What’s the best predictor of sex partners?

Restrict the inquiry to heterosexual men in the United States.  To be sure, famous rock stars have a lot of opportunities, but that is just one small corner of the distribution.  Which variable is the best predictor for the population as a whole?  Patrons of prostitutes do not count.

You might rush in and claim "income" or "status" and maybe those are the correct answers.  But we're talking unconditional predictors here, and men with high income and status are a) often older, and b) often busy working.  I'm not ready to sign off on those answers and anecdotally, when I think of the people I know, I don't quite see it.  (It may be more true in Latin America, for instance, and that is one reason why visiting American tourists don't always succeed there.  They first need to be certified by a local of high income or status, but instead they make some kind of foolish direct charge.)

"Facility with women" is too vague empirically and in some cases verges on the tautological.  Maybe this is the most powerful variable but then I wish to re-ask the question and consider what variable predicts facility with women.

Any takers?



Age of first sexual encounter. Ask your friends... you'll see.

Proximity to loose women.

Like anything else, effort.

Population density in place of residence.

"Age of first sexual encounter."

Isn't that tautological too?

Undoubtedly height.

I wouldn't be surprised if it's a nonlinear effect, though. I'd expect a much more pronounced effect for each inch below the average than for each inch above it.

Athleticism. Great signal of overall health and physical fitness of potential offspring.

Seconding or thirding extroversion but that could be...ahem...unpackaged a bit- enjoyment of the effort.

Corey...not tautological perhaps. But endogenous for sure.

Owning any cocaine.

Also, if you want to understand why bullying is so prevalent, here's your answer: the pecking order of your classmates at the age of 13 is probably the best indicator.

How often do they go to church?

Does Tyler mean n, or quality? On that note, maybe it -should- be n of quality-adjusted sex partners? After all, the difference btwn M. Foody's proposed variable and Tylers 'no prostitute' provision is...what, exactly?

Height has got to be #1. But I recall reading that being able to dance was an indicator as well.

What's the best predictor of sex partners?

What the hell does that even mean? Are you asking us what best predicts if someone has a sex partner (in that case a ring on the left ring finger is the best indicator I know of; in which case they almost certaintly aren't having sex).

Are you asking us to predict the amount of partners, maybe their astrology sign?

baseline testosterone level


Depends on your perspective, on alimony, what the rates are. Add that, and prositution rates go way up.

How about some predictors of non-success: playing D&D or WoW, being a sci-fi fan, participating in Civil War re-enactments or renfairs, not being an NFL fan.

"men who succeed with women behave as if they do not need them, that those women can take or leave whatever they have to offer them"

An assertion backed up by nothing other than conjecture (ignoring whether or not your definition of "success" is qualitatively correct). Additionally, trying to reduce all social dynamics to an individual personality characteristic seems specious at best.

Age of first sexual encounter is interesting. You could make an argument for facial symmetry, which plenty of people do - but that could fall under the more general heading of attractiveness. I earnestly have no idea how to take into account sex-positive cultural norms (age of first sexual encounter might be the closest one could get?), but I have to think levels of promiscuity would be most accurately tied to that.

The reason pecking order in adolescence is the best single indicator it that it is a function of everything else mentioned: height, confidence, looks, extroversion, jerkiness, aggression, testosterone level, athletic ability, IQ, social intelligence, competitiveness -- it will be a main determinant of age of first sex -- it correlates with lifelong income and status --and it will lead to those qualities the Gamers are throwing out such as not treating women like they are so special.

There have got to be some public datasets on this out there somewhere.

My guess: A desire for many sexual partners (rarer than you might assume) + extroversion + not coming off as creepy + the ability to engage in non-committal emotional intimacy.

Though that very much depends on the setting. Bars, where women are looking for similar low-intimacy sexual encounters, have different rules (though the first three still apply, the third isn't important in the same way: that's not what women who go to bars are looking for.)

The biggest piece of hooking up with a woman is inspiring interest simultaneous with trust. Since each sexual encounter for a woman is an opportunity to be raped, on average 1/3rd of potential sexual partners for heterosexual men in America have been raped and the rest are (probably rationally) scared of it happening to them, the key is to inspire her to want to be vulnerable with you. It matters a lot less when you are dating or looking for long-term encounters, but this dynamic will likely dominate short-term or one-night-stand dynamics.

