Average Number Of Sex Partners

By midlife, 21.1% of men and 10.1% of women report having 15 or more sex partners, but the lifetime average is growing for women and shrinking for men.
split screen image showing a donut chart listing the numbers of sexual partners men report having throughout the duration of their life on the left and an image of a couple's feet entwined in bed on the right
Updated:November 2023

Our research found that the average number of sex partners in a lifetime — and throughout one’s life — varies.

One study of nearly 7,000 participants over the age of 50 found that 29.8% of men reported having one or fewer sex partners in their lifetimes, while 38.5% of women reported having only one or fewer sexual partners in their lifetime. [2]

Key Statistics To Know:

  • 29.8% of men over the age of 50 responded as having zero or one sex partners in their lifetime, while 19.9% reported a count of ten or more partners in their lifetime. [2]
  • 38.5% of women over the age of 50 reported having only one sexual partner in their lifetime, while 8.5% reported having ten or more sex partners in their lives. [2]
  • The average number of opposite-sex sexual partners over the course of a lifetime is growing for women, but shrinking for men: 23.2% of men aged 15–44 claimed 15 or more partners in 2002 [4], compared to 21.1% between 2011-15 [6]. Only 9.2% of women had 15 or more partners in 2002 [4], compared to 10.1% between 2011-2015 [6].
  • Just over 20% of men and 21% of sexually active women aged 18-24 reported having more than three sexual partners in the previous year. [1]
  • Gay men, on average, have 30 sexual partners in their life compared to lesbians, who report an average of 12 over a lifetime. [3]

This article contains a collection of the most relevant statistics and data about the number of sex partners men and women have by midlife, over the course of their entire lifetimes, and on a yearly basis.

How Many Sexual Partners Is Average For Men Over A Lifetime?

donut graphic depicting how many sex partners men have over the course of their lifetime: 29.8% have 1 or fewer, 30% have between 2 and 4, 19.8% have between 5 and 9, and 19.9% have 10 or more.

A study of roughly 7,000 participants over the age of 50 (just over 3,000 male) in the UK, which included gay, straight, and bisexual people, revealed fascinating results:

  • Among men over the age of 50, 29.8% responded as having zero or one sex partners in their lifetime. [2]
  • A further 30.5% reported having two-to-four sexual partners so far in their lives. [2]
  • Of the 7,000 men surveyed, 19.8% had sex with between five and nine partners in their lives. [2]
  • Finally, 19.9% of men surveyed reported a count of ten or more partners in their lifetime. [2]

“This may be driven by men’s higher testosterone levels leading to increased feelings of sexual desire,” the researchers said, “and/or the ‘sexual double standard’ that sees more favorable societal attitudes towards promiscuity in males.”

“It may also be at least partly attributable to social desirability bias, with men [being] more likely than women to overreport the number of sexual partners they have had,” they explained.

The researchers from that study noted that “Current and former smokers reported a higher number of sexual partners” compared to those who never smoked.

They also found that regular or frequent alcohol drinkers reported having a higher number of sexual partners compared to those who rarely drink or abstain from alcohol.

These factors were true for men and women.

How Many Sexual Partners Is Average For A Woman Over A Lifetime?

donut graphic depicting the count of sex partners a woman has in her lifetime: 38.5% have 1 or fewer, 37.5% have between 2 and 4, 15.6% have between 5 and 9, and 8.5% have 10 or more.

One study that included over 3,800 women (gay, straight, or bi) over the age of 50 showed that:

  • 38.5% reported having only one sexual partner in their lifetime. [2]
  • Another 37.4% gave their count as between two and four partners. [2]
  • A further 15.6% of women said their number of partners was at least five but fewer than nine. [2]
  • Finally, a mere 8.5% of women surveyed reported having ten or more sex partners in their lives. [2]

The study researchers noted that “Women from white ethnic backgrounds reported a higher number of lifetime sexual partners than those from other ethnicities.”

An association between the number of sexual partners and gender was ONLY found among women, however, the researchers stated that the reason was not exactly clear and further research is warranted.

How Many Sexual Partners Is Normal For LGBTQ+ Over A Lifetime?

illustrative graphic depicting that over the course of a lifetime, gay men have had sex with 30 people while lesbians have had sex with 12

Normality is a myth, but these numbers from a pre-COVID survey show that:

  • Gay men, on average, have 30 sexual partners in their life. [3]
  • Lesbians, by contrast, average 12 sex partners over a lifetime. [3]

* Note: the survey of LGBTQ participants did not control for the age at which subjects came out.

How Many Sexual Partners Is Average By Midlife?

graphic with two donut charts depicting that by midlife, 10.1% of women have had 15 or more sex partners and 21.1% of men have had the same

A CDC study covering 2002-2015 showed that the average number of opposite-sex sexual partners by midlife is shrinking for men, and growing for women.

  • In 2002, 23.2% of men age 15-44 reported a lifetime count of fifteen or more sexual partners. [4]
  • By 2006, that number shrank to 21.6% [5]
  • In the years 2011-2015, the number fell even further to 21.1% [6]
  • By contrast, in 2002, 9.2% of women in the same age group reported having 15 or more sex partners in their lives. [4]
  • In the years 2006-2010, that number stayed fairly constant at 9%. [5]
  • However, in the survey covering 2011-2015, the percentage of women reporting 15 or more partners in a lifetime rose to 10.1% [6]

How Many Sex Partners Is Average For A Man (Per Year)?

two pie charts depicting that 20% of men aged 18-24 report having 3 or more sex partners in the previous year compared to 35% of men in the same age group reporting none

An NCBI survey of 4,372 American men showed that:

  • Just over 20% of men aged 18-24 had more than three sexual partners in the previous year. [1]
  • About 35% of men of the same age range reported having no sexual partners during the same time period. [1]
  • Among men aged 25-34, only 15% of men reported having three or more partners in the same year. [1]
  • Men aged 35-44 are even less likely to have more than three partners in a year at about 8% [1]

How Many Sex Partners Is Average For A Woman (Per Year)?

two pie charts depicting that 21% of women aged 18-24 report having 3 or more sex partners in the previous year compared to 30% of women in the same age group reporting none

An NCBI survey of 5,377 American women showed that:

  • Around 21% of women aged 18-24 had three or more sexual partners in the previous year. [1]
  • In the same age range, over 30% of women reported zero partners in the year prior to the survey. [1]
  • Among women 25-35, 60% of women reported having one sexual partner during the same time period. [1]
  • That number is even higher in women 35-44, with 75% having only one partner in the previous year. [1]

Sources:

  1. Ueda, P., Mercer, C. H., Ghaznavi, C., & Herbenick, D. (2020). Trends in Frequency of Sexual Activity and Number of Sexual Partners Among Adults Aged 18 to 44 Years in the US, 2000-2018. JAMA Network Open, 3(6). https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3833
  2. Jackson, S. E., Yang, L., Veronese, N., Koyanagi, A., López Sánchez, G. F., Grabovac, I., Soysal, P., & Smith, L. (2019). Sociodemographic and behavioral correlates of lifetime number of sexual partners: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 45(2), 138-146. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsrh-2018-200230
  3. 2016-05-24-Match-Releases-New-Study-On-LGBTQ-Single-Population
  4. Advance Data from Vital Health and Statistics
  5. Chandra A, Copen CE, Mosher WD. Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States: Data from the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. In: Baumle AK (ed). International Handbooks of Population, International Handbook on the Demography of Sexuality. Volume VI: Springer Science and Business Media Dordrecht, 2013:45-66.
  6. Special tabulation by NCHS