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Aunt Pythia’s advice

June 8, 2013

Aunt Pythia is psyched to be able to answer your questions and dispense (self-described) invaluable advice today as always.

If you don’t know what you’re in for, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia. Most importantly,

Submit your question for Aunt Pythia at the bottom of this page!


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I already have great sex with my hot bearded husband, and I’ve been on hormonal birth control pills for years. So how amazing will it be if I switch to a non-hormonal copper IUD, if Obamacare makes my insurance cover it now? Please be specific. I am weighing my options.

Thank you!

Considering a Change

Dear CAC,

I love that you mentioned your husband’s beard. I needed to know that.

How amazing will it be? I’m guessing somewhat more amazing than it already is.

But I’m not sure, because I have a feeling every woman’s body responds differently to being on the pill. I’m a woman who naturally has a lot of testosterone, among other things, and so it throws me totally out of whack. For you it might not, although I’m guessing it does but just less so.

Also, I’ve been on the copper IUD, and when they say you bleed more on that, they aint lyin. But that problem doesn’t start for a few years.

Kind of annoying that the most obvious choices are so hard on a woman’s, body, isn’t it?

If you’re avoiding pregnancy but it wouldn’t be the end of the world, let me recommend spermicidal inserts, although you really do need to follow the instructions whereby you wait 10 minutes after insertion before any sperm enters (many women would consider this a feature, not a bug).

They obviously don’t protect you from STD’s or anything, though, so I suggest you go with spermicidal inserts for your hot bearded (bearded!) husband and condoms with anyone else.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

Two questions. I googled “talk to a mathematician” because I wanted to see if anyone had an idea how I could split a league of 10 soccer teams into two groups, in order to minimise travel (well, its a bit more complex than that, but that’s sorta the gist).

But then I read your page, and of course the Sex questions, and a far more interesting one came to mind. So you said “Just to be clear, it is possible to see real female orgasms but you have to look for them, and they aren’t really considered mainstream porn.” And my question is, “Where?”



Dear CurvePurve,

First the soccer question: I’d say cluster by geographic area, so nobody has to drive very far, but as you said it’s more complicated so I don’t have enough information to answer it. Even so, I’m going to take this moment to point out that the amount of traveling my friends do for their daughters’ soccer teams is super insane. They pretty much don’t have a life because of how much driving they do, even the ones who live in Manhattan. WTF?!

As for the second question, maybe try this.

Auntie P


Dear Aunt Pythia,

Okay, I’ll bite. Why do men and women report differing numbers of sexual partners? I imagine it’s partially due to social expectations.

But I did have this conversation with my partner, and I found out we defined “sex” differently – I said oral counted, she did not (I guess this could be a reflection of social pressures as well). Is that issue of differing definitions sufficient to explain the different numbers?

More generally, how do the curves compare between men and women for number of partners?

OK I’ll Bite

p.s. I promise to ask a more interesting sex question next time.

Dear OK,

I chose your question out of the remarkable collection of people doing as I asked last week and asking me this same question (thank you everyone!) because you promised to follow up with another sex question. I totally cannot hold you to that promise, since I don’t collect email addresses or anything, but I figure by putting it in italics it’s as good as a blood pledge.

It also inspires me to appeal to my readers more generally, since last week worked so well: please follow up with another, more interesting sex question next week, thanks!

On to your question. I love what you pointed out, that the different definitions of sex come into play. And I think that makes a lot of sense, especially the example you gave of oral sex.

Because why?

Because, as I think you’ll agree, when “oral sex” occurs, it’s often only the guy getting it! And then in what sense has the woman really had sex? Unless she’s Monica Lewinsky (one of my heros), there’s really nothing much there there. Which is why it totally makes sense that she wouldn’t “count” it.

Now, going back to the discrepancy.

Let’s just agree, once and for all, that if you actually got a good sample of all (straight) men and all (straight) women, meaning you got some normal men and a few slutty men, in proportion to the population at large, and if you got normal women and slutty women, again in proportion to the population at large, then the average number of sexual partners would have to be equal. It’s just a statistical truth.

One caveat: if we all had a bunch of sex, and then there was some war or illness that only affected men, and for whatever reason only affected slutty men, then we’d get a bias if we did the poll after all the slutty men died. But I don’t think that issue is in play here, and so we can’t explain the discrepancy in any way except that woman and/or men are lying about the number of people they’ve slept with.

Reader Artem commented last week with a link to a nifty article explaining this, called Men and women lie about sex to match gender expectations. The study is published here (thanks, other anonymous reader!).

From the article:

But when it came to sex, men wanted to be seen as “real men:” the kind who had many partners and a lot of sexual experience. Women, on the other hand, wanted to be seen as having less sexual experience than they actually had, to match what is expected of women.

Well, that’s the interpretation anyway. In any case they saw big discrepancies between men and women’s reported sexual experience, although these are college kids so nobody seemed to have much. Next they hooked people up to lie-detector tests and they changed their tune. This had been done before:

Back in 2003, women went from having fewer sexual partners than men (when not hooked up to a lie detector) to being essentially even to men (when hooked up to the lie detector.)

Here’s a link to an article on that 2003 study, which satisfies my statistician’s heart. The result was not exactly replicated when they did it more recently:

In this new study, women actually reported more sexual partners than men when they were both hooked up to a lie detector and thought they had to be truthful.

Hold on a second. What? That doesn’t even jive with the oral sex issue we talked about above. There must be some other thing going on. Maybe there’s a selection bias among college kids who do these studies. Maybe we should study if women are more honest than men when they’re attached to lie detectors. Maybe they have an urge to brag when attached to lie detectors.

Next week: stay tuned for OK’s  (and y’alls) even more interesting sex question! I’m counting on you guys!


Aunt Pythia

p.s. I have no idea about the distribution of sexual partners for men and women. We’d have to get our hands on the raw data, which would be awesome. One of the reasons I’m proud to call myself a data scientist.


Please submit your sex or data science or other question to Aunt Pythia!

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. June 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Maybe we should study if women are more honest than men when they’re attached to lie detectors.

    Nope… from the article we can read: “However, we found that women were more likely than men to have different answers depending on conditions when they were surveyed.”

    liers, liers pants of fire! 😀


  2. sma045
    June 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    It affects males more if their partners cheat: they can spend their life raising other men’s children. So it is more useful for women to be able to lie about whether they had sex. The best way to lie about that is to forget it. “I can’t believe I did that” is soon followed by forgetting it. I’m told that women also forget the pain of childbirth. We all need a good forgetting system sometimes.


    • June 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      Agreed! I’ve had girlfriends say things like, “Oh that guy didn’t count because I was just having sex with him when I was in France”. What?


  3. albrt
    June 9, 2013 at 3:09 am

    If many of the men are having sex with the same woman and she lost count, that could create a significant difference in reporting, and would also be consistent with my (not first-person) understanding of what was happening at my high school.

    I wasn’t intentionally referring to a Stuebenville type situation, but that is also probably a lot more common than people want to believe.


  4. June 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    “Maybe there’s a selection bias among college kids who do these studies.”

    SciCurious wrote about this, as WEIRD psychology – Western, educated, and from industrialized, rich, and democratic countries. This sample will skew the results for practically any study you can think of..



  1. June 23, 2013 at 7:58 am
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