There’s a widely held belief that men think about sex every seven seconds (about 8,000 times a day). It’s not true, of course. If men thought about sex that often, we wouldn’t have time to think about sports and beer.
Judge: “What happened, Muthuswami? Why did you drive your bus into that big hole at the side of the road?”
Muthuswami: “Sorry, your honour, I had sex on my brain.”
Thankfully, Dr. Terri Fisher, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, has done a study that offers a more realistic view. According to the study, which was published in the January issue of The Journal of Sex Research, the average man thinks about sex 19 times a day, while the average woman thinks about sex 10 times a year.
Actually, it’s “10 times a day” for women, but if you’re a married man, you probably think “10 times a year” is more accurate.
Thirty-year-old man: “My wife thinks about sex 19 times a day.”
Friend: “Wow, what’s your secret?”
Thirty-year-old man: “Every time I think about it, I make her think about it too.”
Friend: “Does that work?”
Thirty-year-old man: “Not really. She just says, ‘I thought about it, but I don’t feel like it. Remember, sweetheart, it’s the thought that counts.’”
I’m a little surprised by Fisher’s findings. Nineteen times a day is certainly more realistic than 8,000 times a day, but it does seem rather low, especially since Fisher and her team conducted their research on college students. You can’t convince me that the average male college student (surrounded by attractive young women on campus) thinks about sex only 19 times a day. If you could monitor his sexual thoughts, I bet you’d count to 19 while he was walking from his room on the second floor of his dormitory to the bottom of the stairs.
If a male college student thinks about sex only 19 times a day, what does it say about the rest of us? Even if we think about sex just twice an hour, that would be 32 times a day (assuming that we sleep for eight hours and don’t do what the average male college student frequently does: dream about sex).
In all fairness, Fisher’s study does show considerable variability from one male respondent to another. Among the 283 college students aged 18 to 25, the male responses ranged from 1 to 388!
Yes, one male student thinks about sex 388 times a day. A future study may reveal how many cold showers he takes a day.
The study does have its limitations. The students were asked to press a clicker every time they had a sexual thought. But how do you press a clicker when your hands are occupied? (College students, after all, are often eating with one hand and texting with the other.)
Another limitation is that the study doesn’t differentiate between a sexual thought such as “She’s hot. I’d love to get into bed with her” and a more innocent thought such as “I wonder if parrots talk to each other after they mate.”
In case you’re wondering, the average male parrot thinks about sex 8,000 times a day. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
(A slightly different version of this column originally appeared in Times of India, Chennai edition)