I pose this question to the students in my Human Sexuality course every semester and invariably get the same response: “Isn’t that kind of obvious? Single people, of course!” My students are not alone in thinking this either—it is a pretty widely held belief that singles are always getting it on, and that sex after marriage is, well, improbable (to say the least). It does not surprise me that so many people believe this, given how popular media portrayals back up these stereotypes. For instance, TV shows like Sex and the City and Entourage depict singles as having a never-ending supply of partners and sexual exploits. Likewise, the whole premise of the recent movie The Change-Up is basically that married Dave (played by Jason Bateman) dreams of trading places with his single friend, Mitch (played by Ryan Reynolds), so that he can finally get some action.
So are my students and the Hollywood producers right? Are singles really the luckiest people on the planet? It may surprise you to hear this, but there really is no truth to this stereotype at all! Research shows that married couples actually have sex with much greater frequency than single people.1 For instance, just consider single guys between ages 18-24. What percentage of them report having sex more than 2 times per week? Just over ten percent. How about married guys in the same age range? A full two-thirds (just over 66%)! In fact, over 20% of married guys in this age group report doing it four or more times per week! As you can see, single and married guys aren’t even in the same ballpark. The numbers for women tell a very similar story. Across all ages and genders, married people typically have more sexual contact than their single counterparts.
This is yet another example of how watching too much TV or going to the movies too frequently can give you distorted views of relationships. Although the scientific research in this area might sound counterintuitive to you, the take-home message is clear: if you don’t think you’re having enough sex, try getting married.
For other Science of Relationships articles on sex, please click here.
1National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, Centre for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University. Journal of Sexual Medicine, Vol. 7, Supplement 5.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller’s research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.