Let's Talk About Sex: the full survey results
We asked you about your sex life and 12,639 of you answered, giving us a snapshot of what goes on in the bedrooms of Ireland. Here are the full survey results
Most people who responded to the survey (61 per cent) have had fewer than 11 sexual partners in their lifetime.
Gay male respondents have had the most sexual partners, with 52 per cent saying they have had sex with more than 20 people, followed by bisexual men at 36 per cent and bisexual women at 27 per cent. Heterosexual male respondents were more likely than heterosexual females to have had at least 11 sexual partners, at 40 per cent compared to 32 per cent. Just 14 per cent of straight women and 12 per cent of straight men have had just one sexual partner.
What age were you when you lost your virginity?
The average age at which sexually active participants lost their virginity was 19. This figure was consistent across the age categories with females losing their virginity at a slightly earlier age (18.7) than males (19.2), a difference of approximately six months.
The average among participants of all sexual orientations was 19 with the sole exception of bisexual females, whose average age on losing their virginity was 17.6 years (caution: figure based on low sample of 429 participants).
Respondents to the survey were generally having regular sex, with just 7 per cent of those who were sexually active (ie not virgins) saying they have not had sex in the past year.
Almost half of all respondents (44 per cent) said they have had sex at least once a week on average over the past year, with 14 per cent having sex at least three times a week.
Those in the 25-34 age group are having the most sex, with 51 per cent of male and female respondents in this age category saying they have sex at least once a week. 16 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women in this age group said they had sex at least three times a week.
Being single doesn’t mean a lack of sex for many people; 37 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women who are not in a relationship said they still have sex at least once a month. Those in relationships for between six months and a year have the most regular sex, with 77 per cent of all respondents in this category having sex at least once per week (39 per cent have sex at least three times a week).
How regularly people have sex falls considerably the longer people have been in a relationship. The percentage of couples who have sex at least once a week falls to 60 per cent for those who have been together between two and seven years, and 41 per cent for those together between 7 and 15 years. Couples who have been together for 30 years or more are still having a lot of sex, however, with 31 per cent of respondents in this age category saying they have sex at least once a week. Just 17 per cent in this category have not had sex in the past year.
Female participants were more likely to express satisfaction with their sex lives than their male counterparts: 41 per cent of women who have engaged in sex said they were “very happy” with their sex lives compared to just 30 per cent of males in the same category. The 173 lesbians who completed the survey expressed greater satisfaction in their sex lives than any other category with over half (51 per cent) saying they were “very happy”.
Although female participants were more likely to state that they were happy with their sex lives, heterosexual males were most likely to say they “really enjoyed” sex at over two thirds of respondents (69 per cent), whereas just under half of heterosexual women (49 per cent) said they really enjoyed sex. Homosexual women were the second most likely group to say they “really enjoyed” sex at 68 per cent. A smaller proportion of homosexual men said they “really” enjoyed sex (54 per cent), but a further 40 per cent said they enjoyed it “most of the time”. 1 per cent or less in every gender/sexual orientation and age category said they “never/rarely enjoyed sex”.
In all categories other than virgins, more than half of participants said sex was “very important” to a committed relationship. Heterosexual men were more like to say that sex was “very important” at 66 per cent. Just 37 per cent of participants who said they were virgins considered sex to be a “very important” component in a relationship (caution: sample size is just 359).
Among all 12,134 participants, trust (22 per cent), feeling desired (22 per cent) and good communication (19 per cent) came out on top. However, the answers varied depending on a person’s gender and sexuality. For example, over a quarter (26 per cent) of heterosexual females said “trust” was the most important element compared to their male counterparts, a quarter of who said “feeling desired” was most important. Just 15 per cent in this category rated “trust” as the most important element in creating intimacy. Bisexual males were the only other category not to rate trust as the most important element, instead citing good communication.
There’s a discrepancy between respondents’ perception of their partner’s sex drive, and their own. Of all respondents in relationships, one-third believe they are on an even keel with their partners sexually, saying their sex drives were “about the same”. However, 45 per cent said their sex drive was higher than their partner’s, while just 22 per cent said their partner’s was higher than their own.
