Written By Professor David Spiegelhalter. Originally premiered on DailyMail.co.uk
- 50% of women and 40% of men had at least one sex problem in past year
- Problems include lacking interest in sex, pain and experiencing no arousal
- Other problems are difficulty in climaxing and trouble keeping an erection
- But the proportion of men who had a lack of interest, enjoyment and arousal is only half that of women
Cambridge Professor David Spiegelhalter has carried out the most in-depth study ever made into what really goes on in the bedrooms. Here, in part three of the Mail’s fascinating serialisation of the findings, he reveals how many women are left so dissatisfied by sex they’ve lost interest in it…
Cinematic depictions of sex invariably feature couples consumed by lust who make love with passion and athleticism and are left sated by their experiences. But the truth is always more complicated than fiction.
For the fact is that half of sexually active women and 40 per cent of sexually active men say they have experienced one or more problems in the past year, according to the 2010 British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal).
Problems were identified as lacking interest or enjoyment in sex, physical pain as a result of intercourse, experiencing no excitement or arousal, difficulty in climaxing, climaxing too soon and — for men — having trouble getting or keeping an erection.
Of these women, a third said they lacked interest in sex and one in 12 admitted feeling no excitement or arousal during intercourse, while one in six don’t achieve orgasm or take a long time to get there.
For many women, it may be comforting to know that men have problems, too. The Natsal survey found that around 15 per cent reach climax too soon — otherwise known as premature ejaculation — while trouble getting or keeping an erection, known as erectile dysfunction, affects one in eight. While the chances of experiencing sexual problems increase as we get older, what may surprise you is the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who say they’ve had an issue in the past year: 45 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men.
This shows you’re not alone if you’re young and your sex life isn’t perfect. Age remains a key factor for men: while 8 per cent of 20-year-olds had erectile problems, this was a third around 70.
However, the proportion of men who had a lack of interest, enjoyment and arousal is only half that of women.
Perhaps this explains why the most common problem for couples — affecting one in four — is that one partner is more interested in sex than the other.
Other issues include around 15 per cent of men and women reporting sexual difficulties for their partners, while 10 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women said their other half did not share sexual likes and dislikes.
But very few admitted not feeling emotionally close to their partners — just 2 per cent of women and 1 per cent of men — showing that even sexless relationships can be loving.
THE RISE AND RISE OF VIAGRA
It took the world by storm after its development in the late Nineties, but Viagra wasn’t the first treatment for a man wanting to boost his potency.
John ‘Goat-gland’ Brinkley traveled the U.S. in the Twenties promising to restore sexual energy by sewing goats’ testicles into men’s scrotums. Was it a success? The fact he eventually went bankrupt amid numerous lawsuits over the deaths of patients suggests not.
In the previous decade, a Viennese scientist called Eugen Steinach had recommended partial or full vasectomies for enhancing virility, the thinking being it would shift the balance from sperm to hormone production in the affected testicle. Freud and the Irish poet W. B. Yeats were ‘steinached’. Obviously, it didn’t work.
Viagra became available on the NHS in 1999. The cost was estimated at £10 million a year, but by 2012 there were 1.2 million prescriptions costing £30 each — a total of £40 million.
While Viagra is now cheaper — it lost its patent in 2013, meaning other drug companies could produce copies — there’s still a thriving black market.
When Dutch researchers wanted to calculate how much is taken, they sampled sewage from three cities for a week to calculate Viagra consumption. Only 40 per cent could be accounted for by legal prescriptions.
The proportion of men who had a lack of interest, enjoyment and arousal is only half that of women.
The proportion of men who had a lack of interest, enjoyment and arousal is only half that of women.
HOW MANY PEOPLE SAY THEY ARE GAY?
Figures from 2010 reveal that of those aged 16 to 72, 1 per cent of women say they are lesbian and 1.5 per cent of men identify as being gay.
Women, however, are more likely to identify as bisexual — 1.4 per cent — compared to 1 per cent of men.
This would mean that roughly one in 80 adults under 75 is gay or lesbian and one in 80 bisexual. With a UK adult population of around 47 million, this means a total of 1.2 million — the same as the population of Birmingham.
Figures are higher among the younger population, too, especially women. For example, one in 27 women aged 16 to 24 says she thinks of herself as lesbian or bisexual.
But it’s when it comes to sexual behavior with someone of the same sex, figures really soar.
For women aged 16 to 44, the proportions who’ve had same-sex experience — which includes everything from kissing to full sex — has risen from 4 per cent in 1990 to 10 per cent in 2000 and 16 per cent in 2010. What’s the explanation for this? My view is that while women were more willing to reveal sensitive information in 2000 than they were in 1990, the rise in 2010 is down to changing behaviour. One in five women aged 20 says she’s had a same-sex experience, compared to one in 40 aged 70.
And it’s clearly more than just having a kiss like Madonna or Katy Perry: nearly one in 20 women reports having had a same-sex partner — someone with whom you’ve had ‘genital’ contact — in the past five years.
Meanwhile, the number of men ever having a same-sex partner is 7 per cent among 16 to 24-year-olds and 9 per cent among 45 to 54-year-olds.
