The numbers game

When it comes to talking about our sexual experience, both genders love to tell porkies. Here's why...

When it comes to dishing on our sex life, a new study suggests we’re all living Pinocchios who’ll lie to live up to gender stereotypes. In other words, guys will talk up their experience and the number of notches in their bedposts because they want to be seen as “real men”, while women will play down their experience to match “expectations” about appropriate behaviour for females.

“We live in a society where men are still supposed to be the sexual dominant and women are supposed to be submissive and demure and too much sex will ruin them, so guys will increase their number while girls downplay it,” says sex expert Dr Nikki Goldstein.

But if we want fib about our “number” to come off as more feminine, why do we have no problem fessing up to other non-sexual “non-girly” behaviours?

A study by Ohio State University found women had no issue confessing that they told obscene, man-style jokes or pumped iron like a dude, and guys were happy to admit to writing poetry, which is apparently seen as a feminine thing to do. But when it came to sex, we all just can’t help BSing.

To prove this, researchers identified behaviour that was seen as typically guy-ish (like wearing dirty clothes!) or feminine (lying about their weight, writing poems or poking fun at others) and created a questionnaire.

The next step was to have 293 college kids (between 18 and 25) answer the survey, while some of them were attached to a fake lie detector – so they’d feel the pressure to be more honest. As you can guess, the only fibs occurred when it came to spilling on sexual experience. Females who thought they were hooked up to a lie detector admitted to having more sexual partners and the guys to less of them, compared those who weren’t hooked up to the machines .

But is there more to the BS than just trying to be more manly or girly? Goldstein says yes, “I think they’re ashamed. People are worried about what’s normal and when it comes to sex, there is no number. They can wonder if their number is too high or low. We’re obsessed with comparing ourselves to other people and what they’re doing.”

And when we’re focusing on fitting in, it can make people scared of being judged, “I think there’s always a stigma either way. We all have a different view on sex and how much sex people should be having and we’re going to project that onto someone we’re interested in dating and judge them by our own standards,” says Goldstein. So rather than get the number wrong, everyone would rather play it safe, stick to what’s expected and continue to tell porkies.