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Wie vergleichen sich Männer und Frauen?

von NFI Redaktion

Photo of a couple in bed

Chances are you’ve heard things like this before: Men get aroused at the slightest provocation and are always ready for sex, while women have less interest in sex and need to be „in the mood.“ For years, the widespread belief has been that men simply have a higher sex drive than women.

Research findings are often cited to support the assumption that men may think more about sex, actively seek it out, and get aroused more easily due to their higher testosterone levels. The male sexuality is like an on-off switch, while female sexuality is a complex network of connections. Right?

Not quite.

Other research, along with an evolving understanding of sexuality, gender, and desire, show us that sexual desire doesn’t neatly fit into the boxes of „male“ and „female.“

„The idea that men have a higher sex drive is not only a too simplistic notion, it’s also simply not true,“ says Sarah Hunter Murray, PhD, marriage and family therapist and author of Not Always in the Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex, and Relationships.

Our social norms and the way we are raised to either indulge in or suppress our sexuality have a significant impact on how we experience our sexuality and how we report it in studies,“ says Hunter Murray. „People who have been raised as men in our society have generally been given more permission to openly talk about their desire for sex, while young women are often told they should not express their sexuality.“

Justin Garcia, PhD, executive director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, agrees.

„Our sexual interest is determined by many factors, including not only biology, age, and medication use, but also by the situation – for both men and women,“ he says. „Sexual attitudes are heavily influenced by societal and religious views. If you have been told it’s bad to express your sexuality, it will eventually affect your sense of whether you should or shouldn’t.“

And these messages may have influenced the research that has shown that men want more sex than women.

In a 2007 study, researchers sought to find out how social norms influence the way men and women report sexual behaviors such as masturbation, number of sexual partners, and viewing pornography. The individuals they studied – all college students – were asked the same questions but divided into three groups.

  • One group was told that the research assistants (their college-age peers) would see their answers.
  • A second group was hooked up to a lie detector and falsely told they would know if they didn’t tell the truth.
  • The third group was not connected to a lie detector during their survey, and they were not told their answers would be seen.

For almost all questions, men and women tended to report different levels of sexual activity when they thought peers would see their answers. In the lie detector group, the gender differences were much smaller.

For example, when they believed peers would see their answers, men reported masturbating much more frequently than women. But these differences practically disappeared in the lie detector group.

And when people believed their peers would see their answers, men reported having about 3.7 sexual partners, while women reported about 2.6. In the lie detector group, men reported about 4.4 sexual partners, women about 4.0.

Despite stereotypes, a significant portion of men – up to 1 in 6 – regularly experience low levels of sexual desire, meaning it’s so low that the person considers it a problem. A review of multiple studies from 2010 found that about 14 to 19% of men reported regularly and reliably having problematic low or diminished sexual desire.

„Men are not walking robots who want sex at the drop of a hat,“ says Hunter Murray. „We often don’t give men permission to talk about the things that contribute to a low sex drive, like relationship dynamics, work stress, fatigue, childrearing, as well as household chores and daily routine.“

It’s difficult to assess whether men really want more sex than women when interviewing men or women in isolation for research purposes. If a man says he wants more sex than his partner, how do you know she sees things the same way?

The few studies that have examined sexual desire in a „dyadic“ relationship – meaning they surveyed same-sex couples in a relationship – have consistently found that men are not more or less likely than their partner to desire more sex, more often.

One of the first studies to discover this pattern was conducted over 20 years ago. In a group of 72 heterosexual college-age couples, about half reported having similar levels of sexual desire. Of the couples who differed in desire, about half reported the male partner as the one less interested in sex.

Recently, Hunter Murray published a similar study on college-age couples, which yielded the same results. About half of the couples had similar levels of desire. And among those who didn’t, men were just as likely as women to be the partner with lower libido.

“Multiple studies show that men’s and women’s sexual desire is more similar than different,” says Hunter Murray. There isn’t much research on the extent of desire in transgender and non-binary individuals.

“Gender norms regarding sexual desire are outdated in many ways,” she says. “If there is something about how you experience desire that aligns with a stereotype, that’s okay, but so many of us fall outside of those limited boundaries. There are men whose interest in sex ranges from low to non-existent to very high, and the same applies to women. As humans, we are diverse, and as long as your sexual expression is healthy and feels right for you, the chances are that your experience is normal.“

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