January 9, 2009

Data: going out more to bars = more sex partners


I thought of starting this with "no surprise," but that's only true for girls who live in bars -- we already think of them as promiscuous. A lot of people, though, are skeptical that guys who go to bars a lot actually end up in bed with more girls. The General Social Survey asks people how often they go out to bars, and how many sex partners they had in the past year. Here's a graph of the relationship for males and females (the pattern is the same when only unmarried people are counted):

Sure enough, female bar flies are sluts. (I left out the "goes almost daily" group because they were a small sample compared to the rest.) That's yet another reason to approach "the new girl" at your favorite clubs and bars -- aside from novelty value, if you rarely see her there, she probably doesn't frequent bars so often, and won't cheat on you. Unless she goes to every single bar in the area, coming back to one only after a month's cycle -- but you should be able to tell which case she is.

And in case you were skeptical, guys who go out to bars a lot do bed more women. Really, where else would you go to boost the notch count? Maybe the skepticism is based on the image of the group of doofuses who go out frequently yet do all the wrong things. (See any TGI Fridays commercial.) And yet, as goofy as these guys may be, at least they're out and about playing some kind of numbers game -- they've got more promise than if they'd stayed home the entire year.

Correlation isn't causation, as they say, so it could just be that extraverted people both go out more and are better at persuading others into the bedroom. Still, don't forget what Woody Allen said: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

Update: Instead of looking at average number of partners, here is the percent who had 3+ and 4+ partners in the past year, by how often they go to bars.

For males who go almost daily, 20% had 4+ partners, and 35% had 3+ partners, vs. 2% and 5%, resp., for males who never go. For females who go several times a week, 6% had 4+ partners and 13% had 3+ partners, vs. 0.4% and 0.9%, resp., for females who never go. Basically, by going a lot instead of not at all, the chances of having several partners per year go up by an order of magnitude. The data don't tell us anything about how many times the person has sex with each partner -- for all we know, they had 3 or 4 semi-steady relationships with people they met in bars.

GSS variables used: PARTNERS, SOCBAR, SEX


  1. Correlation isn't causation, as they say, so it could just be that extraverted people both go out more and are better at persuading others into the bedroom.

    That was my suspicion, at least with respect to men, as soon as I saw the chart. Is there any way to tweak the GSS data to account for this factor?

  2. It seems unlikely to me that females that go to bars several times a week on average only sleep with one guy per year. Of course this data was put together by asking the population about their behavior, so that actual data could underestimate or overestimate the actual number of sex partners.

    After all a woman isn't likely to admit to a stranger that she's banged the entire football team after a drunken romp, even; if it is an anonymous survey. And guys are hesitant to admit that they haven't gotten laid in the past year; especially if they were trying to get some trim.

  3. Why'd you use the 'daily' sample for men but not for women? Did the 'women' line keep going upward at that point, or did it surprisingly slope downward?

  4. Look at the y-axis though, the differences are pretty small. The guys who go to bars almost daily score with an average of 2.3 women? That's 350 days they went and went home alone... they must be pretty persistent.

  5. Yes, these are averages, so variance doesn't show up. It'll be clearer if I just make another picture with the percent of each bar-frequency group that has had 4+ partners in the past year.

    Also, these are number of partners -- you're assuming that they were one-night stands. But it could have been 2 to 3 relationships lasting several months, where they met first in a bar.

  6. I left out the women who went daily because there were only 40 people, compared to hundreds in the other case -- not enough to get a fine-grained average to meaningfully compare. But yeah, there was a dip.

  7. well, my best friend and I go, well i go almost daily, he goes 3-4 times a week, and we def had 4+ each partners in the last year, excluding long-term relationships.

  8. What are the statistics of men vs women when it comes to attendance at bars; frequency. Do more men attend bars vs women, or is it a 50/50 split?


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