THE GLOBAL SITUATION

Sexual activity is an important part of human experience: 365 billion a year, about one billion a day and 13 thousand every second. This is the number of sexual intercourses performed on the planet Earth. Important numbers that describe an aspect of life that is vital for human health and not only for psycho-physical but also for bio-social wellbeing. As the World Health Organization (WHO) promotes, a satisfying sex life is essential to any successful relationship, and sexual wellbeing is crucial to a person's overall health. In 2006 the WHO used the following definition for sexuality: “…a central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors”. But looking closely, we see that not all countries are equal when it comes to intimacy. This is revealed in the World Atlas of Sexuality (Atlas Mondial des Sexualités), published in 2013 in France by geographers Nadine Cattan and Stéphane Leroy. A rigorous work in which the two experts condense data and statistics on life and sexual wellbeing by mapping the differences across different countries on the Earth. What do we discover about Europe? That the Greeks are arousing the envy of the old continent, having intercourse on average 11.5 times per month, followed by Croats (11.2), Serbs and Montenegrins (10.7), Bulgarians (10.6), French and Czech (10.0). Meanwhile, to find the Italians, we must go down to 8.8 times per month, equal with the Belgians, Spanish and Slovakians. Finally, the study also reveals some amusing information about European sexual practices: telephone sex is very frequent in Greece, where 23% of the population practices it, while in Austria bondage is quite common (17%); sexual fantasies are most frequent in the thoughts of people living in Switzerland (77 %). Beside frequency, also quality and satisfaction are important: as stated in a study published in 2015 by Fisher et al., “sexual satisfaction correlates with good health; frequent kissing, cuddling, and caressing; better sexual functioning; and greater relationship happiness”.

In order to better describe the multidimensional diversity existing in the universe of sexuality it is worth recalling what Gary F. Kelly wrote in the preface to his book Sexuality Today: “…Like any area of scientific inquiry, the field of human sexuality is filled with controversy, even among the sexologists who conduct research, construct models, and develop theories. Scientific findings are not always comfortably aligned with prevailing social opinion. The controversies surrounding sexuality—and the ways in which they fuel political, religious, and social differences— are fascinating. For readers of this texts, those controversies should become fodder for discussion, debate, and self-appraisal.”

Suggested readings

  • WHO, Defining sexual health: Report of a technical consultation on sexual health, World Health Organization (2002) - http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/sexual_health/defining_sexual_health.pdf
  • Cattan, N. and Leroy S., Atlas mondial des sexualités, Autrement (2013).
  • Fisher W. A., Donahue, K. L., Long, J. S., Heiman, J. R., Rosen, R. C., Sand, M.S., Indiv. and Partner Correlates of Sexual Satisf. and Relationship Happiness in Midlife Couples: Dyadic Analysis of Int. Survey of Relationships, Arch. of Sex. Behav. (2015)
  • Kelly, G. F., Sexuality Today, Clarkson University (2013)
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