How Gender and Body Type Impact Your Love Life

Ever wondered how your sexual history compares with that of the average person? Speculate no more.

How Gender and Body Type Impact Your Love Life Photo (cc) by U.S. Embassy New Delhi

If you’ve ever wondered how your sexual history compares with that of the average person, speculate no more.

New research from Chapman University reveals the link between a person’s gender, height and weight, and the number of sexual partners he or she has after becoming sexually active.

The researchers polled more than 60,000 heterosexuals, roughly half of them men and half women, with an average age of 37. Their findings, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, are as follows:


For both genders, ages 30 to 44, the median (or “middle”) number of sex partners for survey participants was eight:

  • Men who had more than five partners: 58 percent
  • Women who had more than five partners: 56 percent
  • Men who had more than 14 partners: 29 percent
  • Women who had more than 14 partners: 23 percent


Height made “little difference” in the number of sex partners, with a few exceptions.

For men, very short men (5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 4 inches) had “notably fewer” partners. Men who were of average height or taller (at least 5 feet 8 inches) had one to three more partners than men who were shorter than average.

David Frederick, who teaches psychology at Chapman, explains that it’s somewhat surprising that tall men did not have more partners:

“Research has repeatedly shown than women prefer men who are relatively taller than they are. It is possible that for most women there is a certain minimal threshold of height, after which they will consider a male as a potential sex partner, and thus men above that height will end up with similar numbers of sex partners.”

For women, very short women (4 feet 11 inches or shorter) had fewer partners compared with the tall (at least 5 feet 6 inches).

Body mass index

BMI is a medical measure of weight that takes a person’s height into consideration. BMI categories for both men and women are as follows:

  • Underweight: less than 18.5
  • Normal/healthy: 18.5 to 24.99
  • Overweight: 25 to 29.99

(Find out what your BMI is with the National Institute of Health’s calculator.)

The Chapman study found that normal and overweight men had the greatest number of sexual partners, and underweight men had the fewest. Frederick explains:

“Although it may be initially surprising that more overweight men reported the highest number of partners, it is important to note that the medical classification of overweight does not necessarily map onto social perceptions of overweight.

“For example, George W. Bush was medically classified as overweight during his presidency, but few people would perceive him as overweight. Men who appear somewhat larger, more powerful, or more athletic generally report more sexual experiences than other men.”

Underweight women also had notably fewer sexual partners. Possible explanations include that they could be dissatisfied with their weight and therefore reluctant to show off their bodies, or they could also be dealing with serious health problems that can cause weight loss.

Are you surprised by these findings? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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