JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sex of experimenter and social norm effects on reports of sexual behavior in young men and women

Terri D Fisher
Archives of Sexual Behavior 2007, 36 (1): 89-100
17187217
Past studies indicate that men generally report having had more sexual experience and sexual partners than women, as well as an earlier age at first intercourse. At least some of these findings may partially reflect different responses to certain contextual variables in research. College students (266 men and 463 women) were asked to anonymously report their sexual attitudes and behavior after reading one of three fictitious statements about research findings regarding gender differences in sexuality. Some past findings were replicated, with men reporting somewhat more sexual experience and more permissive sexual attitudes than women. However, women reported a significantly younger age at first intercourse than did men. While there was no significant sex difference for total number of sexual partners, there was a significant interaction. With female research assistants (but not with male assistants), men reported more sexual partners when they were told that women are now more sexually permissive than men. This finding appeared to be largely a function of the men who scored higher on measures of hypermasculinity and ambivalent sexism. Women's reports were not significantly affected by the wording of the cover sheet, regardless of the sex of the research assistant. Even in this anonymous survey, the sex of the experimenter and the nature of the statement about research findings had an impact on the sex differences that were found. In light of these results, some previous conclusions about male-female differences in sexual behavior may need to be examined more closely.

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