Thursday, January 26, 2023

In 2002 the most sexually active top 20 % of American heterosexual men had 12 lifetime sex partners while the top 5 % had 38; in 2012, the top 20 % reported 15 lifetime sex partners & the top 5 % of men reported 50

Sexual loneliness – a neglected public health problem? Joona Räsänen. Bioethics, January 20 2023.

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that between 2000–2002 and 2016–2018, the proportion of 18 to 24-year-old individuals who reported having had no sexual activity in the past year increased among men (but not among women).1

In another recent study, similar results were reported: American men belonging to the youngest birth cohort who entered adulthood were more likely to be sexually inactive than their Millennial counterparts at the same ages just a few years prior.2

While the number of young men who report having no sexual experiences is increasing, there are also men who have more sex partners than ever before.

The National Survey of Family Growth data shows that in 2002 the most sexually active top 20 % of American heterosexual men had 12 lifetime sex partners while the top 5 % had 38 partners.3 Ten years later, in 2012, the most sexually active top 20 % now reported 15 lifetime sex partners and the top 5 % of men reported 50 lifetime sex partners. There was no change in the median number of sex partners.

The distribution of the number of sex partners among American heterosexual men was skewed already, but in just ten years, the distribution of sex partners among men became even more skewed. During the same time, there was no such change in the number of sex partners for heterosexual women.

Sex is concentrated within a small, yet sexually active, group of people. In one study, it was reported that the 5 % of the population with the highest number of vaginal sex acts (penile-vaginal-intercourse) accounted for more vaginal sex acts than the bottom 50 % of the population with the lowest number of vaginal sex acts. 4

Using the Gini index, it is found that the distribution of the number of sex partners both for men and women throughout their lifespan is as unequal as the distribution of wealth among the most unequal countries in the world (South Africa Gini 0.63 in 2014 and Namibia Gini 0.59 in 2015). The number of female sex partners is more unequally distributed among single men (Gini 0.60) than the number of male sex partners is among single women (Gini 0.58) although both male and female sex partners are highly concentrated among people.5

While sex is not like money or wealth in every aspect, the lack of access to sexual experiences can be seen as a concern for distributive justice6 and a problem for public health since an active sex life is beneficial for people’s health and well-being. There are numerous studies that show the link between active sex life and our mental and physical health.7 On the other hand, people experience negative emotional effects when being without access to sexual and romantic partners. Sexual loneliness decreases self-esteem and positive mood in both men and women. Especially for men, sexual loneliness might cause anger and aggression, which can manifest violently.

Lack of sex and relationship is related to many societal problems, and loneliness and lack of intimacy predispose men to violent behaviour. Misogyny is prevalent in places where competition for women is tough and men struggle to find a partner. Sex offenders, serial killers, terrorists and mass murderers have, likewise, often given sexual frustration as a reason for their actions. Lately, the U.S. Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center released a report, stating that there is a growing terrorism threat from men who call themselves “involuntary celibates.”8

However, it is not only people in the U.S. that should be worried about the risk of such violence. Sexual loneliness among young men is increasing in many countries. For instance, in my native Finland, the number of men who have trouble finding a sex partner doubled from 1992 to 2015, and the number of young men who have not had intercourse has increased. 9 Yet, at the same time, Finnish men want more sex than they did before. 10

While bioethicists, clinicians and public health experts have recently gained interest in loneliness and its relation to our well-being 11– especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were forced to stay at home12– sexual loneliness is still a neglected topic in bioethics and related fields.

