When couples go to bed together lately the last thing on their minds is sex. Its more likely to be tweeting, updating Facebook, scrolling through Instagram or filtering emails. It seems our inability to leave laptops and tablets outside the bedroom door is having a distinctly dampening effect on the national libido.
A survey carried out once every decade has found that Britons are having less sex than at any time for over the past twenty years. The average is now down to five times a month. The target group of 15,000 people were between the ages of 16 to 44.
The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) found that, on the whole, participants were just not in the mood for sex. They lay a lot of the blame on modern technologies. As well as being worried about money and jobs, potential lovers are seemingly more worried about their twitter timelines than their erogenous zones.
Kaye Wellings, who wrote the report, says that the recession has had a deflationary effect on love lives. Being on call 24/7 with smartphones is another factor in people bringing their work to bed with them. What’s going on between the sheets is more often than not, spreadsheets.
There is one startling revelation though. While men’s sexual partners (in a lifetime) have gone down to a record low of 11.7, women’s have gone up. While, at first glance, this does not appear to make sense, the answer lies in who with. More women are having sex with other women than ever before. This statistic has gone up from 4% to 16%.
In the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant’s character, Charlie, falls for sophisticated American, Carrie, played by Andie McDowell. In a scene now known as “Carrie’s List” she reels off her previous sexual conquests, to his intense English (embarrassed) bewilderment. When she gets to number 6 and she is still only on her 17th birthday, he almost chokes on his cup of tea. She finally gets to 33, her fiancé, and stops. He is somewhat relieved to find that he, at position 32, was categorised as “lovely.” It is no good though, she is about to be married to a hearty Scot, Hamish, and his passion appears forever unrequited. At the time the movie was released, the scene was written (and received) with the intention of being shocking.
The gap is now closing. Women have gone from an average of 4 partners in a lifetime to double that, with 8 being closer to the norm. It is still along way from Carrie’s 33, but it does show a distinct move away from the “nice girls don’t do it” stigma of earlier generations.
Some moral goalposts have not shifted. Two thirds of all the interviewees said that they found cheating on a partner to be wrong. And only 13% of women agreed that there was “nothing wrong” with one-night stands.
In heartening news for the older demographic, the 65-74 age group were found to be highly sexually active. In this group, 60% of all the men and 42% of the women had had sex in the last year
Commenting on all the findings, Dr Cath Mercer of University College London, remarks that we need to revise the way we view sexual health. It clearly has implications way beyond the reproductive years.
The biggest changes are seen in female attitudes and these can be attributed to “profound changes in the position of women in society” as well as the “norms governing their lifestyle” and “media representations.”
While Brits are having less “nookie” when they do put down their computers and get up close and personal, it seems they are willing to be more adventurous and experimental.
The old days of “No Sex Please We’re British” may well have changed to “No Sex Please We’re Texting” but when it comes to the crunch, it seems there is still some interesting progress being made.
By Kate Henderson