There are many stereotypes that portray men as sex-obsessed machines. Books, television shows, and movies often feature characters and plot points that assume men are crazy about sex and women are only concerned with romance.
But is it true? What do we know about the male sex drive?
So what stereotypes about the male sex drive are true? How do men compare to women? Let’s look at these popular myths about male sexuality.
Men think about sex all day long
A recent study at Ohio State University of over 200 students debunks the popular myth that men think about sex every seven seconds. That would mean 8,000 thoughts in 16 waking hours! The young men in the study reported thoughts of sex 19 times per day on average. The young women in the study reported an average of 10 thoughts about sex per day.
So do men think about sex twice as much as women? Well, the study also suggested that men thought about food and sleep more frequently than women. It’s possible that men are more comfortable thinking about sex and reporting their thoughts. Terri Fisher, the lead author of the study, claims that people who reported being comfortable with sex in the study’s questionnaire were most likely to think about sex on a frequent basis.
Men masturbate more often than women
In a study conducted in 2009 on 600 adults in Guangzhou, China, 48.8 percent of females and 68.7 percent of males reported that they had masturbated. The survey also suggested that a significant number of adults had a negative attitude toward masturbation, particularly women.
Men usually take 2 to 7 minutes to orgasm
Masters and Johnson, two important sex researchers, suggest a Four-Phase Model for understanding the sexual response cycle:
Masters and Johnson assert that males and female both experience these phases during sexual activity. But the duration of each phase differs widely from person to person. Determining how long it takes a man or a woman to orgasm is difficult because the excitement phase and the plateau phase may begin several minutes or several hours before a person climaxes.
Men are more open to casual sex
One study conducted in 2015 suggests that men are more willing than women to engage in casual sex. In the study, 6 men and 8 women approached 162 men and 119 women either at a nightclub or at a college campus. They issued an invitation for casual sex. A significantly higher proportion of men accepted the offer than women.
However, in the second part of the same study conducted by these researchers, women appeared more willing to accept invitations for casual sex when they were in a safer environment. Women and men were shown pictures of suitors and asked whether or not they would consent to casual sex. The gender difference in responses disappeared when women felt they were in a safer situation.
The difference between these two studies suggests that cultural factors like social norms can have a big impact on the way that men and women seek out sexual relationships.
Gay male couples have more sex than lesbian couples
This myth is difficult to prove or to debunk. Gay men and lesbian women have a variety of sexual experiences just like heterosexual men and women. Single gay men living in urban cities have a reputation for having a significant number of partners. But gay men engage in all kinds of relationships.
Lesbian couples may also have different definitions about what “sex” means to them. Some lesbian couple use sex toys to engage in penetrative intercourse. Other lesbian couples consider sex to be mutual masturbation or caressing.
Men are less romantic than women
As suggested by Masters and Johnson’s Four-Phase Model, sexual excitement is different for everyone. Sources of arousal can vary greatly from person to person. Sexual norms and taboos often shape the way that men and women experience sexuality and can impact the way they report it in surveys. This makes it difficult to scientifically prove that men are biologically not inclined toward romantic arousal.
Sex drive and the brain
Sex drive is usually described as libido. There is no numeric measurement for libido. Instead, sex drive is understood in relevant terms. For example, a low libido means a decreased interest or desire in sex.
The male libido lives in two areas of the brain: the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. These parts of the brain are vital to a man’s sex drive and performance. They are so important, in fact, that a man can have an orgasm simply by thinking or dreaming about a sexual experience.
The cerebral cortex is the gray matter that makes up the outer layer of the brain. It’s the part of your brain that’s responsible for higher functions like planning and thinking. This includes thinking about sex. When you become aroused, signals that originate in the cerebral cortex can interact with other parts of the brain and nerves. Some of these nerves speed up your heart rate and blood flow to your genitals. They also signal the process that creates an erection.
The limbic system includes multiple parts of the brain: the hippocampus, hypothalamus and amygdala, and others. These parts are involved with emotion, motivation, and sex drive. Researchers at Emory University found that viewing sexually arousing images increased activity in the amygdalae of men more than it did for women. However, there are many parts of the brain involved with sexual response, so this finding does not necessarily mean that men are more easily aroused than women.
Testosterone is the hormone most closely associated with male sex drive. Produced mainly in the testicles, testosterone has a crucial role in a number of body functions, including:
- development of male sex organs
- growth of body hair
- bone mass and muscle development
- deepening of the voice in puberty
- sperm production
- production of red blood cells
Low levels of testosterone are often tied to a low libido. Testosterone levels tend to be higher in the morning and lower at night. In a man’s lifetime, his testosterone levels are at their highest in his late teens, after which they slowly begin to decline.
Loss of libido
Sex drive can decrease with age. But sometimes a loss of libido is tied to an underlying condition. The following can cause a decrease in sex drive:
Stress or depression. If you are experiencing mental health issues, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe medication or suggest psychotherapy.
Endocrine disorders. An endocrine disorder may decrease male sex hormones.
Low testosterone levels. Certain medical conditions, like sleep apnea, can cause low testosterone levels, which can impact your sex drive.
Certain medications. Some medications can impact your libido. For instance, some antidepressants, antihistamines, and even blood pressure medications can impair erections. Your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative.
High blood pressure. Damage to the vascular system can hurt a man’s ability to get or maintain an erection.
Diabetes. Like having high blood pressure, diabetes can damage a man’s vascular system and affect his ability to maintain an erection.
Only you can measure what is normal for your sex drive. If you are experiencing libido changes, talk to your doctor. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk to someone about your sexual desires, but a medical professional may be able to help you.
Does the male sex drive ever go away? For many men, the libido will never completely disappear. For most men, libido will certainly change over time. The way you make love and enjoy sex will likely change over time as well, as will the frequency. But sex and intimacy can be a pleasurable part of aging.