Traditional folklore suggests women have a higher pain tolerance than men. I have seen a few sites suggesting otherwise. Naturally, plenty of anecdotal accounts of wussy men or women get tossed around whenever the subject is brought up which makes it a little difficult to sift through the crap. Does either sex have a higher pain tolerance than the other?
According to the test by Psychosomatic Medicine journal (2003), men on average have higher pain tolerance and pain threshold than women.
METHODS: To examine the influence of motivation on perceptual and cardiovascular responses to pain among women and men, different levels of monetary incentive (high vs. low incentive) were provided to a group of 81 healthy young adults undergoing the cold pressor pain procedure. It was anticipated that men would have greater endogenous motivation and would therefore be less affected by the external incentive
RESULTS: Men had higher pain thresholds and tolerances and lower pain ratings than women, but the incentive condition produced no significant effect on pain responses. Resting blood pressure was positively correlated with pain tolerance among the low incentive group, whereas blood pressure reactivity to the cold pressor predicted pain tolerance in the high incentive group.
Yes, there is a difference in pain perception. To be precise though, the way someone tolerates pain is up to the individual to decide.
Citation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21147542 (Sex, gender, coping, and self-efficacy: Mediation of sex differences in pain perception in children and adolescents.)
Sex differences in pain perception have been noted in multiple studies, with women typically displaying lower pain tolerance than men, but it is unknown whether the mechanisms underlying these differences are hormonal, genetic or psychosocial in origin. For example, some researchers have suggested that men are more motivated to express a tolerance for pain because masculine stereotyping encourages it, while feminine stereotyping encourages pain expression and lower pain tolerance.