Updated 28 November 2016

SA men's messy sex lives

Health24's Great South African Sex Survey has revealed that men start younger and get around more.

Health24's Great South African Sex Survey has revealed that men start younger, get around more, forget partners' names, and are altogether dodgy in the bedroom department.

More than a quarter of South African men can't remember the names of all the people they've had sex with.

This is among the many startling responses that emerged from the Great South African Sex Survey, conducted by Health24 in December 2007 and January 2008, and sums up a depressing profile of sexual irresponsibility among South African men.

Nearly 45 percent of men have had more than 10 sexual partners, and almost the same number – 43 percent – have had three or more partners in the past year alone.

"These are the sort of numbers that people tend to lie about," cautions analyst Jean Redpath of Hlakanaphila Analytics, who analysed the survey results on behalf of Health24. She suggested one be particularly suspicious of very high numbers. So one ought, perhaps, ignore the 2,5 percent of men who claimed to have had 100 or more sexual partners (and especially the 0,71 percent – are they fruit flies? – who claim to have had over 1,000 partners).

Condoms and STIs
More reliable is this troubling statistic: just under 55 percent of men have had unprotected sex with a casual partner, and almost a quarter of men have, or have had, a sexually transmitted disease.

And while we're thinking casual sex, women who are prepared to consider a one-night stand must be quite thinly spread: just 56 percent of women say they've ever had one, and they've had to cope with all of the 70 percent of men who say they have.

How the survey was conducted
The Great South African Sex Survey was conducted online, and attracted 11 000 entries. The results were weighted to reflect the dominant demographic of urban South African adults, educated to matric level or higher. Just under two thirds are aged 25-49, with the remaining third falling on either side of this age group; and about half have English or Afrikaans as their home language.

A link between paying and taking
Around 14 percent of men claim to have paid for sex, and there is a significant and disturbing correlation between this group, and those who admit to having been accused of taking sex by force. Among those who have paid for sex, just over one in five has been accused of taking sex by force (compared to less than one in ten who have never paid for sex).

This, perhaps, should finally put paid to any suggestion that legalising prostitution will cut the incidence of rape.

More about the women
Women, by comparison, emerged as altogether more clean and fresh in their love lives. Only 8 percent, for instance, can't remember all the names of all their sexual partners. That may be because women have better memories, or it may be because there are fewer partners to remember – 77 percent of women have had 10 partners or less in their lifetimes (and only 0,25 percent claimed to have had over 100). Probably, as the survey suggests, it's because they’re more conscious and more thoughtful about when and who they jump into the sack with.

Just on two thirds say they have never had unprotected sex with a casual partner.

A disturbingly high percentage of women – 28 percent – said they had at one stage or another been subject to some form of sexual abuse.

Other statistics that emerged include:

  • What are you thinking about? We now know what women (mostly) think about when they're having sex: 35 percent are thinking about pleasing their partner, and 30 percent say "I'm too engrossed to think at all". Only 4,55 percent admit they fantasise about someone else. Take that, George Clooney.
  • We're an exhibitionist nation. About 79 percent of men and slightly fewer women (73 percent) say they've had sex in a public place, where they could conceivably have been spotted. Just about everyone else has fantasised about it.
  • Losing our virginity. Men become sexually active younger: 54 percent claim to have lost their virginity before they turned 18, compared to 44 percent of women.
  • Anal sex. We don't love anal sex quite as much as the French do, but we're not too averse either: about a third of us (men and women) have engaged in it. Worryingly, given that this is the most risky sexual practice of all, men who claim to have given anal sex are amongst the most cavalier about the use of condoms: 68 percent of this group say they have had unprotected sex. Amongst gay male respondents, a whopping 42 percent say they have never engaged in anal sex, and less than a quarter – 23 percent – say they have received it.
  • Fetishes. Just over a third of all men have a bit of a fetish of the latex/rubber kind.
  • Office romance. More than 40 percent of women say they have had carnal knowledge of a co-worker.

Now that's something to think about as you head towards the photocopy machine.

(Heather Parker, Health24, February 2008)


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