One possible aid for sexual loneliness might come from online dating apps such as Tinder. In theory, online dating could provide an efficient way to find a partner. However, online dating divides people heavily into winners and losers – perhaps even more so than traditional dating. While women can get attention from thousands of men online in just a few hours, men are lucky if anyone is interested in them.13 Because online dating apps are visual, rejections can be especially hurtful. It is no surprise that being unsuccessful on Tinder is associated with an increase in sadness and anxiety.14

Technology does not provide a solution to loneliness, in general,15 and will unlikely solve sexual loneliness either. Sexual loneliness has nevertheless become a pressing public health problem that needs serious bioethical analysis and thoughtful solutions. These bioethical analyses could include (but perhaps should not be limited to) critical evaluations of claims made by opposing ideological camps. For instance, consider the following claim, raised by Jordan Peterson: societies should alleviate sexual loneliness by enforcing socially-promoted and culturally-inculcated monogamy.16

Philosophical bioethicists could make valuable contributions to the discussion by analyzing claims like the one above and evaluating whether they are logically consistent and conceptually coherent with the agent’s other commitments. 17 The results could remain conditional: “If you want this-and-this, you ought (not) to do that-and-that.” However, since these conditional claims would stand or fall based on group preferences, attitudes, background assumptions and ideologies, disagreement on what to do would surely remain.

Men's sexual desire fluctuated as much as women's in the short term, while women's desire was more variable in the long term

Does Sexual Desire Fluctuate More Among Women than Men? Emily A. Harris, Matthew J. Hornsey, Wilhelm Hofmann, Patrick Jern, Sean C. Murphy, Fanny Hedenborg & Fiona K. Barlow. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Jan 25 2023.

Abstract: There is a lay assumption that women’s sexual desire varies substantially over time, whereas men’s is stable. This assumption is mirrored in prominent theories of desire, which posit that women are more variable than men in the extent to which they desire sex, and that women’s sexual desire is more contextually sensitive than men’s. We tested this assumption across three longitudinal studies. Study 1 assessed desire at 3 time points spanning 13 years (Nobservations = 5562), and Studies 2 and 3 (Nobservations = 11,282) assessed desire moment-to-moment over 7 days. When desire was measured over years, women were more variable in their sexual desire than men (Study 1). However, we found a different pattern of results when desire was measured over the short term. In Studies 2 and 3, we found no significant differences in women’s and men’s desire variability. The extent to which desire varied as a function of affective states (e.g., happiness) and relationship-oriented states (e.g., partner closeness) was similar for women and men, with some exceptions; women’s desire was more negatively associated with tiredness and anger in Study 2. These data qualify existing assumptions about sex differences in sexual desire variability.

General Discussion

Social psychological and lay theories of desire suggest that men’s desire is stable (and high), whereas women’s desire ebbs and flows depending on their social context (Baumeister, 2000; Regan & Berscheid, 1995). The present study sought to test this assumption, specifically addressing the following three questions: (1) Do women show more variability in sexual desire compared to men? (2) Compared to men, is women’s sexual desire more strongly related to their general affective states? And (3) Is women’s sexual desire more strongly tied to their relationship-oriented states compared to men’s desire?

In order to assess intra-individual changes in desire, we conducted three longitudinal studies assessing desire over 13 years (Study 1), and from moment to moment over 7 days (Studies 2 and 3). These studies collectively sampled women and men at 16,885 time points using diverse sampling methods, including community samples in Australia and the US and a population-based sample in Finland. We assessed general desire in Studies 1 and 3 and partner-specific desire in Study 2.

With regard to our first research question, when desire was measured over the longer term, women’s desire varied to a greater extent than men’s desire. In Study 1, desire was assessed three times over 13 years, with women showing significantly greater variability than men, consistent with previous research assessing changes in desire among newlyweds over four years (McNulty et al., 2019), and studies of desire during the transition to parenthood (Rosen et al., 2021). Thus, the theory that women’s desire is more variable than men’s desire is supported by longitudinal studies examining desire over many years. However, the effect was small, as can be seen in Fig. 2, and Study 1 was the most well-powered study to detect a small effect. As is often the case, the overlap in women’s and men’s distributions far exceeds the differences.

