Awkward New Study Has Even More Awkward New Finding

grandma II
Telegraph UK is reporting that women in this generation have three times more sexual partners on average than their grandmothers did. From the article:

“Almost one in 10 of those asked said that they had had slept with more than 10 lovers by the age of 24. The average was 5.65 people.

By contrast, women of their mother’s generation, who were in their early twenties in the 1980s, had had an average of 3.72 sexual partners by the same age.

And…women of their grandmother’s generation, aged 24 in the 1960s, averaged…1.67 partners.”

Now I’m not one to dwell on the numbers — I don’t think number of sexual partners is necessarily a factor that gets at the quality or any other significant aspects of one’s sex life — but I do think this study is interesting to the extent that it is able to quantify attitudes about sex that have shifted over time and throughout generations.

So while the wording of the article isn’t perfect (what’s the scientific definition of promiscuous? Don’t have one? Ok, then you probbbly shouldn’t use it in a scientific study), I’m posting the findings to see what yall think.

As for me, aside from being relatively unsurprised (“times have changed”, or so they say), I can’t help but wonder if this is a trend that will continue over future generations, or shift with time. Will our generation go on record as having the highest number of average sexual partners? Or are we just the latest to take part in an ongoing trend? Does information like this matter in feminism, or is it largely irrelevant? Do you feel particularly close to your grandmother right now? Weigh in in comments :-)

photo via kalidoskopika

h/t to SexNSiddity

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • Meredith

    The real question I have is how honest women of previous generations were being to pollsters of the time…

  • chelsa

    Average is 5.65? Man, I must be a big floozy then.

    I wonder if this isn’t a case of people under reporting, because I know I can’t be that far off the average. I mean, I apparently even beat out the 1 in 10 numbers. I must be like, 99th percentile of sleeping with people.

    I don’t know if we’ll ever be honest about this stuff…. even to ourselves.

    • Jack

      You have to keep in mind, you’ve got people like me (one partner) and my girlfriend (also one partner) dragging down the average. And, of course, there’s the whole Clerks thing, on how you define sex. Dante’s girlfriend, as the movie put it, “sucked thirty-seven dicks,” but only engaged in what she would call sex (presumably PIV) with three men, so it’s hard to say where she would fall on the scale.

  • nazza

    My grandmother is dead. But I know she would have been of the opinion that men were supposed to be promiscuous and women were not.

    Does it matter how many people I’ve slept with? I doubt it makes much difference to anyone but me. For a long time it was a mean of bolstering my self-esteem. When I’d have a manic episode, I’d often be impulsive and hypersexual, so I have to say I’m conflicted about my numbers. Not exactly ashamed, but not exactly sure what I accomplished, either.

    I know now that I was feel a societal pressure to prove masculinity through some kind of “proficiency”, but that was true mostly for heterosexual encounters. Homosexual encounters were far easier to obtain and almost a matter of course. Numbers didn’t really matter, since I could always find it in those settings.

  • Eva

    My amazingly lucid, 102-year-old, conservative Christian grandmother recently told my sister, “if we’d had [the pill] back then, I think we would have had a lot more fun.” My whole family was shocked.

    I think this is an important and interesting study. In past generations teen pregancy was more uniformally viewed as a bad thing. Pregnancy prevention options were not readily available. In that climate, it’s possible for me to understand how shame-based lessons about “promiscuity” served a purpose. (Maybe not a GOOD purpose, but a purpose).

    If we can understand the factors that accounted for the low numbers of sexual partners of our grandmotherss generation, perhaps we can use that information to debunk the bogus, shame-based myths about women’s sexuality that are so prevelent today.

  • jiujitsubuddah

    The only reason for this difference is not that us evil women have all become sluts, its that the menz have stopped trying to control our sexuality as much. In our mother’s and grandmother’s generations, women were not allowed to live on their own, it was with mom and pop until their wedding day, they were not allowed to “date”. They were married off in their late teens and early 20s, so never had much of a chance to have more than 1 or 2 sexual partners. Plus, divorce was just flat-out not allowed, or strongly discouraged. I am 100% sure, if they had the chance, many of them would have tested the waters before diving in.

    Interesting they are not concerned with the rise in the average number of sex partners for the menz, no? Surely they have risen at an equal, if not higher, rate.

    P.S. The sites slowness and “errors establishing a database connection” are starting to drive me a little loopy!