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Early to Bed, Early to Rise …

Makes Americans the world's sex Olympians, says survey

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- When it comes to sex, Americans do it early and often. In fact, we may do it earlier and more often than anybody else. A new international survey finds nobody in the world -- not even the French or the Italians -- can match our love of making love.

Compared to citizens in 27 other countries, Americans are No. 1 in frequency of sex (124 times a year), number of lifetime partners (more than 14) and lowest age of first intercourse (16). The numbers, all averages, come from an annual survey of 18,500 people released this week by Durex, the world's top condom manufacturer.

But a sexuality expert says some of the findings contradict earlier studies that suggest that Americans aren't so sex-happy.

"There's a hell of a lot of difficulty of getting any sense of what's really true when you ask Americans about their sexuality because it is such a taboo and forbidden subject," says David S. Hall, a sexologist with the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, in San Francisco.

Durex says it gave written survey forms to random samples of people aged 16 to 55, including those who had never had sex. More than 1,000 Americans were polled; the margin of error for the entire study was plus or minus 3.2 percent.

In general, citizens of Asian countries were the most conservative. The Japanese, for instance, had sex only 36 times a year and would prefer to sleep, watch TV, go shopping or do almost anything else rather than get intimate.

The survey found that people worldwide are having sex at a younger age. Those over 45 first had sex at an average age of 18.7, but those aged 16 to 20 reported intercourse at an average age of 16.

The United States led the pack on the low side, with its respondents saying they first had sex at an average age of 16, followed by Germany, France, Britain and New Zealand, each reporting the average age of first sex between 16 and 17.

The findings about age of first intercourse reflect those of other studies and show that Americans need to get better educated about sex at an earlier age, says Monica Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, which opposes conservative approaches to sex education.

In contrast to the busy teen-agers in America, the survey reveals that Asians put sex on the back burner. The average age of first intercourse was higher than 20 in Malaysia, India, Taiwan and China, which had the highest average of all, at 22.

Around the world, men reported a higher number of sex partners than women -- an average of 10.7 for men compared with 4.6 for women. Americans again topped the list, with an overall average of 14.3 sex partners, followed by the French, Australians, Canadians, Turks, Greeks and Japanese, each with more than 10.

Just 11 percent of Americans, Germans and the French reported having just one sexual partner.

Again, Asian citizens, with the exception of the Japanese, reported being less sexually adventurous. Hong Kong citizens reported just 3.8 lifetime partners on average, followed by Poland, Taiwan, India and China, which had the lowest average at 2.1.

The survey reported a wide discrepancy between countries in frequency of sexual intercourse. Americans reported having sex 124 times a year, more than runners-up Greece, Croatia, South Africa, New Zealand and Italy, each with an average of about 110 times.

Hall, the sexuality expert, says the American number seems a bit high, and he thinks it's hard to interpret without knowing how many of those surveyed were members of a group that tends to have the most sex -- married people.

It does make sense, however, that Americans would be more sexually active than other nationalities, he says. "With our mobile society, with two-bit hotels and the back seat of cars, we have an ability to have sex in places and times where most of the rest of the world does not," he says.

The countries where people had the least frequent sex were China, Taiwan and Hong Kong (between 62 and 73 times a year) and Japan (36).

Asked to chose among 11 various activities, 33 percent of Americans chose sex first, ranking it above going out with friends (16 percent) and shopping (14 percent).

Only one in 20 Chinese preferred sex; nearly one in four would rather watch TV. Indians preferred to work, and a number of nationalities, including the Japanese, New Zealanders, Poles, Taiwanese and Turks, would rather go out with friends.

What To Do: If you're going to partake of America's favorite pastime instead of, say, sleeping, make sure you know about sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid them. Check the American Social Health Association. If you're gay, head to gayhealth.com.

SOURCES: Interviews with David S. Hall, sexologist, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, San Francisco; Monica Rodriguez, director of information and education, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, New York City; Durex's Global Sex Survey Fall 2001
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