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How Much Sex is Normal?

As the old joke goes, two people were asked how much sex they tend to have. One answered “we hardly ever have sex, only twice a week”. The other answered “we’re always having sex – as often as twice a week”. If the truth be told, the original joke tells that one is a man and the other a woman, but let`s not stir the already muddy water.

When researchers try to find out how much sex people are having, the answers is always part truth, part wish to live up to expectations. Women, somehow, are always having less sex than men. This is likely because homosexuals have more sex than heterosexuals, and heterosexuals have more sex than lesbians, on the whole. The most probable explanation is testosterone. Two partners with high levels of testosterone will be more sex driven that a couple with one or no high testosterone producers. But it still doesn’t explain how straight men claim they are having more sex than the straight women report. Some people here either can’t count days of the week or they are rounding the numbers upwards.

Since there really isn’t much choice, the way to find out how frequently people are really having sex, is by asking large numbers of individuals to report details of their sex lives in surveys. The answers depend on age, relationship status, where they live, gender and sexual orientation. They also depend on who is asking the question.

The Durex survey (2005) found that across 41 countries, people reported an average of 2 sexual encounters a week. The Greeks get the gold medal, with 2.7 times, whereas the Japanese need to sap the Saki and pull their weight – they reported having sex less than once a week on average. That is significantly less that every other country that participated. This study was web-based, meaning that it is potentially less accurate and less representative than a direct survey.

An interesting American study asked the same question and compared answers according to relationship status (Laumann, 1994). They found that married couples were having more sex than never married single individuals, but unmarried couples that lived together were having the most sex. Among the latter group, 18% said that they were having sex four or more times a week. Even though the men said 19% and the women said it was actually 17%, we can forgive this slight memory lapse because they are clearly too busy having sex to get enough sleep. In all the other categories, only 7% reported being in this well-sexed category.

However, we cannot allow the highly sexed few to make anyone feel abnormal; after all they are not the norm. 15% of married couples said they were doing the deed only a few times a year or never. This figure was 8% for unmarried couples living together and about 50% for singles.

Ultimately, comparing the frequency of sex loses all meaning when you consider that people have different sex drives, so we should actually be looking at how fulfilled people are. And this brings us to the next hitch: what constitutes sex anyway? Usually it is penetrative sex what they are counting, but maybe they should be tallying orgasms, or some other measure of enjoyment. Perhaps this is the clue to why women and men tend to calculate it differently.


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