There are different reasons why a person might have sex with many partners. For some, having lots of lovers makes them feel sexy and attractive – it boosts their self-esteem.
For others, it may be because they tend to hit the bottle or use drugs, which lowers their inhibitions. Then they're more likely to jump into bed with whoever happens to be there at the time.
But isn't all this sleeping around really a guy thing? Maybe. After all, science suggests that men are programmed to have sex with as many partners as possible – because it ups their chances of passing on their genes through to their kids.
Hardwired for lots of lovers
But wait a minute... of course, there are women who lust after loads of sex partners too. And plenty of people who don't need booze or drugs to lower their inhibitions before they slip between the sheets with a new amour.
Could it be that some people are just hardwired to have lots of lovers?
That’s what a team of US scientists got to wondering. Some people’s brains might be more sensitive to sexual signals, they reasoned. These people would get aroused more easily and more often, which would keep them yearning to seek new lovers.
The researchers found over 60 men and women to take part in a study.
First, the participants had to own up honestly how many people they’d had sex within the last year. Then they were shown a set of 225 pictures.
Some of the pictures had nothing to do with sex. Some were mildly erotic (like images of nude men and women). And others were full-on sexy (think explicit pics of people having sex). While the men and women looked at the pictures, the researchers measured electrical activity in their brains to see how they responded.
The participants' brains definitely switched on to the erotic pictures. The sexier the image, the more electrical activity, the research showed.
But was there any connection between a person's brain responses and their number of sex partners? In a word, yes.
With the people who had lots of lovers, the mildly sexy pictures made their brains light up in almost exactly the same way as the full-on porn did. So it seems these men and women get really aroused by things that leave other people lukewarm. It’s like they have a super-sex-sensitive brain. And because they get turned on more easily, they’re keener to keep finding new sex partners.
Compare that to the group who’d had fewer partners in the last year. These men and women’s brains didn’t respond as strongly to the erotic pics, and they probably didn’t find them all that arousing.
Oh, and about this being more of a guy thing... What difference did the researchers find between the sex sensitivity of male and female brains? Precisely zero.
Men and women responded to the images in just the same way.
The differences were entirely down to the individual. It seems that some people might literally have sex on the brain more often than others!
Prause, N., Steele, V.R., Staley, C., & Sabatinelli, D. (2015). Late positive potential to explicit sexual images associated with the number of sexual intercourse partners. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.