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The Daily Tar Heel

All day I dream about sex?

Men think about sex every seven seconds, or so they say. While this factoid has spread far and wide, masquerading as fact, it needs a big, blue Wikipedia-style “citation needed” stamped onto it. I mean, come on, do men really have 8,000 thoughts about sex every day?

Researchers at the Ohio State University at Mansfield sought to answer this very question. They gave tally clickers to 163 undergraduates for one week and told them to keep track of every time they thought about sex.

The counts did not quite reach 8,000. The median number of sex thoughts in the 72 male subjects was 18.6 per day; in the 91 female subjects, 9.9 per day.

The range of men’s counts was 1 to 388, and the range of women’s counts was 1 to 140.

So yes, the men did think about sex more than the women — but certainly not every seven seconds.

The go-to explanation could be that men tend to have higher sex drives due to higher levels of testosterone, but there are other potential contributing factors.

The researchers also asked some subjects to count their thoughts about food, and others to count their thoughts about sleep. Again, the male subjects thought about food and sleep more than the female subjects.

It’s possible that men had or reported more thoughts about their “need states” overall.

Women may have also been less likely to have or report thoughts about sex due to their feelings about it. The researchers asked questions about social desirability, or the desire to be viewed favorably by others, and about erotophilia, or comfort and openness with sex.

They found that, in women, social desirability correlated negatively with number of sex thoughts, and erotophilia correlated positively. Both of these factors were significant predictors for the tally in women.

This observation brings us back to the seven-second legend. This widespread belief that men are hypersexual implies that women are less sexual, or even nonsexual.

Women who share this belief may find themselves less comfortable with sex because they feel it’s wrong for a woman to be sexual. Consequently, they may be less likely to have or report sexual thoughts.

But, as the results indicate, women are sexual and are thinking about sex, probably more than the median 9.9 times a day and some as high as 140 times a day.

It should be noted that, like many psychological studies, these subjects were between ages 18 and 25 and mostly white and heterosexual. However, these are the ages at which the researchers expected to see the largest sex differences. In fact, women may peak in sexual interest later in life than men, so the gap could be even narrower in older adults.

Even if there is a real difference in sex drives between the genders, this study is a step in the right direction. These differences are not as large as we think, and they are just averages. They do not accurately reflect the spectrum and variation of sex drives within each gender category.

After all, every seven seconds?

Yeah, right.

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