Sex and the Straight, White College Male

Whoever first declared that men think about sex once every seven minutes was clearly just making stuff up — only everyone since has taken him seriously. The same can be said for the cartoonists who started drawing men’s brain as all sex, with a sprinkling of football. And ditto, while we’re on the subject, for the psychologist who decided women just never think about sex.

In fact, if the latest research from the sex research community is to be believed, straight, mostly white male college students think about sex only about 19 times a day, with individual variations ranging from one to nearly 400. (How the guy who thinks about it 388 times a day juggles coursework and his heavy cognitive porn load is beyond me.) They think about food nearly as often, and sleep about half as often. Their female counterparts think about sex, food, and sleep an average of 10, 9, and 15 times a day.

This particular study — indeed, there is more than one — comes from researchers at Ohio State University. All the counts were recorded by the subjects as their thoughts happened, using discreet little clickers — no pen, paper, or after-the-fact guessing — which makes it the most reliable of the few studies to even look at this issue.

The news release just came out yesterday, but given the topic and the snazzy headline that came with it (“Study debunks stereotype that men think about sex all day long”), it’s already earned the attention of several news outlets — and scorn from readers. They’re picking apart the subject pool:

“They’re asking college students. Can we all agree that this is not a good representation of all men and women? Honestly, can you think of a worse population to survey about this topic?”

The measurements:

“Maybe if you think about sex continuously for 20 minutes or so, and then think about something else for 10 minutes, but then are back on sex for another hour, that only counts as twice, total?”

And the underlying idea as a whole:

“Really? They had to do a study to debunk this myth?”

Any minute now, folks are going to come out against the blatant waste of taxpayer money and the tomfoolery goose-chasing displayed by academic researchers. People: Stick a cork in it. This is not a multi-thousand dollar research initiative. It’s just science for science’s fun sake. It’s a simple idea that came out of a class discussion that the professor — Terri Fisher — had with her class on the paucity of data on sexual cognition and which ended with an open invitation to study the issue if anyone wanted. When two of her students took her up on it, the study took off. Not only did the researchers add real data, invaluable research experience, and a real publication to their repertoire, but they knocked it out of the park and even garnered themselves some news coverage. The whole thing cost all of $500 — a minor student research grant — and almost all of that was spent on clickers.

As for what we get out of it? That’s easy — a shiny new statistic to whip out at trivia night. That’s something to think about (when you’re not thinking about sex).