You can't just be quiet and unassuming, because she won't ever notice you. At the same time, most of the things that might lead you to stand out in a group of guys will probably lessen the "trust" aspect. It's part of why "rockstar" or "member of a band" is good: lots of visibility, the opportunity to act outside of gender roles (you would not believe how many girls go for the skinny andro guys), and you have to be at least outgoing enough to get up on stage and perform. At the same time, you are used to protecting yourself and your ego while being emotionally raw on stage (it's what makes rock interesting to watch), and so you can empathize with, connect with, have mind-blowing sex with and then ditch a woman.

Other good professions: teacher (single moms can tell you about their kids, lots of empathy, have to draw lines between personal connection with the kids and all the terrible things they might be living through at home), sports coach (used to working with people with egos), artist, anything in theater (it also gives you a wide population of vulnerable women looking for validation, or they wouldn't be in theater in the first place), goth or Harry Potter fandom communities (if you can deal with the emotional immaturity and the clove cigarettes), activism (though only if you have a certain kind of personality; you have to be willing to listen a lot, talk little and give really good ... attention to the women you meet.) Basically, you are looking for communities of women who are already outside the social norms (so they aren't searching for a man to start a family with), are likely to respond well to external validation and aren't inundated with creepy men (creeps make women put their shields up, and then it's way harder to get through). You also want places where women aren't doing something else, or where they will think it was their idea.

Oh, yeah, bisexuality helps. If you find a boyfriend who's into it, it greatly increases the available population of women since some guys only get jealous if they can't join in. Also, it might mean you are comfortable enough to wear a corset to a Rocky Horror production and look good in it (which, if all you care about is ticking up a big number, I would highly recommend.)


I think thats what people mean when then talk about "acting like a jerk".

Simple answer. Seems bizarre, because women have no way of knowing it, but I would bet my house that it's true. At risk of seeming crude, it's Penis length. There are many areas where a person may be confident or not. When it comes to confidence in sexual/romantic situations, penis length is the primary contributor. Nothing else matters nearly as much.

All combined with an ability to lie, especially to the wife.

risk aversion. you will never get laid if you never try. so those that risk more, get more.

this is easy to measure and intuitive.

Low Standards

Ability to lie (in order to lay)

My proposal would be high social intelligence coupled with low emotional intelligence. That combination is related to the frequency of manipulative and subtle bullying behaviors (where I'd definitely put "the neg" that the PUA men keep going on about.)

Since social intelligence is related to how much time boys spend talking with girls or women (it's primarily a learned trait, and one that, in America, is associated with being female), I would also assume there is an extra loop here, where the most socially-intelligent men are also those with the most practice talking with and being comfortable around women.

Though it depends, too, on what part of the curve we are talking about here. "Number of Sexual Partners" in Western countries is an excellent example of a long tail; if we are talking about the people with 10 lifetime partners versus those with two we'll probably get a different answer than if we're talking about the people with 10 lifetime partners versus those with 50.

At the extreme end, I'd assume you'd find a lot of covert narcissists, who are fulfilled in the short term by making someone else happy (until that person disappoints them in any way), but aren't oblivious or clearly self-centered the way overt narcissists are. I'd also expect to find survivors of sexual abuse, especially survivors of early teenage sexual abuse by women.

There is a lot of misogyny coming out in these comments. People have low opinions of what women use to choose, which is really an indictment of women, no? Maybe guys who have a lot of sex only seem like jerks when you aren't having much yourself?

I think it's more likely than having women falling all over you makes you into a jerk, not the other way around.

An ability to lie, especially to your wife

David, It's not necessarily an indictment of women. If asking what attracts men, I'm sure you'd get plenty of people saying "bitches."

Prosociality and trying. The rest of the stuff listed is just guys "spinning their wheels."

Honestly, this topic is just the crappy amateur subsection of evolutionary psychology, which is a pseudoscience wherein bitter men tromp off into the woods and watch ducks peck at eachother, then project their reasons for not getting laid onto said ducks. It's pathetic.

