The Weekly Mindfuck: The Problem With Self-Reported Sex Stats

I'll be the first to tell you that going around calling every article on the internet "fake news" isn't going to get us anywhere - because there really are journalistic standards in place to prevent such a thing - but I do find many studies about sexuality to be particularly perplexing. No, not because people take a stat and then make logical fallacies left and right to support said statistic with their pre-existing beliefs - though yes, I understand why you might think so.

It's because of one enduring fact about people: Everyone is lying about their sex lives. We see this in the discrepancy between the number of partners women and men say they have. It doesn't make any sense. Men say they have more than they do because they're always rounding to a multiple of five, and women are always accidentally eliminating a few in their very specific number (because they don't want to seem like sluts, of course). Straight men lie about having same-sex experiences, gay men and women lie about having opposite sex experiences, and it's not uncommon to delete a number (or three) if any kind of born-again virginity is declared. I could go on and on and on about the things people lie about, and you likely already know that's true.

But have you ever thought about how it affects studies and headlines we see on all our various newsfeeds and in all our various newsletters throughout the day? Take the latest, for example: Millennials are apparently having less sex than previous generations. No matter the ambiguous qualifiers (what counts as sex here, for example?) - a huge limiting factor is that none of us have any way of actually knowing how often people are having sex, what kind of sex they're having, or with whom. A person has to voluntarily take a survey (the various motivations agreeing to do so already create skewed results) and then select answers that may or may not be true about their lives at all. Maybe Suzie hooks up with a different guy on Tinder every other day but feels like that makes her a slut and doesn't answer truthfully, even though the survey is "private." Maybe Todd is a bit insecure about his lack of experience and hasn't 

Maybe Suzie hooks up with a different guy on Tinder every other day but feels like that makes her a slut and doesn't answer truthfully, even though the survey is "private." Maybe Todd is a bit insecure about his lack of experience and hasn't been keeping what we'd call an accurate count. And, I mean, come on - does anyone actually count how many times they've had sex in a year?! No - most of the time, we're just estimating, and human memory is infamously unreliable. 

As you'll read in the study, it's estimated that Millennials are having sex ten times less each year than their parents were, and the researchers have postulated a million potential reasons why this is true. My opinion? All reports can provide insight into sex; perhaps Millennials truly are hampered by how digital our lives have become, and perhaps their takeaway can be to be more mindful of how present they are.

But despite starting families a bit later in life, Millennials are still having plenty of sex. Don't get your knickers in a bunch. 

Tagged in: surveys, the weekly mindfuck, sex statistics, sex science

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