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Why Do Men Report More Opposite-Sex Sexual Partners Than Women? Analysis of the Gender Discrepancy in a British National Probability Survey

Mitchell, KR; Mercer, CH; Prah, P; Clifton, S; Tanton, C; Wellings, K; Copas, A; (2019) Why Do Men Report More Opposite-Sex Sexual Partners Than Women? Analysis of the Gender Discrepancy in a British National Probability Survey. The Journal of Sex Research , 56 (1) 10.1080/00224499.2018.1481193. Green open access

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Abstract

In a closed population and defined time period, the mean number of opposite-sex partners reported by men and women should be equal. However, in all surveys, men report more partners. This inconsistency is pivotal to debate about the reliability of self-reported sexual behavior. We used data from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), a probability sample survey of the British population, to investigate the extent to which survey sampling, accounting strategies (e.g., estimating versus counting), and (mis)reporting due to social norms might explain the inconsistency. Men reported a mean of 14.14 lifetime partners; women reported 7.12. The gender gap of 7.02 reduced to 5.47 after capping the lifetime partner number at the 99th percentile. In addition, adjusting for counting versus estimation reduced the gender gap to 3.24, and further adjusting for sexual attitudes narrowed it to 2.63. Together, these may account for almost two-thirds of the gender disparity. Sampling explanations (e.g., non-U.K.-resident partners included in counts; sex workers underrepresented) had modest effects. The findings underscore the need for survey methods that facilitate candid reporting and suggest that approaches to encourage counting rather than estimating may be helpful. This study is novel in interrogating a range of potential explanations within the same nationally representative data set.

Type: Article
Title: Why Do Men Report More Opposite-Sex Sexual Partners Than Women? Analysis of the Gender Discrepancy in a British National Probability Survey
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2018.1481193
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2018.1481193
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons licens, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health > Infection and Population Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10053420
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