But apparently not everyone lies about sex. Or perhaps, as I tend to suspect, they are lying about not lying about it.
Research shows that, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a split between the genders when it comes to answering the potentially embarrassing question. Around a third of women give a false response – and 64 per cent of these reduce the number. Half lie because they ‘feel ashamed’ of the number, while a further 19 per cent don’t want to be seen as promiscuous. A fifth of women would be dishonest about their number of sexual partners if their new partner had slept with fewer people than them.
A higher proportion of men – 43 per cent – lie to their new partner. In these cases, around 60 per cent increase the amount.
I was very surprised by this, because on every occasion I have been privy to accurate information about a female friend’s history and then heard her mention a number, she has lied. But then, it occurred to me that because higher numbers tend to devalue a woman’s relationship appeal, many women have no reason to lie. Consider the CDC report on anonymously reported female sexual history:
15+ partners: 9.4 percent
7-14 partners: 21.3 percent
2-6 partners: 44.3 percent
0-1 partners: 25 percent
Can you find “around a third of women” who might have an incentive to “give a false response”? The majority of the false reporting is almost surely from the 30.7% of women who fall into the Slutty and Frisky categories but are dishonestly claiming to be Normal. The average college-educated woman is disposed to believe that claiming 4-5 previous lovers is going to sound credible and not too promiscuous, (one high school boyfriend plus one fling per year of college), whereas no one is going to believe a claim of near-chastity. This is why a man should call BS on a woman who claims that moderate level of experience while simultaneously providing evidence that it is actually more extensive.
Now, it’s pretty easy for a woman to tell if a man is exaggerating about his experience, since he probably won’t know what he is doing. But how can a man tell if a woman is clever enough to avoid claiming complete inexperience and doesn’t give it away by breaking out bedroom gymnastics worthy of Cirque du Soleil? It’s quite easy if you happen to have access to her clothing drawer. Women attempt to steal status-branded t-shirts and sweatshirts whenever they have a fling with a man. It’s a bizarre form of competitive female trophy-hunting; a Harvard Hockey t-shirt trumps a nice, but generic University of Oregon sweatshirt.* So, you can be sure that every t-shirt advertising a college she never attended, a sporting event she never saw, a military service** to which neither she nor any family member are connected, or, if she actually went to that college, a sport she never played, represents a notch on her bedpost that she doesn’t report as a boyfriend. If she keeps around a few worn-out favorites of the sort she’d never buy in a million years but somehow keep managing to survive periodic wardrobe purges, you can be sure that they once belonged to other men.
And if she has a drawer full of t-shirts representing the entire SEC plus half the Big Ten, Notre Dame, and two Ivies, you had better run, not walk, to the nearest medical clinic.
Male dishonesty makes similar sense, albeit coming from the opposite angle. Because women place a negative value on men without sexual experience, men who lack it have an incentive to make themselves look more attractive via false preselection. And if 17% of men are lying to REDUCE their numbers, that gives some support to the 80/20 rule. Only the Alphas in the most successful quintile can afford to reduce their reported numbers without reducing their appeal to a prospective partner.
UPDATE – It occurs to me that women can find some use in the t-shirt test too. If you’re with a high value man you suspect of being haut alpha, check his t-shirt and sweatshirt collection. If he’s a former college athlete or graduated from an elite school, he should have no shortage of commemorative event t-shirts and team sweatshirts. If he doesn’t have any, then you can probably guess how they managed to walk out the door, one by one. If you want to amuse yourself, try asking him where they are. Most guys are so completely clueless about female trophy-hunting that he probably isn’t even aware they’re missing.
*If you ever feel like upending a woman’s applecart, note the trophy shirt X that she’s proudly sporting. Then, the next time you see her, ask her if she’s ever hooked up with X. While she’s wide-eyed and stammering in confusion, just smile and say, “Yeah, I thought you looked like the type.”
**thanks to AmyJ for reminding us of this one.