By now, you probably know that, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the average number of sexual partners of college students has jumped from 6.8 in the early 1970s to 7.3 in 2015.
That means the average college student is now having sex six times a week.
(And if you’re wondering how the researchers arrived at this figure, that’s because the researchers used a method called “inter-rater reliability” to determine how much the data represented the true proportion of students who reported having sex.)
This statistic has led to lots of discussion among the public, and rightly so.
But it’s important to understand that it is the study’s authors’ analysis that should be taken with a grain of salt.
The authors themselves have pointed out that the overall “rate of sexual satisfaction” for women and men has been steadily declining in recent years, and that this trend is likely to continue.
What this means for the future of sex education and the future trajectory of the average sex life of college-aged Americans is unclear.
One thing is clear: The numbers are not only getting worse for women, but they are also getting worse faster than men.
As the National Institutes of Health reported this year, there were about 1.3 million fewer sexually active college-age women in 2015 than in 1990.
This trend is especially pronounced among women.
As Vox’s Adam Gopnik pointed out, among women ages 18 to 24, the rate of having sex has increased by 1.4 percent from 2000 to 2015, while the rate among men has declined by only 1.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of sexually active adults in the United States has been dropping ever since the early 1980s, while it has increased dramatically over the past two decades.
In other words, it’s not clear that the rate for men has actually been declining.
In 2015, the median age for men to have sex was 29 years old, while for women it was 32.
And the gender gap in sexual activity is even wider today: According to the CDC, the percentage of men who have had sex has grown over the years, from 14.4% in 1991 to 18.6% in 2016.
In short, the overall sexual activity of college kids has been falling since the 1980s.
That is to say, the statistics tell us that the number and rates of college sex are increasing.
But as Vox’s Andrew Sullivan pointed out in a 2016 piece, the data doesn’t necessarily support the notion that the increase is due to men and women being more willing to have a lot of sex.
In fact, the CDC’s data show that the gender disparity in sex has actually narrowed over the last three decades.
The number of young adults aged 18 to 25 who have sex has remained roughly constant over the same period, while its rate of participation has increased slightly.
This suggests that sexual desire has not increased among young adults, but rather, it has been declining — perhaps as a result of increased condom use and safer sex practices.
It’s possible that the declining number of college teens has something to do with the fact that the numbers of college women have been growing, while those of men have been declining over the course of the last several decades.
That’s a big assumption to make.
But the fact remains: As we’ve written before, sex and relationships are not just about sex, but about relationships, too.
So when the numbers show that sex and intimacy have been decreasing over the decades, it could be because more people are being less interested in having sex, rather than vice versa.
There’s also the fact, of course, that sex isn’t just about getting it on.
There are a lot more people than ever who are sexually active, and many of them are college students.
It seems reasonable to conclude that, while they might be looking for the next big thing, they also might be searching for some stability in their lives.
So what does this all mean for the sex lives of young people?
The researchers say that college sex education will be a big part of helping to address this.
And while the numbers that are coming out of the CDC are discouraging, the authors also suggest that these statistics will be helpful in helping to shape college sexual wellness programs, which could include more sex education for students, more access to safe sex practices, and a push to improve the lives of college seniors by encouraging them to have more sex.
As for whether these trends will translate into a more sexual culture at all, the researchers say this is still a bit of a mystery.
But if you have a problem with the current culture of sex and sexuality on college campuses, or if you’ve been struggling to find the right balance between your college education and your sexual life, then it might be worth talking to your college sex educator about how you might be able to work together to make sex more socially acceptable.
This story originally appeared on Vox.