Almost two-thirds of the male respondents (62 per cent) said their sex drive was higher than their partner’s, with just 10 per cent saying their partner’s was higher, and 28 per cent saying they were about the same. But one in four female respondents rated their sex drive as higher than their partner’s, with 35 per cent saying their partner’s was higher. 40 per cent said their sex drives were the same.
The longer respondents were in a relationship with their partner, the wider the gap between their sex drives. For those in a relationship for between 15 and 30 years, 44 per cent of women said their partner’s sex drive was higher than theirs, while 77 per cent of men said theirs was higher than their partner’s.
The majority of people in most categories said they were physically affectionate with a partner without having sex, at 90 per cent of all participants. Among the different categories the ranges went from 84 per cent among virgins to 99 per cent among homosexual females (caution: both low bases at 173 and 354 respectively).
Although nine out of 10 participants who answered this question said they were monogamous in their current relationship, this was from a lower base than in many of the other questions, with one-fifth of participants choosing not to answer.
Monogamy varied depending on gender and sexual orientation. Homosexual females were least likely to have cheated on their partner with just 2 per cent saying they had been unfaithful, followed by heterosexual females at 4 per cent. They were also the least likely to be in open relationships. Bisexual males were the most likely to have cheated, with 31 per cent saying they had done so. They, along with female bisexuals, were most likely to be in an open relationship (14 per cent in both categories). Of those who had been unfaithful, just over two-thirds said their partner was not aware of the infidelity. Of the heterosexual women and men who had been unfaithful to their partner, most were in a relationship of between seven and 30 years duration (55 per cent of men and 51 per cent of women), and most said they had done so “on a few occasions” (54 per cent of heterosexual men and 42 per cent of heterosexual women).
However, more women said they were involved in long term affairs than men (28 per cent compared to 20 per cent).
Personal devices including laptops, phones and tablets are now used in every room in the house including the bedroom, and it appears the use of technology in bed is affecting some people’s sex lives. Three in 10 survey participants said the use of personal devices in the bedroom had a negative impact on their sex life, rising to over a third among men in the 25- to 34- age category and 38 per cent among women of the same age category.
Men were more likely than women to have had casual sex at three quarters of male respondents saying they have had a one-night stand in their lifetime, compared to just over two thirds of women. Almost one in four women said they have had more than five one-night stands, while one in ten have had casual sex on more than ten occasions, and 4 per cent on more than 20 occasions. Among women, bisexual respondents have had the most casual sex, with 82 per cent having had a one-night stand while among men, gay respondents have had the most casual sex, with 93 per cent having had a one-night stand and 37 per cent have had more than 20).
Men are much more likely to use websites or apps to look for casual sex than women, with almost a quarter saying they used them compared with just 8 per cent of females. One in three male respondents in the 17 to 24 age group said they used apps or websites to find casual sex, with 6 per cent using them regularly. This compares to just 10 per cent of female respondents in the same age category who said they used them with straight women less likely to use websites/apps compared to lesbian and bisexual women. Of all respondents, gay men were the most likely to use apps or websites to look for casual sex with 62 per cent saying they did so with almost one in five doing so regularly. Older male respondents were much more likely to use websites or apps for sex than women, with 16 per cent of 50 to 64-year-olds saying they used them, compared to just 3 per cent of women in this age group.
Men masturbate more than women. Almost half of sexually active men said they masturbated more than once a week while almost one in four said they did so daily (21 per cent) or several times day (3 per cent). This compares to just 5 per cent of women who said they did so daily or several times a day. Of those who said they masturbated 91 per cent said they usually did so alone.
Other people don’t have to be physically present for us to engage in sexual activity with them; 27 per cent of all participants said they had masturbated with another person via a webcam or Skype (30 per cent of men compared with 24 per cent of women). Of the 12,031 people who answered this question, 17 per cent have masturbated online with a partner only, but 6 per cent have done so with a stranger. Just 22 per cent of straight women have had sex via webcam, compared with 33 per cent of lesbians, and 47 per cent of bisexual women. Gay men were the most likely to have masturbated with someone else online, with 61 per cent saying they had done so.