Anyway, nothing is more attractive than a prosocial person.

I bet it's actually a problem space with many local maxima. Of course there's going to be a global maxima somewhere, but the nature of such a solution space is that you can't break it down easily to linear interactions of predictors.

But, if I had to guess three with a decent linear relationship, I'd say looks (which is a bit too obvious), anxiety (negative correlation), and proficiency with a musical instrument.

"Adolescent pecking order is not bad, but would rule out some of the best womanizers. Socializing almost exclusively with women, these men don't spend much time competing with or building status among other men. They're almost invisible in the pecking order."

I've observed a number of men who were invisible in the pecking order in high-school yet turned out to be highly successful with women in their 20s because they were attractive and knew how to speak with women better than with men. However most of these men fell behind again in their 30's because, not socializing well with other men, they tended to perform poorly in other areas of their life and reverted to a less attractive state. The 25 year old slacker/womanizer may not do so well when he is 35. So if we are talking total lifetime returns here the old locker-room pecking order often comes back to haunt.

I would assume that being an NFL fan would be negatively correlated with sexual partners, probably for the same reason playing WoW is (namely, that all the time you spend watching NFL games is time you aren't spending meeting women to sleep with.)

Women go for NFL fans because it's a sign that the men are unashamedly masculine guys with appropriately masculine interests. In addition, given the social nature of NFL fan-dom, NFL fans often have a wide circle of male friends, which increases their chances of meeting women (your friend's cute sister-in-law, that sort of thing).

In addition to sports, men who are into other male-appropriate interests also tend to do well with women; these include car-related activities, hunting and fishing, and manual skills such as woodworking. What women do NOT tolerate are the sorts of activities which are engaged in mostly or solely by men yet are which seen as not fully masculine. These are the things I noted in my prior comments, things like sci-fi, D&D, WoW, Civil War re-enactments,* and so on.

* = it may seem paradoxical that re-enactors are failures with women, given the inherent masculinity of warplay. It may be that the fantasy and role-playing aspects of these activities are more important that their martial nature.

its about having alpha status within a specific group. good looks can put you at the top across virtually all groups whereas other factors are much more limited plus it takes one second of interaction to establish. wealth is very overrated. women are rational; they want to marry you if youre rich, not give it up.

I'll re-up narcissism + impulsivity. but only for raw number.

For top-shelf girls only, income/status starts coming in a lot more, since without *some* of these (or else psychopathy that allows you to fake it) you'll never get close.

I have serious doubts about building a quality-adjusted count. Do five 2s equal a 10?

If we want a predictor we need something quantifiable don't we? How do you quantify extroversion, jerkiness or sociability? Penis length, testosterone level, or income at a certain age you can quantify. Pecking order in high school you can quantify: survey the kids and you will get a fairly accurate response.

Acting boldly towards the woman seems to do the trick. So it can fall under high testosterone, extroversion, or simply being drunk.

Just anecdotally, I have to agree with height being a clear #1. I stand 5'11.5 and was amazed during my days on the dating market at the number of girls that claimed they would never date anyone under 6 foot. My fiance, one of the girls mentioned above, is still in the dark--a secret I'll probably take to the grave.

Can't be answered without more control variables. And by that I mean context. A backwards hat will attract women in some circumstances but will repel them in others.

You can't just ask, "Which ingredients are most likely predicters of a tasty dish." What kind of food? Who's eating it? When?

If you are asking who is most successful with the subset of ALL WOMEN, I would say the most successful ones are those who are best at knowing their own market and crafting their pitch accordingly.

Backwards hat frat guy can get a lot of action, for sure. But not if he thinks he'll get it at the squash courts or the University Womyn's Center.

Weepy emo guy can do OK, too. But not at a tractor pull.

Any of the following:
Psychopathy. Narcissism. Personality disorders. "Puer Aeteneus". Drug or alcohol addiction.

Not dating hand models...

What is interesting about these comments is that the men's answers are so different than the women's answers.

The best predictor is the women's answers, since they are the one's who choose.

Guys, read those womens comments if you're looking for a good time. Ignore other guys.

Gender? (i.e. being the opposite gender as partner)

They didn't say it couldn't be an obvious one.

