True or False? Men are more interested in casual relationships than women. Photo: Cultura/Chev Wilkinson
It's true that in the complicated and convoluted world of sex, myths will always abound. But a slew of research has disproved some beliefs, mostly based on long-held, gender-based stereotypes. It seems, contrary to what pop psychology books and magazine covers would have you believe, women are not from Venus, nor are men from Mars. Herein we dispel these and other commonly held sex myths.
1. Men are more interested in casual sex than women
FALSE: Despite what sitcoms since the 1970s would have us believe, men are not all out to spread their seed on endless one-night stands. Professor Terri Conley from the University of Michigan recently reviewed an oft-cited 1989 study which supported the theory that men are more interested in casual sex. In that study researchers trained young men and women to proposition strangers for sex. They found 70 per cent of the men approached by a woman seeking sex saying, 'sure' while not a single woman agreed. Conley argued that there is evidence that cultural factors play a major role and context was needed. In her study, when men and women considered hypothetical offers of casual sex from famous people, or offers from close friends whom they were told were good in bed, the gender differences in acceptance of casual sex disappeared.
2. Men want to sleep with their friend's wives
FALSE: If you're worried about adultery within your friendship circle this new research may ease your concerns. A recent study from University of Missouri found that male testosterone levels drop when interacting with the spouse of a close friend. Why there may be ample opportunity due to time spent together, researchers believe it might be an evolutionary aversion.
"Men's testosterone levels generally increase when they are interacting with a potential sexual partner," said Mark Flinn, professor of anthropology at the university.
"However, our findings suggest that men's minds have evolved to foster a situation where the stable pair bonds of friends are respected."
3. Men have more sex partners than women
FALSE: According to a study published in the February edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men and women have more or less the same amount of sex across their lifespan. While there are differences in sexual interest over a lifespan, the variation was highest between individuals, not between sexes. And while studies generally find men reporting more sexual partners than women, there seems to be some fibs being told. In 2003, researchers reported in the Journal of Sex Research that if you trick participants into believing that they are hooked up to a lie-detector test, women actually report the same number of sexual partners as men, with women more likely than men to have different answers depending on conditions under being surveyed.
4. Headaches and sex don't mix
FALSE: That old 'not tonight love, I have a headache' excuse might not work as well as expected when your partner explains that, according to a recent study, they know just the cure. Research from the University of Munster in Germany found that having sex may actually be more effective in curing a headache than painkillers due to the endorphins triggered. They found that more than half of migraine sufferers in the study who had sex during a migraine experienced an improvement in symptoms, though for a third of the responding patients, sex worsened the migraines.
5. Sex is a great workout
FALSE: It seems getting horizontal doesn't have the added benefit of being the workout we once believed. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine debunked the commonly held notion after finding that on average a 6-minute romp (the average time they found sex to last) would only burn 88 kilojoules (21 calories). This is well under the inflammatory claims in the past of up to 1255 kilojoules (300 calories) burnt per encounter. You could burn those same 88 kilojoules by taking a 4-minute brisk walk around the block followed by a cold shower.