College students are still lying about their sexual history. The question is why.
According to a new study by psychologist, Terri Fisher, college-aged males are prone to exaggerate their number of sex partners, while females tend to downplay their amount; that is, when either group thinks it can get away with it.
Some of the students were asked the same questions while submitting to what they thought was a lie detector (it wasn’t active). The men who thought their honesty would be tracked submitted lower answers, and the woman submitted higher. In fact, the women in the “honest” group confessed to more partners than their male counterparts. These results are similar to a study done in 2003, as well as the plot of every teen comedy released in the late 90’s.
Here’s where things get interesting: The 293 students were questioned not just about their sex history, but also about their interest in actions traditionally associated with male or female behavior. All students were asked if they partook in feminine actions like writing poetry or masculine engagements like lifting weights. For all non-sexual questions the answers of the lie-detector and normal groups matched perfectly. “Men and women didn’t feel compelled to report what they did in ways that matched the stereotypes for their gender for the non-sexual behaviors,” Fisher said.
Guys and gals lie about doin it, but that’s about it.
So what’s the deal? The whole “men over-report, women under-report” concept is so engrained in our culture that we simply accept it as the norm. In the past decade especially, gender and sexual freedom has come a long way: from the celebration of the sexual exploits by characters on Girls to the slow-and-stead march for gay-marriage legalization. Similarly, as the study shows there is no will to lie for males that like writing poetry or girls that want to get swolled up. Despite all this, men and women still feel it necessary to lie to an anonymous surveyor when it comes to their sex lives.
The common reasoning for people to lie is the old standby of “forming to gender roles.” This makes no sense; men and women seem perfectly content in being honest with every other aspect of their perceived masculinity or femininity. Sex is the only thing that makes everyone uneasy, and it has to involve more than wanting to match the standards of one’s gender.
It’s a major question that still lacks a satisfying answer. Feel free to postulate your own theories in the comments.