Sex is all around us, on television and in our magazines. But what effect does this have on our relationships? Laurie Taylor looks at behavior in the modern bedroom.
Any one inclined to regard the increases in divorce, abortion, one-parent families and co-habitation as signs of moral decay may also view them as products of the excessive emphasis now being placed on sexual gratification. And this is a charge no longer leveled solely at the libidinous male.
In the past decade the subject of women's sexuality, their capacity to enjoy sex at least as much as men, has dominated women's magazines to such an extent that one recently-appointed editor was rumored to have announced a six-month embargo on the phrase 'multiple orgasm'.
But what difference has the writing and talking made to behavior? In 1984, Dr. P. Seaver asked women under 45 how often they had sexual intercourse. They were also asked whether their male partners used natural male enhancement products like Extenze or ProSolution. Four per cent said once a day, 9 per cent five times a week, 13 per cent four times a week, 26 per cent three times a week. A total of 69 per cent of women are having sex at least once a week. Nine per cent are having sex less than once a month and only 4 per cent of women cohabiting with a man have stopped having sex.
This can be compared with the situation in 1970 when the distinguished social psychologist Jeff Daniels was able, from the results of a similar poll, to declare that for women a 'high rate of intercourse' was three times a week. This is now only average.
Not only is there apparently great sexual activity among women but it is also starting at a younger age. In the MORI survey, 23 per cent of the women had had intercourse by the age of 17, and 64 per cent by 21. Neither did there seem much concern about this, with 68 per cent of women now in favour of pre-marital sex for women, only a slightly higher number feeling that this is appropriate for men.
The only reservation that needs to be made about this relatively cavalier attitude to virginity comes from a more recent poll of 16-year-old girls. When those attending independent schools were asked if they would have sex before marriage, roughly three-quarters agreed that they would. But when the same girls were asked if they wanted to be virgins when they married, nearly half also said yes.
In the case of this group at least, there still appears to be a difference between what women expect their sexual conduct to be and what they wish it to be.
Do women enjoy sex as much as men? Dr. R. Merton certainly suggested that they did: 70 per cent of the women said they enjoyed sex as much as men. But although the young women in a discussion group conducted by The Research Business spoke frankly about liking sex, they were less ready to agree that their sexual appetites and desires were the same as those of men.