Sex on the brain?: an examination of frequency of sexual cognitions as a function of gender, erotophilia, and social desirability

J Sex Res. 2012;49(1):69-77. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.565429. Epub 2011 May 24.


It is commonly believed that men think about sex much more often than do women, but the empirical evidence in this area is fairly weak. By means of a golf tally counter, 283 college students kept track of their thoughts pertaining to food, sleep, or sex for one week. Males reported significantly more need-based cognitions overall, but there was no significant interaction between sex of participant and type of cognition recorded. Therefore, although these young men did think more about sex than did young women, they also thought more about food and sleep. In contrast, a retrospective estimated frequency of need-based cognitions obtained at the start of the study revealed a sex difference in sexual cognitions, but not thoughts about eating or sleeping. Erotophilia and sexual desirability responding were significant predictors of frequency of sexual cognitions for women, but not for men. Overall, erotophilia was a better predictor of sexual cognition than was sex of participant. Taken as a whole, the results suggest that, although there may be a sex difference in sexual cognitions, it is smaller than is generally thought, and the reporting is likely influenced by sex role expectations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Image
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexuality*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult