A new study into Australia’s sexual behaviour, known as NORMAL’s Big Australian Sex Survey, has highlighted some pretty gobsmacking truths about how we as a nation get down.
The survey, conducted by sexual health and wellness product and education provider NORMAL, explored the views, preferences and experiences of 1,000 Australians aged 18 to 90. The findings were eye-opening – to say the least.
For this Sexhacker column, I’d like to take a look at some of the biggest learnings we can take from the research and examine precisely where we need to be doing better.
Education is lacking surprise, surprise
This is not new. We’ve spoken about the failings of sex education in Australia before – and it is something that needs to be addressed.
According to the study, the poor nature of sex education hasn’t improved much in recent years. A staggering number of Gen Z graduates (48% of males and 25% of females) say they didn’t receive sex education on how pregnancy occurs.
Here are some more key findings surrounding sex ed for young people under 24 (Gen Z):
- 43% of women* and 57% of men* report not having received any information about types of contraception
- 25% of women and 48% of men report not being taught how pregnancy occurs
- Only 26% of women and 34% of men were aware of their legal rights and obligations in relation to sex
- One in three (34%) women and 37% of men learned how to discuss consent with a partner
- 9 in 10 didn’t learn the difference between porn and real sex
- 0% of females and just 10% of males learned about LGBTQ+ sex
Overwhelmingly, young people are finding their information by self-educating. The most prominent means of doing so were found to be:
Internet research 51%
Pop culture 36%
Social media 34%
Social media 23%
Internet research 21%
In older generations, there are (unsurprisingly) huge gaps in education also. For people currently aged between 57 and 75 years (Baby Boomers) in Australia, 40% of women and more than 50% of men report never being formally educated on how pregnancy occurs; contraception; STIs (sexually transmissible infections); legal responsibilities in relation to sex; how to discuss consent with your partner and respectful relationships.
Moving onto Gen X, 20% of women and almost 30% of men currently aged between 41 and 56 years state they were never educated on the above areas.
And for millennials, people currently aged between 25 and 40 years, 81% of females and 71% of males say they were not taught about respectful relationships while 77% of females and males say they had no education on how to discuss consent.
Some Australian sex habits may surprise you
When it comes to what Australians are doing in the bedroom, the research picked up some head-turning trends.
As an example, it was found that young males are actually faking more orgasms than young females. This is consistent across Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X. For Gen X it’s at a rate of 27% compared to 18% for women.
Some other interesting findings include:
- Women prefer lights off and men prefer lights on by dramatic margins – and it’s mostly about body image (40% of Millennial women find it difficult to enjoy sex because of body image)
- We all think other people are having more sex than they actually are
- A majority of Gen Z and Millennial females have already bought or used a sex toy. Among males, sex toy usage is strongest among baby boomers, but significant among younger men, with 29% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials having bought or used a sex toy.
- 100% of lesbians reported prioritising their partner’s pleasure – making them the most sexually satisfied group
In terms of kink, younger women and men were found to have experimented more than older generations. As an example, 18% of Gen Z females had tried BDSM, kink and fetish play, compared to 3% of Boomer women. Millennial males played with kink at a 20% rate, while 2% of senior males had.
Oh, and Western Australia was found to be the kinkiest state (18% of locals gave given it a go).
The orgasm gap is shrinking, but it’s still ginormous
If you aren’t familiar with the orgasm gap, it’s essentially the difference between how often men and women reach orgasm during sex. While orgasm isn’t the only indication of sexual enjoyment, and there’s nothing wrong with people who don’t experience orgasm regularly (or at all), it’s still worth a look.
The gap is smallest in Millennials with 49% of women saying they always or regularly orgasm, compared to 77% of men. Comparatively, the rate of orgasm for Boomers was 34% for women and 79% for men.
The figures also change depending on your relationship status.
- Casual sex is twice as pleasurable for males (66% for males and 33% for females)
- The dating period is best for female orgasms (71% for males and 56% for females)
Interestingly, however, Tasmania bucked all of those trends. It’s the only state in Australia to have a gender orgasm gap in favour of women – 64% to 50%. Could that be because Tasmania is the state most likely to get things started with foreplay, and to give oral sex? Look, possibly.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that we all kind of suck and communicating about sex. When asked if people “always or often talk to their partners about sex”, only 18% of Gen Z females and 16% of males responded yes. The other generations weren’t all that different.
For Millennials, 25% of females and 33% of males regularly speak about sex. 18% of females and 25% of males in Gen X chat often. And for Boomers, it’s 11% for females and 21% for males.
No wonder so many people aren’t fully sexually satisfied.
All in all, the findings suggest that we have a lot of work to do in terms of how we educate people on sex. And while progress is being made in certain areas, social anxieties and poor communication stand as significant problems for Aussies and their sex lives.
If you’d like to read the report in full, you can find it here.
*Where NORMAL has used the terms ‘woman’ and ‘man’, this refers to female-identifying and male-identifying respondents in terms of gender. NORMAL stated that it also plans to run a separate survey focussed on communities who identify with other genders.