What a relief - this survey proves that once a week is the British norm

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The Independent Online

Most surveys of any kind don't tell us a great deal that we don't know already. For instance, in an age when couples are getting married later than they used to, it's not surprising that we're having sex with more people.

Most surveys of any kind don't tell us a great deal that we don't know already. For instance, in an age when couples are getting married later than they used to, it's not surprising that we're having sex with more people.

But this survey throws up some really interesting nuggets of information. For instance, despite what you might read in the papers, and despite what agony aunts like me have been saying for years as a result of previous surveys, that most people have sex about two or three times a week, it turns out that once a week is the norm – a fact that will bring great relief to those who, having read that most people are having sex night and day, feel tremendously inadequate about their own sexuality.

The survey also confirms what I have long suspected – that far more people have sex far earlier than most people were aware of. I have had letters and e-mails from children of 15 who are either having sex regularly or anxious because they're not having sex. There is a great deal of pressure on young people to have sex, and very little that anyone can advise – like "wait until later because it might actually be nicer" – makes any difference.

However, the two aspects of this survey that are most interesting are the ones concerning prostitutes and lesbianism. A great many men pay for sex. Or a great many more men than in the past are admitting to it. I feel this survey tells us that the age of repression really is finally coming to an end, and the days of the shrivelled-up spinster and the lonely asexual bachelor, the man who never seemed to be one thing or the other, may well be over. If a man is gay, he's far more likely to come out. And if he's heterosexual but can't get a woman, he goes out and pays for sex. This finding suggests that as discussion about sex becomes more open, so sex is also seen as more of a commodity, less associated with love, than it used to be.

Interestingly, using prostitutes avoids intimate relationships with the opposite sex. As does lesbianism, the enormous increase of which is the other surprising aspect of this survey. When I get a letter from a "Chris" which refers to a girlfriend these days, I have to be very careful not to assume that Chris is a man.

We often forget that the fantastically romantic idea of the nuclear family – man, woman and kids – only really took hold from Victorian days onwards. This increased diversity of sexual appetite – same sex, pre-teen sex, paid-for sex, more sex – may reflect not so much that we are becoming rampaging sexual beasts but, rather, that we are becoming not only more confident about our individual tastes, but also more confident to indulge them.

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