Conventional wisdom holds that men think about sex every seven seconds (or about 8,000 times per day, assuming an average of eight hours of sleep), while women think about sex rarely, or perhaps not at all. But is there any truth behind these stereotypes of men as hypersexual and women as hyposexual? A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research reveals that men think about sex less and women think about sex more than most people assume.
In this clever study, 283 U.S. college student aged 18-25 were asked to track their thoughts about one of three different needs over the course of a week. The needs were either food, sleep, or sex. Participants kept track of their thoughts via a handheld tally counter, which is similar to the type of device that employees at popular nightclubs use to keep track of how many people have gone through the door. Every time participants had a relevant need-related thought pop into their heads, they clicked a button on the counter in order to register it. To get a sense of how many times participants thought about each need, check out the table below.
As you can see above, men indeed thought about sex more often than women; however, men thought about all of their needs more than women. So, sex was not unique in that regard—rather, it appears that men just spend more time thinking about all of their needs. However, it is not at all clear from these findings whether men are biologically compelled to think more about their needs, or if there are psycho-social reasons for this sex difference.
Additionally, these results tell us that men certainly aren’t thinking about sex every seven seconds; rather, guys have sex on the brain more like twice per hour on average. Also, contrary to the idea that women rarely think about sex, it seems that women are thinking about sex about once per hour on average. Although these results suggest that men think about sex twice as often as women, this gender difference may be exaggerated due to social pressure on women to underreport their sexual thoughts. Consistent with this idea, among female participants (but not male participants), those who had the least favorable attitudes toward sex and those who were the most concerned about presenting themselves in a favorable light reported the fewest sexual thoughts. This suggests that some women were not accurately reporting how often they were actually thinking about sex.
All in all, these findings challenge the common stereotype of the hypersexual man and the hyposexual woman. The reality is that both men and women think about sex several times per day. Also, while men do seem to think about sex more often, it is far from being the only thing that they have on the brain.
 Fisher, T. D., Moore, Z. T., & Pittenger, M. (2012). Sex on the brain?: An examination of frequency of sexual cognitions as a function of gender, erotophilia, and social desirability. The Journal of Sex Research, 49, 69-77.
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