The New York Times (2008) explored the weakness of self-report surveys in the study of extramarital sex yesterday, in an article that examined inconsistencies in the "adultery gap." More men than women typically report that they have had extramarital sex, according to the General Social Survey, which has polled men and women about their sex lives since 1972. The NYT article quotes David C. Atkins*: if "you start looking at specific gender and age cohorts, we do start to see some pretty significant changes" in infidelity reporting. The article points out that women report higher numbers in anonymous surveys than face-to-face, suggesting that they are lying to fit a social standard.
The tendency for women to lie about their sex lives, due to the sexual double standard, was explored in a NYT article last year as well (see 8/13/07), which suggested that average sexual partners between men and women should be similar, mathematically speaking.
So, I think I've figured out my problem with this topic. Last August, when the NYT published the "mathematical proof" that women were lying about their sexual histories, I reacted pretty strongly. Strongly enough, in fact, that a mathematics blog listed me among bloggers getting their "panties into a knot" over it. I've been thinking about it, and you know: that's fair. I do get my panties into a knot over it, because it seems to always be presented as women lying to get their sexual numbers down. There doesn't seem to be much mention of men lying to increase their numbers, which seems just as likely to me as the converse.
*supposedly at the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors, but not listed on their website
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