The web of human sexual contacts
Edling, C. R.
Amaral, Luis A. Nunes
Stanley, H. Eugene
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Citation (published version)F. Liljeros, C.R. Edling, L.A.N. Amaral, H.E. Stanley, Y. Aberg. 2001. "The web of human sexual contacts." NATURE, Volume 411, Issue 6840, pp. 907 - 908 (2). https://doi.org/10.1038/35082140
Many "real-world" networks are clearly defined while most "social" networks are to some extent subjective. Indeed, the accuracy of empirically-determined social networks is a question of some concern because individuals may have distinct perceptions of what constitutes a social link. One unambiguous type of connection is sexual contact. Here we analyze data on the sexual behavior of a random sample of individuals, and find that the cumulative distributions of the number of sexual partners during the twelve months prior to the survey decays as a power law with similar exponents α≈2.4 for females and males. The scale-free nature of the web of human sexual contacts suggests that strategic interventions aimed at preventing the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases may be the most efficient approach.