Every survey, study, and poll finds the same thing -- men have more sexual partners than women. Men are relatively promiscuous, women relatively chaste. Gender roles describe real behaviors.

Only one problem: It's a mathematical impossibility for one gender to have more sexual partners than the other.

As evidence, he links to a New York Times article citing expert David Gale--a Berkeley statistician who I believe guest lectured for a class I took way back in 2002--who says:

“By way of dramatization, we change the context slightly and will prove what will be called the High School Prom Theorem. We suppose that on the day after the prom, each girl is asked to give the number of boys she danced with. These numbers are then added up giving a number G. The same information is then obtained from the boys, giving a number B.

Theorem: G=B

Proof: Both G and B are equal to C, the number of couples who danced together at the prom. Q.E.D.”

Well sure, but we're not talking about totals, we're talking about averages. So are Ezra and David correct? As I would like you all to imagine a hypothetical prom called "Prom X(XX)". This prom, for the fairly small High School X(XX), has only 15 guests--10 girls and five boys. Nine of the girls, modeled after the majority of the girls who went to MY prom, don't dance with anybody. One girl, on the other hand, dances with every boy at the prom. At the end of the prom, every boy reports having danced with one girl, while nine girls report having danced with nobody and one girl reports having danced with five boys. The average number of dance partners for the boys is "one". The average number of partners for the girls, though, is "one-half". QED

Of course, in my example, the result was determined by the initial 10:5 imbalance. The fact that there are slightly more women than men on the planet couldn't possibly explain this: "Another study, by British researchers, stated that men had 12.7 heterosexual partners in their lifetimes and women had 6.5."

Anyhow, hooray for statistics!

I agree with you, but in your prom the real difference stems from the fact that there are 10 girls and 5 guys. From there, it doesn't matter that one girl "danced" with all the guys - it would be the same ratio if all the people shared one dance.

Which makes me think that it's an exaggeration thing. The question is whether guys are overestimating their prowess (assumed) or whether girls are overestimating their chastity (politically incorrect to imply?)

Posted by: jmc | August 13, 2007 at 01:53 PM

From the article: "Another [explanation], of course, is that men exaggerate the number of partners they have and women underestimate."

Posted by: Brian | August 13, 2007 at 02:04 PM