It’s clear that far more people have had same-sex experiences than say they are gay or bisexual. The most recent U.S. survey shows that the majority of people who report same-sex contact label themselves as ‘heterosexual’.
You’re not alone if you’re young and your sex life isn’t perfect. Age remains a key factor for men: while 8 per cent of 20-year-olds had erectile problems, this was a third around 70
This may well back up Kinsey’s theory that there is a spectrum of sexuality and many people fall in between being completely straight or gay, even if they don’t want to admit it to themselves.
What’s also clear is the more educated you are, the more likely you are to have a same-sex experience: the rates are three times higher among those with further education compared to those with no qualifications. Why?
One possibility is that in liberal circles, people are more accepting of a wide range of behaviour and, therefore, people don’t feel inhibited.
Finally, as a society, we’re more accepting of same-sex relationships than ever. In 1990, 25 per cent thought they were ‘not wrong at all’. Now that figure is over 50 per cent.
THAT MYTH ABOUT QUEEN VICTORIA
It’s a myth that Queen Victoria failed to make lesbianism illegal because she didn’t believe it could exist.
Certainly, far from being a rare occurrence in previous generations, figures from 1929 suggest it was commonplace in some circles, with 14 per cent of single women and 20 per cent of married women reporting sexual contact with other women.
The research, in Katherine Bement Davis’s study Factors In The Sex Life of Twenty-Two Hundred Women, was the first done into U.S. lesbian activity. (Though hers was hardly a random group of women, consisting as it did of liberal university wives.)
Alfred Kinsey was the next to investigate rates of lesbianism, in the Forties. He developed the Kinsey scale in which people’s sexual desires could be plotted on a seven-point scale — from ‘exclusively heterosexual’ to ‘exclusively homosexual’, depending on their experience and desires.
He concluded that ‘at least 37 per cent of the male population has some homosexual experience’, though his research was later criticised because he had not targeted a random sample of the population.
Meanwhile, he decided 20 per cent of women had same-sex experiences, with 13 per cent involving orgasm.
CAN YOU PREDICT SEXUALITY?
A review of scientific studies in 2010 revealed lesbians tend to have relatively smaller index fingers compared to their ring fingers. A longer ring finger in men indicates higher levels of testosterone. One theory is that girls who have more exposure to androgens — hormones that includes testosterone — in the womb are more likely to be lesbian.
The most common problem for couples — affecting one in four — is that one partner is more interested in sex than the other.
The most common problem for couples — affecting one in four — is that one partner is more interested in sex than the other (posed by model)
Additionally, men with more older brothers have a higher chance of being gay or bisexual. It’s estimated that each older brother is associated with an increased likelihood of being gay — three older brothers more than doubles the chance.
It’s not known why this happens, but it’s thought the mother may produce increasing antibodies to male offspring and this somehow influences the sexual orientation of the fetus.
WHY FEWER MEN PAY FOR SEX
One Norwegian survey estimated that a quarter of men born from 1927 to 1934 had visited a prostitute, compared to 6 per cent of those born from 1975 to 1984.
In Britain today, 11 per cent of men say they have paid for sex at some point in their lives, according to Natsal. As for the proportion of men aged 16 to 44 who said they had visited a prostitute in the past five years, that grew from 2 per cent in 1990 to 4 per cent in 2000, but some of this may have been increased willingness to report this activity. Rates have stayed stable since 2000.
Single Londoners aged 25 to 34 are the group most likely to be handing over cash, but this is likely to be because those who live in a cosmopolitan capital will travel more.
Of all men who have paid for sex, two-thirds say they have done so when abroad. Figures for women paying for sex are, unsurprisingly, much lower — in 2010, it was around one in 1,000.
EU AND THE OLDEST PROFESSION
It may surprise you that the people who really want to know about prostitution in Britain work for the Treasury. Because from September 2014, the European Union demanded that the trade in prostitution be included in the assessments of UK Gross National Domestic Product.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) — those tasked with doing the research — there are 61,000 prostitutes in the UK, seeing 25 clients a week, at an average price per visit of £67. That makes 80 million visits a year and £5.3 billion spent on sex.
But it’s likely to be an over-estimate — the number of sex workers was based on London, where there’s a disproportionately high level of prostitution because it’s the biggest city.
It also assumed all sex workers are full-time, which is unlikely. The result? A bill from the EU for £1.7 billion in back- payments because the UK economy was doing better than predicted, partly down to the brisk trade in prostitution. The ONS is revising estimates — I suspect downwards.
TRUTH ABOUT ‘SEX SLAVES’
While MP Denis MacShane might have claimed in Parliament in 2009 that a staggering 25,000 women had been trafficked into Britain as ‘sex slaves’, a survey of 142 sex premises that year estimated the number to be 2,600 across the whole country.
Sex By Numbers by David Spiegelhalter is published by Profile Books at £12.99. © 2015 David Spiegelhalter. To buy a copy for £11.69 (discount until April 4), visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0808 272 0808. P&P free for limited time only. Adapted by Clare Goldwin. Case study by Sadie Nicholas.