Sunday, May 01, 2011

Women lie more about sexual activity now than they did in the past?

Roissy recently referred to a study conducted nearly a decade ago finding that the male-female discrepancies in self-reported numbers of sexual partners are not equally the fault of each sex, but instead primarily the result of female understatement:
A lot of bloggers like to use GSS (General Social Survey) data to track changes in society’s sexual behavior. Many of these bloggers have found in this data evidence that American women are becoming less slutty in the past ten or twenty years. This does not jibe with my personal experience, so I knew something was amiss. I mused that perhaps American society is bifurcating into two female camps, with the urban blue state camp waving the banner of Team Slut and the religious red state camp hoisting the flag of Team Prude. Since there are more red state godly girls than there are blue state heretic hos, I figured that would account for the overall trend toward less sluttiness.

But studies like the above point out a real problem with sex survey data like that found in the GSS — women just aren’t going to tell you the truth about their sex lives under most normal circumstances, even when anonymity is guaranteed. And that may be the real reason why the GSS gurus are finding chimeras of chasteness that don’t really exist — the data are corrupt.

I'm not sure if this is specifically directed at me or not--Roissy has noted some of my empirically-backed skepticism of the Game narrative in the past, and as far as I'm aware, there aren't many other bloggers tracking sexual activity over time via the GSS. Assuming it is, it doesn't address what I pointed out the data suggest--namely, that sexual promiscuity has essentially been steady state for at least the last 20 years. Unless the insinuation is that women dishonestly understate more today than they understated in the past--a counterintuitive assumption given the perpetual media push towards an ever greater mainstreaming acceptance of female promiscuity--if anything, the finding that women are the less noble sex when it comes to answering anonymous survey questions honestly suggests that female sexual activity might actually be declining slightly, as a recent survey of young adults found.

Roissy might counter that the whole survey business is irredeemably corrupt. That's a difficult charge to positively disprove, but there's no compelling reason to believe it, either. Perhaps there is a steady modal number of sexual partners men have felt compelled to report having had that has no bearing on reality for at least the last few decades, and similarly a steady modal number of sexual partners women feel compelled to report having had that bears no relationship with their actual behavior, but where's the evidence for this? And it's not just self-reported survey data that reveal steady or reduced levels of sexual promiscuity--data collected by the CDC indicate the same thing.

I think Roissy is making the good the enemy of the perfect--of course self-reported data are not going to be entirely accurate. But in the case of sexual behavior, contemporary self-reports are probably, if anything, more accurate than self-reports in the past were, as the social stigmas surrounding sexual behaviors of all kinds have been relentlessly whittled away. Correspondingly, the shame women feel for past sexual behaviors has likely been, if anything, similarly whittled away.


OneSTDV said...

When I read that post at Roissy's, I figured it was directed at you.

silly girl said...

"women just aren’t going to tell you the truth about their sex lives"


"women just aren’t going to tell you the truth"

fixed that for him!

Audacious Epigone said...

Incidentally, while I think using Game to push HBD is fraught with peril since lots of aspects of Game undercut HBD, Roissy' popularity and his parenthetical interests (and, more importantly, posts) on HBD-related content is great. I see several such posts on his mainpage now. Three cheers for that!

hbd chick said...

well, roissy's got a point that there is a problem with self-reported data. but there's also a problem with going by "personal experience."

going by my personal experience, the u.s. must be 99.9% white 'cause, h*ll, that's all who i see every day -- white folks. that, however, has something to do with the neighborhood|area in which i live.

Dahlia said...

Great post.

One of the things that bothers me most about this movement is the lack of transparency. After reading "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" (one of the best books I've read in the last couple of years), I especially understand why it is so.

One of the things I did learn from the book is that hbd and these mind tricks can be compatible, unfortunately. They won't work on everyone and some will be more predisposed than others to fall for them. The premise of the book is that people perform many tasks, go about their daily business, and gather information seemingly on autopilot. This is because the world is too complex for us to think thoroughly every single thing we do. What salesmen, con-artists, and others do is exploit these triggers. For example: a stranger buys a person a coke, unasked, and then later tries to sell him raffle tickets. The victim will on average buy more tickets than if he hadn't been done the unasked favor. Why? We are hard-wired to feel indebtedness and will feel the pull to reciprocate when someone does us a favor.

I mentioned earlier my experience w/ game being played on me and it was very reminiscent of other times con-artists have either been successful with me or close: I felt something was wrong, but went through with it anyway.

Yeah, as far as the sliming of unfriendly data, I see these guys as acting almost like a cartel, especially of the frat house sort. Try to get as much fornication as possible by shaming anyone who is married and monogamous; influence them to believe it is the only good and viable lifestyle choice for a plethora of reasons; pick-and-choose the data to back them up; and obfuscate their identities.

BTW, the guy who ran game on me, a married woman: he would have had NO problem with women his own age or about ten years younger. He had an outgoing personality and was smart. He was way out of his league going after me and he was SMOKING CRACK to think I would cheat on my husband with him. Before "game" became popular, a guy like this would never have pulled such a gambit.

Ron Guhname said...

Roissy might think that self-report data is bunk, but lots of research has documented the (arguably) counterintuitive finding that people are quite honest about private and even deviant behavior. AE's point about changes in reporting is right on target. The study cited does not back up what Roissy claims it does.