Study 1 raises the question of why desire may be more variable among women compared to men over the long term. One possibility, supported by Rosen et al. (2020), is that the transition to parenthood has a larger impact on women’s desire relative to men. We did not, however, find a significant interaction between sex and having children on desire in Study 1 (cf. McNulty et al., 2019; Rosen et al., 2021). A second possibility is that women’s desire may be more likely to decline with age as a function of feeling less attractive, due to the intersecting experiences of gendered beauty standards and ageism (Buote, 2010; van Anders et al., 2021). Relatedly, it may be that women’s desire is more likely to change over time as a function of relationship inequities if they are partnered with a man (Harris et al., 2022; van Anders et al., 2021). Additional waves of data and/or additional longitudinal studies are needed to further test the extent to which women’s desire varies more than men’s over the lifespan, and why.

When desire was measured over the short term, our results diverged from previous theorizing and quantitative results—we found no evidence that women’s desire was more variable than men’s desire in the short term. On average, both men and women show relatively large fluctuations in desire over seven days. Academic and lay assumptions about women’s desire being variable appear to be accurate. However, the assumption that men have stable desire was not supported by the data, at least in the short term. Men’s desire was as variable as women’s desire, and it was more variable than other states, such as stress and tiredness. Our findings suggest that female erotic plasticity theory, therefore, may not extend to desire in the short term.

To assess the second and third research questions, we tested whether sex moderates the associations between desire and affective and relationship-oriented states “in the moment.” In terms of affective states and desire, women and men showed similar patterns. The associations between desire and stress, attractiveness, happiness, and loneliness were significant and not moderated by sex. These findings counter assumptions that women’s desire is more sensitive to contextual factors compared to men. In particular, feeling attractive or satisfied with one’s body is often tied to women’s sexuality. Our findings suggest that researchers and the lay public may underestimate the importance of feeling attractive for men’s desire, consistent with qualitative research from Murray and Brotto (2021) showing that men in heterosexual relationships “desire to feel desired.” The effect of tiredness on desire was stronger for women in Study 2, but not in Study 3. Thus, while women’s desire was sensitive to their immediate affective states, men’s desire was equally so, perhaps with the exception of feeling tired.

In terms of the associations between relationship states and desire, there were some differences between men and women. Across Studies 2 and 3, we found no moderating effect of sex on the associations between desire and feelings about their relationship, with one exception. In Study 2, women’s anger towards their partner were more strongly (negatively) associated with desire than men’s. Thus, there may be some nuanced differences in the extent to which affective and relationship states are associated with desire. Overall, however, the patterns of association were strikingly similar for women and men, with only two of nineteen relationships moderated by sex.


Our findings provide an opportunity to build upon our current models of sex and desire over time. While the theorizing around women’s variability in desire is supported in the longer-term, it does not apply to moment-to-moment changes in desire. These findings support a distinction between short-term changes, or “state” desire, and medium- to long-term changes, or “trait” desire. Factors affecting desire “in the moment” may diverge from those affecting desire in the long term, consistent with work on gender and sex differences in absolute levels of desire (Dawson & Chivers, 2014).

Factors affecting momentary desire may also diverge from those affecting other fluid dimensions of sexuality. Women appear to show greater variability in their sexual attitudes, behavior, and attraction (e.g., Diamond et al., 2017) compared with men, but not desire, at least in the short term. One possible explanation is that desire is experienced similarly to other mood states, such as hunger or tiredness. As such, desire may be more likely to vary along with other momentary states, rather than individual differences in sex or gender. Other dimensions of sexuality, such as attitudes, behavior, and attraction, may be more sensitive to gendered pressures and expectations. Additional theorizing and research are needed to assess the relative influence of gendered expectations across different dimensions of sexuality.

