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Many Indian Women Have More Sexual Partners Than Men, Govt Data Shows

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Statistics is, perhaps, the most foolproof method when it comes to dismissing stereotypes. The fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) does just that through its data from several Indian cities to that show the prevalence of sexual activity among women doesn’t correspond to society’s notion that women are chaste, and men have multiple sexual partners by virtue of their inability to control physical urges. Turns out, that women aren’t lagging too far behind men in terms of their “body count,” as it’s referred to often in popular culture.

Conducted between 2019 and 2021, the data from NFHS-5 included responses from more than a lakh of men and women, each. Their assessment suggests that in urban areas, on average, men had 1.7 sexual partners in their lifetime, closely followed by women with 1.5 partners. With 1.8 partners, rural women, interestingly, even outdid their urban counterparts. Meanwhile, in many states and union territories — like Assam, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu — women actually had more sexual partners than men.

Survey respondents of the two genders also admitted to having engaged in intercourse with individuals who were neither their spouses nor live-in partners — hinting that there may have been a decline in the stigma against sex outside of marriage. But without data on the exact nature of the dynamics shared by sexual partners — and, more importantly, on consent — that analysis could be premature. Further, it’s also pertinent to bear in mind that the data reflects the sex lives only of the individuals surveyed; the actual estimate could vary — to what extent, one can’t be completely sure.

Nonetheless, the results are remarkable. The fact that women have nearly as many — if not more — sexual partners than men isn’t nearly as surprising as their willingness to admit it in a society that doesn’t hesitate to slut-shame women for far lesser. Interestingly, though, this could also mean that not all women surveyed were honest about their “body count,” which could completely skew the aforementioned stereotype on its head — but that’s merely a possibility with nothing to attest to it, at the moment.
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