,” or to have a tally somewhere, a method psychologists call “notches on the bedpost.” Women are also more likely to use enumeration (“Let’s see, Dave, Tarik, that guy from the gymÃ¢â‚¬Â¦”), which produces underestimates, since people forget instances.
Men are more likely to use rough approximation (“Jeez, I don’t know, like maybe 50?”) or rate-based estimates (“Let’s see, one a month for the last five yearsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦”)Ã¢â‚¬â€a method that produces overestimates.
How do you count your lovers?