What American Singles Want From Sex

March 27, 2017

getting out of bedMatch.com’s annual Singles in America survey asks a lot of questions about sex. The most interesting questions do not ask for # of sexual partners, blah, blah, but are designed to elicit specific attitudes about sex as it relates to relationships.

How many times have you been in love?

Keep in mind that this survey includes over 5,000 singles of all ages, from 18-99. Half of all respondents have been in love once or twice. Only 17% have been in love more than three times. Falling in love is not something we’re wired to do frequently.


Have you ever cheated?

A full third of respondents chose not to answer this question, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in any one answer. I do find it interesting that people report more sexual than emotional cheating. Men are said to be threatened more by sexual cheating by their mates, while women fear emotional cheating more. Emotional cheating is likely more time-consuming and requires more investment – there’s no such thing as a one-night-emotional-intimacy stand.


What are your beliefs and attitudes about sex?

As you can see, the vast majority of people value or even require emotional intimacy as part of a sexual experience. And yet 43% of people view sex and emotional intimacy as separate rather than connected.

 % Agree
Sex and love are completely separate.43%
Emotional intimacy makes sex better, but sex can still be good without it.71%
Sex helps build an emotional connection.75%
I cannot tell if I love someone until I have sex.17%
I have to have an emotional connection before I have sex.65%
I have to be in love before I have sex.44%
I have to be in an exclusive relationship before I have sex.57%
I have to be married to have sex.20%
I have no interest in sex.20%
I have no interest in romantic love.19%
I will have sex with someone I’m attracted to but avoid any emotional connection.41%

How can 65% of people say that require an emotional connection before sex, while 41% say they have sex but avoid emotional connection? The answer lies in the extent to which people “agree” vs. “completely agree:”

“I have to have an emotional connection before I have sex.”

Agree: 43%

Completely agree: 22%

“I will have sex with someone I’m attracted to but avoid any emotional connection.”

Agree: 33%

Completely agree: 8%

How do you feel about one-night stands?

Not a lot of support for casual sex here! These numbers are very much in keeping with the estimates of 10-20% of the population exhibiting unrestricted sociosexuality. Note that only the last two items are broken out by gender, and also conform to expectations that men value casual sex more than women do overall.

 % AgreeAll
I find them empowering.6%
I am afraid others will judge me.11%
I would have more if there were no stigma.6%
They offer enjoyable sex without social complications.17%
They make me feel sexually attractive.13%
I often regret them.13%
I would never have one.15%
I have never had one but would like to.8%
They are exciting.17%
I have had one to get a relationship.5%
I have had one to get to know someone.4%
I worry about catching feelings.9%
They are useful because they can lead to love.8%
They can be the best sex.29%15%
They can be the worst sex.19%19%

Gender Differences

Match broke out very little of its source data by gender for distribution to researchers, but they did offer a couple of interesting tidbits:

  • Men are 43% more likely than women to believe that sex creates an emotional connection.
  • Men are 3 x’s more likely to use sex as a way to start a relationship.
  • Men are 73% more likely to believe that sex helps you realize if you love someone.

These findings are fascinating – it’s only in relatively recent history that men have had the luxury of using sex to distinguish their feelings. Or to establish commitment via sex rather than courting. This upside-down dynamic reflects both a casual sex culture and sex ratios that predominately favor men in dating.

How should women respond to these male attitudes?

What in the survey do you find encouraging? Disappointing? Surprising? Let’s discuss!

The is the fifth in a series of posts discussing Match.com’s annual Singles Survey. Previous posts include:

Match’s 2017 Singles in America Survey – Part 1

The Best Places to Flirt and Score a Date

What Dating Advice Annoys You the Most?