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Sex Drive: How Do Men and Women Compare?

Experts say men score higher in libido, while women's sex drive is more "fluid."
By
WebMD Feature

Birds do it, bees do it, and men do it any old time. But women will only do it if the candles are scented just right -- and their partner has done the dishes first. A stereotype, sure, but is it true? Do men really have stronger sex drives than women?

Well, yes, they do. Study after study shows that men's sex drives are not only stronger than women's, but much more straightforward. The sources of women's libidos, by contrast, are much harder to pin down.

It's common wisdom that women place more value on emotional connection as a spark of sexual desire. But women also appear to be heavily influenced by social and cultural factors as well.

"Sexual desire in women is extremely sensitive to environment and context," says Edward O. Laumann, PhD. He is a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of a major survey of sexual practices, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.   

Here are seven patterns of men's and women's sex drives that researchers have found. Bear in mind that people may vary from these norms. 

1. Men think more about sex.

The majority of adult men under 60 think about sex at least once a day, reports Laumann. Only about one-quarter of women say they think about it that frequently. As men and women age, each fantasize less, but men still fantasize about twice as often.

In a survey of studies comparing male and female sex drives, Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, found that men reported more spontaneous sexual arousal and had more frequent and varied fantasies.

2. Men seek sex more avidly.

"Men want sex more often than women at the start of a relationship, in the middle of it, and after many years of it," Baumeister concludes after reviewing several surveys of men and women. This isn't just true of heterosexuals, he says; gay men also have sex more often than lesbians at all stages of the relationship. Men also say they want more sex partners in their lifetime, and are more interested in casual sex. 

Men are more likely to seek sex even when it's frowned upon or even outlawed:

  • About two-thirds say they masturbate, even though about half also say they feel guilty about it, Laumann says. By contrast, about 40% of women say they masturbate, and the frequency of masturbation is smaller among women.
  • Prostitution is still mostly a phenomenon of men seeking sex with women, rather than the other way around.
  • Nuns do a better job of fulfilling their vows of chastity than priests. Baumeister cites a survey of several hundred clergy in which 62% of priests admitted to sexual activity, compared to 49% of nuns. The men reported more partners on average than the women.
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