Age of Aids fails to change love lives of the French

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The Independent Online
PARIS - It took up to 400 questions to 20,055 people at a cost of 13m francs (pounds 1.62m) to establish that 96.1 per cent of male respondents and 95 per cent of women aged between 18 and 69 have had at least one sexual encounter in their lifetime, writes Julian Nundy.

The most comprehensive survey of French sex habits for 20 years does little to add to the mystery of the Gallic lover. The report, prepared for the French government documentation service and published yesterday, depicted the average Frenchman or woman as being as monogamous as his and her ancestors.

Commissioned to review sex habits in the age of Aids, the 350-page report, drawn up by a team headed by Alfred Spira, an epidemiologist, and Nathalie Bajos, a demographer, came to the conclusion that 'in one generation, the sexual practices of the French basically have not changed'. Another passage added that 'in 50 years, the age of the first sexual experience has changed little'.

As for infidelity, the authors of the report found that 14 per cent of men and 6 per cent of women had had affairs with more than one partner in the 12 months before the survey. This, however, varied according to education. 'The higher the level of diploma, the more the multi-partner proportion rises,' the report explained.

Thus, 7.4 per cent of men and 3 per cent of women without higher education had had more than one partner, while the figures were respectively 15.9 per cent and 7.6 per cent for their egg-headed compatriots. Men had an average of 11 partners in a lifetime, and women had 3.3.

As for love, men reported falling head over heels an average of 4.4 times a lifetime, compared with three for women.

A change in the times was, however, to be found in the last lines of the 1973 and 1993 reports. The first, written by Pierre Simon, asked 'is there a better hymn to the architecture of the universe than a well understood sexuality?'

The last paragraph of his successors' report had the prosaic heading, 'Perception of risk and conception of death'.