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The sex, lies & secrets files


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The sex, lies & secrets files

Women zip their lips, while men brag



Kim Cattrall's character on 'Sex and the City' has raised the bar for lusty urban professionals.

When it comes to the horizontal hula, it's funny how memory works. Women don't always remember shimmying under the sheets. Men never forget. After all, both have reputations to protect.

Those are the findings of a sizzling new sex study that suggests - ladies are getting lucky a lot - but they prefer not to tell. In fact, they sometimes lie.

The report in The Journal of Sex Research reveals that women tend to minimize the number of men they have slept with and will fib about the age at which they lost their virginity.

Fellows, too, fudge the truth - by maximizing their experience.

"Women are more likely to be labeled sluts or whores, while guys are likely to be called studs and slapped on the back," said a co-author of the survey, psychologist Michele Alexander of the University of Maine. "And it's not just men judging, it's women and society in general."

While guys traditionally have been considered more sexually precocious, it turns out that gals have caught up.

The study's male and female college-age subjects reported similar sexual behavior - a loss of virginity around 16 years old and an average four partners.

The researchers surmised that some of the women in the study felt freer to tell the truth because their privacy was protected - they were in a closed room or hooked up to a lie detector.

In the real world, where "friendly" females are looked down upon, many women prefer to zip their lips.

That's why New York's savvy singles often censor their sexual histories. The list adds up

Take Kristin, a 40-year-old ad exec who's a man magnet. (The women in this article are not identified by their real names.) She does not consider herself promiscuous but _realizes that her line of lovers is getting, well, long.

"I've been having sex for 24 years, and I think my number is in the high 30s," the East Sider estimated. "I always skirt around the issue because of the double standard. When you're dating, it's easy to add five or six to your list every year, and it starts to sound bad. If someone asks me about my number, I'll say, 'Come on, we don't need to have that conversation!' Ultimately, it's a very rude question."

Of course, men have been boasting about their conquests and women have been "forgetting" theirs for centuries.

But in this postsexual-revolution era, many women are having an increasing number of casual liaisons. With her multiple partners and X-rated patter, Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall on "Sex and the City," is a role model for lusty ladies. But even sexually conservative women end up with big body counts if they marry late.

"Women are single for longer periods of their lives, and single people have more partners," explained Edward Lauman, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. "It's very straightforward: The age women lose their virginity has dropped: It used to be 18 for girls, and now it's down by over a year. In the 1950s, the average age of marriage was 20 for women, and now it's 24. And in a study we did, 15% of women said they had been unfaithful to their husbands."

A baker's dozen

Alexandra, 37, a divorced editor who lives in Manhattan, never cheated on her ex-husband and has been in a series of long-term relationships. Even so, she just added Mr. 13 to her roster.

"My number is higher than I would like it to be," she admitted. "When I meet someone, I think, 'Is he list-worthy?' There are probably six guys who came close, but I kept them off the list. There's a stigma attached to being loose, and I don't want my numbers going up."

She's also prickly about her single-writer-in-the-city image.

"People say, 'Are you like Carrie Bradshaw?' A guy I met at a wedding actually said to me, 'Is your life like "Sex and the City"?' The answer is no. If someone asks, I avoid giving a number. I usually say that I'm pretty selective."

Tallied on napkins

Gretchen, on the other hand, is up-front about her hookups. "I always tell the truth," conceded the 36-year-old Manhattan-based fashion retailer, who has been intimate with 36 men — give or take one or two. "A couple of guys have felt uncomfortable, but there was no name-calling."

She started keeping track of her trysts on cocktail napkins when she turned 30. "With a friend, we were writing lists," Gretchen recalled with a laugh. "I pride myself on knowing the first name and last name of everyone I slept with. On her list, she had 'man buying milk" and 'guy from the antiques market'! I think she's at 60 or 70."

While some men are impressed by experienced paramours, others are turned off.

"There is a certain number where I'm, like, wow, that's either intimidating or disturbing," said Mark, a 25-year-old who lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. "My cutoff is somewhere between 15 and 20 for someone who's my age. But I'm not one to say, 'If the answer is 40, then we're off.' I just trust my instinct."

"Women lie because we know what men want to hear," said Ava Cadell, a clinical sexologist in Los Angeles and the author of "12 Steps to Everlasting Love" (Peters Publishing). "We know that if we tell the truth and we have had numerous partners, it will be used as a weapon against us at a later date. We have to outsmart men sometimes."

A campus kiss 'n' tell

The study by psychologists Dr. Terri Fisher of Ohio State University and Dr. Michele Alexander of the University of Maine polled 201 undergraduates ages 18 to 25 at Ohio State University.

It found women underreported their sexual activity — while men overreported it - in certain conditions.

Some subjects were led to believe a lab assistant might see their responses, others were guaranteed anonymity and a third group was guaranteed anonymity and told they were hooked up to a lie detector (which was inoperative).

Women with a researcher nearby remembered an average of 2.6 lovers; those assured of anonymity, an average of 3.4, and those attached to the polygraph, 4.4.

When it came to virginity, the men were cooking their booty books. The age rose from 16.2 with no privacy to 16.3 for the lie detector and 17 in the anonymous environment.

Originally published on August 13, 2003

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