The pressure on guys to sleep around

Through the stories of three young men, we look at the pressure guys feel to have sex. How does this pressure affect self-confidence and how does it negatively affect attitudes towards women?

A young person is standing outside against a brick wall thinking about the pressure on guys to sleep around

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Hearing the guys boast about how much great sex they’re having while you’re not getting any can leave you feeling crappy. Often, the number of people you’ve slept with affects your popularity and social status, but this can be troublesome. Sleeping around is not always the best thing for you, or those you’re sleeping with.

Sex dominated playground conversations

“I attended an all-boys school where, by the age of 15, the issue of sex dominated playground conversations. Anyone who had had sex, immediately gained a reputation as an alpha-male who everyone else wanted to be. If someone had slept with multiple girls, that was a real triumph; others, like myself, would look on in an unhealthy mixture of awe and jealousy, resulting in our own self confidence plummeting.

As time passed, there became a pressure to say you’d had sex even if you hadn’t. Saying it had happened on holiday was a popular route which, though it raised a few sceptical eyebrows, couldn’t be cross-checked. Despite this, having sex with a girl from the school opposite was really what you needed to do. The goal was to find a girl who hadn’t been with any other guys you knew, who was single and attractive (enough for other guys to be impressed) and who might want to have sex with you. Everything became about ‘the chase’ which, thinking back, was totally unhealthy. We were putting unnecessary pressures on ourselves and were showing little respect for the girls we were pursuing.

Even if you started dating a girl, it wasn’t just about whether you liked her as a person or were compatible as a couple. That might have been a thought, but it was joined in your mind by the constant weighing up of the chances of having sex. There was an unspoken expectation that after spending a few months or so with a girl, you would have sex. In fact, if that didn’t happen negative words like ‘frigid’ and ‘cock-tease’ would begin being bandied about. Rumours floated around that certain girls were frigid, which no doubt increased the pressure on that girl to have sex.”


Remember, it’s totally fine to not feel ready to have sex. See our article ‘when do I know I’m ready for sex?’ for more support.

I saw girls as an opportunity to have sex

When I started uni I was not very sexually experienced. In contrast, the guys in my halls of residence seemed to have slept with loads of girls. Conversations were dominated by sex chat and respect was definitely given to guys who had slept with lots of girls. For example, if one of our male housemates came home in the morning after spending the night with a girl, they would be greeted with cheers. It was all banter as they say, but I guess over time I started to feel self-conscious about not having sex.

My mates weren’t overtly mean to me about it, but would make little comments about me being gay or about me being a virgin. I would always brush the comments off, pretending they didn’t affect me but I wasn’t as resilient as I acted. It impacted my self-confidence, I started to think there was something wrong with me which resulted in me being even more awkward around girls!

At parties, after a few drinks, I would try to talk to girls, I wasn’t interested in being their friends, I sadly had started to see them as an opportunity to have sex. Although I would never have forced a girl to have sex with me, there was definitely an expectation that if I bought a girl drinks and spent the evening chatting with her, it would lead to sex. If it didn’t lead to sex, I would feel disappointed and like I’d wasted my time with the wrong girl. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to stop rushing, to ignore the unspoken pressures placed upon me and to be patient with both myself and girls.


Struggling with your self esteem? See our article on building self esteem here.

Cheating is encouraged among my friends

At university, I gained a lot of popularity and social status by being one of the lads who was known for sleeping around. To the point that other guys would want to hang out with me because I’d either invite girls or pick up girls on nights out. This was not because I was fucking cool or anything, it was because I was ballsier than other guys. I felt like if I didn’t offer that, then they’d probably never want to hang out.

When we met up as a group of guys, things were said and jokes were made that sounded bad taken out of context, but to us it was just laddish banter. It was hard to say to friends, don’t refer to her as a ‘wench’ mate, she’s a human being. It would go against the whole flow of the conversation, and they’d be like ‘who do you think you are?’

I have cheated on girls. Among most of my friends, cheating is encouraged rather than discouraged. Some have said it’s not cool, but from a place of concern for me, not moral judgement. There’s no way that I want to continue having these kinds of relationships with women. I’m sick of being that guy.

The group of friends I grew up with still meet up occasionally. Everyone falls back into the same roles but one on one there has been improvement. In the last few months I’ve reached out to close friends and have felt able to say, “Hey man, I love you and I miss you. I haven’t seen you in ages, I can’t wait to see you again”. I know they appreciate it, but they don’t know how to react. They don’t want to feel vulnerable, but it’s OK to be vulnerable – nothing bad happens, it doesn’t kill you. It might even open up a new life.


Wondering what counts as cheating? The Mix explains here.

Brogan’s story was sourced, written and edited by Being Mankind.

Have you ever felt pressure to sleep around? We would love to hear your story, let us know on our discussion boards.

Next Steps

By Olivia Capadose

Updated on 10-Nov-2022