People have less sex after marriage

Sexuality: everyday life in the bedroom

Unsatisfactory research

The situation is paradoxical. There is great curiosity about sex in all its facets. Magazines are full of humorous sex columns and survey results about the most popular positions, fantasies, and practices. However, most of these statistics are based on quick telephone surveys with rather small samples and questionable informative value. Academic research, on the other hand, is remarkably prudish about physical pleasure. A solid empirical basis is often only available where sex becomes a problem - for example in connection with illnesses, functional disorders or crime. Why this focus on the negative? In any case, one knows shamefully little about "everyday sex", for example in steadfast relationships.

Sure, there were the famous reports by the American biologist Alfred Kinsey, who upset his country in the middle of the 20th century. From today's perspective, the fact that a robust proportion of respondents harbored homosexual fantasies or masturbated regularly does not sound surprising - for the US public at the time it was a sheer monstrosity. Such a Kinsey shock did not materialize in the German-speaking area: such an elaborate study of the local sex life does not exist to this day.

Julia Haversath from the TU Braunschweig and her colleagues answered at least the basic questions in a representative survey in 2017 (see graphic). However, some of the information should be treated with caution. The fact that men boast about twice as many sexual contacts as women should have a lot to do with socially desirable response behavior.

A team of sex researchers from the Hamburg University Hospital Eppendorf wants to fill the knowledge gap and dare to take the big hit - with their comprehensive study on “Health and Sexuality in Germany” (GeSiD). They want to randomly select 5,000 interviewees from the address lists of the residents' registration offices in order to gain as undistorted a picture as possible of the sexuality of Germans.

In the recently published pilot study with around 1000 respondents, this did not really work: Less than a tenth of the selected test subjects bothered to return the questionnaire. Even in personal contact, most of the respondents refused to participate, be it out of shame, disinterest or the lack of skill of the interview staff.

Despite the weak response rates, the respondents' answers reveal astonishing things. What the test persons stated as a sexual orientation did not always match their lived sexuality. Around 95 percent of the participants defined themselves as heterosexual, the rest as homosexual or bisexual. But that wasn't necessarily reflected in their behavior: one in six gay men said they slept with both women and men. The discrepancy was even clearer among the bisexual respondents: They almost exclusively had straight sex, although they also found people of their own sex attractive. Some of their sexual fantasies and desires apparently fell by the wayside.