Saturday, March 16, 2013

The power of uncertainty

There are two things that one can glean from this graphic showing the frequency with which more than two thousand men report they have sex.  The first is that men tend to have much more sex if they are married or partnered than when they are single.  The second is that denying a wedding ring to a woman who is 30 or older tends to create enough uncertainty to inspire her to engage in more regular sexual relations than she otherwise would if she was married.

Consider how the percentages of men having sex 2 or more times per week switch once a woman passes the age of thirty:

Married:  43 percent (25-29), 32.6 percent (30-39)
Partnered: 33.4 percent (25-29), 45.5 percent (30-39)

Now, there are a number of potential explanations for this.  But Game provides the most obvious one, which is that the more secure a woman feels in her relationship, the more inclined she is to ignore a man's sexual desires and only indulge them when she happens to feel like it.

There is another, slightly more ominous explanation that is nearly as credible, which is that the roughly 11 percent difference is explained by women attempting to get pregnant.  However, the fact that 40.1 percent of Partnered men between 60-69 are in the 2+ category versus only 9.5 percent of the Married men lends support for the uncertainty hypothesis.

As is so often the case, it appears that following the recommendations provided by women tends to be sexually self-defeating for men.

22 comments:

Trust said...

Men tend to respond to incentive, whereas women tend to respond to options.

In partnerships, as in past marriages, if she wants the benefits of the man, her only option is to make the relationship a positive experience. After marriage, the woman's legal position is much stonger, so her options are different. She can use force to extract resources from him instead of incentive.

No surprise to regular readers here.

Unending Improvement said...

Men would indeed be served well by marriage, as married men do indeed have more sex than single men (on average of course, there are obviously single men who have sex a lot and married men who rarely have sex, it's in total that we see the difference).

The problem of course is our cultural attitudes treating marriage as a contract of indefinite length, but definitely not "until death do us part."

Loki of Asgard said...

And yet, if you compare the frequency ratings for men over 70 years old, only married men will have sex more than twice weekly. Not even "partnered" men at that age enjoy such frequency.

I wonder what to make of that.

Natalie said...

@Loki

That would be interesting - I wonder if we'd see the numbers swing back in favor of married men once you get above 40? Plenty of what I read on MMSL suggests not, but then again some of women on there have pointed out that sex during the childbearing years (which late marriage and careers have postponed) can just get hard -morning sickness, exhaustion, hormone changes, depression, etc. I've read some of them say that just didn't feel like sexual beings for a few years. Now, I'm not saying this to justify a sexless marriage, but I could see where an average couple that pops out 2-3 babies in the 28-37ish range might have trouble getting their groove back. I mean, I adore my husband, but feeling queasy at bedtime just really isn't that fun :(

VD said...

I wonder if we'd see the numbers swing back in favor of married men once you get above 40?

You didn't click on the link. It's even worse for 40+ men. Partnered was 36.8 percent to 23.6 for married.

It's not about the kids, or at least, if it is caused by the kids, the women never come back from it. But keep in mind we're not talking sexless, we're talking about three-quarters of 40+ married couples having sex once a week or less.

Of course, that's still better than the 90 percent of single men who are in that situation.

rycamor said...

Overall, who is most likely to have sex 4 or more times a week (sometimes waaay more)? Young married couples. There's just no denying that pregnancy urge. I was one exhausted boy.

What's sad is the 4.2% young marrieds who have not done it in the past year. At least they seem to figure it out after they hit 25. Still, not as bizarre as the 26% young partnered who are sexless. That's got to be an interesting psychological study.

rycamor said...

Duh... it just hit me that there might be a significant % of young partnered who are waiting for marriage. Does the quaint tradition survive?

Stickwick said...

Duh... it just hit me that there might be a significant % of young partnered who are waiting for marriage. Does the quaint tradition survive?

It's unclear whether "partnered" means shacking up or in a relationship but not shacking up, or if they're all lumped into the same category. If it includes shack-up couples, then presumably the lack of sex isn't about tradition.

Retrenched said...

Is there any breakdown by % of how many men are in each group for this survey (single, partnered, married)?

Natalie said...

Note to self: click on links in blog posts.

Natalie said...

