Here is an interesting chart (via Justin J Lehmiller) which is “data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) [1,2]. The NSSHB was conducted in 2009 and involved a nationally representative U.S. sample of over 5,000 adults. In the table below, you can see the frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse reported by married men and women of different ages”:


Obviously comparing yourself to others in your age group is interesting. But what I found most intriguing was comparing the frequency reported by the married men versus the married women.

It’s difficult to say for certain because any given couple may not fall into the same age range, but look at the frequency for women ages 18-24 and men 18-24. The percentage of married men in that age range who claim to be having sex 2-3 times per week is 45.8% but the percentage of women claiming the same frequency is only 35.3%. That is a difference of over 10%. What does this mean?

I see three possibilities:

  1. Misreporting. The men have a upward bias and/or the women have a downward bias.
  2. A significant number of the women in this age range are not married to men in the same age range.
  3. A significant portion of the sex the married men are having is with someone who is not married.

Any ideas as to what is really going on?


7 thoughts on “Frequency

  1. The sex outside partnership thing sounds about right.

    Especially when you consider the popularity of polyamory, and noting that polygamy is illegal.

  2. Age difference, vanity, and adultery all tend in the same direction. Also selective recall. Women may undercount recent sexual encounters with their husbands, possibly sleeping through them.

    I would expect all four factors to have approximately similar and quite substantial effect.

    • “possibly sleeping through them.” LOL! You know it’s bad when you start thinking “I could be putting away the dishes or doing my nails….”

  3. I blame reporting bias. What was that split screen scene in Annie Hall? The therapist asks each person how often they have had sex, and Annie says “oh, constantly, three times a week.” Alvy says, “Hardly ever — three times a week.”

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