The vast majority of sexually active survey respondents have given or received oral sex in their lifetimes, with just 2 per cent saying they had never done so. Almost four in 10 had engaged in oral sex in the week prior to the survey with just 13 per cent saying they had not had oral sex in at least 12 months. Gay men were the most likely to say they had engaged in oral sex in the past week at 53 per cent. How recently people have had oral sex is affected by age, but 58 per cent of women aged 50 to 64 had oral sex at some stage in the past year, with one in five having it in the past week and another one in five in the past month. This compares with 75 per cent of men in the 50-64 age group who said they had oral sex in the past year. Of the 199 men aged over 65 who responded to the survey, just 11 per cent had never given or received oral sex. One in ten had done so in the past week, one in five in the past month, and another one in five in the past year.
More than half (52 per cent) of all respondents have engaged in anal sex in their lifetimes, with 12 per cent having done so in the past month, and a further 14 per cent in the past year. Gay men were the most likely to have had anal sex, with 96 per cent having done so, followed by bisexual men at 80 per cent, and bisexual women at 65 per cent. About half of all heterosexuals (47 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men) have had anal sex. Lesbian women were the least likely, at 40 per cent. Percentages were highest in the 25 to 34 age group for both men (60 per cent) and women (52 per cent).
One in five participants said they had engaged in BDSM. Bisexual women were the most likely to have done so, at 58 per cent compared with just 19 per cent of heterosexual women and 27 per cent of lesbians. Among men, bisexuals were again the most likely to have participated in BDSM at 41 per cent, compared with 30 per cent of gay men and 18 per cent of straight men. BDSM is most popular with young people, with the percentages fall steadily the higher the age category, but BDSM is still relatively popular among older people, with 11 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men aged 50 to 64 saying they have engaged in the practice.
The majority (58 per cent) of sexually active participants have used sex toys. Women were slightly more likely than men to have used them, at 61 per cent compared to 55 per cent.
Sex toys were most popular with bisexual women, with 80 per cent saying they had used them, followed by 79 per cent of lesbians. Age was also a factor, especially for women, with females aged 25 to 34 the most likely to have used sex toys at 69 per cent.
A quarter of all heterosexual respondents who participated in the survey said they had felt attraction to a member of the opposite sex. However, this headline figure masks some stark differences between the sexes. Four in 10 heterosexual females (40 per cent) said they had felt attraction to members of the same sex compared to just 14 per cent of heterosexual males.
The majority of respondents have never had sex with more than one person at a time, with just 16 per cent saying they had done so. Straight women were the least likely to have engaged in group sex at 8 per cent, compared with 14 per cent of straight men. Gay men were the most likely, with 59 per cent saying they have had sex with more than one person at the same time, followed by 47 per cent of bisexual men and 44 per cent of bisexual women who responded to the survey. The gap in percentages between men and women who have engaged in group sex widens with age – in the 17-24 age group, 10 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men said they had engaged in group sex, which widens to 10 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men in the 50 to 64 age group.
Male participants were happier with their body than their female counterparts, with almost two thirds of men saying they were happy with their bodies compared to just less than half of women. However, participants in both sexes tended to get happier with their bodily appearance as they got older.
Erectile dysfunction was relatively consistent among participants in the younger age groups at between 25 and 28 per cent in the three age categories spanning 17- to 49-year-olds. However, 38 per cent of 50- to 65-year-olds and 55 per cent of those aged over 65 said they had experience erectile dysfunction.
An inability to orgasm was relatively consistent among female participants across all age categories, ranging between 43 per cent among 35- to 49-year-olds to 51 per cent in the 17- to 24-year-old age category.
ABOUT THIS SURVEY
The Irish Times sex survey was conducted on irishtimes.com over the course of a week in June 2015.
A total of 12,639 participants completed the survey (a 71 per cent completion rate), with 12,134 responses used in the follow-up analysis. More than 500 responses were excluded, the vast majority because the participant was under the age of 17 (below the required age to take part) or where it was obvious that a participant had provided false information.
The survey was carried out among self-selecting individuals. It is not a weighted survey and does not purport to be accurately representative of the wider population, biased as it is towards certain age groups (more than two-thirds of those who took the survey were between the age of 24 and 50) and towards those who are more sexually active.
Therefore all results should be seen as indicative rather than definitive.