How about a portfolio approach. Friends of mine have been quite successful despite one being only 5' 7.5" but nice facial features, no athletic talent, very skinny, extremely bright, and a good talker. Another is 6' 2", college quarterback, nice facial features, nice guy, bright (not brilliant) but not super smooth. Both have obvious but very different attributes (other than reasonably attractive faces). I am kind of in between the two in most ways, and can't complain about my luck. Consider a hedonic model of the obvious attributes with a eye towards reproductive fitness. If your average is high enough and higher than her other options, you score.

"Preferences?"/"Willingness to put in effort?"

Reading this and a couple comments.

@Robert - Agree. I think narcissism has a lot to do with it and I think it's the root from which lots of secondary items like ego, confidence, extroversion, risky behavior, etc flow from.

After narcissism it's going to have to be effort and standards. As Michael said, if you are willing to sleep with anything that has a hole you can have sex to your hearts content with as many partners as you wish for as long wish until you are dead of old age. Having spent the majority of my premarital free time trolling dive bars, dumps, crack houses, and pretty much anywhere drunks, barflies, druggies, fatties, damaged goods[1], youth[2], or off-duty sex worker[3] hangout you can pretty much get laid nightly and often multiple times without even leaving the bar. Having an ample supply or quick access to meth, coke, and keeping the booze coming is essential also.[4] This works in every country in the world to include extremely conservative Islamic nations as every nation has it's poor disenfranchised harijans (personal experience on this one, I have traveled a lot). If your friends in Latin America are striking out, they need to just open their eyes.

Everything else is tertiary; height, attractiveness, non-creepiness, etc are crutches for people with standards or want that magic someone. I can't say this is quality over quantity either, quality comes with quantity.

As for Michael's marriage comment, I've been married for ten years and in the last seven years I can count how many times I have had sex with my wife on two hands ... my peers (when you get them away from the wife and drunk) pretty much say the same thing. Once having the kids were out the way sex went to.

Also (on the prostitute comment) I think Tyler needs to get out more. Most Johns have one or four favorite girls which they use for decades; you seem to think they are out getting a new girl each time, which of course they don't. You find a couple you like and stick with them as it's cheaper (repeat discounts), safer (disease, violence, legally), and more enjoyable (they learn to cater to your wants).

[1] Childhood abuse, raped, multiple divorcee, non-deadly STD's, disfigurement
[2] As in under legal drinking age but still want to drink (basically 18 to 20 crowd). Lots of sketchy bars cater to this crowd as do random college house parties which you can just walk into w/o knowing anybody
[3] The bars where strippers and prostitutes go to relax when off to work and not be bothered in a professional manner
[4] You don't actually have to buy it all, like brings like, access brings want or payment. Sleeping with you for coke is no different that sleeping with you for a steady income, dinner, or any other service. I am scoping prostitution in the way I imagine Tyler scopes it "Two parties explicitly coming to an agreement to exchange fiat currency for sex".

As for Michael's marriage comment, I've been married for ten years and in the last seven years I can count how many times I have had sex with my wife on two hands ... my peers (when you get them away from the wife and drunk) pretty much say the same thing. Once having the kids were out the way sex went to.

Terrifying. Do you want more sex with your wife than you're having, or is it a mutual thing?

@M: It's not mutual and I just get it elsewhere .. as does most of my equally disgruntled peer group.

I should think the key determinant of number-of-sex-partners is the same as the key determinant of number-of-tennis-partners or number-of-chess-partners or number-of-restaurants-visited, namely preferences.

Seconding desire for many sexual partners, which is indeed rarer than you might think. I suspect that this is the first and most important factor. Second, I'd pick something kind of nebulous, but best I can do is genuine enjoyment of the company of women. And third is looks.

All of the men I know with a high number fall into one of the following two categories. Either, they're significantly better-looking than average, or they spend a lot of time with women, have close female friends, and seem to genuinely enjoy the seduction process, rather than simply being eager for the results.

Whether or not he is a white man living in China.

Amazing... mention S E X and you get 119 comments.

people should have to post their number times the average rating out of ten before we trust their opinion: ~280

Mike in shenzhen, I just finished an economics masters and want to move to China. Email me at mantonin[at]gmail[dot]com and let's talk about how we can make that happen.

