It's more like 19 times a day, according to research out of Ohio State University, which comes to about every 1.26 hours.
The study, which involved 163 female and 120 male college students, all ages 18-25, found that, in confirmation of the old stereotypes, men do think about sex more than women, who have sex on the brain about 10 times a day, but nowhere near as frequently as the oft-quoted, origin-unknown "every seven seconds" has lead people to believe. And men don't think about sex much more than they think about food (18 times a day) and sleep (11 times a day), the research showed.
"It's not uniquely sex that they're spending more time thinking about, but other issues related to their biological needs, as well," said the study's lead author, Ohio State University psychology professor Terri Fisher, in a press release.
Participants were first given questionnaires to gauge whether they felt positively or negatively about sex in general and how much effort they put into appearing socially acceptable, The Daily Mail reports. They were then divided into three groups; one group was asked to record how often they thought about sex, another about food and the third about sleep.
The results, which are available online now and will be published in the January, 2012 issue of the Journal of Sex Research, showed that the difference between how often men and women think about sex isn't any larger than the difference between how often they think about eating or sleeping.
The study also found that women think about sex at least once every day, and that women who were more concerned about being socially accepted reported fewer sexual thoughts. Unsurprisingly, women who had more positive attitudes about sex reported more.
Fisher said the findings are significant because they contradict long-held stereotypes that often cause men and women to feel bad about their sexual thoughts:
"It's amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do ... When a man hears a statement like that, he might think there's something wrong with him because he's not spending that much time thinking about sexuality, and when women hear about this, if they spend significant time thinking about sex they might think there's something wrong with them."
Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience noted in May that Fisher's research didn't take into account how long a thought lasts -- if you think about sex for ten minutes every time it comes to mind, you're thinking about it much more than someone who focuses on it for a second each time. Also, since the study included only college students, the findings don't necessarily hold true for older adults.
And as the Village Voice's Jen Doll points out, "It's possible these results may skew a bit, because each student was assigned only one sort of thought (food, sex, sleep) to record. Maybe some are just better, more efficient thinkers than others."