we’re all too chilled to have sex
A new survey reveals that sex
is everywhere except the bedroom.
With wall-to-wall sex in the media, it may come as a surprise that
we are not always 'at it'. According to a global survey of sexual
behaviour published in the Lancet, almost one in five British men
under 70 reported having no sexual partners in the past year and
more than a third of men and women aged 16-24 said that they had
abstained from sex during the previous year.
One-night stands may be the stuff of reality TV, but in real-reality
we have sex with far fewer partners than we suspect. According to
the survey, only seven per cent of women and 12 per cent of men
had more than one partner in the previous year.
Such surveys are notoriously unreliable because people tend to
exaggerate. On this occasion, the response is strangely subdued,
suggesting it is no longer fashionable to boast of having several
As an academic who has seen generations of undergraduates come and
go, I can confirm that the everyday manifestation of lust on campus
is at an all-time low. So what's going on? It appears that in recent
decades intimate relationships have become more complicated. The
expectation of failure and disappointment surrounds passionate intimacy.
Numerous experts and self-help books advise people to lower their
expectations and not to get carried away by love. Passion comes
with a health warning and is castigated for causing emotional pain.
"Be careful, you may get hurt" is a message that reflects
the temper of our time.
One way that people are encouraged to manage the risks attached
to hot passion is through what some sociologists call "cultural
cooling". Of course, most unattached young people continue
to aspire to have passionate relationships, but some are too chilled-out
to go the distance.
on The First Post, 2 November 2006