This is mostly just a a collection of thoughts that were too long for Twitter.
In an interview with Attitude magazine, Stephen Fry claimed that women do not enjoy sex, saying “The only reason women will have sex with [men] is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want“. The evidence he gave to back up his assertion?
“Of course a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh, no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?
“Gay men are the perfect acid test. If they want to get their rocks off, they go into a park where they know they can do it.”
Well, luckily, there’s a nice big data set we can use to test Fry’s claims. Recently, the dating site OKCupid performed a survey of its users to analyse the how the dating habits and sex lives of gay and bisexual users varied from those of straight users. Obviously this will not be a perfectly unbiased survey – people who are members of dating sites are perhaps more likely to be looking for sexual partners than average, for instance. Still, it’s a very big sample – 3.2 million people in fact – and the bias should affect gay people as well as straight people.
If Stephen Fry is right, we should find two things. Firstly, that gay men would have way more sexual partners than straight women (and indeed straight men), and secondly that gay women would essentially be celibate. After all, if women don’t enjoy it, lesbian couples have no reason to have sex.
In fact, here are the results. Gay men have had, on average, 6 partners. Straight men have had, on average, 6 partners. Gay women have had, on average, 6 partners. Straight women have had, on average, 6 partners.
There is no statistically significant difference between the sex lives of men and women, nor between gay people and straight people. Stephen Fry’s comments are simply not backed up by the science.
Edit: Stephen Fry claims to have been misquoted. The journalist who interviewed Fry on the other hand has said “he delivered [the comment] with certainty and it was clearly something he’d thought about.” It’ll be interesting to see who turns out to be right.