Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Married Men Get More Sex - Part Two

I hear/read that married people have more (and more satisfying) sex than people who aren't married. As someone who is now married, this hasn't been my experience – probably because we have young two children. (See Part One) And there are plenty of people who claim experience that goes against this well-known data.

Why?

Even without my own personal experience, we know that: 1. Statistics can be misleading, and 2. Individual cases can be different. For example, if marriage is 90% likely to mean more sex, then there is 10% for whom remaining unmarried means more sex, or at least the same amount.

Here are some considerations for studies/polls that say married people have more sex than unmarried people:

1. We don't know how much sex any particular person would be having if that person had chosen a different path. In other words, we don't know how much sex married John Doe would be having if he had decided to shack up instead, or just had a series of steady girlfriends, or stayed single but dated. We don't know how much sex bachelor Mark Smith would be having if he had married instead.

2. Perhaps the kind of people who are likely to have more sex are the kind of people to get married to begin with. (I discussed both of these first two points before.) Let’s face it, a young, healthy, tall, outgoing, rich, attractive man is more likely to attract a wife or a sex partner. He can attract sex partners without being married.

3. How is the data obtained? Anonymously and alone? Couples meeting with counselors? Unwritten memories – like when morbidly obese people swear they've been eating nothing other than 1000 calories a day of low-fat, low-suger food for the past two years? Are these people keeping a journal? As "liberated" as women are these days, many will lie about how much sex they have had outside of marriage. Women will frequently lie about sex outside of marriage toward claiming fewer partners and encounters than they have really experienced, because they don't want to admit to behavior that they think will make them look slutty. Conversely, married people may overstate the amount of sex they are having becauase they think that is what they are supposed to say.

4. Mixing the USA or Canada or Great Britain or the Netherlands in with Saudi Arabia or Bangladesh or Guatemala or Malaysia or whatever doesn't quite work. Even comparing rural areas in the USA with major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles makes a difference. Some places are more discouraging – by law or socialization or general culture – to unmarried sex than others. Check the bar/club to church ratio. Of course the average unmarried person living in a small town where everyone belongs to the same Baptist church or Mormon stake (I think that's what they call it), with or near family is going to be having less sex than the average married person. But what about the bachelor who lives in a condo tower in the middle of a densely populated area where nobody knows - or cares - that he brings various women he barely knows back to his pad?

5. "Unmarried" is a huge category. It can include: a) 10-17 year-olds, b) people in comas or otherwise severely physically limited including very elderly widows, c) people with hormonal imbalances and thus no sex drive, d) the incarcerated , e) the deployed, f) monks/priests/nuns who have taken a vow of celibacy, g) others who have resolved to abstain until marriage h) LGBT, i) people in the process of getting divorced or are newly divorced, j) people shacking up, k) unmarried people with a regular partner but not living with that partner, l) people who are single – you get the idea.

The best studies will compare people who are married to people who are unmarried who are the same ages, roughly the same economic status, and in live in close proximity, breaking the categories of "unmarried" down into sexually active people who a) shack up; b) do not shack up but have a steady partner; c) play the field.

There's a lot more to discuss about this topic, so this series will continue.

[Read Part 3, in which I give a disclaimer about moral considerations.]

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