OK here are a bunch of correlations from the General Social Survey*. The total sample is 50,000+ Americans, but I looked at men only, and the sample sizes vary with each question.


Status variables are weakly correlated with promiscuity. Promiscuity does not correlate strongly with education, income, or intelligence.

Promiscuous men are more neurotic and are more likely to give negative answers. They report lower general happiness, lower marital happiness, and lower satisfaction with their jobs. They see their lives as worse off than their parent's lives.

Promiscuous men are more liberal and less Republican. They are especially liberal about sexual issues. They are more supportive of homosexuals, teen sex, and especially abortion rights.

Promiscuous men are less pro-social. They are less likely to volunteer or give to charity. They report lower levels of trust. They are more likely to be arrested. Further, there is notable correlation between violence and promiscuity. Promiscuous men are more likely to have been punched, and are more likely to say it's OK to hit others in certain circumstances (and are slightly more supportive of spanking children). One of the strongest correlates of promiscuity is having been threatened with a gun! Partially related is that promiscuous men spend more time in the military.

Promiscuous men are more sexual. They watch more pornography, and they are more likely to have extra-marital sex. The strongest correlate of promiscuity for men is experience with a prostitute. Knowing someone with AIDS is also one of the strongest correlates.

Promiscuous men watch more TV, and have less cleanly homes. They are more likely to have used hard drugs. They are also more likely to describe themselves as athletic. They spend less time with family and relatives and more time with friends. One of the strongest correlates of promiscuity is time spent at bars.

An equally strong predictor of not being promiscuous is time spent at church. Promiscuous men are less religious.


* Men and number of sex partners (1-100):

Empathy for less fortunate .00
Energy level (recent) .00
Father's education .00
Mother's education .00
Number of desired children .00
Number of siblings .00
Subjective control over life .00
Total wealth .00
Education .01
Deppressiveness (recent) .01
Health .01
Life exciting? .01
Likely to hurt others .01
Number of children .01
Respected at work -.01
Socio-economic index .01
Subjective social class -.01
Taxation on rich .01
Time spent at work .01
Time spent praying -.01
"Spanking children OK" .02
Time reading news .02
Wealth redistribution .02
Church attendance (growing up) -.03
Income .03
IQ .03
"Women should stay at home" -.03
Patriotism .04
Given to charity -.04
Time spent with friends .04
Democratic .05
Age at first marriage .05
Time spent with relatives -.05
Likely to hurt self .06
Marital happiness -.06
Self-rated liberalism .06
Subjective living standard (compared to parents) -.06
Trust in others -.06
Volunteer work -.06
Happiness -.07
"Hitting someone sometimes OK" .07
"Homosexuality not wrong" .07
Job satisfaction -.07
Rated cleanliness of house -.07
Satisfaction from friendships -.07
Time watching television .07
Years in Armed Forces .07
Self-rated religiousness -.08
Athleticism .09
Teen sex OK .09
Been arrested (Recent) .10
Watch pornography .10
Satisfaction from family life -.12
Been punched .15
Cheated on spouse .15
Ever inject drugs .15
Time spent at bars .15
Know people with AIDS .16
Supports abortion rights .16
Time spent at church -.16
Ever threatened with gun .20
Ever paid for sex .26

I couldn't resist running all the same variables for women. There are some real differences.

While status variables did not correlate with promiscuity for men, all of the status variables correlated with promiscuity for women. Promiscuous women are more educated and intelligent and come from smaller, more educated families. Promiscuous men father about the same amount of children, but promiscuous women have fewer children.

Promiscuous women are just as neurotic as promiscuous men, and experience more depression. They are less happy generally, and in their marriages and their jobs. They don't feel respected at work, and don't get as much satisfaction out of their friendships (despite spending more time with their friends). They feel worse off than their parents.

Liberalism and promiscuity are more intertwined for women than for men. While promiscuous men are slightly more patriotic, lack of identification with America is one of the strongest correlates of promiscuity for women. The strongest correlate of promiscuity for women is acceptance of homosexuality.