Our findings regarding short-term desire variability have notable practical implications for women’s and men’s sexual self-concepts and sexual relationships. An assumption that men have stable desire and women have fluctuating desire may lead to inaccurate impressions of the world—that is, we may perceive women to be “hot and cold” and simultaneously underperceive men’s variability in desire. We may also discourage men from acknowledging fluctuations in desire if they are felt to be “not manly,” and men may subsequently engage in sexual activity despite experiencing a period of low sexual interest. Finally, for women partnered with men, sexual rejection may be more painful if women assume men have consistently high desire. That is, if a woman is under the assumption that her man partner has a consistently high sex drive, his disinterest in sex is likely to be attributed to external factors (such as her desirability) rather than internal factors (such as his naturally fluctuating sex drive). This may partially explain why women tend to have more negative responses to sexual rejection compared to men (de Graafe & Sandfort, 2004) and speaks to the importance of communication when engaging in sexual rejection (Impett et al., 2020). As such, acknowledging that desire changes in both men and women may diminish negative feelings in response to a partner’s sexual disinterest.

Limitations and Future Directions

The study of within-person changes in sexuality is still in its infancy. Research on desire discrepancy has shed light on the variable nature of desire—desire fluctuates, and these fluctuations are likely going to be different between partners, such that one partner may peak while another partner may drop (Mark, 20122014; Ridley et al., 2006). Daily diary studies have uncovered practices and strategies that can “keep the spark alive,” buffering against drops in desire over time (Muise et al., 2013b). These previous studies, and findings from Studies 2 and 3, support a “state” conceptualization of desire, whereby desire can fluctuate throughout the day and in response to external events. Further, women’s and men’s desire appear to be equally “state-like,” such that variability in desire is similar for women and men in the short term.

We note, however, that our findings are specific to our conceptualization of desire as a state. We assessed desire using one to three items that were designed to assess a brief snapshot of a person’s current level of desire. The items tended to be highly correlated (Studies 1 and 3), and single-item measures demonstrate appropriate predictive validity in experience sampling studies (Song et al., 2022). Further, our findings are largely consistent with previous work conceptualizing desire in response to sexual stimuli, whereby patterns of desire change are similar for women and men (Dawson et al., 2013). As such, this study directly addresses sex differences in state desire variability.

We did not explicitly assess trait desire, so our findings cannot speak to the extent to which women’s and men’s trait levels of desire change over time. Previous work has found that gender and sex differences in average desire may be more likely to emerge when desire is conceptualized as a trait rather than a state (Dawson & Chivers, 2014). Thus, it may be that when operationalized as a trait, desire may be more stable and trait-like for men than women. However, there is an open question as to whether it is appropriate to conceptualize desire as a trait (Dawson & Chivers, 2014; Mark & Lasslo, 2018).

The measurement of state desire may be appropriate given the extent to which it fluctuates, however, our measures may be constrained in other ways. It is possible that participants in our studies were responding according to the demand characteristics of the studies. In Study 3, we controlled for social desirability and found that the results remained unchanged. An additional possibility is that desire levels were inflated by virtue of completing the daily surveys—that is, being asked to introspect on one’s desire may cause an increase in desire. While we think this is a possibility, we do not believe this would affect our conclusions, as we did not find ceiling effects of desire, and we were interested in sex differences in variability in desire rather than baseline levels of desire.

Finally, our findings speak more directly to theories relating to sex differences in desire variability. Additional data are needed to assess whether our results would hold when assessing participants’ gender. Further, studies of gender and sex differences tend to focus on women/females and men/males and tend to only sample, heterosexual participants. Future research is needed to explore gender and sex differences beyond the gender binary, and why differences may exist. For non-binary and/or allo-binary participants, it may be that desire is sensitive to contexts in which gender identity is affirmed or denied, which might in turn influence relevant affective states, such as happiness, attractiveness, and partner closeness. And, of course, this may be similar for men and women who do identify within the binary. It may be that heterosexual women’s desire varies over the life span, as a function of heteronormative pressures, whereas women not partnered with men may experience desire differently. Future research on experiences of desire with gender and sexually diverse samples is needed to help answer these questions and contribute to a growing field of feminist and queer research on desire (e.g., Chadwick et al., 2017; Holmberg & Blair, 2009; Mark et al., 2018).

Liberal political views may be seen as a subtle signal of wealth in today's society; the shift of wealthier people to the political left may coincide with a working-class shift to the right

Are Political Views the New Luxury Goods? Bence Nanay. Psychology Today, January 25, 2023.

