When it comes to the bedroom, the
British may be getting less busy, but more creative. According to results from
the latest national sex survey, Britons are having sex less often – but the
kinds of sex they're having are more diverse than in the past.
Scientists also found the sex habits
of British women are changing faster than those of men, with a fourfold jump in
the proportion of women who had a same-sex experience since the first survey
was done in 1990, from 4% to 16%. In comparison, the numbers of men who
reported a same-sex experience have remained virtually unchanged since 1990, at
On average, the number of sexual
partners reported by women has doubled, from four to eight, whereas the number
for men rose from nine to 12. The research also found an increasing sexual
repertoire among both genders, with higher levels of anal and oral sex
"It reflects a shift away from
sex being seen purely in the context of reproduction toward a greater emphasis
on pleasure and recreation," said Kaye Wellings, head of social and
environmental health research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine, one of the leaders of the research. She said similar results about
changes in women's sex lives have been found in France.
Less time for sex
The study found half of Britons
reported having sex at least three times in the last month, versus five times
when the first survey was done in 1990. Wellings noted that drop occurred at
the same time as major changes in the use of technology and the financial
crisis, which could interfere with a regular sex life.
"People are taking their
iPhones and iPads into bed," she noted. "They're also working harder
and maybe have less time for sex," she said.
Researchers also found half of
Britons also lose their virginity by the time they were 17, about the same as
20 years ago. The study found people under 25 are at greatest risk of sexually
transmitted infections and of being forced or coerced into sex.
The series of six papers were
published online Tuesday in the journal, Lancet. Researchers interviewed more
than 15 000 people aged 16 to 74 between 2010 and 2012 using in-person
interviewers and a computer-assisted part for sensitive questions; no names of
participants or other identifying details were shared. The studies were funded
mostly by UK governmental groups and the Wellcome Trust.
Boundaries getting fuzzier
Other scientists said the findings
supported previous research that have found sexual orientation for women tends
to be more fluid than for men.
"Women are more changeable in
relation to social norms than men," said Cynthia Graham, a sex researcher
at the University of Southampton, who was not part of the series.
"Orientation isn't just gay, straight or bisexual," she said.
"The boundaries are getting fuzzier."
Debra Lynne Herbenick, who led a
survey on American sexual habits at Indiana University in 2009, said the
findings in the UK were comparable to evolving attitudes in the US
"There's been a relaxation of
constraints on sexual expression," Herbenick said. "People are now
more free to explore their sexual interests," she said.
Still, she said doubted current
trends on increasing rates for certain kinds of sex would continue to increase
"Not everybody is going to want
to do certain things, like have sex with somebody of the same sex,"
Herbenick said. "So there will be limits in terms of people's