How many notches on your bedpost make you most attractive? The answer might surprise you.

By Seriously Science | November 10, 2016 11:41 am
Photo: flickr/Wyatt Fisher

Photo: flickr/Wyatt Fisher

Can too much sexual experience make someone unattractive? That’s what these scientists set out to determine using an online survey. They asked men and women whether they’d be willing to get involved in relationships with people who had different numbers of past sexual partners. As you can see from the graph below, when it comes to short-term sexual relationships, men had more tolerance than women for an experienced partner: attractiveness levels drop at around 10 partners for men assessing potential mates, versus around 7 partners for women. However, perhaps surprisingly, the two sexes agreed on the “optimal” number of partners for long-term relationships– about 1-3 makes you the most attractive. 

Sexual History and Present Attractiveness: People Want a Mate With a Bit of a Past, But Not Too Much.

“The aim of this study was to explore how people’s sexual history affects their attractiveness. Using an Internet survey, 188 participants rated their willingness to engage in a relationship with a hypothetical individual with a specified number of past sexual partners, ranging from 0 to 60+. The effect of past partner number was very large. Average willingness ratings initially rose as past partner number rose, but then fell dramatically. For short-term relationships, men were more willing than women to get involved (although the difference was not large). For long-term relationships, in contrast, there was virtually no sex difference. Thus, contrary to the idea that male promiscuity is tolerated but female promiscuity is not, both sexes expressed equal reluctance to get involved with someone with an overly extensive sexual history. Finally, participants with an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (high SO participants) were more tolerant than low SO participants of prospective mates with higher numbers of past sexual partners but were also less tolerant of prospective mates with low numbers of past sexual partners.”

Bonus Figure from the main text:

Male versus female participants’ willingness to engage in (a) a long-term relationship or (b) a short-term relationship as a function of a prospective mate’s number of past sexual partners.

Male versus female participants’ willingness to engage in (a) a long-term relationship or (b) a short-term relationship as a function of a prospective mate’s number of past sexual partners.

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  • OWilson

    “When you’re hot , you’re hot.

    When you’re not, you’re not!”

    – The late Jerry Reid.

  • Endrikh Darkvine

    duh intimacy loses its value when shared with too many, it actually follows the same rules as everything else, decrease in rarity is decrease in value.

    • Aram

      Actually no. Sex is a renewable source.

      • Endrikh Darkvine

        You can’t undo sex, so it’s not renewable.

        • Aram

          I don’t think you understand sex.

      • paavo

        That is not true. Sperm lives inside a woman for up to 6 months and it changes the hormones of a woman distinctively. It is more like a radioactive waste than renewable energy. It does dissolve eventually, but very slowly.

        When women get sperm from multiple men inside of them, they start to go a little bit crazy for a reason. Their natural hormones interact with the sperm regardless of actual insemination taking place.

        • Aram

          I can only hope you’re joking.

  • AG

    This is just opinion based on abstract thought.
    When you see the real person, all those assumption would be thrown out of window. People with numerous past partners tend to be highly sexually attractive types. There is a reason that they can nail a sex partner so easily and so many. On the other hand, some one with only 1-2 partners often is the one you don’t want to date either the moment you can see the person.
    One lady I know often bragged about that she never had more than a month without sex when she was single. Duh, when you had physical beauty which makes guys on street whistling at you all the time, guys would never give a damn how slutty you were before.

    • paavo

      To have sex with only, sure why bother caring about numbers. To seriously date, only a complete fool of a man would date a woman with 20+ previous partners unless the relationship is open both ways. There is a reason men value virtuous women and these non virtuous kind of women are called certain slurs. That reason is not misogyny.

      These relationships do not last and the break up comes no matter how the man behaves in the relationship. You can find this information online with a simple google search. You might as well be dating a stripper who goes to some Arab countries for “work” 6 times/year.

      • Betta Franka

        Except the study clearly showed that both men and women have very similar standards.

  • The Wall

    Sloots are just sloots. Nobody values them.


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