Promiscuous women are also less pro-social; less trusting and less likely to donate to charity. As with men, experiences with violence are among the strongest correlates of promiscuity. While they are not more likely to be arrested, they are slightly more sympathetic towards contextual uses of violence. Hard drug use is a correlate for both men and women.

Promiscuous women are even less religious, and time spent at bars, and away from church, are again two of the strongest predictors of promiscuity.


* Women and number of sex partners (1-100):

Been arrested (recent) .00
Athleticism .01
Empathy for less fortunate -.01
Given to charity -.01
Health -.01
Wealth redistribution -.01
Years in Armed Forces .01
Likely to hurt others -.02
Likely to hurt self .02
Number of desired children -.02
Subjective control over life -.02
Subjective social class -.02
Time watching television .02
Trust in others .02
Age at first marriage .03
Energy level (recent) -.03
Life exciting? .03
"Spanking children OK" -.03
Time spent with friends .03
Total wealth -.03
Church attendance (growing up) -.04
"Hitting someone sometimes OK" .04
Marital happiness -.04
Number of siblings -.04
Democratic party .05
Given to charity -.05
Socio-economic index .05
Taxation on rich .05
Respected at work -.06
Satisfaction from friendships -.06
Time spent at work .06
Depressiveness (recent) .07
Rated cleanliness of house -.07
Time reading news .07
Education .08
Happiness -.08
Time spent with relatives -.08
Cheated on spouse .09
Income .09
IQ .09
Number of children -.09
Father's education .10
Mother's education .10
Subjective living standard (compared to parents) -.10
Supports abortion rights .10
Teen sex OK .11
Ever inject drugs .12
Know people with AIDS .12
Time spent praying -.12
Watch pornography (recent) .12
"Women should stay at home" -.12
Satisfaction from family life -.13
Self-rated liberalism -.13
Ever paid for sex .15
Self-rated religiousness -.15
Ever threatened with gun .16
Time spent at church -.16
Patriotism -.18
Time spent at bars .19
Ever been punched .20
"Homosexuality not wrong" .20

penis size. height, confidence, etc are just a proxy

I think something like confidence/outgoing-ness has got to be pretty important. Think about it in this way: People who are courageous enough to talk to new women often (whether at a coffee shop or wherever) are like entrepreneurs. They are less risk-averse than most of us. They take big risks (embarrassment, rejection, etc.) and, sexually speaking, they get a higher return, so to speak.

"waist-hip ratio?"

For men, I am told the most important ratio is shoulder to waist. Now that I'm posting, I'll be the 60th one to say confidence/extroversion.

economics is never more dismal than when attempting to explain sexual behavior. hahaha.

Single parent household is interesting.

Fat girls are like mopeds, fun to ride until your friends find out.

Alcohol consumption.
# of Facebook friends.

There was an article in US News about 10 years ago that showed men with better left/right facial symmetry have 20 times as many sexual encounters as those without such symmetry. The rationale is that the quality of symmetry is itself what makes a man "good-looking". Hypothetically this is because symmetry is the expression of matching(and therefore unmutated) chromosomes.

Am I the only one that thinks Tyler sounds incredibly creepy some times when it comes to sex?

NBA Basketball player...a profession in which individuals have most of the characteristics previously mentioned.

In my youth, I always did best with women when I already had a woman. Women, especially young women, measure their worth against what men other women they see are getting. When I was single and (obviously) looking, things were much leaner, on average. People tell me not much has changed in this regard.

Courage/outgoing-ness/confidence. The guy who talks to women he's never met before is like an entrepreneur. High risk/high return (in a sense).

The fact that we're well past 140 comments is, I think, significant. One would imagine that had not happened if you had asked "What's the best predictor of transaction activity (in a brokerage account)?"

Touched a nerve.

I like Steven Landsburg's answer. And after pondering it, I think I've made some huge mistakes!

Number of partners?
Is there any *good* data? (a non-sequitur in social science, perhaps)
Otherwise, as varied as 'conventional wisdom' is, it looks best answer. the most generalized answer is pre-adolescent pecking order, since it covers almost everything else, and matches (excepting the obvious, such as pre-adolescent proto-rapists) well to post-adolescent pecking order.

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