Men think about sex a lot, but not every 7 seconds.

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Do men have a stronger sex drive?

Men think about sex every 7 seconds.

No one knows where that long-held popular shorthand for the robust male sex drive came from, but it likely wasn't from any science lab. According to a 1994 study from Indiana University's Kinsey Institute, a little more than half the male population -- 54 percent, to be precise -- daydreams about sex every day or several times per day [source: Kinsey Institute]. Another study published in 1990 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior asked 49 male college students to tally up their sexual fantasies over a week, and the results averaged to just 7.5 sexy thoughts per day, which works out to only once every 3.2 hours [source: Jones and Barlow]. And for a final nail in the sex-crazed coffin, the highest total of sexual-related thoughts among the male participants in a 2011 study at Ohio State University was 388, or once every 3.7 minutes. Statistically, still a far cry from the 7-second assumption [source: Fisher].

Even though sex doesn't pop up in the male brain with the merry-go-round constancy some might expect, that trio of studies also confirmed that, on average, men think about sex more often than women. In the Ohio State University data, for instance, the most sexually minded woman in the participant pool reported 140 daily fantasies, less than half of her male counterpart's total [source: Fisher]. Even during masturbation, which is closely associated with and driven by sexual thought, heterosexual men in a 1990 study from the State University of New York reported "significantly more sexual fantasies" than heterosexual women [source: Baumeister, Catansee and Vohs].

It would be fallacious, however, to assume that a single measure like frequency of sexual fantasy concretely proves that men have stronger sex drives than women. Accurately evaluating sex drive must also assess the intensity of that motivation to make whoopee [source: Baumeister, Catansee and Vohs]. Do men want sex more often and with more partners, compared to women? Statistically, the answer across the board is yes, and evolutionary biologists have some theories as to why.

By the numbers, men have stronger sex drives, hands down.

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The Sex Drive Battle of the Sexes

An exhaustive review of studies on sexuality, published from the late 1960s to 2000, asserted that in every sex-drive-related metric, men demonstrated stronger urges than women [source: Baumeister, Catansee and Vohs]. The psychologists from Case Western Reserve University who conducted this review also emphasized that the male mojo doesn't represent a snapshot of time; rather, it persists across age groups, marital status and sexuality. A brief sampling of this his versus hers data clearly demonstrates this gender difference:

  • Percent of 25- to 29-year-olds who masturbate: Men, 94.6 percent. Women, 84.6 percent [source: Indiana University].
  • Desired number of sexual partners over a two-year period: Men, eight. Women, one [source: Buss and Schmidt].
  • Actual number of sexual partners: Men, six to eight. Women, four [source: Kinsey Institute].
  • Expected number of dates before a couple has sexual intercourse: Men, eight. Women, 12 [source: Cohen and Shotland].

This sex drive gap isn't just a hallmark of heterosexual romantic relationships, either. Studies of same-sex couples continue the trend. For instance, relationship analysis from 1983 found that two-thirds of gay couples who had been together for two years or more acknowledged having sex at least three times per week. Among lesbian couples in the same study, the proportion dropped to one-third [source: Baumeister, Catansee and Vohs].

Evolutionary biologists attribute the sex drive gap to pregnancy risk. Theoretically, females might not be as innately compelled toward sexual behavior as a self-protective strategy to avoid the possibility of unplanned motherhood, or mothering the child of an unfit mate. In the modern age of birth control and social gender equality, that notion might not sit well with scores of sexually active women, but the host of data nevertheless bears out scientific theory [source: Baumeister, Catansee and Vohs].

Though, on average, women's sex drives aren't as relentless as men's, that doesn't mean they lack desire -- quite the contrary. In fact, studies have also discovered that women might have more fluid, or wider ranging, sexual desires than men. When, in 2004, Queens University psychologist Meredith Chivers examined both heterosexual and homosexual men's and women's arousal responses to a variety of pornographic imagery, women exhibited more heightened responses across the board, regardless of their sexual identification [source: Chivers et al]. Male participants, on the other hand, were titillated according to their self-identified sexual preferences. For instance, gay men were markedly more excited by gay male porn, as opposed to straight porn, and vice versa for straight men. So while men might win when it comes to drive, females are arguably the more erotic sex.

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Lots More Information

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Sources

  • Baumeister, Roy F; Catanese, Kathleen R.; and Vohs, Kathleen D. "Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive? Theoretical Views, Conceptual Distinctions, and a Review of Relevant Evidence." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Vol. 05, No. 03. 2001. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://carlsonschool.umn.edu/Assets/71520.pdf
  • Buss, David M. and Schmitt, David P. "Sexual Strategies Theory: An Evolutionary Perspective on Human Mating. Psychological Review. Vol. 100, No. 03. 1993. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~rakison/bussandschmitt.pdf
  • Chivers, Meredith L. "A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal." Psychological Science. 2004. (Jan. 17, 2012) http://www.canyons.edu/faculty/labriem/Psych230/SexDifferencesInSpecificitySexualArousal.pdf
  • Cohen, Laurie L. and Shotland, Lance R. "Timing of First Sexual Intercourse in a Relationship: Expectations, Experiences and Perceptions of Others." Journal of Sex Research. Vol. 33, No. 04. 1996. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.jstor.org/pss/3813275
  • Fisher, Terri. "Study debunks the stereotype that men think about sex all day." Ohio State University. EurekaAlert. Nov. 28, 2011. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-11/osu-sds112811.php
  • Indiana University. "National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior." 2010. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu/
  • Jones, JC and Barlow, DH. "Self-reported Frequency of Sexual Urges, Fantasies and Masturbatory Fantasies in Heterosexual Males and Females." Archives of Sexual Behavior. June 1990. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2360876
  • Kinsey Institute. "Frequently Asked Questions About to The Kinsey Institute." (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html
  • Snopes. "Daydream Deceiver." Dec. 04, 2011. (Feb. 11, 2012) http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/thinksex.asp