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Boys Multiply and Girls Divide: Study Reveals Why We All Lie About Sex

Update Date: May 29, 2013 12:13 PM EDT

Men multiply and women divide the number of lovers they've been with to appear "normal", according to a new study.

The findings published in the journal Sex Roles reveal that both men and women lie about their sexual behavior to match cultural and societal expectations. Researchers found that men wanted to be seen as "real men" or the stereotypical kind who had many partners and a lot of sexual experience.  In contrast, women wanted to be seen as having less sexual experience than they actually had to match what is expected of them in society.

"There is something unique about sexuality that led people to care more about matching the stereotypes for their gender," study author Terri Fisher, a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University's Mansfield campus, said in a news release.

Researchers found that while people will often lie about the number of partners they've slept with to match stereotypes, men and women wouldn't distort other gender-related behaviors.

The study revealed that men were willing to admit that they sometimes engaged in more "feminine" behaviors like writing and poetry, and that women were willing to admit to "masculine" behaviors like telling obscene jokes and weight dirty clothes.

"Sexuality seemed to be the one area where people felt some concern if they didn't meet the stereotypes of a typical man or a typical woman," Fisher said.

The study involved 293 college students between 18 and 25 years old.  Participants were asked to complete a survey about how often they engaged in 124 different behaviors.  The typical "male behaviors" in the study included wearing dirty clothes, telling obscene jokes and singing in the shower and typical "female behaviors" included writing poetry and lying about their weight.

Some participants filled out the survey while attacked to a lie detector machine, which wasn't actually working.  Other participants were connected to the polygraph machine before the study began, supposedly to measure anxiety, but the machine was unhooked before they completed the survey.

Researchers found that both men and women acted as would be expected for their gender, with men reporting more typical-male behaviors and women more typical-female behaviors, regardless of whether they were attached to the polygraph machine. The study found that men and women were equally as honest when they reported non-sexual behaviors.

"Men and women didn't feel compelled to report what they did in ways that matched the stereotypes for their gender for the non-sexual behaviors," Fisher said.

However, the study revealed that men and women both lied about their sexual behavior.  Researchers said that men reported more sexual partners when they weren't hooked up to the lie detector than when they were and women reported fewer partners when they were not hooked up to the lie detectors test than when they were.  Study authors noted that a similar pattern was found in for reports of ever having experienced sexual intercourse.

"Men and women had different answers about their sexual behavior when they thought they had to be truthful," Fisher said. 

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