WOMEN don't like sex that much. Not as much as men, who, according to sociologist Catherine Hakim, like it twice as much as women do. In fact, if Stephen Fry is to be believed, we don’t like it at all. “I feel sorry for straight men,” he said in an interview. “The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want.” Sex, in other words, is some tiresome activity that we women don’t do for pleasure, but because of all the other things it gives us, like cuddles, presents and help bringing up our children.

Instead of lying back and thinking of England, as Lady Hillingdon once urged, today's women are encouraged, by Hakim, to lie back and think of how well we are working our “erotic capital”. Hard to believe this is the 21st century, yet the studies Hakim cites in her report, published last week, are from the last couple of decades and reveal, in bald statistics, a persistent disparity between male and female sexual interest. How seriously do we take this?

Hakim jams her report with statistics, listing study after study that presents the same old, self-reported stuff. She backs up her case with evidence, including a 2010 study which found that only 15% of men acknowledged “lack of interest in sexual activity”, compared with 34% of women. All this is used to support her notion that men don’t get enough sex, and therefore the sex industry should be decriminalised to ensure that they do.

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Now, there are valid reasons for decriminalising the sex industry, but this isn't one of them. Hakim's main concern is what she calls the male sexual deficit: the amount of sex men aren’t getting because women don’t want as much as they do. And she blames, or sometimes credits, this deficit for a great deal – including rape, levels of sexual harassment, the popularity of the sexual entertainment industries, and a male tendency towards adultery. All of which should cause concern, since she, among other things, is suggesting that prostitution could prevent rape.

But what if Hakim's description of the world were true? A great many people believe it is, and have done throughout history. Male sexuality was long considered an uncontrollable force that needed to be sated, while women were merely gatekeepers, blameworthy if they somehow incited the flames of male desire, whores if they acted on their own urges. We thought all that was a thing of the past, steamrollered by sexual liberation, feminism and the movement against victim-blaming. Yet, shouldn’t we, if this really is human nature, face up to it and adapt our society accordingly?

Except that there is plenty of scientific evidence to suggests her portrait of a world of thundering male sexuality and whispering female desire is a distortion – studies which Hakim, in her preoccupation with self-reporting surveys and her cherry-picking of results that support her "erotic capital" theory, appears to ignore. For instance, the work of Meredith Chivers, who measured arousal in response to porn in men and women, and compared her results with their own statements about what turned them on. She found that her female subjects appeared physically aroused by images that they denied feeling excited by. Asked about these studied during an interview with Slate magazine, Hakim dismissed their relevance, saying: "A lot of people, including myself, don't interpret that as sexual desire. It's a physiological reaction.”

It’s true that desire is difficult to quantify – so perhaps self-reporting is the best evidence we have. But, what of the work of Teri Fisher, who asked a group of male and female undergraduates to complete a questionnaire dealing with sexual habits? She found that women gave very different answers when they knew they had strict confidentiality, and tended to answer "yes" far more when attached to a fake lie detector. Studies like these suggest self-reporting is entirely unreliable.

Join the dots of these other pieces of research, and a different picture emerges. In his book, What Do Women Want?, David Bergner concluded that “women's desire – its inherent range and innate power – is an underestimated and constrained force, even in our times”. He also found that “this force is not, for the most part, sparked or sustained by emotional intimacy and safety”.

Given all this, we have to question Hakim's portrait of human nature, and of our society, and therefore her prescription. It has taken a long and difficult struggle get to this point where a man can no longer get away with rape by saying that a woman led him on, or that she was provocatively dressed. Hakim seems to be challenging this progress with bland statistics. Rather than shining a light on who we really are, she seems to be feeding back into the system the myths that shaped our shaming and victim-blaming culture. She may give it a new name – the male sex deficit – but it's an old story and one that deserves no more repeating.