Sexual Frequency and Mature Sexual Ageing

Chris King


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In 2007 Durex carried out a survey of world sexuality[1] in which they stated that sexual frequency world-wide was around 103 times a year, with the US scoring 113 and other countries ranging from 45 in Japan to 138 in Greece. There were many criticisms of this study, including the lack of any scientific description of the methodology, emphasis on developed countries and a lack of differentiation of womenÕs and menÕs responses, however it stands as a landmark in our view of the  sexual proclivity of the human species.

Description: MacintoshHD:Users:chrisking:Desktop:sf:Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 10.09.33 AM.pngThese rates stand in stark contrast to the much lower figures in a study[2] gleaned from the US General Social Survey which puts the figure for the US at around 60 times a year, with the figure declining from 62 in 1990 to around 52 in 2014. What is going on here? This is the age of Viagra and Cialis! Neither is it clear people are busier or more stressed than a decade ago, although it is clear people in Japan and some neighbouring countries are too tired for sex due to work, but this comes in a more troubling scenario of collapsing birth rates of 1.4, far below replacement levels of around 2.1, amid some shocking statistics According to the Japan Times[3], a new survey of Japanese people ages 18 to 34 found that 70 percent of unmarried men and 60 percent of unmarried women are not in a relationship and around 42 percent of men and 44.2 percent of women admitted that they were virgins.


Reasons for the discrepancy between the two above surveys are not hard to find. The Durex survey was based on internet responses and could have selectively polled a more sexually prolific subpopulation or be due to frank exaggeration.  Men are known to tend to exaggerate their number of sexual partners, while women tend to underestimate theirs to protect their sexual reputations. On the other hand, the GSS has its own distortions. Most of the studies have only separated married from non-married, with all the frisky people living in sin pooled with those who have no partner or are virtual celibates. Only a couple of these surveys examined unmarried people with partners, who clearly tend to have more sex than married couples, as their sexual relationship, rather than a civil contract, is the foundation of their partnership.


Using the source data of the above study, the figure below shows that, while other groups have remained steady, both married and divorced rates have declined. The two studies which looked at unmarried partnerships, also showed a decline in all categories, although the unmarried partners where significantly friskier than married couples, with rates around 90 rather than 60, getting closer to the Durex numbers.


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When the source data is looked at by age group, somewhat surprisingly, the key falls are in the 50-59 and 60-69 age groups where you would expect Viagra and Cialis to have had a positive effect. When the charts are portrayed with increasing age, there is a clear decline in average frequency from close to 90 down to around 10 times a year in over 70s and 20 in over 65s.


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To further explore the sources of these differences and to try to get more accurate distributions by age group, we looked at some of the source data from the GSS that fleshes out the patterns more completely than the published data of the above study, using a calculator devised by Slate[4]. This makes it possible for example to look at the sexual frequency distribution of a given age group and whether they have a partner, rather than just a grand age group average. Below are the distributions by age group for a person with a sexual partner.


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These charts are in broad categories, roughly corresponding to yearly, monthly, weekly or over sexual frequencies, but they give a much more accurate insight into how sexual frequency starts out with a spurt and then declines with age, with most over 65s still having sex at least monthly, and around 44% having sex weekly or more – a hopeful sign given the fact that a significant proportion of people in this age group may have existing medical conditions limiting their sexual activity.


[2] Twenge J, Sherman R, Wells B 2017 Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014 Arch Sex Behav doi:10.1007/s10508-017-0953-1