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6 November 2006
Sex Around The Globe

Have you ever idly wondered how your sexual behaviors rate against those of the rest of humanity? You know, the big questions regarding your first time, how many partners you've had, and how often you practice safe sex. Well, now you can, as the Lancet has just released a comprehensive survey of worldwide sexual behaviors.

The Lancet survey, incorporating data from some 59 different countries, is an initiative designed to improve sexual health globally, and has in the process highlighted some intriguing sexual misconceptions. Did you know, for instance, that media stories regarding an increase in underage sex are completely wrong, and that there is no global trend of early sexual intercourse? In fact, the data shows that age at first sexual intercourse has actually increased for females.

Other surprising findings include the fact that although monogamy is the global trend, it is developed nations that report higher rates of promiscuity, and not regions where HIV and AIDS are more common. The authors of the study suggest that this indicates social factors such as poverty, gender inequality, social attitudes and mobility are more likely to be factors contributing to high rates of HIV and AIDS. Such factors may explain the disparity between the increasingly higher rates of condom use in industrialized countries compared with non-industrialized countries.

Such findings run counter to prevailing cultural accounts of sexuality, which tend to focus on these moral panics as a way of exerting conservative values on communities. The authors of the study say that such perceptions impede public health messages that may otherwise help improve sexual health. "The selection of public health messages needs to be guided by epidemiological evidence rather than by myths and moral stances. The greatest challenge to sexual health promotion in almost all countries comes from opposition from conservative forces to harm reduction strategies," say the authors.

As for who is "getting some" and how often, that honor goes to married couples, say the authors. Despite an increase in later marriages and therefore premarital sex, married couples have more sex than the sporadic and infrequent sexual encounters of their single counterparts. Perhaps singles can take some solace in the fact that the quality of married sex remains ambiguous.

Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


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