The more women a man has had sex with, the lower the odds that he can be sexually gratified by one woman. Ever.
You’re likely to experience a more dramatic drop in your physical attraction to a woman after having sex with her.
Males get a huge dopamine rush upon “getting it in,” and that fades once orgasm has occurred. In general, men find their partners less attractive after sex, while women find their partners more attractive.
Evolutionary psychologist Martie Haselton explains that high-count men lose even more attraction for their mate after sex:
“For men who pursue a short-term mating strategy, first-time sex signals both that a goal has been achieved and that there is a possibility of becoming entangled in an unwanted long-term relationship. After first-time sex, the feelings men and women experience do indeed differ. Women more than men experience a positive affective shift toward increased feelings of commitment for their partners (Haselton & Buss, 2001), whereas, men who have had many sex partners (defined as 6+), (and therefore successfully pursue a short-term strategy) experience [an especially] negative affective shift marked by a drop-off in physical attraction to their partners (Haselton & Buss, 2001). These effects are hypothesized to prompt behaviors to secure investment (for women) or to extricate oneself from a potential romantic entanglement (for short-term oriented men).”
Marital sexual satisfaction declines more than 5% for every partner a man has been with other than his spouse.
As far as I know, there has only been one study that looked at partner count and sexual satisfaction, which I first referenced in the post Manwhores: For Casual Sex Only. The study measured the effect of promiscuity on later degrees of marital sexual satisfaction. The sample was national and random, from the National Health and Social Life Survey. It included 313 married men and women, aged 18-40, all with their first spouse.
88% of males and 85% of females indicated that they were “very satisfied” with their marital sex life. However, results indicate that for every additional premarital sexual partner an individual has, not including the marital sexual partner, the likelihood that they will say their current marital sexual relationship is extremely satisfying versus only being moderately satisfying goes down 3.9%.
When running models separately for males and females, the male model was more significant at 5.3%. This means that a man with a number of 10 before marriage is 53% less likely to be describe himself as extremely satisfied in marriage. By implication, all men with 20 previous partners will feel moderately sexually satisfied in marriage at best.
Women’s partner count had a lesser effect, with the likelihood of being extremely satisfied decreasing 4.6% for each partner. The females’ result did not meet the criteria for statistical significance, while the males’ did. From the study:
“This may be due to the evolutionary biological theory that males tend to be more invested in or notice more the physical aspects of the sexual relationship, while women tend to be more invested in or notice more the emotional aspects of the sexual relationship (Buunk, Angleitner, & Buss, 1996). Due to this difference, premarital sexual promiscuity may not influence females as much because the past emotional connections are no longer salient and the focus is on meeting the needs of the current relationship.
Further, women tend to be aroused more and are more likely than men to report attraction increasing in long-term relationships, indicating that having previous sexual experiences may in fact lower the overall comparison levels and comparison level for alternatives for women in a marital sexual relationship (Knoth, Boyd, & Singer, 1988).”
The Paradox of Choice: Missed Opportunities
The primary reason that people are less satisfied the more partners they have is that they have more opportunities to recall or imagine greater sexual satisfaction in prior or future sexual encounters.
“When people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. Their options are evaluated in terms of missed opportunities instead of the opportunity’s potential. …One of the downsides of making trade-offs is it alters how we feel about the decisions we face; afterwards, it affects the level of satisfaction we experience from our decision.”
“A majority of college men still judge their female colleagues more harshly than they do fellow male classmates for the same sexual behavior: 63% of men say they lose respect for women who hook up frequently, and only 41% say they feel the same way about men who engage in the same behavior. But the majority of women hold a reverse double standard, assessing men’s casual sexual behavior more harshly then other women’s. More than 70% say they lose respect for men who engage in casual sex, while less than 60% lose respect for other women.”
Given that a minority of students engages regularly in casual sex, this is not surprising. Of course, there may be an element of “sour grapes” or disappointment reflected in these numbers. Whatever the reason, it suggests that women who have previously not engaged in much casual sex may disqualify men with a promiscuous past.
In closing, I will share a quote from Helen Fisher’s TED talk:
“I don’t think we’re an animal that was built to be happy. We’re an animal that was built to reproduce. I think the happiness we find, we make, and I believe we can make good relationships with each other.”