Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 64, Issue 9, pp 644-657

First online:

The “Problem of Number” Revisited: The Relative Contributions of Psychosocial, Experiential, and Evolutionary Factors to the Desired Number of Sexual Partners

  • Chuck TateAffiliated withCalifornia State University, BakersfieldDepartment of Psychology, San Francisco State University Email author 

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Three studies (N = 329) using U.S. community samples examined the relative contributions of self-reported “sex,” gender identity, and actual number of sexual partners to the question how many sexual partners individuals desire over the lifetime. In Study 1, the more “feminine” a participant identified, not self-reported sex, was significantly related to the desired number of sexual partners. Study 2a showed that a person’s actual number of sexual partners also correlated with the desired number. In Study 3, Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) (Bem Psychological Review, 88: 354–364 1981) femininity scores and actual number of sexual partners significantly predicted desired number of sexual partners separately for men and women. These results suggest that non-evolutionary variables drive the “problem of number” in mate preference.


Gender identity Problem of number Sexual strategies Femininity Bem Sex Role Inventory Sexual partners