Men are more likely to exaggerate about how many people they’ve had sex with than women, new research has found.
According to the study, one in a hundred British men claim to have slept with more than 100 women.
Researchers set out to discover why men tend to report more opposite-sex partners on average than women, even though the average number reported by men and women should, in theory, be about the same.
Dr Kirstin Mitchell, of the University of Glasgow, and colleagues analysed the responses of more than 15,000 men and women in the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, known as Natsal-3.
They interviewed British adults aged 16 to 74 and found that the men reported an average of 14 lifetime partners while women reported only seven.
The researchers found that the difference can be explained by a tendency among men to report ‘extreme numbers’ of partners – leading them to estimate their total, rather than counting how many people they’ve actually slept with.
Dr Mitchell said that, together with gender differences in attitudes towards casual sex, explains roughly two-thirds of the notorious ‘gender gap’ found in many sex surveys.
She said people who reported ‘very high numbers of partners skewed the average’, and the effect was stronger for men than women.
One man, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells Metro.co.uk that he can vouch for the fact that some men lie about the number of people they’ve slept with – as he’s one of them. He said he was overwhelmed by peer pressure.
He told us: ‘I told my ex-girlfriend I had slept with more girls so that she didn’t think I was a novice. It was like peer pressure but in a very odd way.
‘I said I’d slept with 13 girls, truth is I’d only ever slept with five.’ Dr Mitchell and her research team found sexual attitudes also had an impact on reporting.
The women answering were generally more conservative about their sexual experiences, and were half as likely as men to view one-night stands as ‘not wrong at all’.
65% of women were also more likely to view a ‘married person having sexual relations with someone other than his or her partner’ as ‘always wrong’ compared to 57% of men.
Dr Mitchell said the research team investigated a number of other explanations and found that excluding paid-for partners made only a ‘small’ difference to the gender gap.
Dr Mitchell said: ‘Accurate reporting of sexual partners is crucial for many reasons, including assessing individual risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and estimating the rate of STI/HIV transmission.’
She added: ‘Most existing studies of reporting bias are limited to students or high-risk populations or are conducted as ‘laboratory’ settings, so they don’t show how members of the public respond in a ‘real-life’ survey.
To our knowledge, our study is the first attempt to look at all the key types of explanation for the gender discrepancy within the same large and representative sample.’