I’ve heard that the average number of sexual partners that men have is 8 while the average number of sexual partners that women have is 6.  But if you stop and think about these numbers, they don’t make sense.

It’s easier to think of these numbers as frequencies, because humans have a frequentist number sense.  Suppose there is a population of 10 men and 10 women, and, simplifying the case momentarily, men only have sex with women and vice versa.  In that population, the total number of unique sex interactions for the men would be 10 * 8 = 80.  The total number for the women would be 10 * 6 = 60.  If men are only having sex with women, you can see how this is impossible.  With whom did the men have 20 extra sexual encounters?

Well, in a realistic setting, same-sex encounters happen.  But, while I’m willing to grant that men may have more same-sex encounters than women, they don’t have 30% more (an average of 8 is about 30% more than an average of 6).  Maybe 10% of men and 5% of women have same-sex encounters, so at most the discrepancy is 5%.  In truth, I don’t think it’s even that much.  I think men and women probably have similar rates of same-sex encounters, which means those encounters add roughly the same amount to each average.

So again, where does this 30% discrepancy between the reported average of 8 and the reported average of 6 come from?  I think it comes from reporting errors.  One possibility is that men are falsely increasing their sex partner count while women are falsely decreasing it.  Maybe the actual average for men and women is 7 and they are on average reporting one higher and one lower.  I can understand why this would happen in a society where men are encouraged to boast about their sexual encounters while women are encouraged to downplay them.

Another possibility is that the word “sex” is not clearly defined.  Men may count, for example, every oral sex encounter as a sex encounter, while women don’t.  If 15% of sex encounters are oral sex, that accounts for the 30% disparity.  That’s a simplified case again.  I’m sure the actual numbers are more complicated, but you get the point in terms of errors (or at least discrepancies) in reporting.

One way or another, I don’t believe what men and women report when the averages are 8 and 6.  I believe the averages are — in fact must be — almost exactly the same, except perhaps for a few percentage point difference with regard to same-sex encounters.


“Greenspan said he was ‘partially wrong’ in opposing regulation of derivatives and acknowledged that financial institutions didn’t protect shareholders and investments as well as he expected.”

Read more in this excellent Daily Kos piece.

Communists excuse the failures of communism by claiming that “true” communism has never existed, as if that isn’t strong evidence that their ideal can never be achieved (hundreds of millions of people tried it for 40-60 years; if that’s not good evidence, I don’t know what is).  And now we see the failures of the market, not because we did or didn’t interfere with the market in certain ways, but because the market, when left to its own devices, doesn’t produce the longterm outcomes that we desire.

If you haven’t seen his other productions, please do.  Start here and here and here.

“As in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing.  When their credit ran out, the game stopped.”

— Marriner S. Eccles, Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Franklin D. Roosevelt, speaking in 1951

When we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it.


Update: confirmed hoax.  Still funny, though.

What Biden Ought To Say by the Rude Pundit.  As brilliant as it is obscene.

Bear CSI

During the first presidential debate, John McCain once again made reference to the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project, a five-year study to which USGS has allocated $3 million to “study the DNA of bears.”

The Scientific American article linked above compares that $3 million, and its relative merits, to the $233 million “Bridge to Nowhere.”  I like to compare it to the tax dollars we are spending in Iraq.  At $7 billion per month, we spend $3 million ever EIGHTEEN MINUTES.

Read that again.  Fix it in your mind.  Now tell me where the outrage should lie.

Sure, “freedom and democracy” in Iraq are more important than the North American grizzly population, but normalized for cost, I would say that the Iraq War campaign — which originally was not about “freedom and democracy,” but rather WMDs; how quickly we forget and reset the bar — is a  monumentally greater waste of taxpayer dollars.  We’ve spent $600 billion chasing a dragon that was never there, and continuously re-rationalizing our reasons for doing it.  If you have any intellectual honesty at all, you should be outraged about that.

The bear DNA reference so often quoted by McCain is just another distraction that he’s so good at inventing.  Again, fake outrage, misplaced priorities.  Part and parcel of modern politicking.

At the end of the day, the grizzly bear project still costs $3 million over five years, and it will tell us something important about the distribution of and conservation status of the greatest (remaining) land mammal in North America.  Also over five years, the Iraq war has cost some $600 billion — for the sake of comparison, that is two hundred thousand times as expensive as the grizzly bear project over the same time period — and we never accomplished our originally stated goal of ferreting out WMDs, and even Plan B, “freedom and democracy”, has been outrageously mismanaged, and may only now be seeing any fruits.  Given that four of those five years were wasted on the Bush-Rumsfeld plan (which made the project five times as expensive as it could have been), you know where your outrage should lie.

BTW, did you know that the Gravina Island Bridge (the so-called Bridge to Nowhere), was a two-part project, one involving the bridge, and the other involving an access road that linked the bridge to a small airport?  The bridge project got nixed, but a contract for the access road had already been signed, so it got built.  Yes, it got built, and it goes nowhere.  It dead-ends at the island coast where the bridge should connect to it.  And it cost…wait for it, wait for it…$3 million per mile!  At eight miles long, that project is eight times as expensive as the whole grizzly bear project.  And, yes, it is indeed a road to nowhere.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.  And guess who was governor and who could have nixed the contract on the access road and prevented that absurd waste of federal tax dollars?  You guessed right.  Our girl, Sarah Palin.

So tell me again, where should your outrage lie?

A propos: my friend Sakshi points out on her blog that McCain voted for funding the grizzly bear project!