Have you ever asked your partner how many people he/she has slept with? Well, honestly, they might not tell you the truth. Find out the real average number of sexual partners and reasons why we lie.

Sexual partners in Europe

Did you know that Europeans often don’t tell the truth when they state the number of sexual partners they’ve had, and that there is a reason for these white lies? On the other hand, sometimes Europeans don’t lie but honestly cannot remember! So it could be quite difficult to find out the truth – you never really know!

Photo: UNO & TOU (flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0

Zeus, ruler of the Olympian gods, was observing his lands when he caught site of Europa. He was instantly overwhelmed by her beauty, and sought to seduce her. Zeus hatched a plan: he transformed himself into a perfect white bull and made his way to the shore where Europa was gathering flowers. He made sure that he appeared to be tame and lay down at the feet of Europa, so she decided to see whether he was tame enough to ride. With the girl on his back, Zeus spotted his opportunity and ran off with her into the sea, eventually arriving on the shores of Crete. At this point Zeus changed himself back into his original form, and Europa then readily agreed to be his lover. After she gives birth to three sons, Zeus leaves her on the island and goes back to his jealous wife Hera, just to spot some other beautiful girls like Io, Callisto or Semele who are waiting to be seduced.

The Greeks rank in the Global Sex Survey conducted by the condom manufacturer Durex in 2005, in the middle section of the table when it comes to the number of sexual partners. The Turks have more sexual partners than any other country with 14.5 partners, compared to European taillights Germany, Spain and Poland with only 6 partners. Interestingly the Turkish people also top the charts when it comes to having had an extra marital affair – 58% of those polled.

Globally people had an average number of 9 sexual partners in 2005.

One wouldn’t believe it, but the men in the survey claimed to have more sexual partners than the women. Assuming the statistics are referring only to heterosexual partners, it’s mathematically impossible. Here we could agree with Gina Kolata, her article The myth the math and sex took up this fact in New York Times couple of years ago. Durex Statistics describe a certain reality in the whole world (or a whole country etc) using numbers, so if you ask the same number of heterosexual people “How many sexual partners have you had” men and women technically have to say the same number on average. Men reported 10.2, whereas women 6.9 – so one could draw the conclusion that men have a tendency to over-report and women to underreport their sexual partners. So, are both men and women lying when comes to the numbers of sexual partners?

So, are both men and women lying when comes to the numbers of sexual partners?

One explanation could be that if you ask men, they believe that they should have a lot of partners, so they may feel compelled to exaggerate, and women, believing that they should have few partners, may minimise their past. So the phenomenon would relate to our desired personal status in society.

However, the authors Haavio-Mannila & Roos found out that people with fewer than twenty partners, both men and women, report quite similar numbers. Those who reported having at least twenty partners accounted for most of the gender difference. This finding correlates with the fact that the “multiamorous” people had trouble remembering the exact numbers. So one cannot simply talk about gender differences here – it’s also about the lifestyle that a person – woman or man – chooses. Probably nothing new to the old Greek God though…

Data taken from: Give and receive. 2005 Global Sex Survey results, www.durex.com


1. J.P Roos / E. Haavio-Mannila (2008): “Why are men reporting more sexual partners than women?”, in: K. Jones & G. Karlsson (Eds.) : Gender and the Interests of Love, Örebro University.

2. J.P.Roos/ E. Haavio-Mannila and J.P. Roos, “Why are men reporting more sexual partners than women?”, http://www.valt.helsinki.fi/staff/jproos/jonasdottir.htm

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