@Rycamor

That's an interesting question. In my cultural context chastity is a huge virtue and (to my knowledge actually practiced), but just listening to conversations happening around me in college I did feel that I was in the minority.

Rex Little said...

The first is that men tend to have much more sex if they are married or partnered than when they are single.

Depending on how "single" and "partnered" were defined, it's not clear which way cause and effect are working here. If a man is having sex twice a week with the same woman, does that make him "partnered" by definition (either his own definition or the survey's)? If so, that will skew the survey result to show more sex for those who are partnered vs. single.

Looking at "partnered" vs. "married" on the chart, I didn't see a clear pattern favoring either. Looking at my own life. . . I was partnered for about 10 years, and married for 34 and counting. I definitely had more sex when partnered. I don't just mean more frequent sex, I mean more, total.

Rex Little said...

the fact that 40.1 percent of Partnered men between 60-69 are in the 2+ category versus only 9.5 percent of the Married men lends support for the uncertainty hypothesis.

I think there's a simpler explanation. Most married men over 60 have been married a long time, and in many cases their wives haven't aged well enough for the men to still be interested in sex with them. An unmarried man that age is only going to be partnered if he finds an attractive, willing woman; otherwise he's going to stay single.

Loki of Asgard said...

So, shall we take away from this that most men are laughably incompetent at choosing wives?

Retrenched said...

@ Rex

That makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Most married men over 60 have been married a long time, and in many cases their wives haven't aged well enough for the men to still be interested in sex with them.

Most women that age have zero interest in sex, and probably just figure their husbands are not going to divorce them over it.

As for the difference in attractiveness between men and women, that's unlikely to be a factor for people over 60. It's common knowledge that men age better than women, but only up to a point. In the 40-59 range, men can remain attractive and virile, but once they get over 60, most of them start to show their age. I've worked in the same place for over a decade and have observed the men who were hale and attractive in their 50s morph into old men in their 60s. That seems to be the age when most men hit the wall. If a 60+ man is thinking he's too good for his wife, he's probably overvaluing himself in the same way that many post-wall women overvalue themselves.

Desert Cat said...

Well shoot! Based on that chart I am doing better than 80% of my (age and category) peers. If I hold that percentile, I should have a happy and prosperous retirement. (Or rather, Mr. Happy will prosper and not retire...)

Rex Little said...

If a 60+ man is thinking he's too good for his wife, he's probably overvaluing himself in the same way that many post-wall women overvalue themselves.

I'm not talking about overvaluing, I'm talking about not being sexually attracted. A man can find his wife unattractive, and have no interest in sex with her, while still realizing that he himself is no better.

Anonymous said...

I'm not talking about overvaluing, I'm talking about not being sexually attracted. A man can find his wife unattractive, and have no interest in sex with her, while still realizing that he himself is no better.

The problem with your explanation is that it wouldn't account for why partnered men over 60 are getting laid more often than the married ones. Presumably, they're all more or less equally physically undesirable at 60+, so what makes a partnered man more likely to have nookie than a married man? Unless an old man is wealthy, high-status, or has extraordinarily tight Game, it's very unlikely he's pulling significantly younger and more attractive women. Vox's explanation -- uncertainty as the driving force -- fits the data better.

Also, is your scenario realistic? Two people who initially found each other attractive enough to get married, who've been with each other for many years, and they stop wanting sex with each other, because they find that age has rendered their spouse insufficiently attractive? That seems doubtful, given that what people find attractive adjusts with age and especially given the tendency for people to see their spouses in an idealized way.

Rex Little said...

The problem with your explanation is that it wouldn't account for why partnered men over 60 are getting laid more often than the married ones.

Go back and read it again. Among unmarried older men, some become partnered because they find women with whom they have a mutual attraction. The ones who don't, stay single. So the "partnered" category has a built-in bias toward men who have aged well enough to attract desirable women.

Men who have been partnered to the same women for many years without marrying them would be prone to the same lost-attraction effect as marrieds, but there aren't many of those over 60. Not yet, anyway.

Two people who initially found each other attractive enough to get married, who've been with each other for many years, and they stop wanting sex with each other, because they find that age has rendered their spouse insufficiently attractive?

It won't happen all the time, or even most of the time, but it will happen often enough to impact the results of a survey like this one.

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I don`t believe so huge young people do gamecard... its sad

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