Studies should be interpreted with care, as culture, religious beliefs, or upbringing could bias the results.
The administrator of a YouTube channel with over 115,000 subscribers who presents himself as a sex therapist claims that “women think about sex less and masturbate less than men”. What’s more, he adds that “before a woman can have sex with a man, she needs to feel an emotional connection to him”.
While it is true that all the studies found by Verificat report a significantly higher frequency of masturbation in men than in women, all of them are based on questionnaires, which is to say that the responses of the participants can have cultural biases, and that the difference may be more of a response to social issues than biological ones.
There are no observational studies because, as Juan Carlos Sierra explains to Verificat, “in many cases, studies focus on things that cannot be observed or behaviours that are not observed for ethical reasons”. Therefore, according to the professor in the Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment department at the University of Granada (UGR), researchers place “all their confidence in self-reports as observational tools”.
The responses of participants are not free from bias
The largest study on sexuality found by Verificat, in which researchers from the University of Indiana (USA) collected data from 20,000 participants between the years 2009 and 2018, seems to confirm that the reported frequency of masturbation was higher in men than in women. Its conclusions coincide with the findings of the latest scientific literature: two articles by the UGR done in Spain and published in 2021 and 2022 coincide with the same findings. A study from 2022 carried out in the United States reported a higher frequency of masturbation in men during the covid-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the responses provided in these studies are not free from bias, given that what participants report and what they actually do in reality is not the same. Their responses may be influenced by numerous factors such as shame, their culture, their upbringing or their religion.
The study carried out at UGR that we cited above, together with previous evidence, affirms that solitary sexual desire, i.e. interest in or motivation to participate in sexual activities individually, is higher in men than in women. Other papers corroborate this and add that testosterone – a masculine sexual hormone secreted principally by the testicles but that is also present in lower quantities in women’s bodies – causes men to experience more sexual desire.
But sexual desire cannot be defined in a single way, nor is it possible to only take into account the hormone levels in every person’s body. “It is a very different experience for everyone”, explains Diana Fernández Saro. The sexologist, lecturer at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and member of the State Association of Sexology Professionals (AEPS) adds: “Despite evidence of a stronger sexual impulse in men, there is a large number of women who have greater [levels of] sexual desire than men”.
As far as the arguments for having sex with another person, the main reason for both men and women is attraction. However, if it is true that women place more importance on the emotional aspect, according to the same article, it is not indispensable for having sex.