Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 17 News List

Facing the facts about sex

A worldwide survey of young people's attitudes toward sex shows that youth are getting more adventurous, and at a younger age

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Do you konw where your 18.5 year old is? That's the average age that Taiwanese youth are losing their virginity, according to a world-wide Internet survey conducted by condom manufacturer Durex. The company claims the survey is the largest of its kind and, while it has obvious shortcomings, it offers a rare look at how attitudes of young Taiwanese towards sex compare with those of others around the world.

Released last month, the Global Sex Survey is now in its eighth year and has grown dramatically since it was first conducted online three years ago. That year, only 50,000 young adults from 22 countries took part in the survey. This year's poll, however, had 350,000 respondents in 42 countries.

Durex won't say exactly how many respondents there were in Taiwan, only that each country must have had at least 1,000 valid responses to qualify. They also decline to specify what constitutes a valid response or how they ensure that participants aren't exaggerating in their answers.

"We trust that the responses are honest," said Joy Li (李欣于), a local associate of Durex in Taiwan. "What's important is the mean result and how the data compare from country to country."

Still, the company's polling methodology could be considered as pliant as their products. The questions have changed over the years, making it difficult to identify trends. Only a few questions have remained consistent: the frequency with which respondents have sex and -- not exactly hard science -- which celebrities are considered sexiest.

But if the survey seems prurient in approach, it reveals that Taiwanese are prudent by comparison. If Taiwanese first have sex at 18.5 years of age, for example, it means they're waiting nearly a year longer than their peers around the world, who first have sex at an average of 17.7 years old.

More strikingly, Taiwanese have, for better or worse, consistently ranked near the bottom in frequency of sex. If the survey results are to be believed, there is increasingly less sex taking place in Taiwan. The average number of happy endings fell from 121 two years ago to 113 last year. That number fell again to 80 this year, ahead of only Singapore and Hong Kong, tied at 79, and Japan at a flaccid 46 times a year. The global average was 103, with the make-love-not-war French topping the chart at 137 times a year. Of all the Asian nations polled, in fact, only Thais rose above the 100 mark.

Nor, according to the survey, do Taiwanese spend much time warming up. Only 16.3 minutes are spent on foreplay, the fifth-least of all 41 nations surveyed and 3.4 minutes short of the global average.

"There are many other surveys similar to ours conducted in Taiwan," Li said. "The responses they receive are often very similar to what you'll read in the Global Sex Survey. What they cannot provide -- and this is where Durex's survey is most beneficial -- is a comparison of local norms and mores regarding sex with attitudes in other countries."

sensitive areas

Apart from its more titillating questions, such as whether or not respondents own a vibrator or if they like to role play during sex, the survey also touches on some areas of more serious concern to researchers.

Two years ago, for instance, the survey revealed that more than 40 percent of Taiwanese claimed to have had unprotected sex. More worryingly, 48 percent said they would still have sex with someone who refused to wear a condom, the highest percentage of any nationality polled other than Yugoslavians. Perhaps not surprisingly, 69 percent felt HIV/AIDS is a serious problem in Taiwan.

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