- Conspicuous consumption is defined as overtly displaying signs of material wealth, while inconspicuous consumption signals wealth more subtly.

- Liberal political views may be seen as a subtle signal of wealth in today's society.

- The shift of wealthier people to the political left may coincide with a working-class shift to the right.

Remember that time when Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton handbags signaled wealth? Some (not all) rich people really want the rest of the world to know that they are rich. This is often called conspicuous consumption1: You spend money on things that make people see you as well-off.

The problem is that these often not-very-subtle indicators of wealth are becoming very easy to fake. You can get a pretty convincing Rolex replica for about a hundred bucks and a fake Louis Vuitton handbag sometimes for much less. What is the fan of conspicuous consumption supposed to do? If you continue wearing your Rolex, you may be mistaken for a replica-wearing wannabe. That's the last thing you would want.

One answer is to go subtle. This is sometimes dubbed inconspicuous consumption2: Wear a watch from an obscure but very high-end watchmaker, eat organic and single-origin quinoa, and so on. You will still be recognized as rich, but only by those who count. So you can show that you are rich without appearing to show that you are rich. No crassness, no fakes. No danger of being mistaken for a nouveau riche.

Political views: The next step in inconspicuous consumption

But inconspicuous consumption is still about material goods. The next step in showing one's wealth without appearing to show it is signaling wealth with the help of values, not material goods. And these values are often political views. It is obviously in the material interest of rich people to be against taxing the rich. However, if you say—often and loudly—that the rich should be taxed, this must mean that you are super wealthy. It signals your wealth much more efficiently than Rolex watches or organic, single-origin quinoa.

Some new research shows that this shift is real. In fact, it can also help us to understand some of the perplexing aspects of recent political realignments, especially people voting against their material interests, and how, as more well-off people vote left, more poorer people also vote right, which is a surprising reversal of the classic political landscape.

This new turn in consumerism may seem entirely harmless, maybe even amusing, but it is not without potentially dangerous consequences. If people perceive the elites as having left-wing values, then as a reaction, strong populist sentiments could be evoked with extreme right-wing propaganda. And we all know what that can lead to.


1 Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class. Retrieved from:

2 Elizabeth Currid-Halkett. (2019). The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univesity Press.

3 Enke, B., Polborn, M. & Wu, A. (2022). Values as Luxury Goods and Political Polarization. Retrieved from:

Male flies that had got the brush-off from a female behaved more aggressively towards their fellow males

Sexual rejection modulates social interaction and reproductive physiology. Liora Omesi, Mali Levi, Elia Dayan, Yong-Kyu Kim, Lital Barak-Buchris, Reza Azanchi, Ulrike Heberlein, Galit Shohat-Ophir. bioRxiv Jan 22 2023.

Abstract: In highly polyandrous species, in which females mate with multiple males within a single fertility period, there is typically a high level of sperm competition. To cope with this challenge, males apply various behavioral and physiological strategies to maximize their reproductive success. Previous studies in Drosophila melanogaster established a link between the composition of the social environment and the reproductive success of individual male flies. While most studies until now focused on the adaptive responses of male flies to the presence of rival males, little is known about whether the outcomes of sexual interactions with female partners alter male-male social interactions. Here we show that repeated failures to mate promote coordinated physiological and behavioral responses that can serve to increase reproductive success over mating rivals in the future competition. We exposed male flies to sexual rejection, successful mating or no sexual experience, and analyzed the behavioral repertoires of individuals within groups and the structure of their emerging social networks. We discovered that failures to mate promote the formation of distinct emergent group interactions and structures, where rejected male flies form low density social networks and actively minimize their encounters with other group members, while increasing their aggressive behavior. In addition, sexually rejected male flies elevate the production of seminal fluid proteins and extend mating duration with receptive females, altogether leading to reduced re-mating rates. Our results demonstrate the existence of a flexible mating response as possible coping strategy for living in a highly dynamic and competitive environment as the social domain.