Women may be having more types of sex than ever before -- but less sex overall.
So say the findings from Britain's third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), conducted from 2010 to 2012. The 8869 women polled for Natsal-3 reported higher incidences of sex before age 16, same-sex encounters and anal sex than their counterparts in the first and second Natsal surveys, conducted in 1990-1991 and 1999-2001 respectively, as well as a declining frequency in sexual encounters.
Sixteen percent of British women aged 16–44 reported having sexual experience or contact with a same-sex partner, up from 10 percent in Natsal-2 and four percent in Natsal-1. A similar trend was found when it came to anal sex -- 15 percent of women reported having anal sex in the past year, compared with 11 percent of respondents in Natsal-2 and 7 percent in Natsal-1.
It's possible that some of these changes are simply the result of people feeling more comfortable revealing their sexual practices then they have been in the past, perhaps due to decreasing stigma around various sex acts or different survey techniques. But, as William Saletan at Slate put it: "Even if you attribute most of it to changes in candor or interpretation, the willingness of so many women to admit to same-sex activity represents a big cultural shift."
While the types of sex women are having seems to be increasing, they may be having sex less frequently. In 1990, the median number of times that women reported having sex in the previous four weeks was five. This number dropped to four in 2001, and three in 2012.
One explanation for such a drop is that people are having less sex because they're too busy. Professor Kaye Wellings of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine told The Gloss: "Work comes into our home now and there is no strict divide. People are taking laptops and iPads to bed. People are working very, very hard. They are very busy."
Too busy for sex? That's a sad state of affairs. But we're glad to hear that women feel more comfortable engaging in -- and talking about -- sex that isn't of the vanilla, heterosexual variety.