Self-esteem correlated with number of sex partners


An analysis of data collected across 10 world regions suggests that men’s self-esteem is more strongly tied to their sexual success than women’s. The findings were published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The study authors accordingly proposed that having a greater number of past sexual partners should increase self-esteem. They further reasoned that this positive link between self-esteem and number of past sexual partners should be stronger among men since greater sexual acceptance is more adaptive for men. That is, men’s ability to pass on their genes relies strongly on having a high number of sexual partners, while women’s success in passing on their genes rests on having higher quality sexual partners who will invest in offspring.

The first thing that came to mind when reading this was, “Correlation doesn’t mean causation. Perhaps having a high self-esteem, as a consequence of such things as job success, physical attractiveness, etc. contributed to the higher number of sexual partners.”

The authors are concerned about that as well:

The authors note that past experimental studies have found that manipulating self-esteem seems to impact sexual desire differently among men and women, suggesting that self-esteem might be “both a cause and a consequence of short-term mating success in men.”

“Future work should seek to disentangle the many functions of self-esteem within men’s short-term mating psychology,” the researchers write, “including work to identify how self-esteem may serve specially-designed functions as both a consequence, and a cause, of short-term mating success.”

Many years ago I would hear things to the effect that women with high number of sexual partners by women was frequently a result of low self-esteem. At the time I knew two young women (in their mid 20s) who that seemed to apply to but it did not appear to be a consistent pattern. More recently with women in their 50s and 60s I have talked to about numbers of sex partners don’t seem to show any correlation one way or the other. But this did not involve any accurate self-esteem measurements.

More study is required before, if ever, the head shrinks start prescribing lots of sexual partners to increase self-esteem.


9 thoughts on “Self-esteem correlated with number of sex partners

  1. Yes, a complex subject with many comingled and confounding and cultural factors. Very hard to make accurate generalizations about without a HUGE number of words and caveats. Also high cultural/time dependent. I.e., what constitutes a “large number of partners” has change dramatically in the last century just within this country. Or even in the last 30 (maybe?)

  2. Biology doesn’t give a rats ass about “scientific studies”.

    Men are HARDWIRED to father as many offspring with
    as many women as possible.

    Women are HARDWIRED to find the most successful man
    they can to RAISE their children. (doesn’t mean he’s the
    actual biological father….just the man forking over the resource).

    Everything else is secondary. And “self esteem” is a metric
    that cannot be measured so therefore it’s not something that
    can actually studied very well.

    • Hardwiring aside. What allows us to remain human is to struggle with right and wrong.
      As the old pastor told me; There’s nothing wrong with the urges, son. It’s who’s controlling them that matters.
      The fact that such things aren’t self evident. But need to be studied in this age says more than anything.
      The other thing not spoken of is the time factor. One may high self-esteem after a long night of drunken debauchery with several partners. Only to find you brought home to one’s wife a bad case of the clap, with a side of grabs, a week later.
      How’s that fit into the study?

      • I would expect the shame would result in a strong decrease in general self-esteem in the short term. But, the participants were asked about the number of partners in the last year so I would expect behavior unlikely to be repeated would be averaged into the noise.

        On the other hand consider the case where a 70 year-old woman* is having sex three or four times a week with her husband and when they attend sex parties a couple times a month she has three to five different partners in a single night (he only has two or three as he is slowing down some in his old age). They have each have about 40 to 50 different partners each year and have hundreds of partners during their life. This will show up in the results.

        * A few years ago I interviewed a woman who told me the rough equivalent of this. I think she would now be in her late 60s. I know she and her husband are both still in good health. I suspect their sexually adventuresome behavior was only slowed down, not stopped, by the pandemic. She also reported they had been doing this for 20+ years and I expect they will continue until their health deteriorates to the point they are unable to continue. My impression of her self-esteem was that it was in the high normal range.

        • Being comfortable in ones ways, and in one’s own skin aside. I’m going to stick with self-esteem as very close to an emotion. And in that light very transient.

  3. The Social “Sciences” are called soft for a reason. I honestly begin to wonder if they are not the most well organized and successful Con Job in history.

  4. Let’s be careful not to run with the oft-promoted (by the left) assumption that self esteem is a goal unto itself (see Dunning-Kruger). Self esteem could just as well be considered an affliction, and a serious one, against which we need a regularly fortified defense. One who regards himself highly might rightly be thought of as a jerk, an irritation, or a danger. Those who seek, or have achieved, high self esteem might even be considered a plague upon society. They might end up thinking themselves as more deserving, even of life itself, than other people. Benito Mussolini comes to mind. He seems to have had ample self esteem.

    High self esteem is surely a factor in believing that “We” have more right to the resources of others, because “We” can put them to “better” use for “the common good” and thus “We” are justified in using coercion and deception to obtain said resources, and so on, and on. High self esteem (or the desire for it – it works the same either way, being selfishness), it seems to me, would be a logical prerequisite to most criminal behavior, up to and including genocide. How else would I conclude that your rights are less important than my desires, dreams, goals and fantasies? How else does a mere man (like the pope for example) presume upon himself the status of god-king, and not think himself a fool for doing so, unless he has a high level of self esteem?

    We used to call that a “superiority complex” and seek to cure it, but somehow we now teach our kids in schools that it’s a respectable and virtuous goal.

    And so we come to the distinction between being good and feeling good; thinking highly of an objective standard verses thinking highly of ourselves. And what woman, if she were to think about it in these terms, would want to be a mere stepping stone for you in your quest toward self esteem?

    If self esteem is not necessarily good, then what exactly is good and how does one recognize it? What is the objective standard, utterly separate from our minute-to-minute dopamine levels? How does one make a clear distinction between good and its many subtle, excellent and appealing counterfeits?

    The answer has been with us all along— By looking into the law of God, of course. That perfect law of liberty. It is a mirror, showing us our fallen nature. If self esteem is your goal, then you’ll want to avoid looking into that mirror, or any mention of it, but if good is your goal then you’ll seek that law earnestly, even though it cause you pain, and you’ll hold it close because without it you have no objective guide, or compass, and are thus, quite irrespective of your high intelligence, likely to be deceived.

    • There is such a thing as too low of self-esteem. The classic case would be when someone is repeatedly falsely told they are worthless, incompetent, ugly, etc. and they believe the lies.

      As is the usual case, the truth is best cure but it is also sometimes difficult to acquire.

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