Psychologists debunk 6 common gender-essentialist myths about sexuality

BREAKING: Science confirms what feminists have been saying forever. All those myths about innate gender differences when it comes to sex? Not actually true. In a new review of research, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues debunked six common gender-essentialist myths.

1) Men want “attractiveness,” while women want “status”

Sure, maybe on paper they do, but in the real world where actual relationships take place, attraction doesn’t fall into such simple stereotypes. Shocking, I know.

2) Men want many more sexual partners than women do

Turns out if you look at medians instead of averages to avoid skewing the data with a few Don Juan wannabes, men and women both say they want one sexual partner. (Just one! That is truly the most surprising finding of the whole study.) And if you get people to tell the truth, gender differences in actual sexual partners disappear too.

3) Men think about sex more than women do

Ok, they do. But only 18 times a day–not nearly the every seven seconds we were told! And they also think about other needs, like food and sleep, more than women do.

4) Women have fewer orgasms than men do

True, but the “orgasm gap” is clearly more dependent on relationship type than biology. While women orgasmed about a third as much as men during first-time hookups, that number jumps to 79% in committed relationships.

5) Men like casual sex more than women do

This is one of the most persistent myths out there. But the researchers say that women’s reluctance to accept an offer of casual sex is mostly because they’re not convinced the guy will be good in bed (see #4) and are afraid of being slut-shamed. If you account for these two barriers, the gender difference disappears.

6) Women are pickier than men

Everyone tends to be choosier when they’re approached by a potential partner, and less choosy when they’re doing the approaching. So it’s our lingering expectation that men do the asking and women the accepting–not some evolutionary bullshit about spreading seeds–that keeps this myth alive.

The researchers end with a nice little smackdown of evolutionary psychologists’ explanations for gender differences in sexuality. Instead of being rooted in our evolutionary past, such differences can be explained by “much more mundane causes: stigma against women for expressing sexual desires; women’s socialization to attend to other’s needs rather than their own; and, more broadly, a double standard that dictates (different sets of) appropriate sexual behaviors for men and women.”

Word. Now please let’s put these myths to bed for good.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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