The statistics I am using are from the October 2008 SEX UNCOVERED survey conducted by The Observer newspaper. This survey is not the truth of sexual activity in Britain but it is a useful way in to talk about common questions that I get asked.
SEXUAL EXPERIENCE – how many sexual partners have you had?
The average person has had 9 sexual partners, although averages are pretty meaningless figures in themselves. More interesting is the fact that only 20% of the population have had more than 10 sexual partners. People often tell me that their lack of experience makes them feel sexually unadventurous and this impinges upon their confidence. There seems to be an assumption that the more partners you have, the better lover you are or the more ‘sexual’ you are as a person. Neither of these is true and most people imagine that other people have way more partners than they actually do. Quality counts, not quantity. I don’t think it is difficult to build up a pretty large number of partners. Much more tricky to actually focus on having a mutually enjoyable sexual encounter.
SEXUAL CONFIDENCE – how would you rate your sexual performance?
One of the things that undermines people’s belief in the inheherent ‘rightness’ of their own sexuality is assuming that other people are more skilled and better lovers than we are . 24% rate their sexual performance as very good . This means that three-quarters of us think that we are, at best good and at worst, very poor in bed. Many people are anxious about sex, forgetting that the identity of our partner impacts upon sexual performance. Performance is really all about confidence and having a partner who supports your belief in your desirability makes you a good lover with that person. Sex shouldn’t be a performance. If it is, your beliefs about sex could benefit from some self-reflection and examination. Focusing on your own performance makes you want to please your partner in order to uphold your own self-esteem rather than wanting to give pleasure for the sake of it.
SEXUAL SATISFACTION – are you currently satisfied with your sex life?
76% said yes, 24% said no. A quarter of people cannot find a way to create the kind of sexual connections and experiences that they would like to be having. This result is unusual as typically most surveys report over 50% dissatisfaction rates. Those aged 65 and over were more satisfied than those aged 16-24. People in long-term relationships/marriage are more satisfied than single people, although single people report having sex more often. Again, frequency is no guarantee of good sex. Nor is youth and beauty. Of course, we don’t know what satisfied means to the people who answered the questions. No sex can be satisfactory for some people. In fact , 36% of 16-24 year olds believe that it is possible to have a happy relationship/marriage without sex.
SEXUAL FREQUENCY – how often do you have sex?
I think this is THE most common worry that people have. Am I having sex often enough? Is my level of desire normal? 25% do not have any sex in an average month . Not everybody is having a lot of sex and it is likely that many of those are perfectly happy with their situation. Another 25% have sex between 6-10 times a month. Most people do not, except maybe at the beginning of a relationship, have vast amounts of sex all the time. A lot of people believe that everyone has more sex than they do. And they worry about this. Frequency needs to be looked at in relation to satisfaction before people start getting concerned about how much or how little they have sex. If you’re happy and your partner is satisfied, then you’re lucky – regardless of how little or often you are actually having sex.
SEXUAL DESIRE – how do you rate your sex drive?
Levels of desire is another area that people get hung up about. People worry, should I want to have sex more than I actually do? In the survey 32% rate their sex drive as average , 24% describe their libido as low or very low. Most people do not see themselves as possessing a high sex drive. Only 1 in 5 rate their sex drive as very high. Desire ebbs and flows and this is normal and to be expected.
Sexual honesty and deep conversation about sex with a range of people is not something that many of us are lucky enough to experience. We rely on our assumptions, insecurities and fears to ‘imagine’ that other people’s sexual experiences are more frequent, enjoyable and adventurous than our own. Whilst surveys give us averages and the ordinary, they can also reveal that sexuality is diverse and normality is difficult – and rather pointless – to define.
WHO WANTS TO BE NORMAL?
What makes us so afraid to stand up and stand out when it comes to our sexuality? Most people play safe and so do not enable their sexual potential to be explored and attained. The crucial question to ask yourself is:
If I am NOT sexually normal, what does it mean?
Each of us will have our own reasons as to what it means if we feel that our sexual desires, tastes and experiences are not the same as most other people’s. We are free to choose what our sexuality means and not to be dictated to by cultural standards of acceptability. One size does not fit all when it comes to the magnificent variety of preferences, needs, desires, beliefs and opinions that we hold.
It doesn’t mean that we all worry that we are too sexually outrageous. Some may feel that if they don’t want sex ‘enough’ then they are just not very sexual people, which can soon become a belief that one is not desirable and so does not deserve anything else. We forget that sexuality changes over years and from day to day and so defining ones sexuality is not a fixed and final process.
As well as reassuring people that ‘normal’ sexuality is impossible to define, I also discuss the what it means to them to be normal. Why do they seem to want their sexuality to be sanctioned by its apparent ordinariness? This gets to the root of fears about sex and what sex represents. Addressing such concerns contributes to a big increase in people’s confidence, authenticity and self-acceptance.